Honoring Michelle

Inspired by her late daughter-in-law’s lifetime of generosity, Linda Holsey has endowed the Michelle Lynn Holsey Scholarship in Biomedical Sciences to provide financial assistance to a student who plans to pursue a medical degree. 

 

Michelle Lynn Holsey and her family

When Michelle Lynn Holsey was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer in 2003, she told her family that she wouldn’t let the disease stop her from helping others.

Her family recalls their days traveling from Crockett to Houston’s M.D. Anderson and how Michelle would always stop to talk to people in the waiting room. She had an especially soft heart for the parents of small children who were also going through their own cancer battles or those who had to miss weeks of work to receive care.

Michelle always went out of her way to strike up conversations and form lasting relationships with the people she met. They’d begin their treatments as strangers, but Michelle easily earned their friendship.

After numerous surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments—including traveling to Germany for an innovative treatment—her cancer persisted and, sadly, in 2006, Michelle passed away.

“Throughout the entire process, Michelle maintained an attitude of confidence and fought a valiant battle the same way she lived her life with faith, hope, and dignity,” said Linda Holsey, Michelle’s mother-in-law.

Inspired by Michelle’s lifetime of generosity, her family was determined to continue her legacy and ensure that her giving spirit lives on, establishing the Michelle Lynn Holsey Foundation shortly after her passing to assist those battling cancer and other debilitating diseases, while funding innovative treatments and supporting education.

“The foundation has monthly grant meetings at which time qualifying grant applicants are awarded funds to meet their needs, and yearly scholarships are given to graduating seniors in both Houston and Brazos Counties,” Linda said. “The foundation continues to grow and help those in need with the help of various yearly fundraisers and the generosity of the community and friends across the nation.

“Our largest fundraiser is the annual five-day National Cutting Horse Association-sanctioned event held the first week of October, currently at the Brazos County Expo Center, with a steak dinner, live and silent auctions, and a concert on Saturday night of the cutting week,” she said.

Because of Michelle’s experience with some very hardworking doctors, Linda decided to honor Michelle in her own way, by establishing an endowed scholarship in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Biomedical Sciences (BIMS) undergraduate program to help a future medical student.

Giving to Texas A&M is also special to the family because two of Michelle’s daughters—Hannah Lynn Holsey Craycraft and Holly Ann Holsey, as well as son-in-law Clint Craycraft—are Aggie graduates.

“Michelle gave unconditional love and loyalty to everyone she met. She was a source of wisdom, an exemplary role model, a loving mother and wife, and a tireless volunteer to many causes. She unknowingly blessed everyone she came in contact with simply by being herself,” Linda said. “I wanted to create this scholarship to help soon-to-be medical students pay for their education and get off on the right track.”

The BIMS program in the CVM is one of the largest degree-granting majors at Texas A&M, and students in the program explore many aspects of applied biology related to health and disease. Students in the program frequently go on to careers or post-secondary education in fields like medicine, veterinary medicine, or dentistry.

The Michelle Lynn Holsey Scholarship in Biomedical Sciences is one of 12 endowed scholarships in the program.

“The Biomedical Sciences program is very thankful to the family of Michelle Lynn Holsey for this scholarship. Her story is inspirational and many of our students decide to pursue medicine because of patients such as Michelle,” said Dr. Elizabeth Crouch, CVM associate dean for undergraduate education. “The award to be made in her name will assist an undergraduate who has many years of education for which to pay and, when they hear her story, I know they will be further motivated to work hard and succeed both academically and professionally.”

Because the scholarship is endowed, it will provide annual awards to aspiring medical students in perpetuity. The scholarship will be awarded to its first recipient in the fall of 2019.

 

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Interim Director of CVM Communications, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; jgauntt@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216

Dedicated to Giving

The conference room in the CVM’s VIDI Building that was designated in honor of Cathy and Patrick Breen carries forward a family tradition of philanthropy and the hope that those who utilize the room will one day also follow their lead.

Story by Megan Myers

 

Dr. Patrick “Doc” Breen and his wife Cathy have devoted their lives to giving back to their communities.

Dr. Eleanor M. Green with Dr. and Mrs. Breen

Now retired after having worked as a renowned veterinarian for 27 years, Dr. Breen helps raise money for area nonprofit organizations through auction events, and both husband and wife have given their money and time in various ways, including to scholarships for Texas A&M University students.

In October, the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) dedicated a room in the Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC) to the Breens as part of a naming opportunity. 

Adorning a wall in the Cathy and Patrick Breen, DVM ’79 Conference Room, located in VIDI Building Room 120, is a plaque that expresses their philosophy on why they give. Dr. and Mrs. Breen grew up near Freeport, Texas. They attended elementary, middle, and high school together and began dating during their time at Brazosport High.

“We were high school sweethearts, and then we married while we were in college,” Mrs. Breen said. 

After high school, Mrs. Breen went to Sam Houston State to earn a music degree, while Dr. Breen attended Texas A&M for both his bachelor’s and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees. 

“We lived halfway between the two universities, in Iola. So in the mornings, I would go my 25 miles to Huntsville and he’d go his 25 miles to College Station,” Mrs. Breen said. “I didn’t really like to be there by myself, so when he had class or duty I enjoyed the opportunity to be able to study in the Green Room (at the CVM).”

After completing his DVM degree, Dr. Breen opened the Animal Hospital of Georgetown, where he saw small animals for both routine and surgical services. 

Dr. Breen, Mrs. Breen, and daughter

“He was the veterinarian for the Austin Police Department drug and bomb dogs and the University of Texas bomb and drug dogs,” Mrs. Breen bragged for her husband, a humble man who saw his job as “coming to work early, working hard all day, and going home late.” 

He even traveled to Alaska to provide veterinary services for the dogs competing in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

During this time, Mrs. Breen started a teaching career and sang for churches and weddings. 

“I taught private school in different capacities for 10 years and public school music for 11 years,” Mrs. Breen said.  “I ‘temporarily’ left teaching to help with computer technology at the clinic and ended up staying at the practice until my retirement.”

Now “mostly retired,” the couple still manages to keep busy. 

After exploring different retirement paths that would allow him to give back, Dr. Breen went to auctioneer school to become a benefit auction specialist. He uses his benefit auction specialty at galas and fundraising that help non profits, and other organizations, to raise money for causes that are near and dear to their purposes.

“People can follow more than one dream and still be very successful,” Mrs. Breen said of her husband’s work experience.

PAYING IT FORWARD

One of the philosophies that has dictated the Breens’ generosity is to repay those who have given to them. 

Mrs. Breen’s father, Bill Mayse, graduated from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine in 1950, and Dr. Mayse saved for his children’s college education.

Breen gift

Dr. Breen, on the other hand, worked his way through school receiving scholarships to attend college. Thankful for his scholarship assistance, they decided they were going to give back to other students.

After graduation, Dr. Breen met with the Class of ’34, which had awarded him their first Opportunity Awards Scholarship.

“I promised them that I would continue that scholarship work by being not only an advocate, but a donor,” Dr. Breen said.

Among their giving, the Breens have supported the Parsons Mounted Cavalry, Texas A&M’s horse combat unit, as well as a study room for students at the CVM.

“At one of the meetings of the Development Council, Dean (Eleanor) Green talked about the initiative to get what is now VENI, VIDI, and VICI built,” Dr. Breen said. “There was also a need for funds for renovating the Small Animal Hospital, and so at that meeting we decided that we would give a gift.

“This is a result of wanting to make sure that VENI, VIDI, and VICI give veterinary students the very best opportunity to excel by providing them with a great world-class learning environment,” he said.

Dr. Breen currently serves on a committee that raises money for scholarships for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

“Every entity that helped him in his dreams, we have rallied around their causes and given back to them,” Mrs. Breen said. “Because he is probably not going to brag on himself, he also started an A&M scholarship through our Williamson County A&M Club.”

This scholarship, founded in 1992, was created with the hopes of raising $500 through an annual fish fry for Texas A&M students from Williamson County. 

“We carried our little fish fryer up to the park, we ran an ad in the paper that we were raising $500, and we just prayed that somebody would show up and eat fish, and eat beans, and coleslaw, and cupcakes,” Mrs. Breen said.

That first event raised its $500 and since then, has been increasing in both funds and fish, this past year raising $40,000.

“Not only did he give back to every entity that helped him, but we also together pledged to create our own entity to help the university, so we’re very proud of that part of our lives,” Mrs. Breen said.

THE BREEN OFFSPRING

Family has always been incredibly important to the Breens. 

Dr. Breen was very close with his father-in-law, Dr. Mayse, who worked as a veterinarian most of his life before passing away in 2014. 

“We had great role models, our dads were both hard workers. My dad was the only veterinarian in Freeport for 50 years, and Pat’s dad worked for the prison system and our dads had incredible work ethics,” she continued. “Both were very proud of our scholarships that we helped raise later in life because they both knew how important it was for Patrick to have those scholarships.”

Breen family

Dr. and Mrs. Breen have three daughters, Laura, Leighann, and Elizabeth, all of whom inherited their parents’ charitable nature. 

Laura, an A&M communications graduate, works with her husband at their concrete placement company and has two daughters. Leighann, who works with her husband at Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital, recently adopted a son from Bulgaria. Elizabeth, who has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from A&M, lives in College Station. Elizabeth is working for Texas Concrete Placement while pursuing her career. She hopes to return to the university in some capacity.

“We all get together real often,” Mrs. Breen said. “We’re a very close family.”

Their middle daughter Leighann, who is a board-certified child life specialist, endured many spinal cord surgeries as a child that required a lot of therapy afterward. 

As part of her recovery, Leighann used hippotherapy at ROCK, the Ride On Center for Kids in Georgetown, Texas. Hippotherapy, or equine-assisted therapy, is often used by children and adults for physical, occupational, and speech therapy. The riders are able to learn balance and coordination skills, as well as form emotional connections with their instructors and horses.

Later, Dr. Breen helped connect ROCK to Texas A&M University, allowing for the creation of the CVM’s Courtney Cares Program, which is used to teach therapeutic horsemanship to Aggies; it receives staff and knowledge from ROCK, as well as horses and horseback training from Parsons Mounted Cavalry. 

Dr. Breen is an “in the dirt” volunteer horse handler and side walker at ROCK, as well as vice president on the board of directors.

“You don’t always give back because of money, but you give back because of situations,” Mrs. Breen said of their support of Courtney Cares, ROCK, and Parsons Mounted Cavalry. “When people are there for you on any level—ours happens to be on a huge level—you strive in some way monetarily or physically to give back. They helped our daughter be successful and follow her dreams.”

Texas A&M has recently started its first equine-assisted therapy course and Dr. Breen is often a featured guest speaker in the class.

The couple now lives at Tres Palomas, their ranch near Georgetown where they raise Angus Cross beef cattle. They have been married for 40 years.

“I realized that we’ve done a lot to help others, too; it’s actually a great feeling,” Mrs. Breen said. “It’s very important that they should feel that inner satisfaction that they gave, no matter the amount.”

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Note: This story originally appeared in the 2019 Spring edition of CVM Today.

For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Interim Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; jgauntt@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216

Honoring TJ with a Gift of Compassion

 

T.J. Hunter
T.J. Hunter

Compassion translates in many different ways. For Patricia Gilmore-Hunter and her husband, Bobby, compassion means giving.

After the tragic death of their beloved Border Collie, T.J., Patricia decided to establish the T.J. Hunter Oncology Endowment at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) to promote cancer research and treatment for dogs. Per her request, Patricia’s desire that her funds be used so that other pet owners don’t have to go through the trials they did with T.J. as she suffered with cancer.

T.J. was seen as a part of the Hunter family. Coming from a pedigree that included Great Britain International Champions for sheep herding on both sides of her family, T.J. became a Hunter when she was 8 weeks old.

When T.J. was taken in for a regular check-up one day, the veterinarian discovered she had swollen lymph nodes, a low white blood cell count, a urinary infection, and anemia. Patricia said it was heartbreaking news and very sudden.

Bobby Hunter and Patricia Gilmore-Hunter
Bobby Hunter and Patricia Gilmore-Hunter

“In just days, she was just lying there,” Patricia said. “I couldn’t put her down—it was just too heartbreaking—but I knew it had to be done.”

Before they could do it, T.J. went on her own.

 

Patricia said the loss of T.J. was hard, but she wanted to find a way to give to those who have experienced the same hurt and to give T.J.’s life purpose. She decided the best way to do that was through a memorial tribute.

“It was just the worst loss that I’ve ever experienced,” Patricia said. “I wanted to stop other people from having to experience this pain, so I did my own research and I came across the Texas A&M Teaching Hospital and their giving program.”

Patricia’s connection to Texas A&M University dates back to her grandfather, who graduated with the class of 1897 in the mechanical engineering program. She said he was also a member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band.

“He was a sergeant in the Corps, Company D,” Patricia said. “He was in the band, and he played the coronet.”

 

 

A frugal lifestyle enabled Patricia to save up enough to give what she could, while also continuing to support their grandchildren’s college educations.

T.J. Hunter
T.J. Hunter

“We are interested in education,” the Hunters said. “That’s very important to us. It’s through work, savings, and living within our means that we have saved up enough money to make this donation.”

Bobby agrees; he said he both supports and is very proud of her decision.

Patricia said there were many opportunities to give, but this one seemed to strike her as the way she could make the greatest impact.

“I just wanted to do something or help make a difference,” Patricia said. “Texas A&M is the type of place that makes ahuge difference, and I am excited to be a part of it.”

 

 

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; mpalsa@cvm.tamu.edu;979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2018 edition of CVM Today magazine.

Paying it Forward: Dr. Orlando Garza ’79, DVM ’82

GarzaDog
Dr. Orlando Garza with a canine patient

One of Dr. Orlando Garza’s greatest career rewards is knowing how far he’s come: he started his practice in 1986 when he converted an empty laundromat into a veterinary clinic. His one employee at the time worked as both secretary and veterinary assistant-and both Garza and his employee cleaned the kennels.

Dr. Orlando Garza with a canine patient

 

Garza recently opened a new veterinary clinic and hospital in El Paso, Texas. With a glittering two-story glass front and a warm interior with stone accents and tiled floors, the new building is quite impressive. Now he employs 25 staff members and five veterinarians in his new facility. “To see your practice blossom, to see what you’ve created,” he said, “is extremely rewarding.”

Growing up in east El Paso, Garza had many pets: dogs, cats, reptiles, and some exotic animals, but he didn’t consider becoming a veterinarian until he began spending time with his father after school while helping to care for his father’s racehorses. By his freshman or sophomore year in high school, Garza knew that he wanted to be a veterinarian. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences and veterinary science at Texas A&M; University, and then applied to the Texas A&M; College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).

However, Garza wasn’t offered an interview when he first applied to veterinary school. More than forty years later, Garza still vividly remembers sitting in his undergraduate genetics class when he opened the rejection letter. With tears streaming down his face, Garza thought to himself, “They will never say ‘no’ to me again.” He increased his GRE scores, applied again, and was accepted into the program. “If it’s really in your heart, you’ll take that ‘no’ as a challenge and do what you need to get it done,” he said.

After graduating with his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree in 1982, Garza began his veterinary career in Hobbs, New Mexico, in a practice that predominantly treated small animals. Although he enjoyed his work and was grateful for the experience, he always knew that he wished to return to El Paso. “El Paso is just home,” he said. “My family lives here.” After one year in New Mexico, Garza returned to El Paso to work as an associate in a mixed practice that emphasized dairy work. While he enjoyed working with cows, he still wanted to maintain practice with small animals. Garza worked evenings in an emergency care center so that he could “practice [small animal medicine] on a daily basis, hitting veins and performing surgeries. If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

In El Paso, Garza planned to begin his own practice. Luckily, his mother and son found the perfect location for his clinic. While visiting Dairy Queen for ice cream treats called blizzards, they spotted an empty laundromat. Garza bought the building and converted the interior into a veterinary clinic. For the first two years, Garza had one employee; he later hired a veterinary technician. He also continued to renovate his clinic, adding to the building until it reached 3000 square feet. Two years ago, he had the building torn down to make room for his new practice. He and his staff worked out of a doublewide trailer during construction. The new facility is 5000 square feet. “This is a veterinary clinic and hospital,” Garza said, “the previous place was a building that had been converted into a clinic-there’s a big, big, difference.”

Garza’s greatest challenge now that he owns his own clinic and hospital is staff management. When hiring a veterinarian, Garza looks for hardworking individuals who are also gifted communicators. “You can be the world’s best doctor, but if you don’t communicate, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “I think the biggest problem with clients who aren’t satisfied is just lack of communication.” But strong communication doesn’t end at the clinic door: Garza has called clients within 48 hours after a visit to check up on a patient. Often, clients are pleasantly surprised by this considerate action and thank Garza, telling him, “Thank you so much for calling. My own physician would never do that.”

What’s most important to remember when communicating with a client? Smile. “No matter how bad your day was,” Garza recommends, “when you walk into that exam room, have the biggest smile on your face that you possibly can.” Although clients may be concerned and worried for their pets, seeing a big smile instantly breaks the ice and fosters trust.

Another aspect of strong communication is being able to speak in the client’s native language. Practicing in El Paso, Garza finds being bilingual tremendously useful, especially because he is the only veterinarian in his clinic who speaks Spanish. While speaking Spanish isn’t critical, he says, it’s certainly a big help: “If Hispanic clients can speak to you in their native tongue, they automatically trust you more, just because they can communicate with you.”

As a Hispanic veterinarian in Texas, Garza is in a significant minority: of the 5,728 practicing veterinarians in this state, only 84 are Hispanic as of 2010, according to the Texas Tribune. Diversity in the profession is important, Garza says, because the profession should mirror the demographics of its clients. However, medical-minded minority students tend to favor human medicine rather than veterinary medicine-possibly because of a lack of Hispanic role models to promote the profession. As more Hispanics become veterinarians, Garza says, perhaps more students will choose to pursue veterinary medicine.

GarzaHorse
Dr. Garza with an equine patient

However, not all Hispanic students choose human medicine because of a lack of role models. One of Garza’s two daughters recently started her pediatric residency in Charleston, South Carolina. But Garza’s not disappointed, even though her career choice is an ongoing joke in the family. “If you’re going to work with little animals who don’t want to talk to you,” Garza told her, “then you should have become a veterinarian instead of a pediatrician.”

For Garza, who previously served as president of the Texas Veterinary Medical Association, service is a key component of the veterinary profession. “We live as individuals but when we speak as a community, we have a lot more power-whether at a local, state, or national level,” he said. He also encourages his employees to give back to the profession and is proud that one of his associates is now president of the El Paso Veterinary Medical Association.

Dr. Garza with an equine patient

 

Garza also gives back to his profession by mentoring the next generation of veterinarians. “I’m at a point right now in my life where it’s about paying it forward,” he said. He enjoys giving students opportunities to engage in veterinary work in his practice. “In spite of all that success that I’ve personally had, seeing these young adults work for me, having me guide them a bit, then seeing them get into professional school-for me, that’s amazing.”