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Viva La Vida Gala

We had a fantastic evening at the Four Seasons Houston on November 5th! We raised over $287,000 with more than 220 guests in attendance. The funds raised will benefit The Health Museum’s education and community programs that help prepare the next generation of medical professionals, scientists, and researchers while enlightening those who are curious about health and the human body. The theme of the gala was Día de los Muertos, a joyous celebration of life, filled with music, food, and dancing with the added celebration of a
World Series title for the Astros!

Along with this festive celebration, we honored some of Houston’s top healthcare professionals for dedicating their careers, and their lives, to addressing health inequities and developing educational programs that will pass on their advances to the next generation of care givers.

Carol Paret, Daryl Shorter, MD, Toma Omofoye, MD, John Arcidiacono, President and CEO of The Health Museum, Maria Fernandez, PhD, Jesus Vallejo, MD, Jackie Ward, DNP, RN, NE-BC, Gary Sheppard, MD


John P. McGovern Foundation


Memorial Hermann

The Menninger Clinic


Memorial Hermann

The Menninger Clinic

Ascent Emergency Medical Center

Baker Botts L.L.P.

Cherri Carbonara/Lauren Fisher

Fayez Sarofim & Co.

William S. Gilmer

David & Audrey Gow

Carolyn B. & Carlos R. Hamilton Jr., MD/Patricia H. &

Mike Blalock

HCA Houston Healthcare

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Annette Monks-Carlton Staffing

Monroe Vos Consulting

Beth & Bob Morrow

Padua Law Firm/The Lymbar

Susan & Ward Pennebaker/Susan Bickley &

Robert Scott

JoAnne L. Rogers, MD

Texas Children's Hospital

UTHealth Houston

Bob & Heather Westendarp


Shery Cherian,M.D.
Chief Nursing Officer & Senior Vice President
HCA Houston

Dr. Shery Cherian joined HCA Houston Healthcare Medical Center in March 2019 as a hospitalist during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was instrumental in treating COVID -19 patients and worked many days for 16-18 hours straight, caring for her patients. She was relentlessly determined to ensure that all her patients, regardless of background or social- economic status, had the best possible outcome while battling the COVID-19 virus.

Committed to addressing health inequities, Dr. Cherian works closely with case managers to help find resources to address health disparities. During the darkest days of COVID-19, Dr. Cherian led the development of the hospice program as a strong patient advocate. That palliative care program continues today under her leadership, providing dignity for patients and support for their family members.

Maria Fernández, Ph.D.
Professor of Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences
Director of the Center for Health Promotion & Prevention Research
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health

Dr. Maria Fernández’s research has focused on cancer prevention and control among underserved populations. She has extensive experience in developing, evaluating, and disseminating breast and cervical cancer screening interventions.

Dr. Fernández has conducted both qualitative and quantitative studies that range from the identification and description of basic behavioral conceptual models of cancer screening and vaccination to the development and evaluation of new interventions to increase cancer control that have resulted in over 100 peer reviewed publications. She is an expert in dissemination and implementation research and conducts studies to understand and intervene to accelerate the use of evidence-based cancer control interventions in real-world settings.

Dr. Fernandez graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor, Masters and Ph.D. and finished with her NCI postdoctoral fellowship in Cancer Prevention and Control from the UT School of Public Health.

Toma Omofoye, M.D.
Associate Professor & Strategic Director of Education Breast Imaging Department
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

As a member of the MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Community Alliances team, Dr. Toma Omofoye helped bring prevention messaging about early detection of breast cancer, risk factors and risk reduction, not only to diverse communities in the Houston area, but also around the world.

Dr. Omofoye has also made valuable contributions as an educator and mentor, such as her leadership role in directing the development of a clinical shadowing program for Texas Southern University undergraduate students. This program will help to address educational inequality by providing students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities with opportunities to shadow and receive mentorship from expert MD Anderson faculty. In doing so, it will also improve cancer outcomes and reduce health inequality in underserved communities.

Carol Paret
Senior Vice President & Chief Community Health Officer
Memorial Hermann

Carol Paret’s work in Houston has seen the creation of 10 school-based clinics that have helped bridge a serious healthcare gap for minors in underserved and immigrant communities.

Under her leadership, an ER navigation program has placed community healthcare workers in emergency clinics across the Memorial Hermann Health System, helping connect patients with medical centers. Her efforts to organize food insecurity screenings, launch a free, state-wide triage hotline staffed by professional nurses, as well as her focus on promoting and enabling patient fitness programs, are creating essential public health infrastructure, improving healthcare access, and reducing health inequality in one of the least insured areas of the country.

Gary J. Sheppard, M.D.
Internal Medicine Physician
Southwest Memorial Physician Associates
Past President
Harris County Medical Society

Dr. Gary J. Sheppard’s is a life of service to others as a physician, a community volunteer and a participant in numerous professional medical organizations. He was the first African American chief of staff at Memorial Hermann Southwest, and is immediate past president of the Harris County Medical Society — the nation’s largest county medical society. Dr. Sheppard previously was chair of the National Medical Association and served on the trustee board for the MD Anderson Cancer Center for Research on Minority Health.

Dr. Sheppard has been a strong advocate for the healthcare needs of underserved populations. Through his decorated career, Dr. Sheppard has exhibited a humble spirit and a focus on serving others.

Daryl Shorter, M.D.
Medical Director of Addictions Services
The Menninger Clinic
Associate Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
The Menninger Department at Baylor College of Medicine

Dr. Daryl Shorter, as a practician and educator, has made many contributions in addictions psychiatry, and has taken a leadership role in mental healthcare in Houston. He has a passion for teaching with the determination to eliminate the bias and stigma associated with addictions.

Dr. Shorter is currently presenting a series for mental health and addictions professionals nationwide on how diversity, equity, and inclusion impact the delivery of substance abuse treatment in the U.S. His research has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including the American Journal of Addictions, Journal of Psychiatric Practice, Addiction Biology, American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse and Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences.

Jesus Vallejo, M.D.
Senior Associate Dean of Admissions, Diversity, Equity & Multicultural Affairs
Baylor College of Medicine

Dr. Jesus Vallejo is committed to diversity and equity in education and broadening career pathways in health care for underrepresented groups in medicine and science.

Under his leadership, Baylor College of Medicine has adopted a holistic admissions process that resulted in the most diverse entering class in history last year, with one-third of the class made up of groups that are traditionally underrepresented in medicine. Dr. Vallejo chairs Baylor’s Race in Medicine Task Force and focuses on developing the College’s relationships with pipeline programs to encourage more underrepresented students to pursue careers in medicine.

Jackie Ward, DNP, RN, NE-BC
Chief Nursing Officer & Senior Vice President
Texas Children’s Hospital

Dr. Jackie Ward has received awards from the Texas Nursing Association as a Top 20 nurse in District 9 and the Vannie Cook Foundation’s Community Hero for her work on the opening of the Vannie Cook Clinic in the Rio Grande Valley to provide cancer care for the underserved. This groundbreaking clinic ensures that local children who suffer from cancer and blood diseases receive the most up-to-date care and treatment without the need to leave the region, and regardless of ability to pay.

She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and a mother member in the Missouri City-Sugarland Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., the Board of Trustees for the Good Samaritan Foundation and Casa De Esperanza House of Hope for Children.

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Kathryn Straw
Senior Director, Institutional Advancement