I was one of the few who didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming an Aggie. I didn’t know much about A&M but I knew my older brother went there, so it was the only school in the country I had ruled out! My parents forced me to visit my brother in Aggieland during my senior year of high school, and that’s all it took to hook me. I knew this was the place for me.
Texas A&M was the place I grew up. The place I first felt a sense of self-worth. I arrived an insecure 17-year-old who lacked confidence and left a confident, accomplished 21-year-old, ready to conquer the world. Along the way to earn my engineering degree, I squeezed every bit of fun out of my Aggie experience. I played numerous intramural sports, was a little sister to the Ag fraternity, was involved in the engineering society, rode my horse almost daily, two-stepped many nights away at Texas Hall of Fame, sang with the church praise team, and held two jobs.
My degree and my Aggie ring have opened numerous doors for me, both personal and professional. I remember sitting on a train between Italy and Spain on my post-graduation European adventure when the couple across the aisle noticed my ring and began a conversation. I recall visiting a church in Cincinnati while there for my son’s surgery and noticing an Aggie a few rows in front of me. He noticed my son’s Aggie shirt and was an instant friend. He even offered to come to the hospital during the surgery. I have so many stories!!!
When I moved back home to El Paso after a 15-year absence, I joined the local A&M Club and had an instant community. I would serve as the El Paso A&M Club president for eight years until I reluctantly resigned to temporarily relocate to College Station.
Kyle was born in 1995 and attended an Aggie football game each year from an early age. By age 4 he introduced himself as “Kyle Cox, Class of 2018.” It sounded futuristic at the time, but he never wavered in his quest to be an Aggie. In 2002 Kyle was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the leading fatal genetic disorder in children. For most boys with DMD, college isn’t possible or practical. Kyle never wavered. In addition to my faith, the tenacity and perseverance I learned as an Aggie (we didn’t win many games back then, but we never gave up or lost hope) – and passed to Kyle – have carried us through the journey of Kyle’s illness and brought us to today, where is a freshman at Aggieland. If you don’t blink, you might see him flying across campus in his power wheelchair with his service dog at his side. He’s a fixture at Aggie games, and living his dream.
Kyle’s condition has fueled my passion for disability. I serve as Vice Chair of the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities, and I advocate for Kyle and others to achieve the highest level of inclusion and independence possible. I’m proud that Texas A&M has a reputation for its inclusion, accessibility and accommodation of people with disabilities. I think Kyle and I have raised that bar since we got here.
Kyle’s illness took us to 9 hospitals across the country, so I was a natural candidate to serve on the inaugural board of the El Paso Children’s Hospital. I have had a chance to learn about healthcare from various perspectives, and I had the privilege of sharing my insight with the AWFSN members in April. With rising premiums and higher deductibles, we are paying more attention to our healthcare plans and coverage than ever before. We are less likely to seek care for small issues, and more cost-conscious about what care we use. Technology and healthcare have converged to create a new era of telemedicine that is changing the landscape of healthcare delivery. There are wearable devices that will send readings directly to a specialist from a smartphone. There are kiosks in larger pharmacies that are directly connected to healthcare providers, who can interpret real-time readings taken on premises and prescribe a drug at the pharmacy on site. People in rural communities now have access to the top specialist anywhere around the globe. Health insurance for poor and indigent has not taken hold as anticipated in the Affordable Care Act. Most cannot afford the premiums, and healthy young adults prefer to pay the penalty than purchase expensive coverage. Hospitals have not seen the noticeable change in payer mix that the Affordable Care Act was supposed to bring. This is an exciting time in the health industry.
When I arrived in College Station last fall I had few contacts. My business, friends and family were home in El Paso. I had been a member of the WFSN for many years, and had spoken at one of its conferences a few years ago, so I decided to attend a meeting at Messina Hof. This organization has been a true blessing. It has given me a local community in College Station, allowed me to surround myself with successful women who challenge and support me, and a shared vision in supporting and mentoring Aggie women. If you aren’t a member, I hope you’ll fix that right away!