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Giving Back, Even When on the Front Lines

Dr. Jan PattersonOur world is facing monumental challenges unlike anything most of us have ever experienced, a reality calling for new heroes and role models. During uncertain times like these, we rely on our faith in the God who never changes, and we remember Isaiah 40:31, "Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint."

Today our protectors are found on the front lines seeking cures and fighting illness.

Dr. Jan (Evans) Patterson '78 is one of those heroes, although she would certainly balk at the title. Nonetheless, she has earned the label after studying contagious pathogens and serving as a longtime infectious disease doctor and infection control specialist. Jan is fighting COVID-19 and working to protect literally millions of people as part of the global effort to resolve this health crisis.

One of four individuals selected earlier this year for induction into Hardin-Simmons University's Hall of Leaders, Jan is currently Professor of Medicine/Infectious Diseases and Pathology, as well as Associate Dean of Quality and Lifelong Learning, at UT Health San Antonio Long School of Medicine. But before launching her career in medicine, she was simply known as the daughter of Wayne Evans and Zona Horn Evans, both 1940 graduates of Hardin-Simmons University. The family's connections to HSU can't be overemphasized as her parents were well-respected campus influencers. Zona served as journalist for the Brand and President of the Cowgirls, and Wayne was President of his class and a member of the Cowboy Band. Throughout their lives, both Zona and Wayne continued to inspire and encourage Jan, and they instilled a love for HSU that runs deep.

Jan grew up in Fort Worth with her sister, Lyn, and brother, David. She learned about God's love from her parents and her church home, Gambrell Street Baptist, and enjoyed playing guitar and singing with her friends at church. When it was time to choose a college home, Jan followed her parents' example and enrolled at Hardin-Simmons University. While a student, Jan was active in the Phi Phi Phi social club and Student Congress. She has fond memories of living in Behrens and Lange Halls, and recalls crazy capers involving the lifelong friends she made with her Tri Phi sisters. A highlight was when Tri Phi won the All-School Sing with their arrangement of songs from A Chorus Line.

Jan majored in biology and chemistry and received a B.A. degree (instead of the typical B.S.), which meant that she got to take an extra French course instead of another physics course.

As someone who was passionate about science education even then, she feels strongly about giving to HSU and keeping Hardin-Simmons poised for success.

"Young people who are pursuing a health care or science/technology profession are among the most sought-after students in higher education today," she says. "This is because they are bright, motivated, and, especially those pursuing a health care profession, they are interested in helping others. For HSU to continue attracting these students, I can attest that state-of-the-art science and laboratory facilities are essential." These kinds of facilities assure students that the institution is serious about preparing their health-professions students, and that they will be given the best possible opportunity to be competitive and to succeed in health-professional schools.

Jan commented further, "When I attended HSU 40 years ago, the facilities in Sid Richardson were relatively new and were part of the reason I chose to major in science and pursue a health care profession. I also appreciated the wonderful science faculty, but without those laboratories and facilities, I would not have been prepared for medical school.

"I was fortunate because I got to pursue pre-medical education in a faith-based liberal arts setting with inspiring faculty and make incredible friends for a lifetime. I am praying for the Sid Richardson Science Center fundraising campaign and will personally contribute financially, because I want today's young people to also receive a superior science education at HSU."

After graduating from HSU, Jan went to medical school at UT McGovern Medical School in Houston where she was recognized as the Outstanding Student in Internal Medicine and in Pathology. During her senior year, she was sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention's Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) to work at Bangalore Baptist Hospital in India, where her interest was kindled in infectious diseases. Following her time overseas, she trained in internal medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where she came to know and love a fellow Texan, Dr. Thomas Patterson, her favorite collaborator and now husband of 34 years.

After Tom and Jan married, they moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where they undertook fellowships in infectious diseases, research, and experienced their first faculty years at Yale School of Medicine and Yale-New Haven Hospital. In addition to seeing infectious diseases patients, Jan served in hospital epidemiology at Yale-New Haven Hospital and the West Haven VA Medical Center. It was during this time that their first son, Evan, was born.

They returned to Texas in 1993 where they joined the faculty of UT Health San Antonio Long School of Medicine and where their second son, Will, was born. Jan was the medical director of infection control at University Health System and the Audie L. Murphy VA Hospital. She built the infection control programs in collaboration with nursing and hospital administration and continued her clinical research program. She pointed out how grateful she remains for the relationships and contributions of the nurse leaders she worked with during that time. This was an interesting time in infection control because of the anthrax attacks, smallpox scare, SARS, influenza and more. In 2003, Jan was asked to go to Canada to assist with infection control in a SARS-affected hospital in Toronto.

Tom and Jan were blessed to raise their two sons amid church, music, neighborhood friends, sports teams and scouts. Jan was active in PTA and was a Cub Scout den mother and member of the praise team at The Springs Church. The family made many happy memories while traveling to destinations in this country and abroad. Among the happiest moments of her life, she recalls, were the days each of her sons accepted Christ as their personal savior and followed him in baptism.

At work, Jan served as Chief of Medicine at the Audie L. Murphy VA Hospital and Vice-Chair of Internal Medicine at the School of Medicine for five years. She also earned her master's degree in health care management from Harvard School of Public Health during this time.

Based on her perspectives in patient safety from her years in infection control, Jan became interested in educating health care workers in health science improvement and skills to improve quality and safety in health care. She launched the Center for Patient Safety and began offering the Clinical Safety and Effectiveness Course, which uses real-time health care improvement projects to educate health care workers in quality and safety using didactic and experiential learning. The course now has more than 600 graduates and has overseen more than 220 health care improvement projects.

This experience opened up the opportunity to oversee the Department of Continuing Medical Education at the School of Medicine in an associate dean role. Additionally, Jan continues to be an active infectious disease clinician and has been recognized in Best Doctors in America for multiple years. She has maintained scholarly activity and is an author or co-author of more than 100 peer-reviewed medical publications.

In recent years, Jan has experienced the benefits of holistic therapies. She now practices integrative medicine along with her infectious diseases practice and is working with the Nursing educators at University Health System to build their integrative medicine program.

In her limited spare time, Jan enjoys gardening, jogging, cycling, essential oils and walking the dogs with Tom along the San Antonio River.

As someone who works in infectious disease control every day, Jan has lived through other moments in history where we have fought and survived massive illnesses. She has seen her fair share of outbreaks, and says, "In a way, we're at war. We're at war with this pathogen." But it is because of her past work and success that she has hope for our current battle, because she knows she is applying the skills, based in faith, which she first began to learn at HSU.

Thank you for supporting HSU as we work to raise up the next generation of disease fighters as biology is the most popular undergraduate major among today's Hardin-Simmons University students.

When Hardin-Simmons alumni like Dr. Jan Patterson engage giant-sized problems, rest assured the world will ultimately find a positive, new normal.

Help Hardin-Simmons educate the next generation of health care providers through a planned gift. To learn more about your options to maximize your impact, contact Mike Hammack or one of our development officers at plannedgiving@hsutx.edu or (325) 670-1260.

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