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Esmaeil Porsa, MD ‘05, has his hands full these days. As President and CEO of Harris Health System, he oversees the Harris County government entity that owns and operates clinical facilities such as Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital and Ben Taub Hospital. Porsa took the helm in March 2020 with a baptism of fire in the form of COVID-19. From the early stages when scientists struggled to understand the virus to the dark days in July when intensive care units overflowed with patients, clinic and hospital staff faced daunting challenges.

“They not only cared for a lot of very sick patients, but they also had to question if they might bring the infection home to their loved ones,” he says. “I can only imagine how stressful that must have been.”

Porsa draws on a wealth of UTHealth experience in his role. He completed his internal medicine residency at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth under Philip Johnson, MD, and counted Cheves Smythe, MD, the school’s first dean, among his mentors. As a graduate of the General Medicine fellowship program—where he now serves as an adjunct professor—he joins other notable alumni whose advanced training has proven crucial throughout their careers in health care.

Porsa also earned his Master of Public Health at UTHealth School of Public Health, where he taught epidemiology and biostatistics before leaving to take on a series of executive health care roles. “All my experiences there helped prepare me for what came next,” he says.

Even amid the many harmful ways COVID-19 challenged the world, Porsa has seen positive developments emerge from the pandemic. Harris Health now has a robust telemedicine program, Porsa has formed close working relationships with other health executives and government leaders, and health workers throughout the county have shown a powerful spirit of unity—one that represents the community Porsa proudly calls home.

“I have witnessed a tremendous story of triumph, resilience, and grit herein Houston,” he says. “I think it’s my duty to amplify and communicate that story as often as I can.”

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