Volunteer Spotlight

Caren Lock on Championing Inclusivity and Opportunity

President's Advisory Board member works to strengthen health care connections for Asian communities across North Texas

Like many people, Caren Lock was inspired by her parents. She remembers their impossible decision to leave their home in Hong Kong for a hardscrabble life in Houston. She remembers their lifelong sacrifices – how they survived World War II and later worked hard at blue-collar jobs driving cabs and cooking in restaurant kitchens.

Caren Lock
Caren Lock Provided by Caren Lock

Driven by a hope for a better life for their children, Ms. Lock's parents propelled her through college and law school. In many ways, their example instilled in her a passion to achieve as a legal professional and give back to her community through volunteering and philanthropy. Today, she serves as Associate General Counsel for TIAA, a leading nonprofit that provides retirement solutions and advice for educators and other professionals, including UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Over the last three years, Ms. Lock has shared her legal and government affairs acumen with UT Southwestern's President's Advisory Board, a group that advises President Daniel K. Podolsky, M.D., and the institution's leadership on opportunities to advance its mission. She serves on the Board's Government Relations Committee, which supports the institution's efforts to develop relationships with local, state, and federal governments, and she has also helped strengthen connections between the institution and the Asian communities of North Texas.

Ms. Lock recently considered how her family's medical care has brought her closer to UT Southwestern and how proud she is to champion the organization's ongoing efforts around inclusivity and opportunity.

How has UT Southwestern impacted you and your family?

I am currently undergoing medical care at UT Southwestern for a nerve issue. When you or your loved one needs medical attention, your entire world is turned upside down. The last thing you want to do is look over credentials and online reviews of doctors. That is why I turned to UT Southwestern for a referral, because I knew I would be treated by one of the best.

What distinguishes this institution as a national leader in academic medicine?

UT Southwestern is a top medical research institution and one of the country's largest medical schools. When you combine these factors, it is actually one of the biggest contributors to medical science by creating a pipeline of researchers and clinicians.

The Medical Center is also at the forefront of mental health, building Texas' newest psychiatric hospital, [the Texas Behavioral Health Center at UT Southwestern]. Destigmatizing mental health can help the most vulnerable in our community. My family has been affected by mental health disease, and I know firsthand how important it is to talk publicly about a disease you can't see and that lacks overt visible symptoms. I have high hopes that the new hospital will expand inpatient care and healing and give families the support they need.

A UT Southwestern surgeon operates on a patient.
A UT Southwestern surgeon operates on a patient at William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital on July 13, 2022. Forbes has recognized UT Southwestern among the nation's top health care employers for new graduates, women, and employee diversity for three consecutive years. Mei-Chun Jau/‌UT Southwestern Medical Center

What have you learned about UT Southwestern?

I have found UT Southwestern to be diverse and inclusive. The commitment of the institution's leadership is not just lip service but is supported by data. About 41% of UT Southwestern's faculty are made up of racial and ethnic minorities, and about 45% of all faculty members are women.

When I first joined the President's Advisory Board, the discussion centered around having the Board reflect the community at large. I am grateful that Dr. Podolsky, and his leadership team live the values of fostering an inclusive environment at UT Southwestern. All you need to do is take a walk around the campus to see this for yourself.

As a donor, why do you continue to give?

“I give where I live” is a motto that has driven my philanthropy. The one issue that touches all races, ages, genders, and socio-economic groups is medical care.

As COVID-19 has demonstrated, we need to invest greater resources in public health research. UT Southwestern is leading the way on that front. During the initial stages of the pandemic, UT Southwestern provided critical information and vaccines to underrepresented communities. Medical students became front-line volunteers providing screening and language translation services. Because of its diverse student population, UT Southwestern was able to reach deeper into communities than other organizations.

Caren Lock responding to an audience member's question.
Caren Lock, left, responds to an audience member's question during UT Southwestern's Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Signature Event at the Eugene McDermott Lecture Halls on May 24, 2023. Kye R. Lee/UT Southwestern Medical Center

What is UT Southwestern's biggest contribution to the community?

Research, research, and more research. The Nobel Prize-winning work by Michael Brown, M.D., and Joseph Goldstein, M.D., led to the development of statins. These revolutionary drugs help lower the level of cholesterol in the blood, and when you think about the millions of people who have been saved from cardiovascular diseases because of this research, it is mind-boggling.

Many in my family took statins. It comes full circle that UT Southwestern has had a hand in helping my family through the research conducted at this esteemed establishment. For these reasons, I am one of UT Southwestern's biggest cheerleaders.

  • Dr. Brown, a Regental Professor, is Director of the Erik Jonsson Center for Research in Molecular Genetics and Human Disease, as well as a Professor of Molecular Genetics and Internal Medicine. He holds The W.A. (Monty) Moncrief Distinguished Chair in Cholesterol and Arteriosclerosis Research and the Paul J. Thomas Chair in Medicine.
  • Dr. Goldstein, a Regental Professor, is Chair of Molecular Genetics and a Professor of Molecular Genetics and Internal Medicine. He holds the Julie and Louis A. Beecherl, Jr. Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Research and the Paul J. Thomas Chair in Medicine.
  • Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O'Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.