Volunteer Spotlight

Connie O’Neill on Being a Volunteer for Life

President’s Advisory Board member considers it an honor to follow in her parents’ footsteps of community service

Connie Blass O’Neill never had to search far for inspiration on the value of giving back.

Connie O'Neill
Connie O'Neill Provided by Connie O'Neill

“My father and mother are absolute heroes,” said Ms. O’Neill, who grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. “My dad’s philosophy was that if you keep on taking out of life’s cookie jar, at some point that jar will be empty. So, you must learn to put something back in.”

Today, the former Ernst & Young certified public accountant makes it a point to give back through volunteer positions with Children’s Medical Center Foundation, Communities Foundation of Texas, and her alma mater, SMU. She served three decades as a board member and Chair of Susan G. Komen and is currently a member of Southwestern Medical Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

As a member of the Executive Committee of UT Southwestern Medical Center’s President’s Advisory Board, Ms. O’Neill is part of a group providing President Daniel K. Podolsky, M.D., and the institution’s leadership with guidance on opportunities and challenges across its mission. She recently reflected on how health care and education have fueled her volunteer work as she aspires to be an ambassador-spokesperson for UT Southwestern’s impact across North Texas and beyond.

“How many others can experience nationally renowned care in their own backyard? Our community is very fortunate.”

How has UT Southwestern impacted you and your family?

UT Southwestern is my medical home, and it gives me great comfort to know that I am in the best of care now and in the years ahead.

When my elderly father was told in Arkansas that he had to have a feeding tube due to swallowing issues, I brought him to UT Southwestern where the doctor diagnosed the issue and developed a plan that allowed him to continue eating until he passed away 11 years later at the age of 92. This is only one example of the outstanding medical care my family has received at UT Southwestern.

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

UT Southwestern intersects leading-edge research with clinical care. For example, with the success of the Campaign for the Brain, UT Southwestern will be known nationally and internationally for breakthrough translational research and clinical care for countless patients. The faculty at UT Southwestern boast numerous members of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medicine, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators Program, reflecting its ability to attract and retain the best and the brightest in the medical profession.

“The list of UT Southwestern's contributions to our community and the national landscape of research and innovation is endless.”

What have you learned about UT Southwestern?

UT Southwestern prides itself on delivering compassionate and personal care to each patient and works tirelessly to make sure that patients and staff are appreciated. I have also learned of the institution’s national reputation among medical scholars. We should all be incredibly proud that UT Southwestern resides in North Texas. How many others can experience nationally renowned care in their own backyard? Our community is very fortunate.

As a donor, why do you continue to give?

I have heard many stories from friends who have received complicated and challenging diagnoses, and thanks to the medical teams at UT Southwestern, they have beaten the odds of survival and are able to have quality of life. I want to ensure that UT Southwestern continues to provide that kind of care and continues to attract and retain bright scientists and leaders in the medical community to Dallas. I am also incredibly proud of the new Peter O’Donnell Jr. School of Public Health that will address health care disparities in Dallas, the opening of UT Southwestern Medical Center at RedBird that is serving South Dallas residents, and the future mental health hospital that is being built to address the epidemic of mental illness.

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

Life-saving treatments, renowned doctors and nursing staff, state-of-the-art facilities, medical care for millions of patients, and globally recognized research. The list of UT Southwestern’s contributions to our community and the national landscape of research and innovation is endless.

  • 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.