Ray named Guardian Angel Winner

By Rachel Skei Donihoo

Compassion and kindness are the attributes that have earned occupational therapist Beth Denson Ray the 2009 Cyndi Bassel Guardian Angel Award, which was presented at Southwestern Medical Foundation’s annual dinner at the Hilton Anatole Hotel.

The award, which consists of a piece of crystal and $5,000, was created when Mr. and Mrs. Ross Perot received Southwestern Medical Foundation’s Charles Cameron Sprague Community Service Award in 1997. At that time, they announced their desire to establish an award to recognize non-physicians in health fields who devote themselves, above and beyond the call of duty, to serving patients in exceptional ways. They named the award in honor of Cyndi Bassel, UT Southwestern’s vice president for external relations, who regularly achieves miracles by helping arrange for desperately ill patients from all over the world to receive care from UT Southwestern specialists.

Beth Denson Ray

Mrs. Ray, who works in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at UT Southwestern University Hospital - Zale Lipshy, helps patients with brain injuries relearn daily tasks so they can function independently once they’ve left the hospital. Bathing, grocery shopping, cooking and laundry are among the tasks that many patients have to be taught.

“Beth is probably the most humble person you will ever meet, but she will do whatever it takes to enable her patients to reach their goals, make them smile and feel good about themselves,” said Dr. Karen Kowalske, chair of physical medicine and rehabilitation. “She really listens and goes the extra mile to show them that they’re special. Often patients who have recovered will come back and visit our unit to express their thanks and show the nurses and therapists how much they’ve improved. The person they ask for most is Beth. She truly is a guardian angel.”

Mrs. Ray graduated magna cum laude from Texas Woman’s University in 2001. She began her career as an intern at the Zale Lipshy facility that same year, where she transitioned into a fully licensed occupational therapist.

She and her husband, Robert, a systems analyst, live in Murphy with their 2-year-old son.

“I’m so grateful to UT Southwestern to have the opportunity to touch people’s lives and earn a living doing what I love. I can’t imagine being anywhere else,” she said. “My career is rewarding in a million different ways, and I feel that it’s a privilege to be a part of our patients’ healing process. Many of them have been through really difficult, life-altering events, so it’s incredible to see them get better — and know that I might have had a hand in that.”