Keynote: John Zerwas, MD, University of Texas Health System


Eli Kirshbaum


We were thrilled to close out our 2023 Texas State of Reform Health Policy Conference earlier this month with a valuable keynote conversation with John Zerwas, MD, executive vice chancellor of health affairs at the University of Texas Health System. Zerwas helped lead the state’s response to the pandemic, having been tapped by Gov. Greg Abbott to so along with the conference’s Opening Keynote speaker, former Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt.

Three years after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zerwas reflects on his time working to develop Texas’s response to the virus.

“There’s was no greater challenging time and there was no more exciting time to actually be in the midst of healthcare than that time,” he said.

The experience health leader also discussed the pressing need to address the healthcare workforce shortage. “Part of it is just the fact that we’ve never really been where we needed to be in [terms of] workforce,” he said. Despite legislative efforts during his time as a lawmaker and Texas’s abundance of respected nursing programs, he said, the workforce issue has always been present.

He acknowledged that it’s a challenging issue to navigate, and said UT is working on targeted solutions to burnout and resignation among the workforce.

“It bleeds into everything we do. When you come out of such a stressful experience as the pandemic imposed upon those people that are involved in healthcare, you just pile on what is already a pretty stressful job.”

Watch the full keynote above.