AUSTIN – The COVID-19 pandemic prompted the action of the Texas Medical Association’s (TMA’s) "Disaster Board of Trustees" to fill in for its policymaking body to elect TMA’s president-elect for the first time in its 167-year history, choosing Edinburg internist E. Linda Villarreal, MD, for the position, while also naming several other top leaders.

The TMA board unanimously elected Dr. Villarreal to serve as president-elect for one year, as is customary, before she assumes the presidency of America’s largest state medical society next May. TMA trustees also reelected Arlo Weltge, MD, as speaker of the House of Delegates policymaking body and Bradford Holland, MD, as vice speaker, and Michelle Berger, MD, as TMA secretary-treasurer.

The board met Saturday in person at the TMA building and online, to act on behalf of the 500-member House of Delegates, which normally would have met that day to elect physicians to TMA offices. The disaster board elected only the unopposed candidates. The House of Delegates will hold elections for contested TMA offices at a later date.

The TMA board also installed Diana L. Fite, MD, as the association’s 155th president.

President-Elect: E. Linda Villarreal, MD

TMA elected E. Linda Villarreal, MD, as president-elect. The Rio Grande Valley internist recently chaired TMA’s Board of Trustees.

"I am so proud to be recognized as a leader in our organization - now more than 53,000 members strong - and look forward to continuing my work, my passion, and my energy for the continued protection of access to health care for all Texans in the way we have all been taught to practice medicine," said Dr. Villarreal.

Having served organized medicine for many years, Dr. Villarreal sees change in today’s health care system as inevitable, but her goal for TMA is unwavering.

"Texas is changing. Medicine is changing. We must adapt to it. We owe this to those who have come before us and for those who will be coming after," she said. She believes organized medicine’s strength is in advocating for patients and their access to doctors’ care, and she vows to continue the fight for that access.

Dr. Villarreal has served in many leadership roles in TMA throughout her 31 years as a member. In addition to having chaired the Board of Trustees, she is a member of the philanthropic TMA Foundation Board of Trustees, and she served on TMA’s Council on Legislation and Patient-Physician Advocacy Committee. She also is active on the Texas Delegation to the American Medical Association House of Delegates. She also served as district vice chair of TEXPAC, TMA’s political action committee. She chaired the TMA PracticeEdge Board of Managers for the TMA-affiliated physician services organization.

Closer to home, Dr. Villarreal was president of the Hidalgo-Starr County Medical Society and serves on the TMA-affiliated Border Health Caucus, also having held the office of president.

The internal medicine physician worked many years in private practice, and also served as chief of staff at Edinburg Regional Medical Center.

The Edinburg native attended Pan American College for one year before transferring to The University of Texas at Austin to complete her undergraduate studies. She practiced pharmacy for 10 years before going back to school to earn her medical degree. Dr. Villarreal graduated from Universidad de Noreste Medical School in Tampico, Mexico, and completed her internal medicine residency at Texas Tech Regional Academic Health Science Center in El Paso.

Dr. Villarreal was married to Donald Stewart White for 26 years and is recently widowed. She has two sons and eight grandchildren.

An avid volunteer, Dr. Villarreal has served the Hope free medical clinic, the Arthritis Foundation board, TMA’s Walk With a Doc program, the American Heart Association board, and the board of the Easter Seals (from which she received a Humanitarian of the Year award, one of the many honors and recognitions she has received).

Speaker of the House of Delegates: Arlo F. Weltge, MD

TMA’s Disaster Board of Trustees also acted on behalf of the House of Delegates in reelecting Houston emergency physician Arlo F. Weltge, MD, as house speaker. The TMA board elected Dr. Weltge and other officers who were unopposed for reelection on behalf of the house, whose members could not meet due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It is an honor to continue to serve as speaker, the presiding officer, of the Texas Medical Association’s House of Delegates," said Dr. Weltge. He applauds the physicians who serve their communities, and also who commit to debate and deliberate on behalf of TMA’s physician members and the patients they serve. He said the House of Delegates "sets the direction for many health policies in the state and is one of the key reasons the TMA is one of the most effective state medical associations in the country."

Of his 41 years as a TMA member, he has been active in the House of Delegates for half of that time. Prior to being elected speaker, Dr. Weltge served four years as vice speaker. He has been an active member of TMA, having chaired the association’s Council on Constitution and Bylaws, and served as a member and consultant to the TMA Council on Legislation. He also chaired the TEXPAC Candidate Evaluation Committee.

Dr. Weltge is a board-certified emergency physician and has practiced for more than 40 years in Houston and throughout southeast Texas.

Vice Speaker of the House of Delegates: Bradford W. Holland, MD

Waco otolaryngologist Bradford W. Holland, MD, was also reelected Saturday, as vice speaker of the TMA House of Delegates.

While acknowledging the unusual circumstances under which the meeting and TMA governance took place, Dr. Holland looks forward to continuing the work of the association’s policymaking body.

"I am very proud of the work we have undertaken to modernize the House of Delegates in the last year, changes that were waylaid by the COVID-19 pandemic, but that will still come to fruition at a later date," said Dr. Holland. "TMA and the speakers need to do everything we can to procure relevant policy changes such that the reforms we need to protect our profession and our patients are being debated in the House of Delegates."

Dr. Holland has been an active TMA member for 23 years. As TMA vice speaker, Dr. Holland serves on the TMA Board of Trustees. He previously served on TMA’s Council on Legislation and as TEXPAC chair. He was also an inaugural graduate of the TMA Leadership College, created in 2010 to develop young physicians’ leadership skills.

He has cared for patients as a board-certified ear, nose, and throat specialist for 18 years.