Chamber Member named 2017 Distinguished Citizen of the Year
11/28/2017 11:08 AM
Sweitzer first aligned with the school district when he joined the Pasadena ISD School Health Advisory Council in 2014, where he learned about the need for CPR training among students.

“As a member of the committee, he was aware of unfunded state mandates that required students in grades 7-12 to receive instruction in CPR, dental hygiene in addition to immunization requirements,” Pam Tevis, PISD Health and wellness coordinator, said.

In response, Sweitzer donated CPR mannequins to each high school and organized the first mass CPR training for freshmen at Pasadena High — an effort that he continues to support each year. The donation was made in honor of Sweitzer’s sister Cindy, who passed away at age 49 from a heart attack.

“The great thing about it is they’ve had over 2,500 students have learned CPR and one little girl who saved her mom from choking,” Sweitzer said. “It’s turning into a very wonderful thing.”

For nearly 13 years, Sweitzer’s name has been synonymous with humanitarian and volunteer efforts in Pasadena ISD.

Sweitzer continuously works with school nurses to provide medical and dental services for children in need, in addition to organizing health fairs where he provides backpacks, school supplies and health screenings for district families.

As a member of the Pasadena Noon Optimist Club, Sweitzer supports young tennis players during the annual Junior Open/Harry Taylor Scholarship Tournament by sponsoring t-shirts and helping to raise scholarship funds for Pasadena ISD students. During weekly Optimist meetings, Sweitzer sponsors outstanding high school students as a way of inspiring them to continue to be successful.

Sweitzer is a member of the Healthy Living-Matters-Pasadena Community Task Force, an organization comprised of business, school district, city and county officials, dedicated to increasing healthy behaviors in the area.

The task force is an active participant in the BUILD Health Challenge, a $250K grant award given to Pasadena ISD to create a sustainable food system and eliminate conditions that lead to food insecurity. Sweitzer played a crucial role in receiving the award as a community partner.

Sweitzer was the driving force behind start-up efforts to build SPARK (School Park) playgrounds at Hancock Middle and Gardens Elementary. Hancock’s SPARK Park opened recently with a dedication celebration. The Gardens Park will be built in the future.

“We are so incredibly thankful for Mr. Sweitzer because now our kids have a safe and fun place to play,” Veronica Sandoval, Hancock principal said.

Sweitzer, the CEO

Long before Sweitzer’s involvement in the district, he served League City and the Houston area as an EMT and a paramedic for about 30 years.

As a passionate supporter of education, Sweitzer inspired the next generation of health care professionals while teaching EMTs at Harris Country Hospital District for 15 years, along with other courses at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, San Jacinto, and Alvin Community Colleges, in addition to the Univ. of Phoenix.

Sweitzer’s inspiration came from his parents and their love for missions and helping people through their church.

As CEO, Sweitzer has helped countless uninsured and underinsured residents receive primary health care at the Pasadena Heath Center.

He’s watched the facility grow from the ground up since opening 13 years ago, starting with a team of five and low patient turn out. That changed after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005.

Droves of displaced families affected by the storm were bused in from New Orleans and turned to the Pasadena Health Center for help.

Sweitzer said, ‘Folks lost their loved ones. The stories they were telling were horrifying. That set the pace for the clinic.”

Word spread around town about the PHC following Hurricane Katrina and even Rita, which made landfall about a month later, and the facility became a go-to spot for affordable health care among Pasadena residents. Under Sweitzer’s leadership, the center now has a staff of over 20 and provides services to thousands of patients each year.

Tragedy Spurs Advocacy

Sweitzer’s contributions have garnered positive attention at the state level. As a member of the Board of Directors for the American Health Association in Houston, Sweitzer, notably, helped to get AED (automatic external defibrillator) legislation passed in Texas.

When Sweitzer was working as a paramedic in League City, his father had a heart attack on the front lawn. “They took my father to Clear Lake and he passed away,” Sweitzer said. “He died the next day on my sister’s birthday.”

The tragic event motivated Sweitzer to advocate to make AEDs more accessible in Texas.

Sweitzer, chairman of the League City EMS board at the time, joined forces with the American Heart Association and then State Rep. Kyle Janek in support of a bill that would prevent liability against businesses and individuals using an AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) system, making AEDs more available to the public.  

As a member of the Basic Life Support and AED committee for the board of directors at the American Heart Association, Sweitzer met with state leaders to round up support for the AED legislation, including Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound and former State Rep. John Davis.

“I said, ‘It’s really important. People are dying. This could save their lives.’” he said.

Days later, Nelson decided to sign the legislation after a man in her office was revived with an AED after a heart attack at the airport.

It took about eight months, but the legislation finally passed. Now, AEDs can be seen hanging in the state capitol, businesses across Texas and even in campuses and facilities in Pasadena ISD.

Sweitzer received the America Heart Association’s Health Site Award for his advocacy.

“That was when I realized you can make a difference,” he said.

Upon learning about the award designation, Sweitzer said, “I get my inspiration from other people who work with me every day. That’s what keeps me going.”

Sweitzer never let go of the drive and continues to make a difference in the lives of many. For these reasons, he can add the Pasadena ISD Distinguished Citizen award to his list of accomplishments.
Suzette McDowell
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