All in good fun: For a good cause

HARLINGEN — The night started out innocently, but after a couple jabs and laughs, nobody was safe.

Dr. Nolan Perez, noted physician, relentless education advocate, husband and father, took a few for the cause last night at the 27th Annual Celebrity Roast to benefit the Literacy Center of Harlingen.

In front of a full house gathered in the upstairs clubhouse at Valley Race Park, several of Perez’s best friends showed him how much they loved him, both with kind words mixed in with some serious ribbing.

Most of the jokes about Perez involved his short stature and his career as a gastroenterologist.

Emcee of the event was Dr. Art Cavazos, superintendent of Harlingen CISD, who prepared a few zingers for his own defense. He works with Perez, who is the president of the HCISD board.

Roasters were Drs. Linda Burke, Cesar Maldonado and Ruben Torres, and David Sanchez and Dan Sanchez.

The roast opened with a video message from Sen. John Cornyn, who congradulated Perez for is work and sent him a “good luck on all the jabs.”

Cavazos took control and left nobody out, stating the roasters could “do whatever is necessary.”

That’s when a referee came from the back of the room, blowing his whistle. The referee wasn’t even off limits to Cavazos or the other roasters. The next 90 minutes were filled with laughter and jokes all around.

Prior to the event, several people talked about Perez and why the event was so popular.

“Dr. Perez is a huge advocate for education,” said Shane Strubhart, director of Public Relations/Community Engagement for the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District and a member of the Literacy Center’s board.

Pam Warner, also a member of the Literacy Center board and a tutor, previously served as director of nursing as well as director of medical services at Valley Baptist Medical Center. She said tickets for last night’s roast sold out quickly.

“We had to turn some people away,” she said.

She called it a testament to the esteem in which Dr. Perez is held, and not just in Harlingen, but across Texas.

“He’s a very, very good physician, and a huge community contributor,” Warner said.

Prior to the roast, Dr. Perez said he was pretty sure his sense of humor would be put to the test. He hoped it wouldn’t be him who was put to the sword.

“The more important thing that will be put to the test will be how much I can take,” he said with a laugh. “There are a lot of folks that like to dish it … and tonight I’m going to be on the receiving side.

“It’s something I couldn’t turn down,” he said. “It’s all about the charity. The Literacy Center does great things in Harlingen. For that reason, you know what? I’ll be a clay pigeon and they can all take shots at me.”

Dr. Perez has served as a member of the board of Harlingen CISD since 2010, and has been an untiring advocate for education in the Valley.

He is the chief executive officer of Gastroenterology Consultants of South Texas, RGV Wellness Center and GI Research of South Texas, all located at 512 Victoria Lane in Harlingen.

Dr. Perez is a native of the Rio Grande Valley, graduating from Port Isabel High School. He earned a BA at the University of Texas at Austin, and his medical doctorate from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Following medical school, he served in the U.S. Navy as a medical corps officer where he received the Navy Commendation and Navy Achievement medals.

He completed his residency in internal medicine at the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen, and fellowship training in gastroenterology at Wayne State University/Detroit Medical Center.

He is board-certified in gastroenterology and a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Gastroenterology.

He was appointed to the Texas Women’s University Board of Regents by Gov. Greg Abbott in 2015. He also serves on boards including the Texas Lyceum, Lone Star National Bank, UT System Chancellor’s Council executive committee, UTRGV Development Board executive committee, the University of Texas at Austin Development Board executive committee, RGV Angel Network, FIRST in Texas Foundation and more.

He is married to Sandy Perez, and the couple has two children.

Last year’s roast, which raised more than 40,000 for the Literacy Center, honored Mary Jo Vela.