The Compassion Path, a trail of 11 trees along the walking and jogging path in front of the Long Campus, was dedicated in a special ceremony in the lobby of the Academic and Administration Building on April 19. The ceremony included a visit from Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who spoke about the importance of San Antonio’s commitment to compassion and the university’s efforts to uphold those values.
“This path is a beautiful tribute to our city’s compassion work and a perfect example of what we hoped to do through the San Antonio Compassion Tree Project,” Mayor Nirenberg said. “UT Health San Antonio has been a leader among leaders in this critical work.”
The project is part of the Compassionate San Antonio Resolution, the first council resolution Mayor Nirenberg signed when he took office in 2017, which affirmed San Antonio as an official Compassionate City, now among 450 cities around the world. San Antonio was one of the first compassionate cities worldwide to integrate systemic compassion into educational institutions through Compassion Integrity Training.
“Neuroscientific research has shown that compassion is a part of the human DNA,” Mayor Nirenberg went on to say. “And the research affirms that we can develop, nourish and strengthen our compassionate skillsets by awareness, education and repetition, which provides all of us some of the greatest of hope in times when we need hope so desperately.”
The Compassion Path was created in December 2020 by the inaugural cohort of the UT Health San Antonio Compassionistas, a group of 11 faculty members from all five schools. Eight of the trees were gifted from the City of San Antonio, and three additional trees were donated by UT Health San Antonio’s grounds management department. The path begins near the guard station on Floyd Curl Drive and ends at the second guard station on Louis Pasteur Drive.
Each tree along the path is marked with a special plaque beneath it conveying a different compassion statement at every tree, meant to encourage peaceful relaxation and reflection for those that walk the path.
Robert Esterl, MD, associate dean for Undergraduate Medical Education and Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of Surgery, is one of the original Compassionistas, and spoke about the vision and purpose of the Compassion Path at the dedication ceremony.
“This 15-month project was envisioned and completed through the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 winter storm and now the Ukrainian-Russian war. Practicing compassion and empathy has never carried a greater significance and meaning than during these crises,” Dr. Esterl said. “The Compassion Path is a visible and constant reminder of the need to practice compassion and empathy in everything we do and will hopefully spur creation of other meaningful compassion initiatives that encourage our students, faculty and staff to make lives better, as our UT Health San Antonio motto inspires us to do.”