Jerry Vigil sitting in a field with his late wife Pamela Galbraith
By Michelle G. McRuiz

Remembering a “Magical Life”

Jerry R. Vigil’s Continued Generosity Spotlights his Wife’s Decades of Service to New Mexicans

Pamela M. Galbraith became a Burqueña by accident in 1972, when she and a friend were driving west from her home state of Michigan. When they reached Albuquerque, they ran out of money. Pam, showing the undaunted determination for which she would eventually be celebrated, immediately got a job as an ER nurse at the Bernalillo County Medical Center, which later became The University of New Mexico Hospital.

Pam spent the next 33 years at UNMH and held 17 positions there, from staff nurse to director of nursing to nurse educator and eventually administrator. She oversaw the Emergency Department, Lifeguard Air Emergency Services, portions of the UNM Cancer Center and the Children’s Psychiatric Center. Jerry R. Vigil, her husband of 38 years, said Pam excelled at solving problems and leading others.

“When she came to Albuquerque, UNMH was a little-bitty hospital,” he said. “The ER was her first love. She liked the chaos. If things were in a steady state, she wasn’t very motivated. In stressful situations, she was doing her very best.”

About a year after Pam’s death in 2016, Jerry and his daughters launched the Pamela M. Galbraith Foundation to raise awareness for emergency medicine and mental health and serve as a reflection of her generous spirit and tremendous heart.

The foundation supports institutions in New Mexico and Michigan. Jerry established two funds to benefit UNMH: the Pamela M. Galbraith Memorial Patient Support Fund for the UNM Children’s Psychiatric Center, which provides intensive behavioral health services for children and adolescents through age 17, and the Pamela M. Galbraith Memorial Education Fund supporting the UNMH Emergency Department.

Jerry Vigil and Pamela Galbraith
Pamela M. Galbraith and Jerry R. Vigil


Earlier this year, Jerry made a major new gift in Pam’s memory to the Children’s Psychiatric Center supporting a new art and music therapy program for the Center’s patients.

“Jerry has provided the ability for Arts and Medicine to conduct weekly groups with all of our children at UNM Children’s Psychiatric Center,” said Briana Chavez, executive director of Inpatient Behavioral Health. “These groups are highly anticipated by patients and staff alike. Recently, the Arts and Medicine team facilitated a drumming group, which was really successful. We are so grateful to have access to this service – it truly makes a difference for our kids.”

Art therapy has been shown to be effective for children and teens in psychiatric treatment. The unique nature of the program appealed to Jerry, and Pam loved children. He believes she would have been pleased with the gift.

Pam set an example of service throughout her career, Jerry said.

She worked on her own time to save small rural hospitals in Santa Rosa, Deming, Truth or Consequences and Mountainair by assembling teams and finding supplies and funds to keep those facilities – vital to the health of New Mexicans and travelers – in business.

“She truly loved New Mexico, especially the people,” said Jerry. “She was selfless and very down-to-earth. You’d never know she was an administrator.”

After her retirement from UNMH, Pam became CEO of ValueOptions New Mexico, an entity supporting New Mexico’s behavioral health services, managing 17 behavioral health organizations. That role, combined with her leadership at Children’s Psychiatric Center, sparked a new passion: mental health.

“She became a grande dame of mental health in New Mexico,” Jerry said. In fact, she was invited to serve on President George W. Bush’s Mental Health roundtable.

In many ways, the 2000s were the culmination of Pam’s career. She received the Governor’s Award for Outstanding New Mexico Women in 2003 and was inducted into the New Mexico Women’s Hall of Fame. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft appointed her to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women.

Her peers elected her to serve on the governing council of the American Hospital Association Section of Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Services. And in 2008, she began an eight-year stint with the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee as a program evaluator, helping shape statewide public policy.

Pam took on these roles with an earnest, caring attitude, but she was demanding, too. “People would say she was one of the most effective managers they’d ever had,” Jerry said. “She was tough, but not unfair. She was giving and always wanted people to be better.”

You don’t feel any better in life than when you’re doing something for somebody else.
Jerry Vigil

Her legacy of service is an example for others. “You don’t feel any better in life than when you’re doing something for somebody else,” Jerry said. “Because in the end, it’s not about you. It’s about what you do for others.”

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