After the Fire
Pattie Beers McGlinchey ’89 brings healing, hope to burn victims
by Bryan Wendell
Zachary Sutterfield hurled himself out of the burning second-story apartment building, landing headfirst on the ground below.

He survived, but the 2018 fire in San Marcos, Texas, killed five fellow college students, including two of Sutterfield’s close friends.

With burns covering 70% of his body, Sutterfield’s road back has been long, exhausting and painful.

But he’s not traveling it alone. He’s had help from people like Pattie Beers McGlinchey ’89, a physical therapist at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center in San Antonio.

Pattie Beers McGlinchey medically wrapping someones fingers
Photo: Steven Galvan
Pattie Beers McGlinchey ’89 provides care to severely burned service members.
“When they come in, anybody off the street would say there’s no way they are going to survive,” she says. “Our job is to take that person and help them be able to enjoy life again.”

With burn patients, the adversary is the person’s own skin, which contracts as it heals. To prevent this tightening, McGlinchey tries to get patients moving and help them function.

The facility treats civilians from south-central Texas as well as active-duty soldiers. As the only military burn unit in the country, the center sees any member of the military who is badly burned anywhere in the world.

McGlinchey’s own military ties began at Bucknell, where she received an ROTC scholarship and majored in psychology. She earned a master’s from Baylor University and was stationed at Fort Polk in Louisiana and Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio before joining the burn center.

The work is challenging, but the rewards are abundant, as when Sutterfield sends videos of himself completing tasks that seemed impossible a year prior.

“He’ll send me videos where he made breakfast. Or did his own gardening,” she says. “He’s one of the true gems out there who survive this, and he’s doing the best he can right now — thriving and trying to help others.”