May 21, 2015

A few days ago, I was part of a long and cherished tradition at Texas Children’s – the Employee Recognition Celebration, which honors employees who have served the organization at least 15 years. I love this celebration because when I walk into the room, it’s so full of excitement and energy and laughter and memories. It simply gives me goose bumps.

As I visited almost every table in the room, I’d look at the employees’ faces, hear their names, and I’d remember how we started. There were just 1,400 of us when I arrived in 1989. So everyone in the room celebrating 25 to 40 years, well we’ve been together a long time. And when we started out together, we were like the Spartans – we were a small group, but fearless.

We knew together that we could accomplish great things. So it was really special to connect at this year’s celebration. It was a remarkable reminder of how we all came together – along with the Board, Dr. Feigin and the medical staff – and just knew we were going to do something amazing here.

Taking the stage and looking out into the crowd, those first few moments were pretty emotional and very special. There were 415 Texas Children’s employees being honored for their collective 7,460 years of service to our organization. In those moments, looking out into the room, I thought, “This is our core.” Long-term employees who have been here 15, 20, 25 years or more, they are our core. They are the organization’s backbone – the guardians and caretakers of our mission and culture. Their passion, and most importantly, their commitment are the secret to our decades of success.

Mark stops to chat with Valesca Adams, a 40-year employee who was honored recently at the annual Employee Recognition Celebration.
Mark stops to chat with Valesca Adams, a 40-year employee who was honored recently at the annual Employee Recognition Celebration.

Employees like Valesca Adams live, breathe and drive our mission every day. Valesca, a nurse in renal dialysis, was celebrating 40 years of service to the organization – 38 of those years have been in the same unit. Dedication and longevity like hers strengthens our foundation. When Nancy Hurst joined Texas Children’s 30 years ago, she began our lactation support program and the milk bank was created. She has worked tirelessly to educate new mothers ever since, and her work has been invaluable to the health of newborns.

And I couldn’t help but break into a smile when I chatted with Keith Strobel, a systems analyst who was celebrating his 25th year right along with me. Keith was one of the Spartans. Jewel Mitchell was also celebrating 25 years of service. She began her career here just six months before I did. When I stopped by Jewel’s table at the celebration, she talked about how much change and growth she has seen during her time here. Jewel said the past 25 years have been “one heck of a ride.” I couldn’t have said it any better.

Everywhere I turned, there was a face with a story and a life dedicated to serving others. I was honored to stand amongst them all as I remembered my own milestone anniversary and my own commitment to service. It really has been one heck of a ride, and we’ve come such a long way. Yet, I feel like we’re just getting started. Thank you all so much for this wonderful journey.

May 14, 2015

One of the things I love about Texas Children’s is that we are not afraid to speak up when change needs to happen. Many of you email me when you have ideas about how to improve patient care or how we can operate more efficiently. Sometimes your emails are very personal in nature, or you may be passionate about a change that would impact many.

Regardless of why you email me, I read your messages. I listen, and I think about your questions and suggestions, because it’s not lost on me how incredible we must be as an organization if you can so freely do that – regardless of who you are or what your title is. Your messages and your efforts to continuously make us better reflect how invested we are in the mission of Texas Children’s. We are not 12,000+ people simply clocking in to work every day. We are a team – a family – driven by a passion to care for and heal people.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about our patients’ experiences here. Just as important to me, however, is your experience here. In an interview once, I was asked, “What keeps you up at night?” While I wouldn’t say I lose sleep over anything in particular, I understand the essence of that question, and my response then and now is that more than anything, I think about our people. I think about whether I’m helping nurture your growth and providing the tools and opportunities you need to carry out your ideas and visions to the greatest extent of your capabilities and talents.

As a leader, I believe if you foster a culture centered on your employees, you will be amazed at the extraordinary effort they put forth. So, your notes to me and the conversations we have in the hallways of Texas Children’s are integral to how I lead this organization. One of the most important characteristics I think a leader can possess is being a good listener. To be an effective listener, you have to be available to listen and listen with the intent of understanding a different, yet valuable perspective.

That’s why it means so much to me that we are bringing back our organization-wide engagement survey, now called “Your Texas Children’s Experience.” It’s open for the next two weeks, and for me, this survey is a way to hear from each one of you about what you’re experiencing here – the good, the great and especially the things we can do better. But it’s also a promise – a promise that I will listen and that your leaders will listen. And together we will work to respond to the needs of the organization.

May 7, 2015

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. It’s the day we show appreciation to the special women in our lives who take care of our children and who took care of us growing up. Mother’s Day always reminds me of my childhood and celebrating that holiday at our church.

When I was growing up, my family and I went to church a lot. We went for Sunday school, again for church service, broke for lunch and then went back for choir practice and for Baptist Training Union, which was essentially a repeat of Sunday school.

I confess, I sometimes faked a headache to try to get out of that extra church, but my mother – like most mothers – was far too smart for that. She’d say, “Oh, Mark, that’s just a TU (training union) headache. Now get in the car.”

But I never tried to fake an ailment when the Mother’s Day Sunday service came around. I looked forward to it. Our pastor, Hugh Bumpas, better known as Brother Bumpas, would ask all the mothers to stand, and then he’d start identifying the one with the most children, the oldest, the youngest, the one who came from the farthest away, etc. It was fun to see who held the “title” for each distinction.

The moment of recognition was brief, but it was powerful. All those moms proudly standing, knowingly acknowledging each other for the bond they shared and the service to which they all had committed themselves day after day. This Mother’s Day, I want to do the same for the moms here.

Women make up almost 70 percent of the Texas Children’s family, and we know that at least 73 percent of those women are mothers. Now, I can’t really ask all of you to stand – nor do I think it would be prudent to ask which one of you is the oldest – but I do want to take this moment to celebrate you and your contributions to and impact on our world, especially here at Texas Children’s.

As mothers, you lead and organize, you listen and guide; you epitomize strength, compassion and commitment. And you bring all those qualities to bear on everything you do here, not only for our patients and their families, but also for your fellow team members. You constantly give the best of yourselves for those in your care.

Honestly, I can’t imagine our organization without the spirit and influence of all the mothers who serve here. This Mother’s Day, we honor you.