November 23, 2015

One thing that I have been acutely aware of since I was a small child is that those who are blessed should do all they can to be a blessing to others. This is something that I always tried to teach my own children, and it’s something I have kept in mind my entire life.

My wife, Shannon, shares this belief, and has one of the most generous spirits of anyone I know. A while back, Shannon had the idea of giving homeless people backpacks filled with items for their basic needs. I thought it was a great idea, so it’s something we do from time to time to help those in need.

I understand that homelessness is incredibly devastating. So I know that our distributing backpacks to homeless people in our community does not solve their greater problem of needing a place they can call home, but it’s just one way that Shannon and I are able to directly give to people in our community.

One day, as Shannon and I were about to deliver backpacks, she said, “Mark, we should make sure to ask people their names.” It was such a simple statement, but so thought provoking. The people we encounter on any given outing are indeed someone’s brother or sister, friend … some mother’s child. But we didn’t ask questions when we were handing out the backpacks. Our hearts and intentions were good and we wanted to help, but we didn’t want to intrude on their personal space or pride.

It had never occurred to me how meaningful it might be to simply ask their names. That day for the first time, however, we did, and the first couple we met made the most lasting impression on us. We introduced ourselves and then asked their names, and just recalling the look on their faces gives me chill bumps. First, there was complete and obvious shock and then appreciation that we’d simply acknowledged them as we would any new person we encounter. We learned their names were Sarah and John, but beyond that, we realized how such a small gesture was really the simplest, most respectful thing we could have done.

I know many of you volunteer year-round and especially through the holidays, helping others. So I know you’re already showing thanks for your blessings in ways that impact so many. But sometimes I think it’s important to remember that how we give, care and serve is often much greater that what we give. That’s true whether we’re serving in the community or caring for our families at Texas Children’s.

I hope that you will remember that – and think of Sarah and John – every time you enter a patient room or an elevator or walk through the hospital, crossing the paths of our patients and their families. Every one deserves respectful acknowledgement. It only takes a moment and a simple question or two. Just ask – and then really listen. You have no idea how thankful someone may be for your kindness.

With much gratitude, I wish you all a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving.

November 3, 2015

A few months ago I was sitting with Amber Tabora and Angela Hudson, leaders in our Marketing/PR Department, and I told them I had an exciting idea. As an organization, we had lots of great things happening: tremendous, rapid growth of our workforce and patient volume, three huge capital projects underway, and everyone was working at full throttle, and had been for quite some time.

I said, “Guys, let’s do something big. Let’s get out there and try to reach every Texas Children’s employee and show them how much they are appreciated.” Essentially, I wanted to celebrate who we are, all the amazing things we do together every day and everything that makes our organization’s culture so special.

Together, we came up with the One Mission, One Culture, One Amazing Team events – seven hospital-based celebrations. But I didn’t want to stop there. I wanted to get out and see every Texas Children’s team member at all 73 locations throughout Greater Houston. I told Amber and Angela that it had always been my dream to go on a tour and visit all of Texas Children’s locations within 24 hours. Yes, I really said within 24 hours. They were all in—at least, until I added that part about doing it all in one day.

Of course, we’ve grown much too big to see all of Texas Children’s in a single day. It actually took 10 days and about 80 hours, but we did it! After seven One Mission, One Culture, One Amazing Team events at the Main Campus, West Campus and Nabisco building, we embarked on a whirlwind, 73-stop One Amazing Team tour. Over the course of three and a half months, we visited all of Texas Children’s locations throughout the community, and it was better than anything I ever dreamed.

Click here for the One Amazing Team tour gallery. 

Traveling with a core team of 10 people, we covered about 750 miles on a bright blue, fish-themed Texas Children’s shuttle bus, and we met nearly 1,800 staff and employees. I’ll admit it’s difficult to make time to do something like this – we spent full days on the road – and it takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to travel from place to place. But this tour is hands down one of the best things I’ve ever had an opportunity to do. The investment of time and energy was invaluable, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

It was quite an experience to see up close and in person the amazing impact and imprint of Texas Children’s. Many times throughout this journey I wished I could take the entire Texas Children’s team along with me so each one of you could experience what I did. Because it’s not until you visit our locations all over the city that you can even begin to appreciate how much Texas Children’s is doing to change and advance care for children and women.

At every stop, I saw the shared pride and commitment of all the physicians and employees. I talked to practice managers about the families they serve, and I learned about ideas they’ve implemented to extend our reach and broaden access to health care in their communities. I learned about all the ways, big and small, that so many people are leading the way to ensure our patients’ sometimes complex social and clinical needs are met.

It moved me to see how we are serving so passionately in underserved communities, providing families and children with options that would otherwise be beyond their reach. I spoke with parents and kids, and I heard how their care providers, our people, are like members of their families. And the best part? People at every location told me about their close-knit teams – amazing teams – and I saw over and over how they embody and embrace our fabulous culture.

This is an incredible organization, and all of you are really special. You have heard me say that many times, and honestly, we probably all say it so much that sometimes it may seem trite. But it’s really quite remarkable that we are a workforce of 11,000 people with such diversity of interests and experiences, skills and beliefs. And yet, we have such indisputable passion for serving our one mission.

I’m truly humbled by all of the employees I met along the way who have taken the time to let me know how much they appreciate my stopping by to meet them and their teams. And of course everyone asks, “Are you going to do this again?” Without a doubt, yes. Just maybe not quite as soon as next year … In the meantime, continue your work of serving our families, and know that I appreciate everything you do. And most importantly, remember that no matter how big we get, the contributions each of you makes are valued. Each one of you is essential to our mission, and together, we will always be one amazing team.

Stay tuned for a video of all the highlights from the tour.  Until then, here’s a gallery of some of my favorite moments on the road: One Amazing Team tour photo gallery.