January 19, 2017

I note the obvious differences in the human family.

Some of us are serious, some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived as true profundity,

and others claim they really live the real reality.  

The variety of our skin tones can confuse, bemuse, delight,

brown and pink and beige and purple, tan and blue and white.

I note the obvious differences between each sort and type,

but we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.

These are intriguing thoughts from Human Family, a poem written by the late American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. An Apple commercial featuring Angelou’s reading of this poem aired in the days before and after the recent presidential election. Of course that was no accident. Angelou’s poem is a refreshing reminder that we should all consider, particularly during this time when our political climate is riddled with such negativity and divisiveness. Her thoughtful words refocus us on the aspirations we share for our families, our communities and our world, rather than on the differences perceived as dividers.

I certainly understand that people are very passionate about politics and our elections, but I choose to believe that at the very core, it is driven by our love for country. Yes, we have different ideas about what is best for our country’s future, but I believe we can all come together and overcome these challenges and realize that we, as Americans, are far more alike than we are different. Over the next few months and years, what I hope and pray for our nation, is that we will regain our focus and dedication. We are the United States of America, and we are indeed one amazing nation. Fostering an inclusive culture is intrinsic to our success.

My wonderful 87-year-old mother frequently says, “Mark, I’ve never seen the world and our nation in such a mess.” I know where my mom is coming from, but I remind her that America is resilient and strong. America, like every nation, has had challenges. And although the issues we face as a nation are challenging enough, we have gone through much tougher times in our nation’s history, like World War II and the Civil War.

I think one of the byproducts of our current climate is going to be the incredible and wonderful diversity so many people actually are embracing more than ever in America today. Texas Children’s is a demonstration of that assertion. Embracing all races, genders and religions was at the core of our founding.

Our founding fathers, James Abercrombie and Leopold Meyer, wanted Texas Children’s to be a hospital for all children regardless of race, religion and economic circumstances. They wanted to make sure that we were here to take care of all children regardless of that family’s ability to pay. That principle has been woven into the fabric of our culture at Texas Children’s – we are all for one and one for all. We are not focused on “I” or “me.” WE work together to meet the needs of families across our great nation who come to us for care – including the underserved, the uninsured and the disenfranchised.

That is why we created Texas Children’s Health Plan – the nation’s first HMO for children – our community health centers, our second community hospital opening in The Woodlands later this year, and supported the implementation of the STAR Kids program to help families manage the care of children with complex medical needs. Many of the families we serve are those who, due to circumstances often times beyond their control, simply could not access or afford the health care they deserve.

United, we stand in the gap at Texas Children’s to extend a helping hand and give these families the lift they need. I trust that our nation will do the same. I trust we will find a way to collectively unify and emerge stronger. We will do that because regardless of the news and naysayers, I believe we want so many of the same things for our nation. We are after all, more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.

January 13, 2017

It is the beginning of a new year, and what I appreciate about January is that so many people have such a renewed energy. There is a fresh note of promise ushered in that reinvigorates people around postponed goals and good intentions. The new year is a welcome reset button for many, and if a holiday moves someone closer to positive change, that is indeed a good thing. But personally, I don’t reserve hopeful energy for the new year – I strive to dwell in possibility at all times. I believe, especially at Texas Children’s, we are surrounded by opportunities to make the impossible a reality, every single day.

Perhaps this is why The Art of Possibility is one of my favorite books. My wife Shannon recommended this book to me, and after I read it, it became one of the books I most often recommend to others. It is written by a fascinating couple – conductor Benjamin Zander and his wife, psychotherapist Rosamund Stone Zander. I was of course struck immediately by the title, but as I got into reading the book, I realized how closely aligned it was with many of my personal beliefs and leadership maxims.

For instance, the book emphasizes everyone’s ability to lead, pursue possibility and experience positive results. It is seemingly such a simple notion, but in reality, this is an incredibly powerful mindset. If we believe hope is around every corner or that something wonderful – and perhaps even life changing – is always within our grasp, imagine the excitement and anticipation that would fill each of us. Imagine how resourceful we might become and the fervor with which we would pursue possibilities.

You know, ever since I was 16, and I decided that I wanted to go into health care and some day be a CEO of a major U.S. hospital, I have thought about the kind of leader I would be and what I could do in an organization. However, what I was struck by even when I was very young, when I was in college, through grad school and when I started my career in the Texas Medical Center nearly 40 years ago, was that health care and medicine was filled with so much gloom and doom. In health care, there are always diseases for which a cure seems elusive, there are more patients than caregivers, more needs than resources. And there is loss – loss of life, loss of jobs, and, if we are not careful, loss of hope.

I observe this even today about our industry. It is a volatile and often unpredictable industry. Yet, in the midst of this, my hope is not diminished, and my outlook is unchanged. If anything, because of what we have already accomplished in such short time at Texas Children’s, I am even more inspired to find the answers and the resources to create a future where nothing is impossible.

All of the gloom and doom – I think we have to tune that out. Of course, at first you must digest information to understand your challenges. But then, push that out. Do not use negative information to predict the future. Focus instead on creating the future that works for you and works for Texas Children’s. That is what we have always tried to do here. We are not trying to predict the future, we are trying to create the best future for our organization and for children and women everywhere. We dwell in the possibilities of Texas Children’s.

And of course we have had many examples over the years that demonstrate how we have truly explored the art of possibility and the extent of our aspirational goals and imagination. The Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute, Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, Texas Children’s Pediatrics, Texas Children’s Health Plan, even installing the submarine vaulted doors in the Abercrombie and West Tower basements to prevent flooding. Those are all examples of how at Texas Children’s, we were thinking outside of the box instead of simply wringing our hands and being worried. We were on the outside of the box, looking up, thinking about solutions to problems before they even came to light.

That is why Texas Children’s is dynamic and upbeat, positive and unified. We have one mission, one culture, and we are one amazing team. And that culture, with those characteristics, dwelling in possibilities every single day, creates a performance dividend – every single minute and every day and every year at Texas Children’s. So through better times or tough times, Texas Children’s has always been able to remain strong and flourish. We do not suspend our time and efforts and our ideas in the face of uncertainty. We place our energy in creating our own future at Texas Children’s. We dream audaciously and focus on seizing the power of potential. Because we know at Texas Children’s, every day is a new day and a new chance to passionately pursue possibility.