March 30, 2017

In my 27 years at Texas Children’s Hospital, we have been blessed to cut the ribbon and open the doors to a number of brand new, state-of-the-art facilities designed to care for every need of our patients, families, staff and employees. But perhaps one of the most surreal of those openings was that of Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women on March 23, 2012.

That day was an incredible culmination of events that started in 2005, believe it or not, over a casual cup of coffee with David Fine, then-President and CEO of St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. As David and I were talking, he suggested that St. Luke’s was ready to shift away from women’s services. I immediately and literally raised my hand and said, “I want in. We’ll take it.”

I knew that no organization in the U.S. had conjoined a leading children’s hospital with a women’s hospital providing ob/gyn, maternal fetal medicine and other women’s services. This was a really big, novel idea that, honestly, a lot of people hesitated to embrace. But fortunately, Texas Children’s Board, leaders, staff and employees are not like most people. We thrive when challenged, and for us, the ability to conceive a vision is simply the first step in fulfilling it.

So this seemingly impossible idea quickly became a reality that our Board and leadership were passionately pursuing. Within a couple years of that fateful cup of coffee with David, we were starting construction. Texas Children’s Hospital was building Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women … and our mission became that much bigger.

As with everything we pursue, we always ensure exceptional leadership to guide us, and the Pavilion for Women was another result of a stellar leadership team. I transferred what began as an idea and a vision to the leadership of then-Executive Vice President Ann Stern, Women’s Services Senior Vice President Cris Daskevich, Bellows Construction President Laura Bellows, FKP Architects CEO Diane Osan and philanthropist Laura Arnold.

What a blessing it was to have five incredibly talented and dedicated women to lead and make the dream of the Pavilion for Women a stunning reality. There were many other women – throughout Texas Children’s and in the Houston community – involved in guiding and evolving ideas for the design and experience of the Pavilion for Women, and I’ve no doubt that made all the difference in the world.

The day before we were set to have our grand opening of the Pavilion for Women, I remember pausing for a moment to really take in what we had done. Even my grandest dreams paled in comparison to the lovely reality of the Pavilion for Women and that amazing Miracle Bridge. Opening the Pavilion for Women would be a historic milestone, not just for Texas Children’s, but for health care – our conjoined children’s hospital-women’s hospital model was unique then, and to date, it still is.

By the end of fiscal year 2012, just shy of six months after the opening, the Pavilion for Women had already had 408,000 patient encounters and more than 2,000 births, including 73 sets of multiples. We now have more than 6,000 births a year with 20 percent of those being high-risk cases, and to date, we have had 27,000 births, 907 multiples and 16,000 surgeries. Amazing. Some might say the Pavilion for Women is working out pretty well for Texas Children’s Hospital.

And as we continue on this incredible journey and trajectory, I am confident it will keep getting better and better. Inevitably we will continue to grow. We had the foresight to build the Pavilion such that we could expand another eight floors to meet the demands of our increasing patient volume. So I would venture to say that another vertical expansion is sometime in our future, which will allow us to grow our women’s services programs.

Seeing all of the events, stories, videos and photos marking the Pavilion’s five-year anniversary this week has been simply wonderful. It is a terrific reminder of how big we can dream. But I have always said, we are not trying to be the biggest in Houston. We are on a deliberate and ambitious path to be the best in the world.

March 5, 2017

There are some things you simply never tire of. For me, one of them is driving into work each morning. I never cease to be both amazed and appreciative when I approach the campus and I see the gleaming pink granite of our Texas Children’s buildings.

Even after all these years, I can still so easily picture where we began. When I came to Texas Children’s Hospital in 1989, we only had the seven-floor Abercrombie Building. We had a great Board – some of those same members are still on the Board today. We had talented physicians and nurses, and the best employees. When I was recruited, the Board convinced me that we could do something incredible here. And optimist that I am, I believed that as well.

I would look at the unassuming structure that was Texas Children’s at the time, and I dreamed beyond those walls and the seventh floor. I was convinced and often spoke of the preeminent children’s hospital we would someday become. But even I could never have imagined anything like what Texas Children’s is today. We dream big here, and yet we keep finding ways to exceed our imaginations.

I have continued to think about that since the Board surprised me with last week’s announcement about the renaming of the Clinical Care Tower. I love the clinical building especially because of the story behind the purchase. As some of you might know, it sits on a piece of property called the S Lot, which is owned by the Texas Medical Center. When we were expanding the West Tower and building the new clinical building, we had to go to TMC President Dr. Richard Wainerdi to get the rights to build on the S Lot.

Board member Ben Brollier and I met with Dr. Wainerdi and laid out a comprehensive plan for the West Tower and new clinical care building. And it was pretty ambitious – at the time, the project was one of the nation’s largest building projects for a health care organization. When we started to discuss the cost of the purchase. Dr. Wainerdi said, “Mark, how about if we do a long-term land lease? How about 199 years for $1 a year?” Wow. I grabbed my checkbook and wrote the check right then and there.

I am convinced that Dr. Wainerdi was a believer like us – he could see our dream. We have been blessed with so many moments, supporters and believers like that. Board members, donors, staff and employees who embody and take ownership of our mission and find new ways daily to help Texas Children’s be better than the day before. I know I will always think of that when I see the newly named tower. I will be reminded that we did it – you and I, the Board. We did it, Texas Children’s. And the very best part, though, is that we are still doing it, still imagining and still exceeding.

Thank you. Not just for the name on the building, but for the journey behind it. I am so humbled, and I cannot adequately put into words just how much this means to me. This gift is a symbol of our success. Together, we have done amazing things, and we have done them because 27 years later, we still have a great Board, talented physicians and nurses, and the world’s best employees. And I think we keep growing because we simply cannot contain the boundless dreams and possibilities of Texas Children’s.

Click here for a video of last week’s surprise announcement.