June 1, 2020 | (26) Comments

In 1954, Texas Children’s was founded to serve all children – regardless of their race, religion, creed or ability to pay. Jim Abercrombie and Leopold Meyer set this clear intention as the guiding principle of Texas Children’s, and we have lived by those principles each and every day. At our core, we are an inclusive organization that prides ourselves on welcoming everyone – patients, families, providers and staff. We recognize our diversity and that our melting pot of cultures, religions, races and genders woven together is what creates our One Amazing Team.

The news of George Floyd’s death and the protests that ensued caused me to reflect on so many rights that I deeply value. The same rights and principles that we are blessed to live by at Texas Children’s. I acknowledge that as a white man, it is difficult for me to truly understand the pain and fear that our communities of color are experiencing – however, I still feel the pain and believe I, and each of you, have a role in ending this injustice.

It is not easy to admit that in 2020 racism is still prevalent, but it is the truth and we must all be courageous in confronting this reality. What we are seeing today is not a mere response to the tragic and wrongful deaths we have read about in the news, but it is a reaction to the lack of equality and justice that has been prevalent in American society for hundreds of years. I wholeheartedly believe that a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

This is a turning point for our country and we must each do our part to keep us on the right track. It is our responsibility to speak up, teach our children right from wrong, lean in and have the difficult conversations, call our representatives in Congress, and LEAD. Just as Martin Luther King, Jr. did during the Civil Rights Movement, we must let our voices be heard, but we must do so without violence. The spirit of people is a sensitive part of human nature that we must nurture and not trample on.

We live in the greatest country in the world, and I choose to believe that we can rise above and create the world that we want our children to live in. I recognize that this is not an easy task but I challenge you all to take the example you are setting at Texas Children’s and spread it throughout your communities. Texas Children’s is an incredibly special place to work and it is because of the pride and respect we have in believing that our differences unite us and make us stronger. The same is true for our country. No matter your race or ethnicity, we must all work together to peacefully call out injustice and end bigotry and racism. What are you doing to help somebody today?

March 12, 2020 | (2) Comments

With the emerging and quickly changing situation around COVID-19, I’m reminded that these are the times that show and strengthen the culture of leadership at Texas Children’s, and make us even more cohesive.

I understand the spread of the virus is unsettling to many of us, but please rest assured that the medical and administrative teams have been monitoring the outbreak since its early phase in Wuhan and we are taking every precaution to keep our patients, faculty and staff safe. The health and well-being of our local, regional, national and international community remain our highest priority.

As Mayor Sylvester Turner shared during yesterday’s press conference, our community’s reach is extensive, and it is difficult to close our borders. However, the shared goal of all leaders is to contain and mitigate the spread of the virus. I agree with the city’s decision to cancel current and upcoming events such as the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo as it is the best way to keep our community safe.

Leading is not always easy, but in challenging times such as the one we are currently facing, it is our responsibility to make decisions that are in our shared best interest. Dr. David Persse, City of Houston Local Health Authority, could not have said it any better when he stated that if we are successful in containing this virus, it will be because of what we have done, not because it wasn’t necessary.

Whether you’re directing our daily response or making sure you are taking personal precautions – like practicing good hand hygiene – please know that your leadership at every level throughout our organization matters, and I am truly grateful for the work you’re doing to keep us all safe.

In addition to our One Amazing Team, I’m also grateful for the teams that surround us here in the Texas Medical Center. Texas Children’s is part of the largest and most resourceful medical center in the world, and we have some of the best and brightest medical experts in the country leading our collective response to this situation. All of the TMC institutions are sharing ideas, best practices, protocols, information and resources to support one another and, ultimately, help ensure a healthier community.

As the situation evolves, please continue to stay informed about Texas Children’s travel policies, visitation restrictions, vendor and volunteer guidelines, and large group meetings or events.  We have dedicated a page on our website and on Connect where information is regularly updated, and you will continue to receive global alerts from the teams leading this initiative including Dr. Jim Versalovic, interim Physician-in-Chief, Mark Mullarkey, Executive Vice President and Mary Jo Andre, Chief Nursing Officer.

In compliance with our current policies, I have made the decision to cancel my remaining film screenings of Dwelling in Possibility. I have enjoyed spending time with so many of you at those events, but the well-being of our patients, staff and employees is my number one priority at all times.  I look forward to rescheduling the screenings once we feel it is safe to lift these guidelines about large events.

While we weather the tides ahead, we must remain calm and focused. Texas Children’s, inclusive of our 106 locations across Texas as well as every one of our physicians and employees, is ready and prepared for what may come next. I understand we all have concerns, but I am confident in our ability to come together to keep Texas Children’s safe, just as we have always done.

March 2, 2020 | (73) Comments

Last week’s conviction of Harvey Weinstein marked a turning point in the #MeToo movement. As I read the news last Tuesday, I was fixated on the high stakes that would follow this jury’s decision. The significant media attention on this trial meant that the outcomes of the case would have a lasting impact on the how women’s voices are heard and respected, and how future cases are treated in the court of law—as well as in the court of public opinion.

Although there is still much work to be done, the guilty verdicts on two of the charges against Weinstein are evidence that the tide is continuing to shift in the treatment of survivors, and that we are beginning to shed light on perpetrators and calling them out on their reprehensible behavior.  The brave women who testified and refused to back down despite any backlash they received, did so because, for the first time, they felt supported and empowered by the millions of people holding them up.

The #MeToo movement was founded by sexual assault survivor and activist Tarana Burke in 2006 to raise awareness of sexual abuse and assault, and to help survivors heal. Ms. Burke intended for her social justice efforts to help remove the silent shame of survivors. What happened, though, was that #MeToo propelled a conversation that was long overdue, and put a spotlight on an issue that is shockingly common and devastating to its survivors, especially when they feel voiceless, alone or discredited. When it comes to sexual assault, victim blaming is rampant in our society. However, in cases of home break-ins, robberies or car accidents, it would be hard to imagine blaming the victim.

More than a decade later, #MeToo was reignited as revelations of sexual abuse, assault and harassment amassed in the film and media industries, politics and corporations around the world. When accusations involve powerful, well-known and seemingly respectable leaders, people often express ambiguity about right and wrong.

Let’s be clear: all people–women and men—deserve to feel safe. And more pointedly, all people deserve to feel safe, especially from sexual abuse, harassment and assault, in the workplace. All of us are responsible for creating that environment and holding each other accountable.

Here at Texas Children’s, regardless of job or title, everyone deserves to come to work or to receive care knowing that this is a safe environment where you will be respected, your personal boundaries will not be crossed, and you will be valued for your hard work and contributions. We have zero tolerance for sexual harassment – or harassment of any kind – in our workplace.

Texas Children’s inclusive and interactive culture thrives on teamwork and mutual respect. Our diverse perspectives, ideas, backgrounds and cultures are the best things about us. And my personal commitment to you is to do all I can to ensure a diverse, inclusive culture that is respectful and safe for every single one of you, every day.

Workplace Harassment Policy

Workplace Harassment Procedure

February 11, 2020 | (63) Comments

My wife Shannon and I watched the Oscars Sunday night, as did about 23 million people across the world. She and I are movie buffs, and like many, we enjoy the anticipation of seeing which films will leave with the golden statues.

As entertaining as this always is, it’s no secret that the Academy Awards has historically not been the most diverse display of talent. In fact, you’ll likely recall that just a few years ago, the absence of diversity was so glaring it prompted the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag in response to the homogenous slate of nominees.

The Academy took note and overhauled its voting membership to be more inclusive across race, gender, age and geography. With almost 800 new members, the voting body was suddenly about 40 percent female and 30 percent non-white.

After nearly 90 years, it seemed the Academy was finally on track to get it right. And last year seemed to bear the fruit. In 2019, the Oscar nominees were the most diverse in Academy history, with people of color winning Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Costume Design and several other categories, about 10 in all.

Then as we watched on Sunday, I was daunted by how quickly the Oscars had again become so dissimilar to the rich and diverse tapestry that is America. There was one nominee of color among the four acting categories: Best Actress nominee Cynthia Erivo, who was nominated for her performance in Harriet. And although Erivo did not win, she left her mark on all – and certainly on me – with her soul-stirring performance of Stand Up.

The big award of the night – Best Picture – went to Parasite, the first non-English film to win the coveted best film award and the first to win both the Best Picture and Best International Film Oscars. This is a remarkable nod to the fact that we can appreciate each other’s story, even if it’s not our own.

Why is this important? Why does it matter who the members of the Academy nominate and who ultimately gets the award? Watching this show reminds me of how long it takes to create change, and how quickly that change reverts if we are not intentional. It was so fitting that singer Janelle Monae wrapped up her performance by reminding the audience that it is Black History Month and challenged them to “come alive.”

If we view change as a few checked boxes that we superficially revisit when unrest peaks, our progress is short lived. Change is a daily practice and a series of intentional, progressive actions. In this case, the Academy’s membership overhaul was a good step in the right direction to ensure representation. And I don’t profess to know the movie business, but before that can really matter, opportunities for diverse talents, stories and images that reflect everyone must exist.

There is work to be done. And the Academy should be one of the easiest places to start. Our stories are powerful – they transcend our differences and bind us indelibly. If the main industry that thrives on telling the stories that bring people together still struggles to ensure everyone’s story is heard and appreciated, there’s work to be done. We’ve got to come alive, and we must be intentional about coming together in every action we take, every single day.