April 11, 2024 | (8) Comments

I’ve shared with you time and time again how much I value leadership at all levels throughout Texas Children’s. If it weren’t for the incredible men and women who work tirelessly to become better every day, advocate for our patients and dedicate their careers to safe, high-quality health care, we would not be where we are today.

Being at the helm of this great organization for nearly 35 years has blessed me with the ability to work alongside many extraordinary leaders throughout our history and witness their legacy take form in front of my eyes. It’s a true gift that I don’t take for granted — instead, I’ve done all I can to ensure these world-changing leaders are never forgotten.

When it comes to our mission, one of the programs that is nearest to my heart is our Community Cares Program, which was founded by the phenomenal Dr. Robert F. Austin. At Community Cares, we not only provide the highest-quality care to patients, we serve as a support system for their families. It’s a different type of care that truly touches the entire home, so when it came time to name the very first Community Cares site, there was no doubt in my mind that it would be named in Dr. Austin’s honor.

As of today, we have two other Community Cares sites and in 2021, they were both named after two of the most incredible people at Texas Children’s. Our Austin location is named after Texas Children’s Emeritus Trustee, Jodie Lee Jiles. Jodie is a dear friend of mine and, by far, the strongest advocate for Texas Children’s and the underserved community. He is at the core, a supporter of humankind and a sincere doer of good.

Our Corinthian Pointe location is named after retired Texas Children’s physician, Dr. Cheryl Hardin. Even after retirement, Dr. Hardin lives and breathes Texas Children’s. The thousands of patients she cared for over the years can attest that her joy is infectious, her dedication is relentless and the care she has for families runs farther than one could ever imagine.

As you all know, there are even more spaces, programs and buildings all around Texas Children’s that are named after amazing leaders, many of which I had the immense privilege of designating. To name just a few — our very first Physician-in-Chief, Dr. Russell Blattner, and his successor, Dr. Ralph Feigin, both have areas of the hospital named in their honor. The Department of Radiology was named after Dr. Edward Singleton, who was our first physician on staff at Texas Children’s and served our patients for 60 incredible years.

Our main and largest conference room was named after George A. Peterkin, Jr. — an avid supporter of Texas Children’s for nearly 50 years. George joined the Board of Trustees in 1967 and his 49 years on our Board is the longest in Texas Children’s history, so it was only fitting that the room where our Board meetings take place today would carry his name. Another incredible Trustee and a former Chairman of the Board was Herman P. Pressler. Mr. Pressler served on the Board from its inception until the day he passed away in 1995. That same year, before his passing, the Board and I dedicated The Herman P. Pressler Lobby in honor of his insightful and remarkable commitment to Texas Children’s.

Most recently, I had the honor of naming our Nursing Excellence Suite after Lois J. Moore. Lois may have never held a position at Texas Children’s, but she certainly paved the way for women in health care leadership by being the first African American and first female administrator of a major health care system in the Texas Medical Center. Her dedication to nursing and our community remains an inspiration today and I wanted her legacy to live on through generations of Texas Children’s nurses.

And long before the millions of patients served, before any expansion and before our One Amazing Team came into existence — when Texas Children’s was merely a thought — the foundation of who we are today was set by our founders, Jim Abercrombie and Leopold Meyer, who both have their names forever set in stone at Texas Children’s.

In 1990, the Board and I named our original hospital building after Jim Abercrombie and his wife, Lillie Frank, as a lasting tribute to their legacy. And after the renovation of the Abercrombie Building and the opening of West Tower and the Clinical Care Center — now known as Wallace Tower — there was a dire need for additional space to house support services for the hospital. As a result, in 2004, the Meyer Building was opened and dedicated to the memory of Leopold Meyer and his contributions during the formative years of Texas Children’s Hospital.

When I walk the halls and see all of your hands at work, I often wonder what our founders would think if they saw us now. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that they’d be proud. Proud that we not only kept their promise of serving all children who need us but proud that we built upon it and opened doors to miracles no one could have ever dreamed of.

I may be biased, but I wholeheartedly believe that Texas Children’s is the best place in the world to learn what true leadership means and grow as a leader both professionally and in your personal life. Our exponential growth since 1954, every discovery made, patient served and treatment developed — only happened because of our one-of-a-kind leaders — leaders like you who are building the legacy of tomorrow.

March 28, 2024 | (9) Comments

National Doctor’s Day is Saturday, March 30, and it is my privilege to serve as a guest author for On The Mark.

Doctor’s Day provides an opportune moment to reflect on the significance of the medical profession and the extraordinary dedication of those who serve within it. As a physician leader, I continue to be inspired by the tireless efforts of my colleagues, whose commitment to healing and compassion certainly shapes the fabric of our health care system.

Doctor’s Day is a reminder of the responsibility we bear and the privilege we hold in caring for our patients. Regardless of the area in which you serve, it is a high honor to have a patient trust you to the extent that they will allow you to perform an operation or make life-changing or life-saving decisions for them and their families. So few people have that privilege and we should never get complacent with that.

Every day, physicians make difficult decisions and extend empathy to those in need. It’s a calling that demands resilience, expertise and an unwavering commitment to the well-being of our patients. And we must always remember that when our patient comes first, everything else will fall into place.

In today’s rapidly evolving health care landscape, the role of the physician is more complex than ever before. We are not only clinicians but also leaders, advocates and innovators. We navigate intricate systems, collaborate with multidisciplinary teams and champion advancements in medical science. For me, helping people prepare to be their best selves is what it’s all about. Witnessing talent and helping guide and mentor a physician’s career is incredibly inspiring. And innovating new therapies, developing new treatments and writing new medical books, rather than just reading them — that is what continues to drive me.

In my role, I am acutely aware of the importance of fostering a culture of support and empowerment within our medical community, and at Texas Children’s, our physicians truly take care of that culture. I am proud that we promote and embody a culture of yes — meaning we are dedicated to doing all we can and saying yes to every scenario to ultimately help our patients thrive. In the same breath, however, we must also remember to prioritize physician well-being, recognizing that our ability to care for others is linked to our own physical and emotional health and well-being.

On this Doctor’s Day, I hope we can all take a moment to reflect back on why we entered this field in the first place. I know I speak for many of you when I say that we came into medicine to help other people. This has been your life and your calling. As someone who is many years into their medical career, I leave you with this: enjoy every moment because one day it will come to an end. Even when the days are long and even when it’s difficult, you still always have the opportunity to learn something.

Happy Doctor’s Day to my fellow physicians. May we continue to serve with humility, empathy and unwavering dedication.

Michael A. Belfort, MD, PhD
Texas Children’s Obstetrician/Gynecologist-in-Chief
Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine

January 11, 2024 | (14) Comments

In a world marked by turmoil and division, the timeless words and actions of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. continue to resonate as a powerful call for unity and harmony. The impact he continues to make across the globe also resonates with me as a leader who holds immense hope for peace on earth for all.

Dr. King had many powerful statements throughout his lifetime, but as I have been reflecting on his dedicated commitment to teaching the importance of peace, I came across the following quote that moved me to spend 2024 focused on pursuing peace in every way imaginable.

“We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.”

Dr. King’s vision of peace went far beyond ridding the world of conflict — it encompassed a unique and thoughtful understanding of justice and equality. He envisioned a world where people of all backgrounds could coexist and while we have made many strides toward this vision, when we look at the events that are taking place right in front of our eyes, we also know that we have much more that must be done.

Every day, within and beyond our borders, we are witnessing innocent lives altered or even lost at the hands of violence. I know I am not alone in my advocacy and belief that something has to change today to make a difference for tomorrow.

As we all continue to navigate the complexities of our world today, as health care workers, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and genuine people of good, we must ask ourselves — how can we embody the spirit of Dr. King in our own pursuit of peace?

To this day, Dr. King’s legacy continues to urge us to work toward a society where every individual is treated with dignity and respect. He implored us not to wait for an opportune moment but to act courageously in the face of injustice.

I want you all to know that every one of us has more power than we realize to contribute to a just and peaceful world.

Together, let’s honor Dr. King by committing to being leaders who bring peace to others in everyday situations because changing the world starts by changing the world around you.

I’ve always shared that no matter what role you hold at Texas Children’s and in your personal lives, you can make the biggest difference in even the smallest of actions. This holiday weekend and beyond, I encourage you to engage in conversations that bridge divides and build connections. Create your personal vision peace and think about steps you can take to reach it. And remember that by doing so, we are working to ensure that Dr. King’s vision of a world at peace is not just a dream but a reality for generations to come.

October 31, 2023 | (18) Comments

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve as a guest blogger for On The Mark as we honor the founder of Texas Children’s Community Cares Program, Dr. Robert F. Austin, who passed away earlier this year. Dr. Austin left his mark on Texas Children’s, our entire community and so many of you — it is my honor to tell his story and share how Texas Children’s is honoring his legacy.

I can remember interviewing for my pediatric residency as if it was yesterday. I was incredibly excited but also very nervous because, on my way to Houston from California, my luggage happened to get lost along the way. When I entered my interview, the first thing I said to Dr. Ralph Feigin, who was Physician-in-Chief at the time, was an apology that I didn’t have a suit because it had stayed in my luggage. He laughed and responded, “Don’t you hate when that happens?”

His humble and gracious acceptance of my dilemma was the first sign that Texas Children’s was a very special place to be. Since that day, I’ve remained immensely grateful to Dr. Feigin because, after my interview, he invited me to meet Dr. Robert Austin, the physician who would become one of the most important and influential people in my life.

While I maintained a close relationship with Dr. Austin after our initial meeting, my career at Texas Children’s actually started in a different area than his. I spent about three years working in retrovirology and one day while I was caring for patients in Botswana, I received a call from Dr. Austin. He told me he had a project coming up that he thought I would be a great fit for and asked me to give him a call when I got back home. I didn’t know it then, but that very phone call would set the path for the rest of my career.

Dr. Austin introduced me to Project Medical Home, which is now known as Community Cares. He said he wanted this to be a place where every child could receive more than just medical care. It would be a place where they would have seamless access to resources they may not even know are available to them. He wanted this program to be a home for patients where they felt safe and secure, and as he spoke, every word he used to describe this project also described my true passion and a calling I was more than ready to answer.

Dr. Austin developed Community Cares because he believed that children are our most valuable resource. His undeniable commitment to serving all who need help, and his ability to be an advocate for the underserved, not only made a profound impact on how Texas Children’s Pediatrics provides care to those most in need — it also made a profound impact on me.

Throughout his life, Dr. Austin showed me the true art of medicine and how to care for patients from all backgrounds. He taught me that every family has a story and as physicians, it’s a privilege to listen. Dr. Austin showed me how to take the tools I’m given and make them accessible to everyone. He taught me how to provide family-centered care and truly connect with the family as a whole.

Dr. Austin’s advice, life lessons and invaluable mentorship have undoubtedly made me the physician — and person — I am today.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to come together with Mr. Wallace, my Texas Children’s colleagues and Dr. Austin’s family to honor Dr. Robert F. Austin by naming the very first Community Cares Site after him. Now, his tremendous legacy and the program he founded will continue to impact more and more families under his namesake for years to come.

Dr. Austin will never stop being my mentor — the lessons I learned while under his wing will stay with me forever. He lived his life to the fullest, he never met a stranger and he served his community with the biggest heart until the day he passed. I owe so much to his inspirational leadership, and I sincerely hope that I can carry the torch he held for so long and make him proud.

Desiree Lynell Evans, MD, MPH, FAAP
Texas Children’s Pediatrics