May 24, 2023 | (9) Comments

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and it is our immense honor to serve as guest bloggers for On the Mark. As Chief of Psychiatry and Chief of Psychology at Texas Children’s, we would like to take a few moments to talk to all of you about the importance of taking care of our mental health and well-being.

Working in healthcare, especially in pediatrics and women’s health, is an incredibly rewarding career. However, no matter how fulfilling some moments can be, we would be remiss not to acknowledge how demanding, stressful and exhausting working in healthcare can truly be.

From the very best days to the most trying times, one of the most important things we can do for ourselves and everyone around us, including our patients and their families as well as our colleagues, is to prioritize our mental health.

Over the last few years, our society experienced events and losses that undeniably changed the world. At Texas Children’s alone, we have seen an exponential increase in behavioral health requests since 2019 with behavioral health also becoming the number one sought-after service among incoming patient referrals. Additionally, instances of children coming to our Emergency Centers with critical behavioral health needs rose nearly 800% from 2019 through 2022.

These numbers can be daunting but they are also incredibly eye-opening to the fact that there is work to be done for every generation. And while in many ways, we have reached the “light at the end of the tunnel” as we often called it, one theme that remains clear after the pandemic is the vital need for mental and behavioral health care.

One of the best ways that we, as a healthcare team, can break the stigma around mental health is to talk about and prioritize mental wellbeing in our own lives, just as we prioritize our physical health and wellbeing. It is important to remember that by taking care of ourselves we can take care of others. Be compassionate with yourselves and feel no hesitation in seeking out mental health services. We are here to support you any way we can.

As healthcare employees, when it comes to caring for our own mental health, you should always remember that there are countless forms of therapy for you to discover should one not work or be comfortable for you. We see many forms taking place every day at Texas Children’s, not only through our Behavioral Health Programs, but also through Mind-Body Practices, Music Therapy, Art Therapy, Animal-Assisted Therapy, Physical and Occupational Therapy, and more.

If we can use various forms of therapy to rehabilitate our patients and help them overcome obstacles, we should be practicing this ourselves.

Your well-being is extremely important and our hope for all of you is to find healthy ways to continuously improve and care for yourselves. Mental and behavioral health, just like physical health, is an ongoing process that we must continuously work on.

As we close, we want to leave you with this — if you ever find yourself in a dark moment that you feel you cannot overcome alone, please reach out to someone. Texas Children’s has numerous resources available to employees and we’ve provided several of them below, should you ever need them.

Please remember that no matter what you may be going through at any moment in time, you are enough, you are invaluable and you are never alone.

Employee Assistance Program
Virtual Mental Health Care
Spiritual Well Being
Suicide Prevention

Kirti Saxena, MD                                                 Karin Price, PhD
Texas Children’s Chief of Psychiatry                 Texas Children’s Chief of Psychology

May 10, 2023 | (6) Comments

I am excited to celebrate National Nurses Week with our One Amazing Team! It’s no secret that Texas Children’s is filled with the most incredibly passionate and dedicated nurses who give their all to ensure that our patients always receive the very best care possible.

Just before we kicked off this yearly celebration, Texas Children’s earned our 5th Magnet Designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center! This is one of the world’s highest forms of distinction for nursing excellence and an extraordinary honor that was achieved because of our more than 4,000 nurses and their unwavering commitment to keeping our patients at the forefront of everything we do.

And in true Texas Children’s fashion, not only did our nurses receive this outstanding accomplishment, they were recognized for nine exemplars, including transformational leadership, nursing empowerment, exemplary professional practice, innovation & improvements. What an astounding achievement to celebrate during Nurses Week!

The theme for this year’s National Nurses Week is “Nurses make a difference: anytime, anywhere — always.” As I read this, it reminded me of my #1 Leadership Maxim: “Leadership always influences or determines outcomes — not some of the time, but all of the time.” At their core, Texas Children’s nurses embody this Maxim each and every day.

Over the years, many of our nurses have shared with me that this profession is a distinctive calling and truly a part of who they are as an individual. To be a nurse means to selflessly give of yourself day after day, and I remain immensely proud of our nursing leaders and staff for all they do for Texas Children’s and the families we serve.

To my nursing colleagues, thank you for choosing to answer this very special calling. I hope you know that your kindness, patience, compassion and goodness is truly changing the world.

As we continue celebrating National Nurses Week, I encourage you to thank a nurse and tell them how much they mean to you. Nursing is an incredibly tough and trying profession and I ask you to join me in my promise to support, advocate and be a light for all of our nurses.

April 24, 2023 | (163) Comments

Today, I celebrate my 70th birthday! I am so grateful for another decade spent with my family, friends and all of you! As I was nearing this personal milestone, I have been spending a lot of time reflecting on years past and quickly realized that, in many ways, I have had the privilege of growing up with Texas Children’s.

When I look back on the last 70 years, there are countless people and memories that I am immensely thankful for:

• First and foremost, my wonderful parents who taught me at a young age to have a vision for my life. They raised and supported me through every high and every low — and it brings me the greatest joy to know that I made them proud.

• My wife, Shannon, who is without a doubt, the strongest woman I have ever met. She continues to inspire me every day and I am a better person because of her.

• My many incredible mentors, colleagues and friends who selflessly helped mold and influence the man I am today.

• And of course, my One Amazing Team — all of you have made such a tremendous difference in my life and witnessing your unwavering commitment and heartfelt passion for our patients is what keeps me going on the toughest days.

I was 36 years old on my very first day at Texas Children’s. I can still remember walking the halls, meeting my new team and feeling a sense of pride, excitement and joy — it’s the same feeling I get when I walk the halls today at 70 years old.

The decision to step into this role was by far one of the best choices I made in my life. In recent years, I often get the question, “did you ever think that Texas Children’s would become what it is today?” While I knew from day one that we were destined for greatness, my honest answer is no. How could I have ever imagined the phenomenal accomplishments that we would achieve together and the exponential reach we now have as an organization? It was back then — and still is today — truly unimaginable.

I am incredibly proud to say that I have grown up with Texas Children’s — and I am blessed to continue growing alongside all of you! And as I celebrate my 70th birthday, I can honestly say that all of my birthday wishes have come true.

March 30, 2023 | (12) Comments

Today is National Doctors’ Day, and it is my privilege to serve as a guest blogger for On The Mark and I hope to honor each of the incredibly talented physicians we have here at Texas Children’s.

I came to Texas Children’s 13 years ago. One of the first things that struck me as I walked in the door was the almost palpable dedication and compassion that I felt amongst the physicians who work here. As doctors we owe our patients and their families nothing less than the highest quality, safest and best care and, simply put, I knew that I was surrounded by the very best. Back then, it took me only a few moments of walking through the halls and meeting my new colleagues to realize that I would spend my career surrounded by caring, passionate and gifted physicians. I knew that I had found my forever home.

As physicians to some of the sickest and most vulnerable patients and their families, our role is unlike any other. I have always felt that it is a real privilege to care for our patients and to be entrusted by their families to care for their children — whether in a hospital bed, the clinic or by tele- or video-medicine. As physician-scientists Stephen Trzeciak and Anothony Mazzarelli describe so powerfully in their book Compassionomics, patient care is not just about the science of medicine which comes from the books, but also the art of healing which comes from the soul.

Over the past year, I have been reminded more than ever before, why Texas Children’s is the world’s destination for comprehensive medical care for children and women. Last fall, as we were emerging from the cloud of the pandemic, we faced unprecedented patient volumes and acuity levels. All of our doctors and providers ran toward the challenge as they always have, and made sure that we could care for the tsunami of new patients as well as the ones we already had. In November we made history — having nine patients on ECMO on the same day. The readiness of our physicians and medical teams are the reason why we were able to provide this life-sustaining treatment to give hope to the sickest children.

To our doctors: since taking my new role and having the privilege of being Pediatrician In-Chief and Chair, I have gotten to know many more of you and, if it were possible — my awe and admiration for all of you have grown even more. Each of you are remarkable at what you do, but even more so, it is your heart, your compassion and your commitment that make you the most amazing team I have ever met. From the best moments to the most difficult ones, always remember that this is your calling.

To our Texas Children’s family: I ask that everyone join me in thanking a physician today. I know that you’ll agree with me that we would not be able to do what we do without our amazing doctors who consistently go above and beyond the call of duty every minute of every day.

On behalf of all of Texas Children’s, I’d like to invite our physicians to celebrate Doctors’ Day with several come-and-go events, beginning with breakfast tomorrow (Friday) in the Pavilion for Women Conference Center on the 4th floor. Breakfast will begin at 6:00 am and the other events will continue until 3:00 pm. I hope to see you all there and I wish you the very best Doctors’ Day!

Lara Shekerdemian, MD MHA
Texas Children’s Pediatrician-In-Chief
Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine