June 13, 2024 | (9) Comments

It is such an honor to celebrate the remarkable career and upcoming retirement of Dr. David G. Poplack. Dr. Poplack joined Texas Children’s in 1993, bringing with him a passion for pediatric oncology and a commitment to patient-centered care that has defined his world-renowned career. During his 25 years as Director, the Cancer Center grew exponentially and went from seven faculty members, 42 employees and one laboratory to nearly 200 faculty members, more than 1,000 employees and over 40 laboratories today.

In 2018, Dr. Poplack decided to transition from Director to Associate Director and took on the role of Director of Global Hematology-Oncology Pediatric Excellence (HOPE) — a program aimed at improving pediatric cancer treatment in sub-Saharan Africa. Just as he impacted the growth of the Cancer Center, Global HOPE has blossomed under his leadership. When the program started, many countries did not have access to a pediatric oncologist and now, there are 26 trained pediatric oncologists and hundreds of nurses in multiple countries serving children who desperately need this care.

One of Dr. Poplack’s most significant contributions has been as a mentor, icon and role model teaching and mentoring countless young physicians — instilling in them the values of empathy and an unwavering dedication to patient care. I have no doubt that generations of physicians are changing lives for the better today because of his tireless efforts to teach and train other physician leaders.

Overall, Dr. Poplack has been a beacon of hope and healing for countless patients and their families, providing not only exceptional medical treatment but also the compassion and support that are so crucial during the cancer journey. His pioneering research and dedication to his work have truly advanced the boundaries of cancer treatment and his unique ability to connect with every patient on a personal level has left an indelible mark on the many patients and families he’s served — both in Houston and around the globe.

I cannot express enough just how much Dr. Poplack and Texas Children’s truly go hand-in-hand. He embodies our core values and our mission each and every day and I know that’s something that he will continue to do in a new capacity.

As Dr. Poplack embarks on his much-deserved retirement, we wish him all the best and remain immensely grateful that Texas Children’s played such a monumental role in the chapters he’s lived thus far. While we will greatly miss his daily presence, I know that his legacy will live on through the halls of Texas Children’s and continue to inspire us all as we care for every patient, every family and each other.

Thank you, Dr. Poplack, for your exceptional service to Texas Children’s and your patients around the world — you will always be a valued member of the Texas Children’s family.

May 16, 2024 | (30) Comments

As many of you have seen and heard over the past few days, everyone at Texas Children’s has been preparing our ‘goodbyes’ to our beloved Pawsitive Play therapy dog, Bailey, who is celebrating her much-deserved retirement.

Pawsitive Play is one of my favorite programs because I truly believe it’s one that serves both patients and employees alike. I can’t help but smile when I get a visit from one of our dogs and as I’m sure they do for many of you, simply seeing them walk the halls makes my day even better.

I love each of our facility dogs, but our sweet Bailey has always held a special place in my heart.

For those of you who don’t know, my wife, Shannon, and I provided the donation that brought Bailey to Texas Children’s — and we made this donation in honor of our dog, Cadence. Cadence brought Shannon and me so much joy for many years and in her memory, we wanted to gift a second therapy dog to our patients and their families.

Since she arrived in 2018, Bailey has been an integral part of the Texas Children’s family, spreading joy, comfort and unconditional love to all who have had the pleasure of crossing paths with her. From comforting patients during difficult treatments to providing a source of solace for our hardworking staff, Bailey has brought smiles and warmth to countless faces throughout her tenure at Texas Children’s.

The impact of Bailey’s presence simply cannot be overstated. She served as a constant source of companionship and emotional support, helping to alleviate stress and anxiety during challenging times, including the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Her gentle demeanor and puppy-dog smile brought light into even the darkest of days for so many, reminding us all of the healing power of love and connection.

As we bid farewell to Bailey, I know we are all filled with gratitude for the countless memories and moments of joy she shared with us. While Bailey may no longer roam our halls as an official facility dog, her spirit will always live on at Texas Children’s.

To Bailey, your friends and colleagues say thank you. Thank you for your unwavering dedication, your boundless love and your tireless commitment to making Texas Children’s a better place. You have been a blessing to us all and we are forever grateful for the love and laughter you brought into our lives.

Thank you for being our furry friend, our trusted companion and for serving patients for more than five incredible years. You deserve all the pup cups and treats for a job pawsitively well done.

April 11, 2024 | (9) 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