February 15, 2016 | (14) Comments

Tuesday marked one of my favorite days of the year – the day we host our annual Employee Recognition Celebration to honor Texas Children’s employees for their years of dedication and commitment to the organization. And this year’s was our largest celebration yet – we honored 32 recognition award recipients and another 473 employees celebrating 15 to 40 years of tenure.

All told, we had about 8,900 years of service represented in the ballroom on Tuesday. Wow! That’s 3.2 million days of service to the mission of Texas Children’s, our patients and their families. That was more than enough reason to celebrate, and that we did, starting with an awesome brass band that kicked things off New Orleans style!

2k16-0075-AK4_1874 2016 Employee Recognition Celebration044As festive as it was, I was still so humbled by this room full of committed employees from across the organization.

Together, we’ve broken ground on new buildings, added floors to existing facilities and developed new treatments to advance health care for children and women around the world.

None of this would have been possible without each person sitting in the audience on Tuesday, doing their part to respond to our needs, innovate new ideas and lead tirelessly every day.

I remember when I joined Texas Children’s in 1989 – there were only 1,100 employees. The Clinical Care Center and West Tower did not exist. We did not even have a dedicated pediatric emergency center when I joined the organization. Today, we have more than 13,000 employees, and we had nearly 3.5 million patient encounters across Texas Children’s last year. We now treat patients from nearly 60 countries and all 50 states. We have the Pavilion for Women, West Campus, Health Plan, Health Centers, a network of 53 pediatric practices, four urgent care centers, the two Center for Children and Women locations, and we have a comprehensive women’s Ob/Gyn network.

Pause a minute, and think about just how much we’ve accomplished together. It’s simply amazing. Neither our history nor our future would be possible without the people who work here. And especially without those sitting in the room that day who have given so much to the organization for so long to bring these accomplishments to fruition.

And now, we are building Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands; the cranes are up, and work has started on our CareFirst tower; and we are expanding our care into east Texas through the STAR Kids program. This is all happening because of a strategic vision for growth, the structural leadership and support to advance that vision, and, most importantly, you – the people who drive and fulfill the vision.

It doesn’t sound like enough, but thank you. For the 15 years. For the 40 years. And for every year in between. Thank you to the Super Star, Catalyst, Best of the West and SMILES honorees celebrated on Tuesday and every year before. You all are the heart of Texas Children’s, and your legacy is tremendous.


November 23, 2015 | (55) Comments

One thing that I have been acutely aware of since I was a small child is that those who are blessed should do all they can to be a blessing to others. This is something that I always tried to teach my own children, and it’s something I have kept in mind my entire life.

My wife, Shannon, shares this belief, and has one of the most generous spirits of anyone I know. A while back, Shannon had the idea of giving homeless people backpacks filled with items for their basic needs. I thought it was a great idea, so it’s something we do from time to time to help those in need.

I understand that homelessness is incredibly devastating. So I know that our distributing backpacks to homeless people in our community does not solve their greater problem of needing a place they can call home, but it’s just one way that Shannon and I are able to directly give to people in our community.

One day, as Shannon and I were about to deliver backpacks, she said, “Mark, we should make sure to ask people their names.” It was such a simple statement, but so thought provoking. The people we encounter on any given outing are indeed someone’s brother or sister, friend … some mother’s child. But we didn’t ask questions when we were handing out the backpacks. Our hearts and intentions were good and we wanted to help, but we didn’t want to intrude on their personal space or pride.

It had never occurred to me how meaningful it might be to simply ask their names. That day for the first time, however, we did, and the first couple we met made the most lasting impression on us. We introduced ourselves and then asked their names, and just recalling the look on their faces gives me chill bumps. First, there was complete and obvious shock and then appreciation that we’d simply acknowledged them as we would any new person we encounter. We learned their names were Sarah and John, but beyond that, we realized how such a small gesture was really the simplest, most respectful thing we could have done.

I know many of you volunteer year-round and especially through the holidays, helping others. So I know you’re already showing thanks for your blessings in ways that impact so many. But sometimes I think it’s important to remember that how we give, care and serve is often much greater that what we give. That’s true whether we’re serving in the community or caring for our families at Texas Children’s.

I hope that you will remember that – and think of Sarah and John – every time you enter a patient room or an elevator or walk through the hospital, crossing the paths of our patients and their families. Every one deserves respectful acknowledgement. It only takes a moment and a simple question or two. Just ask – and then really listen. You have no idea how thankful someone may be for your kindness.

With much gratitude, I wish you all a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving.

November 3, 2015 | (24) Comments

A few months ago I was sitting with Amber Tabora and Angela Hudson, leaders in our Marketing/PR Department, and I told them I had an exciting idea. As an organization, we had lots of great things happening: tremendous, rapid growth of our workforce and patient volume, three huge capital projects underway, and everyone was working at full throttle, and had been for quite some time.

I said, “Guys, let’s do something big. Let’s get out there and try to reach every Texas Children’s employee and show them how much they are appreciated.” Essentially, I wanted to celebrate who we are, all the amazing things we do together every day and everything that makes our organization’s culture so special.

Together, we came up with the One Mission, One Culture, One Amazing Team events – seven hospital-based celebrations. But I didn’t want to stop there. I wanted to get out and see every Texas Children’s team member at all 73 locations throughout Greater Houston. I told Amber and Angela that it had always been my dream to go on a tour and visit all of Texas Children’s locations within 24 hours. Yes, I really said within 24 hours. They were all in—at least, until I added that part about doing it all in one day.

Of course, we’ve grown much too big to see all of Texas Children’s in a single day. It actually took 10 days and about 80 hours, but we did it! After seven One Mission, One Culture, One Amazing Team events at the Main Campus, West Campus and Nabisco building, we embarked on a whirlwind, 73-stop One Amazing Team tour. Over the course of three and a half months, we visited all of Texas Children’s locations throughout the community, and it was better than anything I ever dreamed.

Click here for the One Amazing Team tour gallery. 

Traveling with a core team of 10 people, we covered about 750 miles on a bright blue, fish-themed Texas Children’s shuttle bus, and we met nearly 1,800 staff and employees. I’ll admit it’s difficult to make time to do something like this – we spent full days on the road – and it takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to travel from place to place. But this tour is hands down one of the best things I’ve ever had an opportunity to do. The investment of time and energy was invaluable, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

It was quite an experience to see up close and in person the amazing impact and imprint of Texas Children’s. Many times throughout this journey I wished I could take the entire Texas Children’s team along with me so each one of you could experience what I did. Because it’s not until you visit our locations all over the city that you can even begin to appreciate how much Texas Children’s is doing to change and advance care for children and women.

At every stop, I saw the shared pride and commitment of all the physicians and employees. I talked to practice managers about the families they serve, and I learned about ideas they’ve implemented to extend our reach and broaden access to health care in their communities. I learned about all the ways, big and small, that so many people are leading the way to ensure our patients’ sometimes complex social and clinical needs are met.

It moved me to see how we are serving so passionately in underserved communities, providing families and children with options that would otherwise be beyond their reach. I spoke with parents and kids, and I heard how their care providers, our people, are like members of their families. And the best part? People at every location told me about their close-knit teams – amazing teams – and I saw over and over how they embody and embrace our fabulous culture.

This is an incredible organization, and all of you are really special. You have heard me say that many times, and honestly, we probably all say it so much that sometimes it may seem trite. But it’s really quite remarkable that we are a workforce of 11,000 people with such diversity of interests and experiences, skills and beliefs. And yet, we have such indisputable passion for serving our one mission.

I’m truly humbled by all of the employees I met along the way who have taken the time to let me know how much they appreciate my stopping by to meet them and their teams. And of course everyone asks, “Are you going to do this again?” Without a doubt, yes. Just maybe not quite as soon as next year … In the meantime, continue your work of serving our families, and know that I appreciate everything you do. And most importantly, remember that no matter how big we get, the contributions each of you makes are valued. Each one of you is essential to our mission, and together, we will always be one amazing team.

Stay tuned for a video of all the highlights from the tour.  Until then, here’s a gallery of some of my favorite moments on the road: One Amazing Team tour photo gallery.

August 17, 2015 | (17) Comments

“The best companies in the world are those that have outstanding frontline leadership.”

That’s no. 10 of my Maxims of Leadership, and it is evidenced every single day at Texas Children’s. Our organization, which is innovating and growing at such an amazing pace, is propelled by our people. Our incredible staff and employees are why we are one of the best organizations in the world. Recently, when I had an opportunity to visit with our Emergency Center preceptors, I enjoyed being reminded yet again just how true Maxim no. 10 is.

By definition, a preceptor is a teacher responsible for upholding a certain law or tradition – a precept. Our preceptors throughout the organization are the nurses who train new nurses to care for our patients, upholding our high standard of care. Just in the EC, our preceptors have trained 47 nurses and eight emergency medical technicians (EMTs) since October 1 – 13,900 hours spent training and teaching in less than a year. Across the organization, we’ve had about 1,100 clinical orientees since October 1 who’ve received more than 280,000 hours of training. As you can see, our preceptors are making an awesome contribution.

Our preceptors in units throughout Texas Children’s impart wisdom and practices that can’t be found in textbooks or taught in a classroom. They nurture our culture and create a sense of warmth, security and family for nurses who are just starting out and getting a foothold in their careers. This instills confidence and inspires excellence, helping ensure that our new nurses transition more seamlessly into our organization.

Essentially, like all good teachers, preceptors give their “students” a model to which to aspire. And the really great teachers know something else that’s just as important – they know when and how to give their students the space to grow and demonstrate just how much and how well they’ve learned. Actually, I like the way Carrie Stocker puts it. Carrie is a nurse who joined us a few months ago and recently completed orientation with three awesome preceptors. She explains it like this:

Preceptors must master the art of dancing. My preceptors knew when to lead and when to follow. The best dance partners know each other and each other’s movements really well so they can make adjustments in the moment. My preceptors’ constant adjustment from leading to following ensured for my maximum growth. By providing a gradual release of responsibility, my preceptors first took the lead and then smoothly and confidently allowed me to take the reins. They had equipped me quickly with the skills I needed to be able to dance with the stars here at TCH!  

Well said Carrie. There is absolutely an art to leading and following and knowing when to do which.

The time that our preceptors spend teaching and molding new nurses fortifies the organization in immeasurable, yet very tangible ways. And quite honestly, that’s true of every single person here – clinical and non-clinical – who takes the time to help teach a colleague a new skill or a better or more efficient practice. As Texas Children’s continues to grow at such a staggering rate, we rely on everyone’s willingness to do that. And I get it – some days, that’s hard. Our patient volume is growing, we have more patients with higher acuity, and we feel that across the organization. Daily, we balance that with training and teaching all the new Texas Children’s staff and employees we are aggressively onboarding to help us care for all of those precious patients. All told, our workforce of 10,000 will grow to 15,000 in three years – yes, 50 percent.

But the way I see it, this growth in volume and workforce is an amazing opportunity to serve our mission. The reason we are blessed with all of you – staff and employees who are hands down the very best at what you do – is because we are meant to use every person and every gift we have to fulfill our mission. We are meant to mold others and to advance care. We are meant to heal children and women for years to come. That’s why it’s so very important to share our gifts and inspire our people. It’s what we’ve always done, and it’s why we’re one of the best organizations in the world.