December 21, 2016 | (2) Comments

At Texas Children’s, we are so passionate about our work and our mission that it is easy to get swept up in the incredible pace at which we move, build and expand. But for just a moment, about this time every year, I pause to really appreciate what we have achieved together in the span of one short year.

What I am reminded of when I do that is what a powerful element leadership is in our success. Specifically our collective leadership and how well tuned and aligned it must be in order for us to accomplish as much as we do year after year. Our growth is a reflection of the way we – the Board, leaders, physicians and employees – lead here at Texas Children’s.

We are constantly demonstrating the power of the leadership equation I often share with you: leadership = vision + structure + people, with people being the most important element or ingredient in the equation.


51-2k16-0387-ak5_5414-004-west-campus-cancer-gold-ribbon-event-9-2-16At Texas Children’s, we lead decisively and boldly, always focused on the vision we have shared since our founding. Growing our workforce, adding new programs,

recruiting world renowned staff, adding millions of square feet to our facilities and constantly working to make them the most advanced available – all of that is driven by our vision to provide the right care, in the right place and time when our patients need it.

So regardless of the year or the industry trends, our vision is our compass. Our mission-focused vision is at the core of every decision we make for the organization, and vision is in large part why 2016 was another standout year for Texas Children’s.


14a-2k16_0307-ak4_3015care-first-construction-update-from-street-07%ef%80%a213%ef%80%a216Structure is key to supporting our vision and actually being able to realize it. Simply saying health care should be available when and where children need it is not enough. We are thought-leaders and action-takers. So when we see a need, we respond to it very tangibly, and we provide the structure to support our response.

At the beginning of fiscal year 2016, we opened a special isolation unit to be extensively prepared to care for children with highly contagious infectious diseases. Yet we designed it strategically so that it supports acute care, enabling us to be agile and responsive to daily patient care needs.

We began construction on our new Pediatric Tower this year, and we have now completed the exterior of 16 of 19 new floors. This space will help us provide advanced care and facilities for our most critically ill patients. We also purchased two buildings in the Texas Medical Center right next door to our campus – another move to make sure we can grow when the time is right. Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands Outpatient Building opened this fall, and within just seven weeks, we’d already had 10,000 patient visits between all of our patient care facilities in The Woodlands. We are without a doubt meeting our communities’ current needs and preparing well for future ones.

And to be clear, structure is not always bricks and mortar. More often it is collaboration, resourcefulness and innovation. One of our brightest moments this year was our involvement in the launch of the state’s STAR Kids managed care program, which provides benefits to children and young adults who have special health care needs.

At the start of FY2016, Texas Children’s Heath Plan had just been selected as a provider for the STAR Kids program, and on November 1, STAR Kids made its debut. To date, we already have 25,000 STAR Kids patients enrolled in the Health Plan. The breadth and depth of our system uniquely positions and resources us to provide an incredibly comprehensive network of care for STAR Kids patients. I’m so proud, because this is exactly why Texas Children’s exists.



The little hospital that once had 1,400 staff and employees now has 14,000, delivering exceptional care to nearly 10,000 children and women every day – yes, we had more than 3.6 million patient encounters in FY2016.

Suffice it to say that none of this is possible without our people. We are immeasurably blessed with the most gifted and dedicated clinical and administrative staff and employees in the world.

One of my favorite moments this year was sitting amongst some of our amazing people at our annual Employee Recognition Celebration honoring Texas Children’s employees for their years of service to the organization. This year’s was our largest celebration yet – we honored about 500 tenured employees who, collectively, have dedicated 8,900 years of service.

I remember how fired up every single one of them was about Texas Children’s. And that’s the thing about our people – so many of you have that same energy and fire for Texas Children’s, whether you have been here a good five days or a fantastic 25 years. I simply love the way our people embrace excellence and constantly seek ways to make strides that improve our care, spark ideas and give our families new answers and fresh hope.

This is the spirit of our culture, and it is why a single year at Texas Children’s looks like a decade. It is impressive what we have created, advanced and grown together this year, yet we are still on the cusp of much more.

Our future is brighter than ever, and our team is beyond amazing. Thank you all for a phenomenal year. And enjoy your holidays, because you know I will be ready to do it all over again in 2017.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays and a very happy New Year to all!

Click here for a video of some of our biggest accomplishments in 2016.


January 17, 2016 | (6) Comments

“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace.”

These are the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and of all of the quotes for which he is best known, I am most inspired by this one because of my personal beliefs about service. Dr. King was an extraordinary example of servant leadership. His work was steeped in his desire for unity, he was inclusive and was a careful listener of those he led and of those who opposed him as well. And he took thoughtful, transformational actions that changed hearts and people.

Most importantly, Dr. King was driven by his desire to improve the lives of others. He was without a doubt one of our nation’s most gifted leaders, and he spent most of his life serving a mission to create a better quality of life, a better world for others. He led with that vision, and he served with a heart full of grace.

I draw inspiration and guidance from the servant leader Dr. King was. I have always approached my responsibilities as Texas Children’s President and CEO with a focus on service. I am here to serve a mission. I am here to serve the children and women we care for and their families. I am here to serve all of the employees and all of the medical staff, our volunteers and our Board of Trustees. I am here to serve the entire constituency of Texas Children’s.

Every day that I walk through the doors of Texas Children’s Hospital, I am thinking about what I can do to support everyone in our organization to make sure that we’re moving ever closer towards becoming an even better, greater Texas Children’s.

By the same token, I appreciate that same spirit of service in all of you. Much like Dr. King believed anyone can serve, you know one of my maxims is that everyone is a leader. Beyond that, I believe that everyone can be a servant leader. And to me, possessing a spirit of servant leadership means having a sense of ownership and responsibility for our organization, the families we care for and the people we work with. When you feel that sense of ownership, you think differently, your work is elevated, and you are more deeply vested in serving our mission.

Dr. King’s vision was propelled by people who not only shared it, but invested themselves in it wholly. They took personal ownership of it. They walked with him, prayed with him, and they channeled his inspiration into personal actions that served a common aspiration for unity and equality, and subsequently, together they advanced a nationwide movement.

As you reflect today, take a moment to think about that. Our service to Texas Children’s is our most valuable asset. Indeed, leadership can inspire hope, but service is ultimately what fulfills it.

January 8, 2016 | (11) Comments

Often, when you hear someone say, “It’s a new day,” that means one of two things: There’s a change coming … a shift in the way things are being done. Or, more often, here at Texas Children’s we say it to mean let’s start anew tomorrow – tomorrow is a new day and another chance to offer encouragement, support or forgiveness. It’s an opportunity to learn, self-correct or right your course, or to innovate and advance an idea that could change or save a life.

So when I usher in a new year, I think of it in terms of days and opportunities – 365 opportunities to do something awesome. And I have a feeling that many of you are very much that same way, because that’s the only way we could possibly do the phenomenal things we do, year after year … day in and day out. It’s you, our people.

When I look forward to all that we aim to accomplish in 2016, I do so with confidence because I know we have the most incredible people of any organization. We are driven by our spirit, our enthusiasm and our constant belief that every day we come to work is a new day, a new opportunity, to make a difference.

To celebrate you and that spirit, I asked my team to create this video that showcases Texas Children’s people. Take a look:

You’ve heard me share my personal definition of leadership many times: Leadership = Vision + Structure + People, with people being by far the most important element in the equation. Well it’s true, and when I look back at all we accomplished last year, I am in awe of what you do and how you dedicate yourselves to fulfilling our mission in so many small and big ways.

So every day that you arrive, walk through the door with renewed anticipation of doing something great. Expect to do something that contributes to our powerful, unfolding story, because everyone here does. Move intentionally through each day, seeking the potential to change and improve something or someone — because here, that’s possible every day. At Texas Children’s, every day is a new day to be a part of something amazing.

Happy New Year to all!

September 14, 2015 | (6) Comments

I’ll admit I don’t cook much. I grill, of course, but I’m smart enough to leave most of the cooking to my wife Shannon, who is phenomenal in the kitchen, especially when she bakes. She’s always turning out something amazing. And she’s one of those cooks who is so good she can improvise with or without a recipe. She tosses in a dash of this, drops in a scoop of that, and it’s perfection every time.

One of my favorite things Shannon makes is chocolate chip cookies. Everyone lucky enough to taste one of the cookies wants to know what she puts in them and how she makes them taste so good. Like most good cooks, Shannon has some “secret” ingredients that make her cookies different and better than the norm. She figured out that using real butter, cream cheese and pure vanilla extract in her recipe makes a superb chocolate chip cookie – a cookie that others want to eat and emulate.

The same thing happens in industry. When you make a departure from the norm, add something special and different, you often end up with a winning combination, a successful structure or business model that others want to emulate. Usually it’s because of a combination of ingredients that are not easily accessed or replicated. Organizations like this have what I call a “secret sauce.”

Here at Texas Children’s we’ve got a lot of secret sauces, and one of the most potent is our shared leadership model, thanks to six very special “ingredients.”


Andropoulos portrait
Dr. Dean B. Andropoulos, Anesthesiologist-in-Chief
Dr. Michael A. Belfort, OB/GYN-in-Chief
George Bisset portrait
Dr. George S. Bisset III, Radiologist-in-Chief
Dr. Charles D. Fraser, Jr., Surgeon-in-Chief
Dr. Mark W. Kline, Physician-in-Chief






2k9-0493-DSC_8453 Dr James Versalovic
Dr. James Versalovic, Pathologist-in-Chief












Before these six medical leadership roles existed, Dr. Ralph Feigin was our sole physician-in-chief, and he and I worked together to lead the organization. Our relationship laid the foundation for the shared leadership model we have today. After Dr. Feign passed away, Dr. Kline became physician-in-chief. And soon after, we established the surgeon-in-chief and ob/gyn-in-chief roles, assumed by Drs. Fraser and Belfort, respectively. Most recently, we rounded out the leadership team with Drs. Andropoulos, Bisset and Versalovic as in-chiefs over our three hospital-based services.

Having these six leaders in their formalized roles has created a distinctive and powerful dynamic at Texas Children’s. All are making enormous strides in developing their divisions to be of the highest quality and caliber and of a standard essential to our continued commitment to excellence. Each of them brings a unique and brilliant perspective to the table, and it is of tremendous value to me, to the executive team and to the organization that we have this clinical leadership team in place.

The strength of our leadership model really shined through a few years ago as we worked through the renewal of our three-year operating agreement with Baylor College of Medicine. Having the in-chiefs at the table was incredibly helpful, each one providing a different guidepost that we needed to make critical decisions related to our academic partnership. I was able to introduce and represent their best thinking and ideas, their divisions’ needs and must-haves and, ultimately, advocate for the things that would ensure the best outcome for the organization.

Our shared leadership model looks very different now than it did in those early days with Dr. Feigin and me. Today, that model cascades to leaders at all levels across Texas Children’s. We embrace and practice collaborative, shared leadership between our administrative and clinical leaders across the organization. Other health care organizations may look like that on paper, but ours demonstrates it daily. We work together at every level, and it’s a true partnership. We make decisions together, not just unilaterally. That’s our secret sauce, and it all starts with the remarkable relationship I’ve been afforded with our six in-chiefs.

You know that my Maxim no. 4 is about having a leadership definition, and you all know that my definition is “Vision + Structure + People, with people by far being the most important element.” The in-chiefs breathe life into that definition. Our shared leadership model demonstrates how we’ve taken a great vision and a really smart, appropriate structure and populated it with incredible people. Each in-chief “ingredient” in our secret sauce is unique, but they all share a common attribute – an intensely focused passion for our one mission at Texas Children’s.

When you’re cooking with this kind of clinical leadership team’s knowledge, experience, focus and investment in our mission, it makes for a pretty enviable secret sauce. And with their help, we are serving up something pretty amazing, every single day.

And about those chocolate chip cookies … Shannon said we could share her recipe with the organization. Now everyone can know the secret to delicious cookies.

Shannon’s Chocolate Chip Cookies


1 cup unsalted real butter (NOT margarine)*

1 T Philadelphia Cream Cheese*

¾ cup white sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

1 tsp high quality vanilla extract*

4 eggs

2¾ cup all-purpose flour (may need to add up to 3 cups)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda (make sure it is fresh*)

2 cups 100% milk chocolate chips (the large ones if you can find them), NOT semi-sweet; Ghirardelli is my favorite brand.*


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mixing the ingredients by hand is best, but optionally, you can carefully use a Cuisinart with the dough attachment.
  3. Cream together butter, cream cheese, white and brown sugars and vanilla extract.
  4. Beat 4 eggs and add to cream mixture.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix all-purpose flour, salt and baking soda.
  6. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet.
  7. Gently stir in the chocolate chips.
  8. Drop dough by the spoonful onto un-greased baking sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees. Keep an eye on them due to variances in ovens. Cooking time will also vary depending on the size of spoon used.

For giant cookies, I use an ice cream scoop sprayed with PAM, and the recipe will make about 12 with a slightly longer cooking time.

Remember cookies continue to bake after they are taken from the oven so take them out just before they are the color you want them to be.

 A different twist:  Mark really likes these with chopped up peanut butter cups too!

*Denotes the specific touches that I have found contribute to a superior cookie.