September 13, 2016 | (40) Comments

Today is such an exciting day for Texas Children’s and for the families we will serve for the next few decades. We have just finalized the purchase of two Texas Medical Center buildings near Texas Children’s Hospital – the Baylor Clinic Building at 6620 Main St. and the O’Quinn Medical Tower at 6624 Fannin St.

Our purchase of these two buildings from Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center is such a significant expansion milestone – we have now added nearly 700,000 square feet of office and clinical space and 2,500 parking spaces to our medical center properties. However, the acquisition of these two buildings is not simply about buying buildings or adding bricks and mortar. It is about our ability to better serve more children, women and families who need the unique and comprehensive services of Texas Children’s. This is an investment in our mission to advance patient care, education and research.

And quite honestly, it is such a rare opportunity to be able to buy properties next to and across the street from our medical center property – one we likely will not ever have again. Realizing this, the Texas Children’s Board of Trustees, the medical staff and I discussed and examined this extensively, and we concluded that this acquisition was something in which we had to invest. It is a considerable investment in our people – specifically, our medical staff, employees and, most importantly, our patients and families. Having these new spaces will help ensure we can meet the future demands of our growing patient population, staff and workforce.

This purchase also represents something else we all can be proud of – our consistent financial stewardship. Our ability to purchase these facilities is the result of the strong and focused stewardship we have exercised in the last 25 years. Because we have been such responsible stewards of our assets and resources at Texas Children’s, we have created a solid balance sheet with very little debt. That allows us the flexibility to be quick and nimble enough to seize an opportunity like this. We were able to make this purchase without borrowing or raising money – it was completely funded by our cash reserves for capital projects. Our diligent past stewardship is paying huge dividends for our organization’s promising future.

Now that the acquisition is complete, the spaces within these new facilities will be further examined as part of our facilities master planning process. Several months ago I created a team – led by Executive Vice President Mark Mullarkey, Vice President of Surgical Services Matt Girotto, Vice President of Nursing Jackie Ward and Associate Radiologist-in-Chief Dr. Lane Donnelly – to guide this process. With the support of Facilities Planning and Development and the entire senior leadership team, they are leading development of Texas Children’s facilities master plan for the future. We know as leases expire for existing tenants in these two new buildings, those vacant spaces will provide tremendous backfill opportunities. Through the process of master planning, we will be able to identify the services that should be located in those new spaces.

Our process of strategically planning the use of all our facilities combined with our ability to add significant new space in such a prime location provides opportunities across our entire system. Today just opened a lot of doors for Texas Children’s for decades to come, and that should excite and inspire us all.

April 4, 2016 | (19) Comments

It’s difficult to get through a day without seeing or hearing a headline that reminds you of today’s uncertain financial landscape. People are worried about saving for retirement and paying for their kids’ education. We hear about layoffs. And when we see the low gas prices, we’re reminded there’s a shortfall at the company where your neighbor, your church member or your spouse works.

Many of us can’t help but carry the burden of financial concerns these days. We all remember the recession of 2008, but even then, Houston was comparatively unscathed and among the quickest-to-rebound cities. But this time feels different, because it is different.

Now, because the oil and gas industry is primarily impacted, Houston is feeling the brunt of it. And subsequently your friends and family in the oil industry have been or may be impacted. And to some degree, we feel residual effects at Texas Children’s because the families of our patients are impacted.

I understand that many of you carry these concerns with you into work, and then you hear that we, too, are “managing to the margin” – or more pointedly, tightening our belts. You worry about that, and I understand. But I’ve got three things I want you to think about. Three things that are shaping a really promising future for all of us here at Texas Children’s.

First, we are proactively managing our margin right now in response to positive growth. That’s a really good thing. Have you been out to The Woodlands lately? Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands is looking amazing, and it is months from opening its outpatient services. We will spend $360 million to build this 550,000-square-foot facility, which will ultimately house 32 acute care beds, 28 ICU/NICU beds, 25 Emergency Center patient rooms and offer services in 29 medical and surgical pediatric subspecialties.

And if you’ve been to the medical center campus recently, you’ve seen the cranes and the work we’ve begun on our 19-floor, 640,000-square-foot pediatric inpatient care tower. We will spend $575 million on this new tower, opening in 2018, and the renovation of our Emergency Center, to be completed in 2020.

The fact that we can invest in state-of-the-art facilities like these is a testament to our organization’s financial strength and is in response to ever increasing demand for our services. The more exceptional our care, the higher the demand for our services. We are responding to that demand by expanding our clinical programs, facilities and, most importantly, our workforce.

That’s the second thing I want you to think about – our people. To ensure we can fulfill our mission, deliver on the promise of providing the best possible care, we’ve got to have the right people in place. Our team has to be the right size, have the right skills and talents and be the right fit for the culture of our one amazing team here at Texas Children’s. So that means right now our recruitment efforts are very aggressive. Over the next three years, we will hire about 5,000 new people. Currently, we are hiring about 17 new people every single day. But we’re balancing our “growth spurt” with the challenges of an ever-changing health care market.

Which brings me to the third thing – our experience with managing growth spurts. You know, it’s not the first time we’ve grown rapidly. Since 1989, we’ve had four major expansions totaling more than $3 billion. And we’ve grown from about 1,400 employees to about 13,000 in that time. So growth is not unfamiliar to us – or as people like to say: “This is not our first rodeo.”

The leadership team we have in place has been here during volatile bear markets and favorable bull markets. We’ve experienced fluctuations in acuity and demanding patient volumes when we’re short staffed. We’ve endured weather events that closed the doors of other hospitals, and we’ve built expansive new facilities a time or two, or three, and we’ve had to recruit aggressively many times.

This has evolved and matured us as a leadership team and as an organization. Our experience has made us smarter and more agile. It’s why we proactively tweak our budget mid-fiscal-year, if necessary, and it’s why we can confidently continue large-scale capital projects.

Most importantly, it’s why I can assure you that we’re in a good place here at Texas Children’s. We make decisions with all of you in mind, and we are constantly balancing the needs of our patients with those of our people, because we know we cannot take care of one without ensuring the support of the other. So, I know the news you hear all around us isn’t always good, but know that we are moving boldly because we’ve been blessed such that we can, and we’ve prepared such that we know how.


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.

December 23, 2015 | (2) Comments

Last week, as I was thinking about my Christmas message to you, I of course thought about all the things the season typically means – family, beloved traditions, lots of good food and opening that perfect gift. But over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about gifts much greater than anything that fits beneath a tree. In particular, I thought about what a gift it is for us to be able to be here for children when they need us. This time last year, we couldn’t always do that.

Like most years around this time, our patient volume was high, but last year we reached historic highs – at or beyond our 650-bed capacity throughout November and December. On many days we reached a point when we simply had to deny children the opportunity to receive care at Texas Children’s. In fact, in November 2014 we denied 101 hospital transfers.

Denying a patient who is being transferred from another hospital is heartbreaking. These are not low-acuity patients who walk into our Emergency Center with mom. When another hospital attempts to transfer a child to Texas Children’s, that facility has assessed that the patient is so critically ill that he or she needs the comprehensive care that only Texas Children’s can provide. Having to say no to children who needed us last year is not something any of us want to see happen again.

That is why we launched the Promise Campaign to build a new community hospital in The Woodlands and a new tower here in the Texas Medical Center. But the children who need us now cannot wait until that new space is available. We need to be prepared for the high-volume season that is now upon us. And that’s where all of you play such an important role. Our leaders, physicians, nurses and staff have been working intently and strategically for months. We assessed our previous approach to patient flow decision-making, and we created a new structure.

We now have rotating teams of operational leaders and physicians focused on patient volume every day. We created a “real-time demand and capacity” process to manage patient census, so that we assess patient flow at three pivotal points daily and can more accurately forecast bed capacity. We’ve increased acute care capacity at the Main Campus and at the West Campus, and perhaps most impactful is that we’ve shifted the way we think. For example, we no longer approach the PICUs at the Main Campus and the West Campus as separate units – we think systematically about these units and consider the total capacity between them when we make decisions about the best place to send a child for care.

We’ve created interdisciplinary roles dedicated to patient flow, and our executives, physicians and unit leaders are rounding and asking front-line staff, “How are things? What do you need?” And we’re making sure the support is where it’s needed, when it’s needed. This focus and teamwork is what allowed us to continue receiving patients last week when we peaked at a census of 691. We were still able to say yes to families and children who needed us when others shut their doors due to lack of capacity.

This is huge, and it’s important. And in many cases, it’s crucial. What you are doing, what you are dedicated to accomplishing, is working – and because of the effort everyone is making together, we can care for these children at Texas Children’s. For many of these families, there is no greater gift than the moment they learn we have a bed available for their child.

I truly wish that no child ever has to be in the hospital during the holidays, but my greater hope is that if they do, Texas Children’s can be there to care for them and ensure the best possible outcome so that they can see a better Christmas next year. That is our gift – during the holidays and every day. Thank you for all you’re doing to ensure we can continue to offer that gift.

I wish you all happy holidays and a merry Christmas.