February 21, 2017 | (2) Comments

Many of you have heard the well-known story of President John F. Kennedy and his encounter with a janitor while touring NASA in the 1960s. As President Kennedy walked through the facility, he introduced himself to staff and asked about their respective roles at the space center.

Each quickly obliged, offering an official title or job function. But the one that made the most stirring impression on Kennedy was a janitor with acute focus on the mission. In response to President Kennedy’s question of “So what do you do here?” the janitor replied, “I’m helping to put a man on the moon.” In the instance you hear this story, you immediately understand that the janitor nailed it. He had completely embraced the vision – or perhaps the vision had embraced him. Either way, he got it, and he understood the notion of working toward something bigger than one’s self.

I cannot help but think of that story as the Employee Recognition Celebration unfolds each year. Annually, we have one of the grandest celebrations for our long-tenured employees. We have held this wonderful event for 29 years now. It is absolutely my favorite day of the year with you, and I love seeing how it gets bigger each time. Just within the ballroom last week, we had about as many employees as we used to have in the entire organization. Can you believe that?

It is sometimes hard to fathom how we have grown or how many people mark decades of dedication to Texas Children’s each year. Last Tuesday was our largest celebration yet – we honored 31 recognition award recipients and more than 650 employees celebrating 15 to 45 years of tenure. Altogether, those tenured employees represent 12,000+ years of service to the mission of Texas Children’s, our patients and their families.

One element that has become a highlight of the event are the employee videos shown before each milestone group. Through this handful of short videos spotlighting Texas Children’s employees, the audience gets touching glimpses of what makes this such a special place.

Most of us could not help but smile while watching the video of 15-year employee and Facilities Operations Lead Guadalupe Mendoza. She referred to Texas Children’s as a family that must support one another, and regarding her job, she said proudly, “Yes it’s housekeeping, someone has to keep it clean. We’re talking about children and keeping the area clean for them. Why not me? I’m good at it, I know I’m good at it. So that’s what I do every day – my best.” Guadalupe absolutely gets it. Her best helps Texas Children’s be the best.

I was also struck by 40-year employee and Director of Renal and Pheresis Services Helen Currier when she said, “I’m celebrating my 40th year of commitment.” Helen reminds us that we are not simply employed here. We are deeply committed to a shared mission. What an inspiring thing.

Another telling moment came from Biomedical Engineering Director John Weimert who once served in the U.S. Navy, working on missile control radar systems. He noted his appreciation for the environment here and how it has allowed him to take risks and innovate. Subsequently, he leads with that same philosophy and works to create an environment where people on his team can express themselves and grow. He said he refers to his department as a flower bed and that “people in the department are my flowers.”

But I must say, the most memorable of moments that afternoon came by way of 45-year employee Karol Musher, a senior speech language pathologist. Karol recalled when we were one building, had no computers and enjoyed parking right outside our office doors. What has kept her here and passionate since those early decades are our patients and their families and the opportunity to help improve the quality of their lives. And even after 45 years in, she said, “Everyone I know has retired and is doing things they think are fun. Well, I think this is fun. I can’t imagine doing anything that would make me feel more productive, more helpful or as valuable to other people as I hope my tenure here has been.”

I think for a few moments, we all just hung a bit on Karol’s words. Karol gets it, and in that moment as we applauded, giving her a long, well-deserved standing ovation, I am certain we all got it. We understood in that moment that we are part of something amazing here, and that we must always approach our work with an appreciation for the mission that is larger than the task at hand.

Guadalupe, Helen, John and Karol and all of us are contributing to the care of our patients. We are all making discoveries and finding cures, creating hope and providing healing. We are, collectively, the heart of Texas Children’s. Every person and every job is critical. Every task must be done with excellence, no matter how seemingly small. Every day, we must remind ourselves that we are all working toward something so much greater than our individual selves. We are not putting the first man on the moon. But our mission is ensuring any of our patients could be the next one there.

Click here for a few photos from this year’s Employee Recognition Celebration.

May 6, 2016 | (19) Comments

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.”

This quote from Diane Mariechild, author of Mother Wit, is one I think of often when I walk the halls of our hospital. Throughout those halls, in children’s rooms, in the food court areas and in the waiting rooms, I see the mothers of the children for whom we are caring. I see them, some with concern on their faces and determination in their spirits. Others who are a well of hope and reassurance for their children. They are a constant reminder to me of the strength of mothers.

As we honor the many women in our lives on Sunday who are mothers or mother figures to so many, I am reminded of one woman in particular – Elizabeth DeLuca. Elizabeth is the mother of four daughters, including her precious Caroline who she lost on March 24 of this year.

Caroline was born with a rare neurodegenerative condition called STXBP1 (or Ohtahara Syndrome). Elizabeth remembers her as “a big strong healthy baby.” But after only one day home – “one day of normal,” as Elizabeth has described it – the lives of the DeLuca family would forever be changed. Caroline’s 18 years were filled with countless tests and treatments, and much of her life was spent here at Texas Children’s Hospital.

Elizabeth constantly researched neurodegenerative and neurotransmitter diseases and available treatments – she was such an informed, integral part of Caroline’s care team. However, she was also resolved that Caroline was not a diagnosis, and she was determined that Caroline’s life would be filled with much more than a list of limitations. She involved Caroline in church, sports and music and exposed her to Broadway shows – Mamma Mia was Caroline’s favorite.

Elizabeth was her daughter’s advocate, nurturer and most adamant cheerleader. She was more than Caroline’s mother, she was her champion. And when I think of her, I am in awe, just as I am so many times when I hear the stories of our patients and the mothers here with them.

Like Elizabeth, many of our patients’ moms have other children, and they are wives. Many have jobs or give of themselves in so many other areas of their lives. Yet, they also are here, ensuring their children have a voice, providing information they have researched and asking the critical questions that make all the difference in their children’s care and outcomes.

Mothers have within them a seemingly endless reservoir of strength and tenderness for their children. They are the full circle, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to celebrate them on Sunday. But I especially appreciate and am inspired by our patients’ mothers every single day.

Happy, blessed Mother’s Day to all.

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.


October 12, 2015 | (10) Comments

When my children, Ben and Emily, were young, one of my greatest hopes for them was that as adults, they would do something that they could be completely passionate about.

I think for the most part, they are living that. Ben works in sales, and he’s really quite good at it. And Emily is an amazing mom to five young children – I don’t have to tell you what an incredible job that is. Although their daily work is different, I know they both get up every morning excited about the day, and that’s all that I could have hoped for.

Believe it or not, that’s my same hope for each Texas Children’s employee. I’m excited every day that I walk through the doors of Texas Children’s Hospital, and I’m happiest when I know you share that excitement. When you are fulfilled, enjoying your work and teeming with passion and ideas, that’s when we as an organization are at our best. That’s why I was so excited last week about the news that we’d been recognized as the No. 5 Best Place to Work in Houston by the Houston Business Journal among companies with more than 1,000 employees. HBJ BPTW logo

For 10 consecutive years, your voice has landed Texas Children’s among the city’s top employers, and this year’s designation is the seventh time we’ve been recognized among the top five. And when I say your voice landed us here, it’s true. Companies were scored and selected to be on the list of Best Places to Work based on responses from anonymous surveys completed by employees like you. Employees rated their companies in areas like organizational goals, leadership, advancement opportunities, recognition and compensation, and the company’s climate for embracing innovation and ideas.

One employee who took the survey indicated that Texas Children’s Hospital had been his employer for 27 years and that he liked his job so much he planned to retire here. Other employees expressed similar sentiments, but the most telling testament of who we are as an organization actually came from someone outside of Texas Children’s. Sarah Maytum, our Director of Patient and Family Services, represented Texas Children’s at the Best Places to Work celebration luncheon. As Sarah approached the stage, one of the presenters handed her the award and whispered, “Thank you for saving my two children.”

What better recognition is there? Of course, Sarah didn’t personally provide the care for those patients, but she took great pride in acknowledging the sentiment, as I’m sure many of you would. I sure did. Because we are part of an organization that has that kind of impact on families’ lives. It’s what we do, and it’s who we are. How many people can say that about their work or their organization?

Once you work here, you understand what we have at the core of Texas Children’s – our infinite passion, our unified focus on our mission, our drive to advance the field, and our care for and service to each other and to our patients and their families. That’s why we’re no. 5 on the list of Best Places to Work in Houston. But more importantly, it’s why we’re no. 1 to parents like the one who thanked Sarah last week.

Thank you for all you do to make our organization what it is today. Congratulations Texas Children’s!