June 4, 2015 | (1) Comments

This is a very special time of year for students and their families. It’s the month that graduates – from curious kindergartners to bright doctoral and medical students – walk across the stage to receive their hard-earned diplomas.

I recently had the honor of participating in the commencement ceremony at Baylor College of Medicine, as I have on more than 20 other occasions. Watching the medical and doctoral students receive their diplomas, I am always excited to think about how they will advance medicine to unknown heights in just a few short years, some even at Texas Children’s.

This year’s ceremony was especially moving for me since I was bestowed a very special recognition, an honorary degree – the Doctor of Humanities in Medicine.

As I received my honorary doctorate and shook the hand of Dr. Paul Klotman, Baylor’s President and CEO, I reflected on how my relationship with Baylor began. In 1977 when I joined Houston Methodist, Dr. Michael E. DeBakey was Baylor’s president and was regarded as the number one cardiovascular surgeon in the world. I remember how aspirational he was about making Baylor a great medical school.

I learned a great deal from Dr. DeBakey about the importance of teaching hospitals. I began to understand that what contributes to the success of great academic centers of excellence – teaching hospitals like Johns Hopkins, Mass General or Boston Children’s, for example – is their affiliation with a medical school which attracts the best minds and the brightest individuals. Our partnership with Baylor allows us to also benefit from the brightest minds who bring their passion and commitment to Texas Children’s.

I carried that knowledge and Dr. Debakey’s wisdom with me to Texas Children’s, which has had an affiliation with Baylor since its inception more than 60 years ago. Today, we have a complementary mix of Baylor faculty and outstanding private pediatricians, surgeons and Ob/Gyn physicians who choose to practice at Texas Children’s and are dedicated to fulfilling our mission. This culture of commitment to excellence, as part of our academic partnership, is essential to our goal of preeminence as one of the best pediatric and women’s health centers in the nation.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the tremendous work and dedication of everyone associated with Texas Children’s – the Board, executive and physician leaders, our extraordinary employees and everyone else who is somehow involved in our commitment to patient care, education and research. It is your dedication that allowed me to celebrate that very special moment.

May 21, 2015 | (10) Comments

A few days ago, I was part of a long and cherished tradition at Texas Children’s – the Employee Recognition Celebration, which honors employees who have served the organization at least 15 years. I love this celebration because when I walk into the room, it’s so full of excitement and energy and laughter and memories. It simply gives me goose bumps.

As I visited almost every table in the room, I’d look at the employees’ faces, hear their names, and I’d remember how we started. There were just 1,400 of us when I arrived in 1989. So everyone in the room celebrating 25 to 40 years, well we’ve been together a long time. And when we started out together, we were like the Spartans – we were a small group, but fearless.

We knew together that we could accomplish great things. So it was really special to connect at this year’s celebration. It was a remarkable reminder of how we all came together – along with the Board, Dr. Feigin and the medical staff – and just knew we were going to do something amazing here.

Taking the stage and looking out into the crowd, those first few moments were pretty emotional and very special. There were 415 Texas Children’s employees being honored for their collective 7,460 years of service to our organization. In those moments, looking out into the room, I thought, “This is our core.” Long-term employees who have been here 15, 20, 25 years or more, they are our core. They are the organization’s backbone – the guardians and caretakers of our mission and culture. Their passion, and most importantly, their commitment are the secret to our decades of success.

Mark stops to chat with Valesca Adams, a 40-year employee who was honored recently at the annual Employee Recognition Celebration.
Mark stops to chat with Valesca Adams, a 40-year employee who was honored recently at the annual Employee Recognition Celebration.

Employees like Valesca Adams live, breathe and drive our mission every day. Valesca, a nurse in renal dialysis, was celebrating 40 years of service to the organization – 38 of those years have been in the same unit. Dedication and longevity like hers strengthens our foundation. When Nancy Hurst joined Texas Children’s 30 years ago, she began our lactation support program and the milk bank was created. She has worked tirelessly to educate new mothers ever since, and her work has been invaluable to the health of newborns.

And I couldn’t help but break into a smile when I chatted with Keith Strobel, a systems analyst who was celebrating his 25th year right along with me. Keith was one of the Spartans. Jewel Mitchell was also celebrating 25 years of service. She began her career here just six months before I did. When I stopped by Jewel’s table at the celebration, she talked about how much change and growth she has seen during her time here. Jewel said the past 25 years have been “one heck of a ride.” I couldn’t have said it any better.

Everywhere I turned, there was a face with a story and a life dedicated to serving others. I was honored to stand amongst them all as I remembered my own milestone anniversary and my own commitment to service. It really has been one heck of a ride, and we’ve come such a long way. Yet, I feel like we’re just getting started. Thank you all so much for this wonderful journey.

May 7, 2015 | (26) Comments

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. It’s the day we show appreciation to the special women in our lives who take care of our children and who took care of us growing up. Mother’s Day always reminds me of my childhood and celebrating that holiday at our church.

When I was growing up, my family and I went to church a lot. We went for Sunday school, again for church service, broke for lunch and then went back for choir practice and for Baptist Training Union, which was essentially a repeat of Sunday school.

I confess, I sometimes faked a headache to try to get out of that extra church, but my mother – like most mothers – was far too smart for that. She’d say, “Oh, Mark, that’s just a TU (training union) headache. Now get in the car.”

But I never tried to fake an ailment when the Mother’s Day Sunday service came around. I looked forward to it. Our pastor, Hugh Bumpas, better known as Brother Bumpas, would ask all the mothers to stand, and then he’d start identifying the one with the most children, the oldest, the youngest, the one who came from the farthest away, etc. It was fun to see who held the “title” for each distinction.

The moment of recognition was brief, but it was powerful. All those moms proudly standing, knowingly acknowledging each other for the bond they shared and the service to which they all had committed themselves day after day. This Mother’s Day, I want to do the same for the moms here.

Women make up almost 70 percent of the Texas Children’s family, and we know that at least 73 percent of those women are mothers. Now, I can’t really ask all of you to stand – nor do I think it would be prudent to ask which one of you is the oldest – but I do want to take this moment to celebrate you and your contributions to and impact on our world, especially here at Texas Children’s.

As mothers, you lead and organize, you listen and guide; you epitomize strength, compassion and commitment. And you bring all those qualities to bear on everything you do here, not only for our patients and their families, but also for your fellow team members. You constantly give the best of yourselves for those in your care.

Honestly, I can’t imagine our organization without the spirit and influence of all the mothers who serve here. This Mother’s Day, we honor you.

April 23, 2015 | (39) Comments

Texas Children’s family, I’m really excited to share something new with you: On the Mark, a new blog I’ve launched to share stories, ideas and insights with you.

Some of what you read here will focus on Texas Children’s and our priorities. Other blog posts will give you an inside look into how we determine the future of Texas Children’s and what we need to do in order to best serve our mission. And still others will allow me to share my personal stories about the things that influence and impact me and my leadership, here and at home.

Believe it or not, it was the correspondence with you over the past few months that motivated me to start this blog. I have always enjoyed the open dialogue I share with so many of you across the organization. But the strength of the relationships we’ve built really struck me while I was away. It was the countless emails, cards and letters I received from you that encouraged and supported me. I have no doubt that it was all of your faithful, unrelenting prayers that helped me recover so quickly and completely.

Beyond your support of me personally, however, was the tremendous inspiration you gave me as you shared story after story of what brought you to Texas Children’s and what drives you to do your work here every day. Here’s part of one kind note I received from Lindsey Gurganious in January:

“I want to share something with you that I am so terribly proud of. My mother, Sandy, has worked for Texas Children’s Hospital for more than 35 years. I am so proud of her, and I cannot stop telling people this. She mostly works nights, and when I was growing up, she worked every shift she could to give my brother and me the experiences of a lifetime and everything we ever needed.

My bed time stories were her telling me about her shift and the people she helped, whether they were patients or her colleagues. Because of her stories, I knew that I would work at Texas Children’s Hospital one day. I did not know what I would be doing for certain, but I have never doubted that this is where I would plant my roots and grow.

I used to wear my mother’s TCH t-shirts to school, steal every TCH pen she had, and, in first grade when we were asked to write what we wanted to be when we grew up, I wrote that I wanted to work at Texas Children’s Hospital. I believe I even drew a very poor TCH logo! I am not alone in this. My brother is also working here as well! The Gurganious family is taking over!”

Lindsey, pictured above with her mom and brother, is an administrative assistant in Critical Care. Her mother Sandy is a nursing administrative coordinator. And her brother Anthony is a Security Services sergeant. They have made serving Texas Children’s mission a family affair. Amazing!

Lindsey’s letter made my day. And pretty much every morning began like that for weeks. Your wonderful stories of dedication and courage lifted my spirits. I simply could not wait to get back to doing what I love, working with all of you to make Texas Children’s the best hospital in the world.

So consider this blog my way of sharing with you my personal thoughts and ideas. But let’s make it our space, because I want to continue to hear from you too. I want to share your Texas Children’s stories. What brought you here? What drives you? Tell me how you care for our patients. Maybe you will share something here that someone else in a completely different area will read, and it will impact a patient’s or family’s experience for the better. And I want to know the stories about the colleagues who inspire you. I want On the Mark to be a source of hope and inspiration for all of us.

Until next time,