January 22, 2019

As of January 11, 90.7 percent of Texas Children’s employees had received the flu vaccine. A special thank you goes out to all of you who have taken such an important step in protecting yourselves, your colleagues and our patients and families. Although we are excited to see so much participation across the system, we still want to encourage employees to get their vaccine. It is not too late!

“Flu activity has increased over the past three to four weeks here in Houston, we are already seeing positive flu cases at the Employee Medical Clinic, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) anticipates flu activity to increase in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Irene Lomeda, the Employee Medical Center physician. “The good news from the most recent CDC data is that the flu vaccine seems to be on target for the major flu strain affecting this year’s flu season with lesser hospitalizations and lesser pediatric deaths.”

Employee Health continues to administer flu vaccines at no cost to Texas Children’s employees. The flu vaccine is also covered at 100 percent under our Texas Children’s Medical Plan, enabling employees to receive their flu vaccine at no cost through any in-network provider or retail pharmacy. If you have any questions about the safety and effectiveness of the flu vaccine, you may call Employee Health at 832-824-2150, option 2.

Staff who do not receive their flu vaccine should wear a surgical mask when providing direct patient care services for the duration of the flu season, which was declared on December 19, 2018. See Required Influenza Vaccination Policy and Procedure for more details.

If you elect to decline the flu vaccine this year, you are required to complete a Flu Declination Form. Prior to completing the declination form, review the Flu Vaccine Information Statement (VIS). The declination form can be found on the Employee Health and Wellness Portal. Follow these instructions to gain access:

Log in to the Employee Health and Wellness Portal. If this is your first time logging into the portal, click “Having trouble logging in” to reset your password. For instructions on how to log in to the portal click here or click here to view step-by step instructions.
Once you log in, click on the “Forms” tab, then select the 2018-Flu Declination Form.

Let’s amplify unity and prevent the spread of infections by practicing good health habits:

  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Stay home when you are experiencing flu-like symptoms. If you begin to feel sick with flu-like symptoms while at work, call the Employee Medical Clinic at 832-824-2424.
  • Wash your hands often. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home and at work, especially when someone is ill.
  • For more tips on preventing the flu, visit CDC Flu Prevention.
December 18, 2018

Standing in a packed auditorium at the University of Houston’s Student Center South on the evening of December 9, Natalie Martinez gripped a white candle and whispered Angelina when the person seated next to her lit her wick. Angelina is Natalie’s 11-month-old daughter who died five years ago of an undiagnosed medical condition.

“I have been looking for a way to formally honor my little girl and this is it,” Natalie said. “I had to bring a friend for support because I might break down, but I’m here and I’m thankful to have such an opportunity.”

Natalie was one of about 700 people who attended Texas Children’s First Annual Candle Lighting Ceremony to remember, honor, mourn and celebrate the lives of children taken from this world too soon. Hosted by Texas Children’s Palliative Care Team (PACT), the first annual Candle Lighting Ceremony was held in conjunction with the Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting Day, which unites family and friends around the globe in lighting candles for one hour at 7 p.m. on December 9 in memory of children who have passed away. All families whose children died and were patients at Texas Children’s Hospital were invited to attend the ceremony, which included free parking, refreshments, childcare and access to grief resources.

Dr. Tammy Kang, section chief of Palliative Care at Texas Children’s, and Jackie Ward, associate chief nursing officer, kicked off the ceremony with words of encouragement and hope.

“Together we come together in unity to honor those lost,” Ward said. “We will forever remember them, cherish them and their imprint on this world.”

Kang agreed and said she hoped the ceremony would provide a healthy outlet of remembrance for families grieving the loss of their child, and to begin to heal from the pain and sadness they are going through.

A slide show of those lost brought many people to tears, giving faces and names to those who have died, as did a display of paper hearts hung on trees at the front of the auditorium. Attendees were given the option to write a message to their child on the hearts. Natalie’s heart read: Some people dream of angels. I’ve held one in my arms.

During the ceremony, five candles were lit at the front of the room – one for grief, another for courage and the rest for memories, love and hope. Then, the candles of everyone in the audience were lit as music therapists Alix Brickley and Abi Carlton sang This Little Light of Mine.

“Take a deep breath,” Chaplain James Denham said soothingly. “You are not alone.”

Melissa Lopez, a nurse in the Cancer Center, was both a volunteer and an event participant as her 16-year-old daughter, Natalia, passed away nine years ago after fighting her battle against cancer.

“Texas Children’s needed this type of event,” she said. “People like me need to know and feel like our children have not been forgotten.”

Taryn Schuelke, the grief and bereavement specialist with the Palliative Care team and ceremony chair, said she is pleased so many people attended the first of what will be an annual ceremony for those tied to Texas Children’s who have lost a child.

“We are honored to have known these children and to be able to recognize them,” she said. “We also are thankful to have so many people who are willing to help make such a special remembrance happen.”

Some of those people and organizations include:

  • The Aleksandra Petra Mondlak Palliative Care Endowed Fund
  • Texas Medical Center Orchestra
  • Texas Children’s Hospital Language Services
  • Texas Children’s Art Therapist Ashley Wood created the art used on all ceremony branding and will turn the paper hearts into a display for next year’s ceremony.
  • The Palliative Care Team’s Senior Administrative Assistant Lindsey Gurganious built the ceremony mantle and poured the large ceremony candle.
  • Texas Children’s Spiritual Care Department
  • Texas Children’s music therapists
  • More than 100 Texas Children’s Hospital staff and their families
  • Various local restaurants and florists

The Pediatric Advanced Care Team (PACT) is an interdisciplinary team comprised of attending physicians, physicians in training, advanced practice nurses, a nurse, chaplain, social worker, grief and bereavement specialist, research coordinator and administrators who work together to provide excellent palliative care to patients and their families across the Texas Children’s Institution.

The team is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to provide care in either the inpatient or outpatient setting in partnership with other health care providers. The team also supports staff. Just last year, the program earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for Palliative Care Certification, making Texas Children’s Palliative Care Program the first of its kind in Houston and one of only 90 across the United States to receive such a distinction. To learn more about the team, click here.

December 11, 2018

We are getting ready for the holidays at Texas Children’s, and both the Medical Center Campus and the Woodlands campus hosted their annual tree lighting ceremonies to kick off the season.

On November 28, over 200 people attended The Woodlands campus’ second annual Tree Lighting event. Volunteer Services and Child Life arranged a fun filled holiday experience for patients, their families, and The Woodlands community. The event began with carols from the Caney Creek High School Choir on the lobby staircase. Moments later, everyone gazed and applauded as Santa Clause strolled down the same staircase toward the Christmas tree.

The Woodlands Vice-President, Trent Johnson, welcomed everyone and thanked the community partners for attending, and proceeded to introduce Santa, who magically lit the Christmas tree. As some kids lined up to take pictures with Santa, other played games, participated in arts and crafts, and indulged in the refreshments that included the a hot cocoa bar and tons or sweet treats.

Many Woodlands community partners helped this event come together this year, such as: The Newfield Exploration, the Panther Creek Inspiration Ranch, The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Caney Creek High School Choir, The Woodlands Art Council/Woodlands Children’s Museum, The Junior League of The Woodlands, Ray Larson Realty, and Texas Children’s Hospital partner, Morrison’s catering.

“The Tree Lighting event was a fun and exciting way to start of the holiday season,” Manager of Patient and Family Services, Cynda Parrish said. “Because of our wonderful community partners we were able to provide a festive and engaging experience for our patients and families. This resulted in our attendance doubling this year! We look forward to continuing this annual tradition at our campus each year.”

The very next day, Senior Vice President of Texas Children’s Hospital, Tabitha Rice kicked off the annual tree lighting event hosted by The Auxiliary to Texas Children’s Hospital and Volunteer Services, located on The Auxiliary Bridge of the Medical Center campus. With the help of a lucky patient, the bright lights magically turned on and Santa’s HO HO HO could be heard as he and Mrs. Clause walked down the hallway. Santa also visited patients who were not able to leave their rooms, and St. John’s School’s Kantorei choir sang holiday carols to more than 50 patients and their families.

“This event has become a treasured tradition for ringing in the holidays at the hospital,” Director of Volunteer services, Paige Schulz said. “The tree lighting is so special because it brings holiday cheer to the hospital in a way patients and families might not be able to otherwise experience when caring for a sick or hospitalized loved one. It is a pleasure to sponsor the event and The Auxiliary and Volunteer Services look forward to continuing the tradition for years to come.”

With the holiday season upon us, there’s plenty of cheer left for patients, families and employees throughout the rest of the month. View photos below from both tree lighting ceremonies.

On December 10, Texas Children’s posted the 2018 Pension Plan deposit into the accounts of eligible employees. To see how much your pension plan has grown, log into your Mercer account. For new users, you may register by clicking on “Get Started.” On the Mercer website, you will also find useful tools to help you view your balance, estimate your future pension plan balance and verify/update your beneficiary information.

This pension plan is designed to provide a foundation for your retirement and is fully funded by Texas Children’s. You are automatically enrolled in the plan on April 1 or October 1 once you reach 21 years of age and have worked 1,000 hours or more during the 12 consecutive months after your initial date of hire. Contributions are vested according to the schedule shown here.

To learn more about Texas Children’s Pension Plan, visit our Benefits website or call 800-752-8230 to speak with a Mercer representative.

Texas Children’s 403(b) Savings Plan

The IRS has increased retirement contribution limits for 2019. The maximum amount an employee can contribute to their Texas Children’s 403(b) Savings Plan during 2019 is $19,000. Employees turning age 50 or over can contribute an additional $6,000 during 2019.

Texas Children’s matches 50 percent on the first 6 percent of your deferral contributions per pay period, up to a maximum of $8,400 for 2019. Employer contributions are vested according to the schedule shown here.

If you are not already enrolled in the 403(b) savings plan or not contributing at least 6 percent, you should consider doing so now. To update your contribution elections or to enroll, please visit Fidelity NetBenefits to access your online account. If you are registering online for the first time, please click on “Register as a new user” in the log-in area.

Announcing New Roth Contributions in the 403(b) Savings Plan

Effective December 1, 2018, employees can now choose to make Roth after-tax contributions through the 403(b) savings plan. Just as with a traditional pre-tax plan, you elect how much of your salary you wish to contribute. Your contributions to a Roth 403(b) and traditional pre-tax 403(b) cannot exceed the IRS limit. Highly compensated individuals who are not eligible for a Roth IRA may utilize the Roth 403(b) contributions features.

Additional features include the opportunity to roll over existing Roth accounts from former employers into the 403(b) savings plan, and also converting existing pre-tax 403(b) savings plan contributions to a designated Roth account.

To learn more about Texas Children’s 403(b) Savings Plan, visit our Benefits website or call 800-343-0860 to speak with a Fidelity representative.

Beneficiary Elections
Please remember to review and update your beneficiaries. Elections can be made online through Mercer or Fidelity. Beneficiary elections for your retirement plans are not maintained in MOLI.

December 4, 2018

Are you ready to PLAY 60? Texas Children’s Hospital and the Houston Texans are geared up and ready to go.

PLAY 60 is the National Football League’s campaign to encourage kids to be active for 60 minutes a day in order to help reverse the trend of childhood obesity. To help promote the campaign, the Texans and Texas Children’s have teamed up and created PLAY 60 Week.

PLAY 60 Week runs from December 3 through December 9 and is full of fun events aimed at helping further the PLAY 60 message and get children across the Houston moving.

The week kicked off with Smith Legacy Tower being lit red, white and blue – the official colors of the Houston Texans. The building’s first and third floor lobby ceilings and east windows will stay lit in these colors throughout the week.

PLAY 60 at the Park was held on December 3 at Levy Park. The event included appearances by two Houston Texans players, TORO, the Texans Mascot, Houston Texans Cheerleaders and Houston Texans Ambassador, Kevin Walters. The park was completely taken over by all things Texans including activity stations, an event passport, a giant Toss-Up game board and much more.

Other events going on this week include the PLAY 60 Challenge School Assembly at Piney Point Elementary in the Houston Independent School District, the Get Fit with TORO school program re-launch at a Katy Independent School District school and the PLAY 60 Kid of the Month reward ceremony at NRG Stadium. The ceremony will honor four out of 253 children who shared their PLAY 60 experience in our social media contest. The winners will receive a special stadium tour, lunch in the team auditorium and more.

PLAY 60 Week will conclude on Sunday, December 9 with the Kids Day game against the Indianapolis Colts. The Texans-Colts game is sponsored by Texas Children’s and celebrates the PLAY 60 campaign. A Kids Day game pep rally for patients and their families will be held at the hospital prior to the game.

Texas Children’s Hospital is the Official Children’s Hospital of the Houston Texans. The goal of the partnership is to inspire children to lead healthier, more active lives. You can learn more about the partnership by visiting texaschildrens.org/texans.

November 7, 2018

Over the past several weeks, the Corporate Communications team has had Houston Texans-related giveaways to promote leadership challenges on Mark Wallace’s blog and to highlight the Caught You Caring patient experience program. If you’ve missed out on previous chances to win Texans football game tickets, here’s one more shot.

We want to connect with you on our employee Instagram channel. Our @oneamazingteam Instagram feed is where we share news for and about Texas Children’s employees. This week, we’re giving away our last three pairs of Texans football game tickets to our @oneamazingteam Instagram followers and commenters. Here’s how you could win:

1. Follow our Instagram page @oneamazingteam.
2. Like the “question of the day” post.
3. Comment with your best response.

There will be a different question every day this week, and you are welcome to comment on every single post! Next week, the Corporate Communications team will randomly select three of our @oneamazingteam Instagram followers from the comments to receive a pair of Texans tickets to the December 9 football game against the Indianapolis Colts. Winners also will receive two tickets to the Houston Texans Churrascos Club located inside the Houston Methodist Training Center. Make sure you check your inbox for a direct message from us letting you know if you are a winner.

To qualify, you must be a Texas Children’s employee at the time of the event. So make sure you follow us, and comment. Every comment is another entry into the drawing.

Click here to view our Instagram page.

November 6, 2018

This year, fall festivals and Halloween events across the Texas Children’s system were bigger, better and spookier than ever.

The festivities began on October 24 with West Campus’ annual Fall Festival. In the first floor lobby, patients and their families were welcomed by enthusiastic Child Life specialists, along with volunteers who led various games and arts and craft activities.

Watch the video and view the photo gallery below to get a glimpse of the fun everyone had at these unforgettable events.


“We really loved seeing how much all of the patients enjoyed the event,” Child Life Specialist Jessica Felder said. “It was very evident that the volunteers enjoyed seeing the excitement on the children’s faces. It was really a rewarding feeling knowing that we planned an event that touched the hearts of so many individuals.”

Several businesses and community groups including Chick-fil-A, Wood Group, Gymboree, Gym Station, and the Katy Police and Fire Department, participated by setting up games such as bowling, bean bag throwing and guess the fall spice, as well as a museum-style display of Making a Mark artwork.

On October 31, hundreds of tiny witches, ghouls, fairies, super heroes, princesses and more turned out for a fiendishly good time along the Auxiliary and Miracle Bridges for the 2018 Halloween Celebration at Texas Children’s main campus.

The haunted hullabaloo was a party of monstrous proportions, as dozens of amazing Texas Children’s employees from across all departments, service lines and divisions lined the walkways to make Halloween special for our patients and their families. They went all out with unbelievable costumes, decorations and booths with fun activities, such as pumpkin painting and dinosaur dancing, and plenty of games, prizes and candy.

Attendance at the second Fall Festival at our campus in The Woodlands surpassed the previous two years. Texas Children’s newest campus brought together over 400 patients, family members and people from the community, as well as representatives from several corporate sponsors, including Clariant Oil Services, Microsoft The Woodlands, Junior League The Woodlands, The Woodlands Fire Department, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Insurance, PurePoint Financial, Soccer Shots, and Aon, as well as characters from “Performing with a Purpose.”

Kids and their families had plenty of activities to keep them entertained, like bowling, beanbag tosses, arts and crafts, music, and various foods and candy. Spirit of Halloween costume store was also present to provide costumes to kids who didn’t have one. The Fall Festival committee presented a plaque to the vendors, thanking them for being a part of the festival. The event ended with employees from Language Services and Guest Services winning a very competitive employee costume contest.

Other entities across the system also had their own celebrations. In conjunction with the One Step Closer Foundation and Texas Children’s Social Work Department, Texas Children’s Complex Care Clinic hosted the first annual Complex Care Costume Party. This event was created to provide the clinic’s medically complex patients an opportunity to celebrate the fall season in a festive and familiar environment. Patients and their siblings played games, participated in art projects and danced to a DJ!

Also, the babies in the level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at The Woodlands campus got a surprise Halloween visit from “Batman”, while dressed up in costumes, some of which were made by Texas Children’s Child Life team for its tiniest patients. Families had the opportunity to have their photos taken with their child and Batman (a longtime Texas Children’s Hospital volunteer) at the bedside by FirstMemories Texas, who made the special visit possible. FirstMemories Texas is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to teaching families whose infants are in the NICU and CVICU at Texas Children’s Hospital how to celebrate, honor and tell their children’s stories through photography and album making.

“We really love giving patients and their families a fun event to participate in every year. Having these special fall events provides the medical staff an opportunity to interact with children strictly for joy and entertainment,” Child Life Specialist Hannah Early said. “This is just as enjoyable for the staff as it is for the families that participate. Getting the chance to watch our patients just be kids is so wonderful.”