December 16, 2019

Nicole Sanders shares how her participation in Shared Governance prepared her for her new position in quality improvement, and how opportunities like this can help nurses grow professionally and prepare them to take on new roles to advance patient care and outcomes. Read more

About 900 people packed into the auditorium at the University of Houston’s Student Center South on the evening of December 8 to attend Texas Children’s Second Annual Candle Lighting Ceremony, which remembers, honors, mourns and celebrates the lives of children gone from this world too soon.

Hosted by Texas Children’s Palliative Care Team (PACT), the 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 the second Sunday in December 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.

Prior to the event, the 700 plus family members shared a meal while the 60 plus children played in designated childcare rooms. During the ceremony, a slide show of those lost gave 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 encouraged to write their child’s name on the hearts. Texas Children’s Vice President of Nursing Heather Cherry welcomed attendees and Jan Wheeler, a parent with Project Joy & Hope, shared an honest and encouraging reflection of her experience losing a child. Toward the end of 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.

Taryn Schuelke, the grief and bereavement specialist with the Palliative Care team and ceremony chair, said she is pleased so many families attended second annual candle lighting.

“We are honored to have known these children and to be able to honor them. It means the world to the families that we remember their children,” 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 Children’s Palliative Care Community and Psychosocial Services Endowed Fund
  • Donor families and businesses
  • Texas Medical Center Orchestra
  • Texas Children’s Art Therapist Ashley Wood created the art used on all ceremony branding and the mural displaying the previous year’s paper hearts
  • 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
  • The tea light display built by Chris Jones, husband of the Palliative Care Team’s Administrative Assistant Heather Jones.
  • Texas Children’s music therapy volunteer Danh Nguyen who played guitar and lead the ceremony in song
  • Several volunteers from the Volunteer Services Department
  • Various local restaurants and florists
  • More than 100 Texas Children’s Hospital staff volunteers and their families

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 15, 2019

Patients and their families in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women received a special visit from Santa Claus last week.

Dressed in his holiday best, Old Saint Nick brought some holiday spirit to families whose babies are in the NICU this time of year. Texas Children’s Hospital’s NICU is the largest in the nation and provides level IV care, the highest level available for premature and critically-ill newborns.

Santa’s visit was hosted by the Newborn Center Family Advisory Committee and First Memories Texas, a volunteer organization dedicated to helping families whose infants are in the NICU and CVICU at Texas Children’s celebrate, honor and tell their children’s stories through photography and album-making.

As a Texas Children’s employee, it is important to make informed, thoughtful decisions about what you choose to post online. Learn more about how to be social media savvy. Read more

December 10, 2019

No one working in healthcare today would say that it is easy. And children’s hospitals are even more complex: we must wrap our arms around not only our patients, but their families (and teachers, school nurses, caregivers, and others). Overcoming these unique challenges yields extraordinary rewards – for kids, families, and communities – so it’s worth it. Building healthier futures is why we do what we do.

Delivering Texas Children’s-quality healthcare requires unparalleled care-coordination. As emphasized in Planning a Patient’s Care (one key element of Care Coordination), this means recognizing potential barriers to care and addressing them in advance.

“This particular element sets an expectation to look at each patient’s individual needs and take the time to understand the clinical and non-clinical resources that are required and available, “ said Dr. Katie Ostermaier, medical director at Texas Children’s Health Plan and a Care Coordination team lead. “It sounds simple, but what it really demands is that we build relationships with the right partners and deliver resources in way that is proactive and well thought-out.” Ostermaier compared care coordination to a village raising a child: “Someone in the village must be thinking in advance about everything that child will need in the future and the best way to deliver it.”

The same applies to Texas Children’s. Sterling care coordination requires:

  • Having a shared care plan that forces us to anticipate needs and potential problems.
  • Communicating with patients by explaining treatments, procedures, and follow-up care.
  • Facilitating communication between providers and caregivers by sharing complete patient stories during hand-offs.
  • Transitioning patients efficiently between areas within our system and stages of care.
  • Optimizing patient convenience by considering things like scheduling, transportation, supplies, and medications.
  • Using community resources effectively.

Both clinical and non-clinical employees are critical to this work. Care Coordination is a priority for each and every member of our One Amazing Team.

Tell us your story

Do you or someone you work with coordinate care well? Tell us how by sending a note to We want to hear from you!

Want to know more about Care Coordination? Reach out to Andrea Romay, senior project manager for Care Coordination at or 832-824-7831.

December 9, 2019


As a Texas Children’s employee, it is important to make informed, thoughtful decisions about what you choose to post online. Learn more about how to be social media savvy. Read more

The following story was written by Jenny Deam and was published by the Houston Chronicle on November 26.


On Oct. 4, 1989, Mark A. Wallace, a bright, ambitious 36-year-old health care executive took the reins at Texas Children’s Hospital as one of the youngest CEOs at Texas Medical Center. Back then he had a vision to turn his hospital into a powerhouse to be reckoned with.

Three decades later, Wallace, now 66, is still CEO. Texas Children’s has grown on his watch into one of the largest and most comprehensive pediatric and women’s hospitals in the nation. Texas Inc. sat down with Wallace for a wide-ranging talk on the challenges facing health care today and into the future. His comments are edited for length.

Q: What made you decide on a career in medicine?
A: I was 16 years old and I was at a basketball camp in Edmond, Okla. I wandered over to the library at Central State University and I picked up some career books and manuals and they were talking about how Medicare and Medicaid has just been enacted and how medicine and health care were going to expand because there was going to be all of this additional reimbursement coming in. I’m sitting there in gym shorts and tube socks and white Converse tennis shoes and I’m thinking, well, this sounds like a great opportunity. I went home that night and I announced to my family at the dinner table, “Y’all I want to be a hospital administrator when I grow up.” That’s not what most 16-year-olds say, especially in 1969, but I have been focused on that ever since.

Q: Did you ever wish you had become a doctor?
A: Never. I was all about leadership and management and driving performance. I’ve always been fascinated with physicians and what they do clinically, what they do in research. I have tremendous affinity for physicians. And that has been one of the keys to my success: I like doctors. A lot. There’s a lot of health care CEOs that don’t.

Q: What has been the best change in medicine and health care in your career?
A: It’s definitely the attention, the resources and the focus on quality, service and safety. I spend more time talking about and listening to our team discuss quality and safety than I do about finance. And that was different 20 years ago. It used to be more about the balance sheet and the profit-and-loss statement.

Q: Safety is better now?
A: It’s improved dramatically. We have the ability now in real time to monitor safety events, where an egregious mistake was been made possibly resulting in death or serious harm to a patient. Last year in 2019 we had 4.6 million patient encounters at Texas Children’s. We had only five serious safety events and no deaths from them. Twenty years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to even count serious safety events to the degree we can today. And even with a lower denominator, because we weren’t as big back then, the number of mistakes would have been much, much higher.

Q: What is worse in health care?
A: Not here at Texas Children’s, but in medicine in general, I see many people have less personal contact with their colleagues and sometimes even with patients and family members. Because of the development of technology, there is less face time. People are using their devices and texts and email in order to communicate. This is a challenge for the industry throughout the United States and throughout the world. There’s no substitute for face time. That personal touch is so important in medicine. I don’t think that’s being old-fashioned. I think that’s the right way to do it.

Q: How does your hospital deal with the state’s high uninsured rate?
A: To us, and to me, is it is a major problem in health care in the United States, especially in Texas and in Houston. But we run toward that problem, we embrace the uninsured in our community and we want to take care of them regardless of their ability to pay. Twenty years ago we started community care centers. We have seven now throughout the Greater Houston area. We have nurses and social workers and case workers who work with these children when they come in to sit down with the moms and fill out the forms and see if they are eligible for Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or a commercial plan. That’s the big problem in Texas. So many of these kids are eligible but they’re not enrolled. Texas has got to do better than this. This is an embarrassment for our great state.

Q: Why is having children insured important?
A: When a child has health insurance, they are three times as likely to be taken to see a pediatrician or to go to a hospital. If a child doesn’t have access to health care they lag behind, they miss school and they get sicker and their state of health declines. We end up taking care of them in the emergency centers where their problem is much more serious and much more expensive to treat.

Q: Is this personal for you?
A: Many years ago, I thought, before I retire I want to work in a system that has universal access and coverage for all children. I thought that would be done by now.

Q: Are you seeing any fallout in health care from the White House’s policies on immigration, even among citizen children of immigrant parents?
A: Yes. There’s the Texas Children’s Health Plan and we have over 400,000 members. The majority are children covered by Medicaid and CHIP. We’ve seen in the last year about a 4 percent decline in our membership and it’s because of exactly that – parents are not taking their child to get enrolled because they are fearful of being deported. It’s incredibly unfortunate and it’s affecting children and their health. That is a reality in our society.

Q: What can you as a hospital administrator do?
A: I think it’s talking with people. It’s talking with our legislative leaders.

Q: What’s been the reception?
A: It’s falling on deaf ears.

Q: How do you prepare for the large-scale change that could be coming in payment methods?
A: We study the proposals. There will be a change, whether its 2020 or 2024, whether it’s Medicare-for-All or something else. We’ve been advocating for universal access and coverage my entire career. We believe that it is a right for health care in the United States of America for our citizens. We don’t know what’s coming down the pike, but we’ve been hearing about single-payer systems since the 1960s with Sen. (Edward) Kennedy. It’s been around for 50 years, but we’ve not made very much progress. Now that conversation is more mainstream. How do we get ready? Regardless of the form or the structure of the payment methodology we know who we are, and we know what our mission is so we’re going to stick to that mission.

Q: How do you re-arrange your financial structure to be ready?
A: You have to be very efficient with the deployment of your resources. But it really is care coordination, finding that most effective way and venue to take care of a child. That’s the key. Reimbursement today is as good as it’s ever going to get. Lean and mean and being more effective and more efficient those are things we work on every single day.

Q: Any plans for a merger or acquisition with another hospital?
A: No.

Q: Any retirement plans on the horizon?
A. Everyone asks that. When you get to be 66 and you’ve been the CEO for 30 years you can’t be afraid of that question, and I’m not. I feel great, I still have a very high energy level, I still feel very inspired. So right now, I don’t have any plans for retirement. But one of the most important things that a board and a CEO can do is have a really strong leadership development and succession plan. Several years ago, I made a deal with God that He would tell me when it was time for me to retire.

Q: God has not whispered in your ear?
A: Not yet. But I try to always be available.

Mark A. Wallace, CEO of Texas Children’s Hospital

EDUCATION: B.S. from Oklahoma Baptist University and MHA from Washington University in St. Louis

FAMILY: Wife – Shannon; two children; seven grandchildren.

SOMETHING MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT ME: How much I like to sing and tell jokes.

FAVORITE QUOTE: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Peter Drucker.

FAVORITE BOOK (or books): “The Art of Possibility” by Rosamund Stone Zander with Benjamin Zander


SOMETHING I DON’T TALK ABOUT MUCH BUT GUIDES ME: My faith and belief in destiny.