June 25, 2019

We’ve all heard the saying, “Hard work pays off.”

That old adage certainly rings true for nine Texas Children’s nurses who recently graduated last month with their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), the highest level of clinical training for nursing practice.

“It was a pleasant surprise to find out that so many of us had applied and been accepted into this program,” said Texas Children’s Pediatrics Assistant Director Joy Harrison. “We were able to complete group projects and preceptorships together and we finished the program together. We encouraged and supported each other throughout this journey. We truly demonstrated the spirit of “no man left behind.”

On May 22, Harrison and eight other graduates received their DNP degrees from the University of Texas Health Science Center’s Cizik School of Nursing including: Mary Jo Andre, Chief Nursing Officer; Jackie Ward, Associate Chief Nursing Officer; Tarra Christopher, Director of Nursing, Emergency Center; Kimberly Clark, Patient Care Manager – Cancer Center; Sara Dean, Nurse Practitioner – Pavilion for Women; Shannon Holland, Director of Nursing – Critical Care; Vanessa Kastner, Nurse Practitioner – NICU and Jennifer Sanders, Assistant Vice President, Nursing.

Three years ago, their journey began when they enrolled in the DNP program, a clinical doctoral program that provides advanced education in several key areas that impact patient care and outcomes including evidence-based practice, quality improvement and systems leadership. Since Texas Children’s already provided a strong foundation in these areas, the program built on the great work our nurses do every day.

“The program challenged me to be a bigger system thinker,” said Critical Care Nursing Director Shannon Holland. “Besides focusing on my area of responsibility, the program challenged me to think about what impact I can make on our patient population across the system. The program also encouraged us to get involved with advocacy and legislation in our professional organizations and offered ways we can partner with our colleagues to give nursing, our patients and their families a bigger voice in health care.”

Like the DNP program, Texas Children’s Hospital invests heavily in our nurses through various professional advancement and education opportunities. Besides benefitting from the hospital’s tuition reimbursement program, our nurses were able to complete their DNP thanks to the support and encouragement from the organization, their leaders, families and friends, and from each other.

“It is a privilege to work in an organization that values people,” said Emergency Center Nursing Director Tarra Christopher. “Partnering together and enduring the challenges, assignments, along with balancing work, school and home, created a bond with our group that is incredibly special. We are family more than ever before. I couldn’t be more proud of them or more humbled and honored to stand beside them.”

As a Magnet-designated organization committed to nursing excellence, cultivating a highly educated team of nurses has always been a huge priority. Chief Nursing Officer Mary Jo Andre, who began her career at Texas Children’s as a staff nurse in the Emergency Center 34 years ago, says no matter where a nurse is in his or her career, it is never too late to return to school to expand one’s knowledge and skills.

“At Texas Children’s, it is important that we continue to invest in higher education for our nurses at all levels because evidence shows that advanced education leads to better patient outcomes,” Andre said. “We are the ones who will lead health care transformation in the future. With more nurses obtaining their DNPs and other certifications, we can enhance patient care, provide more evidence-based practice, and become like we’ve always said we wanted to be – the number one destination for nurses everywhere.”

While this academic journey towards obtaining a DNP degree was both challenging and rewarding, these new graduates have already inspired other nurses at Texas Children’s to enroll in the program, which speaks volumes about our organization’s culture for learning and the incredible support system here.

“I am so grateful that we have inspired other nurses at Texas Children’s to get their DNPs,” said Associate Chief Nursing Officer Jackie Ward. “I want them to know they have nine other nurses who embarked on this same journey, and all of us will be here to support each of our nurses every step of the way.”

Q&A: Nurses reflect on DNP journey

Click the names below to learn more about our nurses’ DNP journey, the lessons they learned along the way, and how the support from Texas Children’s made it possible for them to reach this milestone.

Mary Jo Andre
Jackie Ward
Joy Harrison
Tarra Christopher
Kimberly Clark
Sara Dean
Shannon Holland
Vanessa Kastner
Jennifer Sanders

June 24, 2019

After nearly 30 years at Texas Children’s, Xavier George is just as devoted to patient care as he was when he first stepped foot in the hospital. As a patient care assistant (PCA) George is the first person to see the patients in the post anesthesia care unit (PACU) at the Medical Center Campus. The majority of his time at Texas Children’s he has been the comforting part of the patient’s experience, easing any apprehensions they may have before procedures.

“It’s so fantastic to work for Texas Children’s,” George said. “All of my hard worker and the reasons that I continue to come to work, day after day and year after year, is for the children.”

George’s compassion and experience with the children helps decrease anxiety of the parents and guardians as well.

“We have been coming here for two years now and every time we come, Xavier is kind, compassionate, friendly, and upbeat,” the parent of a patient said. “I cannot say enough nice things about him, he’s so great!”

George has the ability to work in many roles in PACU. He is able to work the waiting room and pre-op and PACU secretary. His flexibility makes it so much easier for everyone on the department to do their job.

“Xavier demonstrates teamwork and compassion towards coworker’s on a daily basis,” Perioperative Nursing Manager Beth Jones said. “He works well with the pre-op team to ensure positive experience for our patients. He steps in wherever he is needed to ensure a positive work environment. He will do all of this with a positive attitude. It is great having him on my team.”

June 17, 2019

Dr. Huda Zoghbi, world-renowned neuroscientist and director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital, was recently honored for her groundbreaking contributions in pediatrics, neuroscience and genetic research by the BrightFocus® Foundation and by the American Pediatric Society (APS).

The BrightFocus Foundation presented Zoghbi with the Pioneer in Genetics award at their An Evening of BrightFocus gala in Washington, D.C. that brought together more than 350 guests from the scientific, philanthropic, private and public sectors. The award recognized Zoghbi’s collaborative cross-species genetic studies that could one day lead to actionable therapies for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

BrightFocus funds research activities worldwide aimed at ending Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration and glaucoma, and provides resources – including research updates, facts and data, inspiring stories and advice from recognized experts – for those affected by these life-altering diseases.

In an interview with event host, MSNBC anchor Richard Lui, Zoghbi discussed how the research that’s being done on rare diseases could potentially translate to more common illnesses.

“We work on rare diseases and try to find treatments for them, but what I’ve learned is that many of the principles that we apply to the study of rare diseases can be applied to more common disorders using a similar strategy,” she said. “Eventually, we hope that the headway we make on these rare disorders could lead to treatments for millions in the long term.”

At the annual Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) Meeting, Zoghbi was named the 2019 Norman J. Siegel New Member Outstanding Science Award recipient by the American Pediatrics Society (APS), the oldest and most prestigious academic pediatric organization in North America. The award is presented each year to one new APS member for their considerable contribution to the advancement of pediatric science.

The PAS Meeting is the leading event for academic pediatric and child health research, and brings together thousands of pediatricians, researchers, academics and health care providers from around the world, and unites them in the mission to improve the health and well-being of children.

The APS is dedicated to the advancement of child health through the promotion of pediatric research, recognition of achievement and cultivation of excellence through advocacy, scholarship, education and leadership development. Admittance into the APS is via nomination. Members are recognized as academic leaders in pediatrics, and they continue to contribute to the overall progress of child health while inspiring the next generation of child health professionals.

Texas Children’s and academic partner Baylor College of Medicine were proud to have several faculty and staff inducted into the APS this year.

These included:
Dr. Carla Davis, chief of Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology
Dr. Heidi Schwarzwald, chief medical officer of Pediatrics for Texas Children’s Health Plan
Dr. Jesus Vallejo, medical director of Texas Children’s International Patient Services
Dr. Kristy Murray, vice-chair for Research in the Section of Pediatrics at Baylor

Every day there is a different task and work space, but the quality of Kristi White’s patient care in always the same; extraordinary. As the charge respiratory therapist, White assumes the responsibility of assisting almost everyone whether it is relieving people for breaks, setting up equipment, or attending meetings. Despite the many busy days, she says that being successful is all about remaining confident and encouraging.

“It’s a positive and happy environment here. Even on their worst days, the kids don’t think of the negative things,” White said. Since the children are already so positive, we have to remain that way as well to keep the energy up.”

White is the epitome of positivity as she continues to be dedicated to making sure her patients and co-workers keep a smile on their faces as the head of the Respiratory Department’s Morale Committee. She is also a forward thinker and takes initiative when it comes to advancing a patient’s recovery.

“Kristi steps out of her role as a respiratory therapist all the time,” Respiratory Care Supervisor Lindsey Franks said. “She goes above and beyond for not only the people in our department, but for our patients as well. She is an amazing knowledgeable charge therapist who is always willing to go the extra mile.”

Franks recalled a time when Kristi first started at West Campus and had a patient who was on a home continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask. She was very concerned that the child was outgrowing the mask and knew it was something that needed to be accessed.

“Kristi took time out of her busy day to call the home health company, give them the patient’s name, serial number of mask, and inform them that the patient needs a mask refitting as soon as possible,” Franks said. “She is more than deserving of the Caught You Caring Award because to me, it is all about the little things.”

White’s innate ability to automatically adhere to the needs of patients regardless of what it is makes her stand out from others. She has no problem jumping into a full body Disney character costume to please a patient, or even come in early or stay late just to finish a project for the kids. She says that thinking outside of the box is such a regular action for her that she didn’t expect to be acknowledged for it, especially this time around.

“I actually laughed and I said, who nominated me for this?” White said amusingly. “I didn’t believe it, because in my mind I just do regular things that a pediatric respiratory therapist would do. However, that is the nature of this department, there is always a surprise and I am very appreciative of this particular one. The possibilities, opportunities, and experiences are endless here at Texas Children’s.”

June 10, 2019

Many people hope to be able to work in their preferred career upon graduation, while others may just want to work at their desired workplace with the goal of moving towards that career. Juan Flores, Radiology Generalist at The Woodlands Campus, as successfully done both very early in his career and can add a system-wide award to that list.

“This is amazing! I just graduated a little over a year ago, so working here is kind of like a dream come true,” Flores said. “I never thought I’d work at Texas Children’s until maybe later on, until I have more experience, but I took a chance so I’m happy about that.”

Flores is known to be very quick to volunteer outside of his role as a radiographer. He is on the Radiology Events and Activities Committee, he has played a role in several simulations inside and outside of Radiology, he is a part of the Customer Obsession Task Force, and helps with The Teddy Bear Clinic.

When his youthful presence is removed, Flores can be mistaken for a Texas Children’s veteran even though his has only been here a year, as his work constantly exemplifies our mission.

“In such a short time, Juan has been a fantastic addition to our team! He takes his role as a radiographer seriously and puts forth 110 percent every day,” Assistant Director of Radiology Traci Foster said. “Regardless of the day he’s having, Juan is always positive and has a great sense of humor.”

Foster recalled a time when a 4-year-old in the orthopedic clinic had a fractured arm and needed an x-ray. She says that the child was extremely anxious due to a recent, difficult, experience at an outside urgent care.

“Juan worked with the mother of the patient to identify a comfort position for the child. He was extremely patient and allowed them time to warm up to the environment by showing them the big camera and allowing the patient to touch and explore the room and equipment prior to positioning him for the x-ray,” Foster said. “The child was very receptive to his gentle approach and was able to complete the x-ray while smiling and saying ‘cheese.’ The mother was so appreciative of Juan and so are we. The entire department thanks Juan for going above and beyond to create a great patient experience for all of our patient families.”

At times after a hard day of work, when an emergency occurs there aren’t many people who will volunteer for additional duties. Flores’ hard work, determination, and persistence are all of the reasons why he is one of this year’s Caught You Caring Award recipients.

“I was so surprised when I found out that I won this award. “The fact that I’ve only been here a short while, and I work with so many other amazing people, this was really unexpected,” Flores said. “I love it here. It’s a tough job, but it’s extremely rewarding, and I hope to continue here for years to come.”

June 3, 2019

Whenever anyone asks about Shamika Jenkins, the first observation made is about her infectious smile and enthusiastic personality.

Customer service isn’t just a specific portion of an employee’s job description, it affects a patient’s entire experience. As a clerical secretary, Jenkins comes in contact with just about every patient that checks in during her early morning shift. In the Pavilion for Women Surgery department the patient’s experience begins with her warm welcomes and persistence.

“Although it can be pretty busy, I love meeting all different kind of people,” Jenkins said. “There are times when some people may be in a bad mood, a wonderful mood, some may be lost, and others are as upbeat and cheery as I am. Regardless, it gives me joy to encounter all moods because no matter what, I’m here to make their day.”

The waiting area can be the most quiet and uneventful time during a patient’s hospital visit. Either following check in, during an appointment, or after surgery as a patient recovers, patients and their families can potentially spend hours sitting in the lobby. Jenkins has transformed her role into not just checking patients in for their appointments, but makes them feel comfortable as well.

“Shamika is always the pretty, smiling face and helpful person in the waiting room,” Nursing Manager of Pavilion for Women Perioperative Services, Aleli Cabali said. “Shamika goes above and beyond to make sure that families in the waiting room are updated while patients are in the operating room.”

Jenkins’ diligence and consistence in making sure all surgery patients are called and scheduled for their appointments helps both patients and her co-workers, and is what allows the department to continuously provide high quality care.

“I remember a time when several people from the department had to go on vacation, and Shamika called patients ahead of time and scheduled their appointment to make it easier on the rest of the team,” Cabali said. “This was a big help to the unit and is why she deserves this award.”

Jenkins says despite the constant verbal recognition that she receives, she was not expecting to get a hospital-wide award.

“To be honest I didn’t see this coming,” she said. “I just come into work, do my job, and always remember to be myself; that is probably what excites me the most about being recognized. When working at Texas Children’s you have to be ready to put your ‘A game’ on every day. We have people come from everywhere so we need to make sure we maintain that great customer service consistently, and I am more than happy to be that example.”

The Houston Business Journal recently named several Texas Children’s physicians 2019 Health Care Heroes, honoring them for going above and beyond in serving the healthcare industry. The physicians were honored at a May 23 ceremony and are listed below:

Outstanding Health Care Practitioner: Dr. Ricardo Flores, hematology/oncology; Dr. Joohi Jimenez-Shahed, neurology; Dr. Julie Kaplow, pediatrics and psychology; and Dr. Michele York, neurology.

Outstanding Physician: Dr. Daniel DeSalvo, pediatrics, diabetes and endocrinology; Dr. Lisa Hollier, obstetrics and gynecology; Dr. Peter Hotez, pediatrics and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine; Dr. Rayne Rouce, pediatrics and hematology/oncology.

Rising Star: Dr. Hsiao-Tuan Chao, neurology; and Dr. Arindam Sarkar, resident physician in family and community medicine.