May 20, 2019

Thomas (Tom) Sharon, January 2019 Employee

Your name, title and department. How long have you worked here?
Thomas (Tom) Sharon, Chaplain, Spiritual Care Department with the Heart Center as my primary clinical area of responsibility. I have been at Texas Children’s for four years.

Tell us how you found out you won a super star award.
I found out I won this award at a surprise gathering of my Family Services and Heart Center family. My wife, daughter and grandson also were present and knew about it before I did but “kept the secret!” We had been working for months to complete repairs on our home and one of the last contractors was starting that day. My wife texted to tell me they had to wait and managed to keep the secret and surprise me with my family’s presence. My AD, Norma Shreck, coordinated the surprise presentation, and I was totally shocked. I thought I was having a meeting with her and my PICU chaplain colleague, James Denham, and walked into a large conference room full of people. I was humbled and honored by not only the award but all of the people who took time from their busy schedules to stand in unity, as they always do, to present it to me. This included leadership from the Cameron Watrin and other Heart Center as well as from the directors from the Family Services line including Michelle Lawson and Tabitha Rice and many others. But also present were my colleagues from the full spectrum of my Texas Children’s Hospital family. We enjoyed time from celebration and treats together, but their presence was the biggest treat. Two days later I was surprised again when Cameron Watrin and Tracy Porter recognized me at the Heart Center’s physicians’ rounds in our new conference center.

What does it mean to be recognized for the hard work you do? How has the organization helped you achieve your personal and professional goals?
I was shocked, honored, humbled, and moved deeply to be recognized for my work. I was shocked because I do not function with the idea of personal recognition or reward beyond what I receive in doing my job each day. There is such reward in working beside the level of physicians and staff with whom I am honored to work each day. But even more so the honor of standing on the hallowed ground of our patients’ rooms as tireless, dedicated care is provided day-after-day and seeing not only the physical healing that this brings but an inexplicable emotional and spiritual wholeness. For these patients and families to know and experience the greatest pediatric physicians, nurses, therapists, social workers, child life specialists, … providing world class care is to be expected from a medical institution of our caliber. But the way it is provided with such compassion and passion, dedication and determination, … and yes, love; this is what leaves me shocked and honored more deeply than words can say that I would receive this recognition from within the midst of this amazing team. But it is also what makes it not so much of a shock as an affirmation of how special my team is. This organization has helped me achieve my goals of providing the best care I can for the patients and families at Texas Children’s by fostering an environment in which I am embraced and encouraged to do just that. By holistically embracing our greatest assets as an institution which is the human factor. Our patients and families are human beings with minds, bodies, emotions and spirits; all of which are challenged in our pediatric care setting. But so are we as an institution and we perform at our best human abilities when we function holistically. We have assembled the greatest minds on earth and work as a unified body to provide care on unparalleled levels. But what places Texas Children’s on a higher level is that this is done while also embracing the emotional and spiritual aspects of our human-being. This is what I feel was recognized by my receiving this honor. And it is the kind of support that I feel lived out and that I am able to live into every day as a professional and human being. This, above, all else, is what has helped me achieve my personal and professional goals at Texas Children’s.

What do you think makes someone at Texas Children’s a super star?
As a further reflection on this I feel that what makes a person a super star at Texas Children’s is not simply doing but being. Being a part of the larger human factor at Texas Children’s which embraces freedom for our patients and families and for each other; leads tirelessly in providing for that freedom to do our best so we can be our best; that lives compassionately by embracing and supporting our patients, families, and each other in all the ways they and we need it right where we find ourselves day-after-day; and amplifying a unity that makes providing care holistically not just what we do but who we are.

What is your motivation for going above and beyond every day at work?
I never think about “going above and beyond at work” as this award recognizes. My focus is on being with our patients, families, physicians and staff where they are each day. My motivation is to somehow make their moments, hours and days the best they can be given the circumstances in which they find themselves. This involves constantly assessing and reflecting on the needs of my patients and families and embracing them as my own family. And my motivation from this comes from being a part of the Texas Children’s family and working together to address the circumstances on hand and those that may be on the horizon. It is the outcome of that level of care that motivates me each day. And that outcomes is that I have somehow touched fellow human being. Helped them know how truly precious and beloved they are and helping them live into the very most of their potential today and in the days to come. The reward of standing back and seeing joy restored to mended bodies and once broken or shattered spirits is my true reward and motivation. What motivates me is that I am not only free but encouraged to celebrate our victories and grieve our losses with some of the most amazing people on earth every day.

What is the best thing about working at Texas Children’s?
The best part of Texas Children’s is, hands down, the people. All of you!!

What does it mean to you that everyone at Texas Children’s is considered a leader? What is your leadership definition?
It means everything to me that “everyone at Texas Children’s is considered a leader” and that these are not just words but who we are and how we live. A leader to me is a person who is empowered and encouraged to contribute all that they can to make us as an institution the best that we can be. We can have amazing leadership skills of being able to motivate and manage people, equipment, and facilities but unless we are powered and encouraged (set free) to act to the fullest of our abilities we are lacking in leadership. So leadership is about every individual in our institution acting in unity as a whole. And this includes our patients and families.

Anything else you want to share?
I would like to repeat my sincerest thanks for this award and for the honor of working at Texas Children’s each and every day. Thank you to my whole team because I could not have achieved it without every one of you. And I receive it on behalf of all of those with whom I am blessed to work every day. I will remember and cherish it and each of you always.

May 14, 2019

The stars were out and all-smiles at the Smile Train 20th Anniversary Gala on May 2 in New York City.

The event, sponsored in part by Texas Children’s Hospital, honored the memory of Smile Train founder Charles B. Wang and served as the launch for a year of celebrations of impact across the globe. It featured a performance by Alexa Ray Joel and appearances by many special guests, including NBA legend, former Houston Rocket and Smile Train partner, Dikembe Mutumbo.

Smile Train also recognized three exceptional honorees for their support of the organization and its mission. These were Graham Elliot, the award-winning chef, restaurateur and television personality; Paula Shugart, President of The Miss Universe Organization; and the Chairman of Smile Train’s Medical Advisory Board, Texas Children’s Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Larry Hollier.

“I would like to thank Charles Wang for the confidence he placed in me by naming me chair of the Medical Advisory Board,” Hollier said in his remarks. “It has been one of the biggest honors of my professional life.”

Smile Train is an international children’s charity and the largest surgical non-governmental organization in the world. Through its sustainable model, Smile Train empowers local medical professionals with training, funding and resources to provide free cleft lip and palate surgery and comprehensive care to children around the world.

A cleft occurs when certain body parts and structures do not fuse together during fetal development. Clefts can involve the lip and/or the roof of the mouth, which is made up of both hard and soft palate. If left untreated, the conditions can cause children to have difficulty eating, breathing, hearing and speaking. Many children with clefts live in isolation, and too many will never receive the reconstructive surgery they need.

Smile Train supervises the quality and safety of surgery on approximately 130,000 children every year and has provided surgery for approximately 1.6 million children in 85 countries over the past 20 years.

Cleft lip and palate care at Texas Children’s

Cleft repair surgery is safe, and the transformation is immediate. Texas Children’s Hospital specializes in the comprehensive care of patients born with these conditions at our Cleft Lip and Palate Clinic. Our multidisciplinary team has over 40 years of experience treating these particular issues, and each patient’s care is tailored to their specific needs.

The team consists of:

  • Pediatrician
  • Plastic surgeon
  • Pediatric dentist
  • Craniofacial orthodontist
  • Otolaryngologist or ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT)
  • Speech pathologist
  • Audiologist
  • Craniofacial nurse
  • Genetic counselor
  • Social worker
  • Nutritionist

Hear more about Texas Children’s world-class cleft lip and palate care from Chief of Plastic Surgery Dr. Edward Buchanan in this month’s featured “Medically Speaking” episode on Connect.


It’s hard to contain the celebration of nursing to just one week at Texas Children’s. Every day there are inspirational stories that demonstrate how our nurses go above and beyond to advance patient care and enhance patient experience and outcomes.

Their endless compassion, comfort and support can be seen and felt across the organization. A nurse clutching the hands of a parent who just received tough news about their child. A nurse giving up family time during holidays and weekends to spend time with families in the hospital. A nurse calming a mother’s fear as she prepares to give birth to her first child. Our nurses leave a lasting impression on every patient they encounter, and they are at the core of the experience patients and families have while in our care.

Each year, as we salute nurses across the country from May 6 to 12, Texas Children’s celebrates our amazing team of more than 3,500 nurses. The theme for Nurses Week this year was 4 Million Reasons to Celebrate – and at Texas Children’s – there are many reasons to celebrate our nurses.

This video spotlights our nurses’ many successes, accomplishments and the daily contributions they make to our patients and families at Texas Children’s.

Nurses Week activities

Texas Children’s Nursing Retention Council organized several fun activities throughout the week that included cookie deliveries to the units, blessing of hands and photo opportunities with our therapy dogs, Pinto and Bailey. Chair massages and other activities during Nurses Week centered on health and wellness to remind our nurses how important it is to take care of themselves so they can provide the best and safest care to their patients.

On May 8, Texas Children’s leadership hosted the Nursing Excellence Awards honoring seven recipients for their commitment to improving nursing care and patient outcomes.

The award honorees included:

Staff Nurse of the year: Anita Hadley
Preceptor of the year: Sherri Forschler
Rookie of the year: Jennifer Nguyen
Leader of the year: Sondra Morris
APRN of the year: Gina Santucci
Advanced degree of the year: Sharon Staton
Friend of Nursing: Dr. Matt Musick

Sandra Diaz and Erika Ramirez received the 2019 David and Polly Roth Nursing Education Scholarship Fund. This education fund will provide tuition assistance for Texas Children’s employees who have worked in the organization for at least three years and are interested in pursuing a professional nursing degree.

Faith Williams, Melissa Yu, and Lisa Carr received the Molly Mae LeBlanc Nursing Education Scholarship. The scholarship was named in memory of Molly Mae, daughter of Texas Children’s employees Jill and Andy LeBlanc, who passed away at Texas Children’s on May 6, 2017. The purpose of the scholarship is to perpetuate Molly Mae’s memory and recognize nursing staff members for going above and beyond their required job duties to enhance the quality of life for Texas Children’s patients and their families.

Priscila Reid, a nurse practitioner at Texas Children’s Heart Center, was among the top 15 award recipients from the Houston Chronicle Salute to Nurses, and 22 Texas Children’s nurses were recognized as being among the top 150 in the Greater Houston area:

Sheena Antimo
Nakeisha Archer
Angela Baldonado
Megan Beach
Janet DeJean
Nicole Dumas
Corey Gates
Jason Giangrosso
Nicole Harris
Josh Hearne
Lastenia Holton
Barbara Levy
Paul Longoria
Mona Lisa Macapagal
Tammy Myers
Virginia Plumlee
Priscila Reid
Esmeralda Reyna
Lisa Rohaly
Melissa Silvera
Kenya Starks
Elizabeth Watson

Congratulations to our nurses!

To learn more about Nursing at Texas Children’s, click here to view By the Numbers.

Texas Children’s Hospital has been recognized by Forbes as one of America’s best employers. Forbes recently released its annual America’s Best Large Employers list and ranked Texas Children’s No. 276 among the best 500 large companies in the nation. Texas Children’s was one of 25 health care organizations on the list, and one of only three in Texas and Houston.

Forbes partnered with market research company Statista to measure the leading employers around the country and the world by asking those in the best position: the workers. Statista surveyed 50,000 Americans working for businesses with at least 1,000 employees. All the surveys were anonymous, allowing participants to share their opinions openly. The respondents were asked to rate, on a scale of zero to 10, how likely they’d be to recommend their employer to others. Statista then asked respondents to nominate organizations in industries outside their own. The final list ranks the 500 large employers that received the most recommendations.

As you’ll recall, Forbes worked with Statista just last year on its first-ever ranking of America’s best employers for women. Texas Children’s was ranked No. 11 among the best 300 companies in the nation – and the best in Houston.

“Creating a culture not only of excellence but of collaboration and camaraderie has been a mission of ours, and I am so proud of what we have accomplished as One Amazing Team and of what we have built together at Texas Children’s Hospital,” said President and CEO Mark Wallace.

May 13, 2019

Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers recently honored four team members with the Bravo Award for going above and beyond to ensure our patients and families receive the best possible care.

The award is handed out quarterly and recognizes nurses and other professional staff in the Cancer and Hematology Centers for outstanding performance. Anyone within the Texas Children’s system may nominate a member of the cancer and hematology teams for this award. The team’s clinic leadership will select the winners.

Last quarter’s winners of the Bravo Award were:

Ashley Bernal, a social worker at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus, was recognized for her tireless work with our hematology and oncology patients in the Katy area. She goes above and beyond to stay late if a situation needs her assistance, adapts her role to the needs of families, and can handle the most difficult of social situations with compassion.

Janet DeJean, a clinical specialist at Texas Children’s Hospital Main Campus, is a long-time leader and is involved in almost every aspect of care we provide. She trains nursing staff throughout the Medical Center Campus and is crucial in the implementation of new clinical workflows. She also is a dedicated volunteer for our patients at Camp Periwinkle.

Robin Haidacher, a leukemia nurse coordinator at Texas Children’s Hospital Main Campus, is dedicated to improving the quality of care for her patients. She plans ahead, is accessible to families both at home and in the clinic, and she has been instrumental in training newer nurse coordinators.

Juan Salinas, a bone marrow transplant patient care assistant, is an 18-year veteran on the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit assisting with monitoring patient needs. His knowledge and experience have allowed him to identify potential deterioration in patients that led to early attention to their needs. He watches out for his co-workers and frequently picks up extra shifts when the unit needs help.

“We can’t be one of the top pediatric cancer and hematology centers in the country without the efforts of many people across a wide variety of disciplines,” said Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers Clinical Director Dr. Timothy Porea. “Thank you all for the hard work you put in each and every day.”

The photos above picture from left to right: Ashley Bernal, Robin Haidacher, Janet DeJean, and Juan Salinas. You can click the image to enlarge it.

May 6, 2019

Texas Children’s celebrated Laboratory Professionals Week April 21-27 with a variety of activities and events. Many were honored for their tenure in the department and others for their dedication to the mission of the profession.

“Laboratory Professionals Week provides the profession with a unique opportunity to increase public understanding of and appreciation for clinical laboratory personnel,” said Texas Children’s Director of Pathology Ann O’Connell. “The clinical laboratorian is a key member of our health care team, playing an increasingly vital role in the diagnosis and prevention of disease.”

The Texas Children’s Department of Pathology hosted two lectures and an awards ceremony during Laboratory Professionals Week. The first lecture honored Texas Children’s former Division Chief of Clinical Pathology and current Director of Pathology Informatics Gregory Buffone, Ph.D.

Buffone, who will soon retire after 40 years with Texas Children’s, has served in many roles in the Department of Pathology, always as a passionate advocate for patient safety and quality in laboratory medicine. In addition to a dedicated laboratory professional, Buffone also is an avid photographer. As a tribute to Buffone and his contributions to the Department of Pathology, several of his images are on permanent display in the Pathology Gresik Conference Room in the basement of the West Tower Building.

Pathologist-in-Chief Dr. James Versalovic celebrated his 10th anniversary as head of the Department of Pathology at Texas Children’s. Versalovic has been with Texas Children’s for nearly 18 years and has made significant strides in the Department of Pathology, growing the department’s faculty and clinical staff two fold. He spearheaded the creation of the Genomic Medicine and Transfusion Safety divisions and invested time and effort in growing the Texas Children’s Microbiome Center. Versalovic also led a multitude of critical initiatives across the organization. He was instrumental in the creation of the innovative partnership with Quest Diagnostics and most recently has worked on the adoption and implementation of Epic Beaker.

“Please join me in congratulating Jim on this milestone, and for his superb leadership and the incredible achievements he has accomplished during his tenure,” Texas Children’s President and CEO Mark Wallace said. “We look forward to celebrating many more years of success with him!”

The annual Virginia Deeken Memorial Lecture presented by Aaron West Assistant Director also included two types of awards. The GJ Buffone Pathology Improvement Award recipients Dr. James Dunn, Clarah Mutandiro, Amber Ashgar, Marcus Mpwo, Awilda Rivera and Rina Riordan won the award for their Improved Turnaround Time for Urine Culture Reporting initiative. The Individual Excellence Award recipients were Purnima Rania and Renee Webb. The award honors employees who consistently going above and beyond expectations of job performance.

“Thank you for all of your hard work and contributions toward the care and diagnosis of our so many complex patients,” said Executive Vice President Mark Mullarkey. “Your work is endless, 24/7/365 and it directly impacts the care delivered to our patients we serve.”

April 23, 2019

Know a team member who exemplifies our mission and core values? Help us recognize and reward your colleague as a Super Star! To nominate, click read more.