June 11, 2019

Texas Children’s entered FY19 with a renewed focus on improving operational effectiveness and maintaining our financial excellence, goals that allow us to continue developing, expanding and reinvesting in our mission to provide the very best care for our patients and families.

Our recent credit ratings from the nation’s top three credit agencies are proof we’re accomplishing those goals.

The agencies – Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch – have once again affirmed Texas Children’s high credit ratings (Aa2, AA and AA respectively), as well as a stable financial outlook. It is the 23rd straight year Texas Children’s has maintained outstanding credit ratings.

“This is fantastic news and it speaks volumes about Texas Children’s,” said President and CEO Mark Wallace. “The agencies’ ratings are certainly a reflection of our consistently strong financial performance, but their analysis goes beyond just the numbers. They also noted our world-class medical staff, our seasoned management team, and our successful expansion efforts, including the completion of the Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower and our growth in Austin. We should all be very proud of this achievement.”

Each year, the agencies analyze financial, operational and strategic data to determine our ratings, which can be compared to a company’s stock price or a person’s credit score. A great rating for Texas Children’s means that we are a financially sturdy organization that can easily meet our financial commitments, which leads to job security for each and every employee.

All three agencies cited Texas Children’s track record of clinical excellence, robust research programs, exceptional reputation, outstanding fundraising capabilities and strong financial position as key reasons for the ratings.

June 3, 2019

On May 31, nearly 100 guests – including Texas Children’s executive and physician leadership, members of the Board of Trustees, and the family of Lester and Sue Smith – gathered in the Russell and Glenda Gordy lobby for the official dedication and blessing of Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower.

Among late Houston philanthropist Lester Smith’s greatest joys was his dedication to the service of others. Most recently, Lester and his wife, Sue, announced a $50 million gift and helped raise a total of $83 million for Texas Children’s following the hospital’s Legacy of Motown Gala in Sept. 2018.

It’s been just over a year since Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower first opened its doors as the new home of heart, intensive care and surgery at Texas Children’s Medical Center campus. The cutting-edge, 640,000-square-foot facility allows Texas Children’s to continue providing the highest-quality care possible for the most critically ill children who come to us for help.

“When this tower was still under construction, we named it Legacy Tower,” said Mark Wallace, Texas Children’s president and CEO. “We knew this would be a place that would not only hold Texas Children’s legacy, but also the legacy of so many others, including our resilient patients and the dedicated team of caregivers who work hard each and every day to create healthier futures for children everywhere. Lester left so many legacies – his conviction and courage, his generosity, his triumphant spirit and his passion for life. Each of these legacies will be lived out every day in this building through the patients and families we serve.”

Prior to the official dedication, Lester’s daughter, Shelly, and her husband, Brian, along with his son Stuart and his wife, Limor, were surprised with the unveiling of two patient floors in the tower which were named in their honor by their late father.

“Lester brought so much joy to those he loves and cared for, and he often said that the most important thing we can do is care for the most vulnerable in our community – our children,” Sue Smith said. “We believe that the best place to heal sick children is right here at Texas Children’s, where all children are treated with the utmost compassion and expertise available, regardless of their family’s circumstances. That truly resonates with us and is what guides our giving.”

The first year in Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower was a busy one. As of May 2019, there had been 3,839 patient admissions in the pediatric and cardiac intensive care units. More than 9,000 patients received care at our outpatient Heart Center clinics, and over 700 catheterization and 476 MRI procedures were performed here.

A total of 3,455 surgeries were completed in the tower’s state-of-the-art surgical and cardiovascular operating rooms, totaling nearly 14,000 surgical hours. And since the tower’s helistop opened last November, Texas Children’s has had more than 120 landings, allowing for greater access to Texas Children’s for the sickest patients.

May 20, 2019

“I’m excited every day I walk into Legacy Tower,” said Dr. Lara Shekerdemian, service chief of Critical Care Services at Texas Children’s. “It is a wonderful environment to work in. Our patients and their families are very happy with their new spaces, and we are very privileged to be in our new home.”

It’s been one year since Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower opened its doors for the first time to care for our most critically ill patients at Texas Children’s Medical Center campus. And, in that short period of time, our patients and their families have noticed a positive difference since moving into the new tower.

“The rooms here are very cozy and very spacious,” said Eleonor Caparas, whose daughter is a PICU patient at Texas Children’s. “We have our own space here and we can stay together with my baby. I like it because I experienced the old PICU on the third floor of West Tower, and it is so different now.”

Randy Bowen, a PICU nurse at Texas Children’s for more than 25 years, recalls when critical care moved from the Abercrombie Building to West Tower. He says the move into Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower has been a huge game changer in the delivery of patient care.

“Coming into this space now, supplies us with so much flexibility and the availability of resources to provide the patient care that we’ve always excelled at doing,” Bowen said. “But I think now we’re exceeding that and it’s just been exciting be part of the whole process.”

Since Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower opened on May 22, 2018, Texas Children’s critical care, cardiology, surgical and radiology teams have been very busy caring for our hospital’s sickest patients.

To date, the new tower has had 3,839 patient admissions in the pediatric and cardiac intensive care units. More than 9,000 patients have received care at Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower’s outpatient Heart Center clinics, and over 700 catheterization and 239 intraoperative MRI procedures have been performed here.

A total of 3,455 surgeries have been completed in the tower’s state-of-the-art surgical and cardiovascular operating rooms, totaling 13,921 surgical hours. Since the tower’s helipad opened last November, Texas Children’s has had 123 landings, allowing for greater access to Texas Children’s for the sickest patients.

“We have everything under one roof to take care of all of the sickest children,” said Texas Children’s Surgeon-in-Chief Larry Hollier. “All of the diagnostic capability, the OR capability, the interventional radiology capability and then the ICU care. After visiting all of the leading children’s hospitals across the country, I can say without a doubt, no other children’s hospital has something like Legacy Tower.”


In May of 2018, Texas Children’s reached a historic milestone when the Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower opened its doors to care for our most critically ill patients. Four months later, Texas Children’s No. 1 ranked Heart Center moved into Smith Legacy Tower, marking the completion of the project and delivering on our promise to ensure every child receives the right care, at the right time, at the right place. Learn more by visiting our 2018 virtual Annual Report.

March 15, 2019

In May 2019, the Texas Children’s family will celebrate the one-year anniversary of the opening of Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower, one of the greatest achievements in the hospital’s history. We will also pause to remember the life, memory and faithful generosity of the man whose name the tower bears.

Lester Smith, legendary Houston philanthropist and ardent Texas Children’s supporter, has passed. He was 76.

“I was honored to call Lester Smith my friend and I am deeply saddened by the news of his passing,” said Texas Children’s President and CEO Mark Wallace. “He lived his life honorably, and among his greatest joys was his dedication to the service of others. Texas Children’s was lucky enough to be a beneficiary of his unwavering generosity over the years and his commitment to our patients and their families, notably our Cancer Center, was unmatched.”

A native of Wharton, Texas, Smith was a second-generation oil man – a wildcatter who made his mark on the industry, and his fortune, by taking chances others wouldn’t when it came to oil drilling exploration. In 1986, he started Houston-based Smith Energy Company, a provider of oil and gas exploration and production of oil and gas reserves, which he built into a successful multi-state operation. In the 90s, while on a scuba trip to Venezuela, he met the love his life, Sue. The two shared many passions, including competitive ballroom dancing, for which they won two U.S. championships

But following a series of health-related issues, Smith found his highest calling. Drawing from a place of gratitude for the life-saving care he received during battles with cancer, Smith and Sue dedicated more than $150 million to support research at numerous institutions, including Texas Children’s, Baylor College of Medicine and Harris Health System.

A statement from the Lester and Sue Smith Foundation released after his passing said, “his core philosophy, ‘to whom much is given, much is expected,’ drove his life-long passion for giving, touching millions of lives, leaving an indelible mark on our city and world.”

But nowhere will Smith’s legacy and passion for giving be felt more than here at Texas Children’s.

In two fundraising events in 2011 and 2012, Smith and wife, Sue, helped generate more than $41 million in donations to Texas Children’s Cancer Center, with more than $21 million directly donated by The Lester and Sue Smith Foundation.

The 2011 “Evening with a Legend” event honored actor Robert Duvall and showcased a live, on-stage interview by CBS veteran news anchor Bob Schieffer. In February 2012, the “Evening with Disco Legends” event featured performances by disco greats Gloria Gaynor, The Pointer Sisters and Nile Rodgers, and drew over 1,100 supporters – the largest single-evening fundraiser in Houston’s history at the time. By underwriting the event, the Smiths enabled 100 percent of the proceeds to directly fund research at Cancer Center.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Lester Smith, whose efforts have helped advance research and care for children with cancer and blood disorders,” said Director of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers Dr. Susan Blaney. “Few have had such a transformational impact on our efforts at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers to lead the way in research and care of childhood cancer.”

In honor of their unparalleled dedication to help find cures for pediatric cancers, Texas Children’s in 2012 named the Cancer Center outpatient clinic the Lester and Sue Smith Clinic at Texas Children’s Cancer Center.

But it seemed Smith, who was fiercely competitive, wanted an opportunity to outdo himself.

In September 2018, the Smiths chaired the “Legacy of Motown” gala in support of Legacy Tower – Texas Children’s new home for heart, intensive care and surgery – and to support patient care and research at the Cancer Center. The event, underwritten by the Lester and Sue Smith Foundation, raised a record $83,373,119, making it one of the largest single-night fundraisers in the state’s history. The Smith’s personal contribution was an astonishing $50 million.

In honor of that transformational give, Texas Children’s renamed the state-of-the-art, 640,000-square-foot expansion Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower.

“Giving to others is our guiding philosophy,” said Smith at the time of the event. “There is nothing more precious than a child, and we hope this gift will help support the incomparable patient care for which the hospital is known. It is truly our honor to leave a legacy of support for generations to come at Texas Children’s.”

The entire Texas Children’s family will forever be grateful for that selflessness and unfailing support.

“Lester’s incredible legacy will live on in the medical advancements, state-of-the-art care and infinite hope for our patients in the tower which now bears his name – Texas Children’s Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower,” said Wallace. “My thoughts and heartfelt condolences are with his biggest fan, Sue, as well as his children, Stuart and his wife, Limor, and Shelly and her husband, Brian.”

February 25, 2019

It’s been less than a year since the Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower opened its doors for the first time to care for our most critically ill patients at Texas Children’s Medical Center campus. And, in that short period of time, Texas Children’s has made great strides for our patients and their families.

On May 22, 2018, Smith Legacy Tower opened with 45 critically ill patients. Four months later on September 25, Texas Children’s No. 1 ranked Heart Center opened in Smith Legacy Tower to deliver care to 64 patients. Since that historic moment, Texas Children’s critical care, cardiology, surgical and radiology teams have been busy.

To date, Smith Legacy Tower has had 3,870 patient admissions in the pediatric and cardiac intensive care units. More than 5,000 patients have received care at Smith Legacy Tower’s outpatient Heart Center clinics, and over 450 catheterization and 476 MRI procedures have been performed in the new tower.

A total of 2,356 surgeries were completed in Smith Legacy Tower’s state-of-the-art surgical and cardiovascular operating rooms, totaling 9,495 surgical hours. In the first three months of opening the tower’s new helipad, Texas Children’s had 66 helipad landings, allowing for even greater access to Texas Children’s for the sickest patients.

“I don’t know of any other children’s hospital in the country that has the type of experience that Texas Children’s has in bringing all of these elements together,” said Texas Children’s Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Larry Hollier. “With Legacy Tower providing much larger, more functional spaces for our patients, clinical and surgical teams, we are delivering on our promise to ensure every child receives the right care, at the right time and in the right place.”

West Tower Backfill Project

Following the successful opening of Smith Legacy Tower, construction is now underway to backfill and renovate the patient care spaces on floors 7 and 15 of West Tower that were left vacant from the patient moves.

Part of the West Tower Backfill project involves transitioning patient care services out of the Abercrombie Building which currently serves as Texas Children’s general pediatrics and pediatrics hospital unit. As one of the hospital’s oldest facilities, the smaller spaces and limited technological capabilities have historically presented challenges for providers, clinical care teams, patients and their families.

“When our executive steering committee was formed to look at space planning and space management for our clinical programs, one of our guiding principles was to decrease or eliminate care in Abercrombie,” said Assistant Vice President of Nursing Jennifer Sanders. “As our patients and staff become more dependent on technology, there are challenges due to the age of the facility.”

7 West Tower

As part of the backfill project, 7 West Tower will become a 32-bed dedicated hematology and oncology unit that will include 22 hematology-oncology rooms and 10 bone marrow transplant rooms.

Formerly known as the Progressive Care Unit, several patient rooms had been set up as pods where four patients occupied one room. Construction is underway to reconfigure this space into four private rooms. Renovations will also include a multi-disciplinary work area, larger family lounge and respite areas.

Cancer and hematology patients from other parts of West Tower and Abercrombie will move to 7 West Tower once renovation is completed. The targeted date of completion is September 2019.

15 West Tower

While 15 West Tower used to be Texas Children’s cardiovascular intensive care unit, this space will be redesigned to meet the future growth of our acute care patient population.

By converting this space from critical care to acute care, 15 West Tower will become a 36-bed acute care Pediatric Hospital Medicine (PHM) unit that will include a family lounge and respite spaces. The unit will include four behavioral health rooms, multi-disciplinary work area and space for our PHM providers.

Patients from Abercrombie 5 and 6 will move to 15 West Tower, and during this transition, 7 South Abercrombie will be a “patient ready” floor that will serve as an acute care unit during high patient census. The targeted date of completion is July 2019.

6 West Tower

The last component of the West Tower Backfill project is the reconfiguration of 6 West Tower that will address different patient populations on one floor. Expected to be completed in late 2020, 6 West Tower will become a separate inpatient and outpatient dialysis and pheresis unit. While this floor used to house the administrative offices for critical care physicians, the hospital’s neonatology offices are still located there.

“Collaborating with our facility planning and development partners, our nursing team has played a crucial role in leading the West Tower Backfill project,” said Associate Chief Nursing Officer Jackie Ward. “The patient move from Abercrombie to West Tower will help us meet the future growth of acute care, while enabling our patient care teams to collaborate more efficiently in these new, enhanced spaces. This change will also enhance and improve our patient and staff experience.”

December 3, 2018

A delegation of Texas Children’s physician leadership, executives and experts were recently invited to attend the 6th annual U.S. News & World Report Healthcare of Tomorrow summit in Washington, D.C. There, they met with top hospital leaders, policymakers, insurers, consumer advocates and other industry professionals from across the country to discuss some of the most important topics in health care today.

Texas Children’s had a major presence throughout the event. Not only did we sponsor key discussion sessions, but every attendee had their event credentials on a Texas Children’s-branded lanyard, Additionally, a raffle of four sets of Rudolph’s Pediatrics, the landmark pediatric health care reference, of which Physician-in-Chief Dr. Mark W. Kline is editor-in-chief, was extremely well received at our conference booth.

Kline and Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Larry Hollier also represented Texas Children’s as featured event speakers.

Taking compassionate care into the global community

In his keynote address, “Global Child Health at the Tipping Point: Lessons from the Field,” Kline stressed that though significant progress has been made to improve child health and mortality rates worldwide, challenges still remain, especially in resource-limited countries. He also said that through increased awareness, partnership and active engagement, those challenges can become opportunities for health care providers to improve the lives of the world’s poorest and least fortunate.

To illustrate this point, Kline highlighted the successes and lessons learned of the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI) at Texas Children’s Hospital in helping stem the tide of the AIDS pandemic, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The network, which Kline founded in 1996, has grown from a single pilot HIV clinic in Romania into a comprehensive global health network – the largest HIV/AIDS network in the world – that includes 16 centers and clinics in 14 countries, providing care for hundreds of thousands of children and families, education for nearly 90,000 health care professionals, and research into pediatric health.

Kline also explained how leveraging the BIPAI network’s infrastructure has enabled Texas Children’s to extend its global reach and to offer care for many other diseases and disorders, including pediatric cancer, sickle cell anemia, OB/GYN care, tuberculosis, malaria, malnutrition and other conditions.

“For too long, children have been on the outside looking in, and it’s particularly true for the poor children of the world, who’ve not had the same access to life-saving therapies as American and European children,” Kline said. “The HIV/AIDS pandemic certainly challenged the world’s commitment, and our compassion, for these children. But our success in the fight against HIV/AIDS has opened the door to treatments for a host of other serious diseases that have threatened the health and well-being of children and families for generations.”

Using partnership to drive patient experience

At a discussion session entitled “The New Patient Experience Era: Focusing on the Consumer of Tomorrow,” Hollier and other panel members addressed how enhancing the patient experience can lead to improvements in quality and safety and to increased consumer and caregiver satisfaction.

Hollier discussed the crucial role that partnerships have played in improving patient experience at Texas Children’s.

“We believe strongly that partnerships – with our providers and employees, with our families, and with experts inside and outside of health care – are a critical component of driving an exceptional experience,” Hollier said. “As families’ expectations evolve, we continue to explore more innovative solutions to help us meet them where they are in their care journey, and to ensure they feel supported at every step along the way.”

One such solution was an initiative to improve communication and interaction between providers and patients and families. Partnering with experts at Press Ganey and Academy of Communication, and drawing information from provider and patient/family surveys, we developed a communication training curriculum for caregivers that elevates the level of engagement for families. Providers now feel empowered to manage interactions between both patient and parent, and are better equipped to communicate important information in a way that families will understand.

Texas Children’s also relied on partnership with families during the development of Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower. A 20-member Family Advisory Board worked for three years, from initial planning to the go-live date, to ensure that families’ needs were kept at the center of important decisions. Their input was essential for room and facility layouts, in simulation exercises, and for the development of family support resources during the move into the new building.

For Texas Children’s Department of Surgery, partnerships have been integral in enhancing tech processes, which has led to several improvements across the Texas Children’s system, including streamlined and transparent data sharing, consolidation and standardization of our and our providers’ online presence, and more frequent updates and scheduling information for families during surgery through the EASE app.

Hollier also highlighted Texas Children’s recent partnership with Disney, a $100 million initiative that has the potential to transform the patient experience in children’s hospitals across the globe. Initial concepts for development include allowing children to customize their hospital visit with their favorite Disney stories and characters, reimagining spaces through augmented and virtual reality experiences, and creating themed treatment and patient rooms with interactive elements.