Some may have thought the Baylor Scott and White Dallas Foundation went a little overboard by going ahead and offering three choices for its winter quarterly meeting on Tuesday, December 7. But with the rumbling of COVID’s latest variant — Omicron — arising on the scene, the precautions were well in place to safeguard board members and staffers alike.
For the Foundation board members like Dr. Leonard Riggs, Leslie Diers, Larry Dale, Jill Smith, John Harkey, Trisha Wilson, Hal Hickey, Ann Corrigan, John Tolleson, Jeanne Whitman Bobbitt, Robert Merkle and Eric Bennett, it meant having the in-person option of either a morning gathering or a lunch get-together, with online attendance also available.
To accommodate the board members, as well as to show off the new Baylor Scott and White Health administrative headquarters, the in-person events were held in the building’s conference room, with everyone masked up upon entering the building. Tables of four were arranged more than 8 feet apart throughout the room.
The day’s program included two topics, both of which were very timely. The first was about “Advancing Care for Our Tiniest Texans.”
As Baylor University Medical Center (or BUMC) President Steve Newton explained, “Just 10 years ago, babies born at 25 weeks would not be expected to survive. I am very proud and pleased to report to you today that based on the technology that is available now right here in our community, babies as young as 22 weeks and as small as 2.2 lbs. — the so-called micro-preemies — have a shot at life, if, and only if, they are born in the right institutions.”
On this day there were 35 of these “tiniest Texans” in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
According to Steve, “The program is the story of hope, the story of teamwork and the story of community support.”
As an example, he pointed out that thanks to the past weekend’s Crystal Charity Ball’s providing a grant of $936,831 for the purchase of additional ventilators and monitoring equipment, along with specialized training and a nurse navigator, the program “will help 60-75 babies annually achieve the highest long-term quality of life.”
Just that morning, as a matter of fact, Crystal Charity Ball had been able to provide an additional $200,000 for the “tiniest Texans” program.
To put a face to the “tiniest Texans” initiative, NICU Clinical Manager Kayla Carey spoke next.
Kayla recalled how they had researched the unique challenge of providing for these micro-preemies and realized that a special place was needed to “help protect their eyes, their ears and their brains.” Specialty teams were created with protocols unique to each little patient, advanced equipment with the latest technology was added to ensure their well-being, and support was put in place to help their families through “oftentimes the most traumatic experience of their life,” she said.
As Kayla explained, “The care that the micro-preemies receive in their first hours, weeks and months will determine their quality of life, whether that [means] being able to see, walk, say their ABCs or maybe walk down the aisle one day.”
She then introduced a video telling about Katy and Jose Nevarez’s baby, Gabriel, who was born at 23 or 24 weeks on February 26, 2020, weighing 1 lb. 8 oz., just as the program was getting underway. (The couple had previously lost another baby at 23 or 24 weeks.) Katy felt that having the equipment and protocol was literally a life-saving experience.
More recently Adelina, weighing less than 14 ounces, had been born to a 23-year-old single mother. Kayla smiled and reported that just before arriving at today’s meeting, Adelina had given her “a little fist bump, maybe a little grimace and a ‘Hi.’ ”
Steve then reported that the hospital’s unit has received a number of accolades, including being named the best place in Dallas to have a baby, the highest designation by the state of Texas for maternity and newborn care, and just “today it was announced that we are among the best hospitals for maternity care in the nation.”
He then revealed that the unit was part of “a major new renovation of women’s and children’s services.”
The second part of the program consisted of a conversation between Baylor Scott and White Dallas Foundation President Ben Renberg and outgoing Baylor Scott and White Health CEO Jim Hinton. While Ben opened their talk by recalling how impressed he had been researching Baylor prior to becoming foundation president — and saying he attributed much of that to Jim’s leadership — Jim said that, especially after having just watched the video on the tiniest Texans, “It’s really [the] people who built this institution.”
As an example he pointed to Dr. Riggs, who had been instrumental in creating the BUMC emergency room reputation.
Jim then told how he and his wife Kris had recently visited a couple who had relocated to North Texas so their adult daughter, Jennifer, could undergo a liver transplant. Hearing the couple describe the challenges they’d faced prior to coming to BUMC and the success of the surgery (despite an underlying medical condition) was a “testament to what we do,” Jim said. He had asked Jennifer’s mom to send him a list of the physicians involved in the transplant, and “it was about a page long. I sent them all an email this morning and thanked them for their teamwork and compassion and their commitment to Jennifer’s health.”
Ben asked what Jim felt was his biggest accomplishment. Jim recalled how when he arrived, the merger of Baylor and Scott and White had taken place and a lot had been accomplished, but much remained to be done. “We were no longer Baylor, and we were no longer Scott and White. We’re Baylor Scott And White,” he said. “What we as a team have accomplished over the last five years is being an integrated system not just in name but in action, in operation, in strategy, in philanthropy, and to bring the gifts that we are able to bring for these tiniest Texans here at BUMC and make that more available across the state.”
Regarding the role of volunteer leadership in such an institution, Jim explained that “not-for-profit healthcare is a business structure that positions the community as the shareholders of the organization. … So when we sit in a room like this with volunteer leaders for the foundation board or foundation boards across the state as well … we’re talking to our shareholders. It’s such a gift to be able to have everything you do focus on what’s best for the community. So when we earn a margin — and we need to earn a margin even as a not-for-profit — we do so to really repay the community for the opportunity to serve.”
Regarding the new administrative building, Jim said it was put up to bring together all the various administrative entities of Baylor Scott and White into one building. Prior to its construction, space was being leased throughout Dallas-Fort Worth. It now symbolizes that “we are one organization,” Jim explained.
Is there one accomplishment that he’s especially proud of? “In 2017, we were able to count about 1.7 million unduplicated patients, meaning that one person may have had 25 experiences with the system and one may have had one,” Jim said. “We counted them each as one. We will finish this year with 4 million unduplicated patients. You do that by taking care of patients in different ways. And one of the purposes of this building is, it serves as the home for our digital health strategy, which is the nation’s leading strategy to connect people on their terms and make it easy to schedule an appointment, get lab results, pay your bill and interact with other parts of the system. … We have more than doubled the number of patients we have served in the last five years.”
Regarding his successor as CEO, Peter McCanna, Jim told how Pete had worked for him twice — once in New Mexico, and then when he came to BSW Health. “Pete is committed to the faith-based mission of BSW Health and really understands this community connection that is necessary and so valuable for us,” Jim said. “And he’s serious about changing healthcare for the better.”
When asked about serving as CEO during the pandemic, Jim admitted that while he would like to put that in the rear-view mirror, “unfortunately, we need to continue to respect this virus and its various forms that it seems to be taking. … A big takeaway of COVID is that while the future of viruses and infections is uncertain, the science is better than it’s ever been and it will only get better. I think the other gift of COVID — if there is one — is this notion that healthcare can be delivered in a lot of different ways. And we know how to keep our people safe while we’re doing it. ”
One continuing concern is the well-being of the healthcare providers, Jim added. He recalled how nurses, who were heroes at the beginning of the pandemic, now were being put in the position of becoming “enforcers” for the mask mandates and visitor policies. “It’s been a tough couple of years for these caregivers, nurses, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, so we’re doing a lot to take care of them. But here’s the punchline: ‘We don’t want to go to the new normal.’ New normal is not the goal. New better is.”
During a Q&A period that followed, Jim was asked about the possibility that a second medical school might come to the area. He reported that over the past 18 months, BSW Health has “recommitted to our relationship with Texas A&M, and Texas A&M is going to have an increased presence here in Dallas-Fort Worth, primarily with both undergraduate medical education and graduate medical education as residents rotate through up here.”
In addition, he said, the “Baylor School of Medicine is going to be opening up a branch campus in Temple. It will be expanding into some space on the [Baylor Scott and White Medical Center] Memorial campus in Temple, and we will be opening up a medical school on that campus.”
He admitted that not enough physicians are being trained in this country, so “we want to be part of that solution.”
Then it was time for Kayla to take a question. When asked about other hospitals dealing with at-risk deliveries but lacking the necessary equipment and expertise, she explained, “Currently at Baylor University Medical Center, our team will go to facilities that don’t have the resources. We will either transfer the mom here safely, if we can do that, or we will have our team go there and assist with delivery, with stabilization … The best outcome would be for the babies to be born in the right place, but we … have our neonatal unit transport team that is very highly specialized and is able to go out and provide that service and bring them back here.”
Before concluding the afternoon session, BSWH Chief Policy, Government and Community Affairs Officer Kristi Sherrill shared with the group that “Jim was instrumental in expanding the Employees 1st Campaign at the start of COVID to support our front-line staff. Over $4.1M has been distributed to over 3,000 staff members who have been in need.”