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Excellence In Healthcare 2015 Part I: Executive, Lifetime Achievement, Practitioner, And Deal


Last year, in introducing D CEO’s inaugural Excellence in Healthcare awards, we highlighted the economic impact of healthcare on North Texas. It’s a $52 billion industry that accounts for close to 600,000 jobs throughout the region. But it’s also a field whose benefits can’t be conveyed by just the numbers; it’s made up of men and women whose work often has life-or-death implications.

This year’s Excellence in Healthcare program honors 15 finalists and winners in 10 categories, selected by the editors from more than 100 nominations. From the business deals to the volunteers to the practitioners and the researchers, we are pleased to tell you about the standouts in North Texas healthcare, starting with the Lifetime Achievement Award and Outstanding Executive. 

Dr. Donald Seldin, the so-called 'intellectual father' of UT Southwestern Medical Center. (Photo by: Ben Garrett)
Dr. Donald Seldin, the so-called ‘intellectual father’ of UT Southwestern Medical Center. (Photo by: Ben Garrett)

The Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr. Donald Seldin, UT Southwestern Medical Center

Drs. Joseph L. Goldstein, Michael S. Brown, and Bruce Beutler have a few things in common. They’re all UT Southwestern graduates. They’re all Nobel laureates. And they all studied under Dr. Donald Seldin, the so-called “intellectual father” of UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Seldin came to Dallas in 1951, recruited away from Yale University to an 8-year-old medical school made up of converted Army barracks. Seldin remained at UT Southwestern for the next six decades, spending 36 years as chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine. He’s racked up an impressive number of recognitions: He was UTSW’s first inductee into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The American Society for Clinical Investigation has named a research grant after him, the Texas Medical Association this year recognized him with its highest award.

But perhaps most impactful is his footprint upon UT Southwestern. He’s credited with creating a culture where researchers and doctors and students can freely explore and experiment without worrying about waiting for their turn to come. They’re encouraged to develop ideas, which is a major boon for recruiting efforts.

Seldin came to the university less than a decade after its creation. He had a blank template. Now it’s filled in—and it extends far, far beyond Dallas’ Medical District. – Matt Goodman

Outstanding Healthcare Executive: Barclay Berdan, CEO of Texas Health Resources

Barclay Berdan, the CEO of Texas Health Resources. (Photo: Ben Garrett)
Barclay Berdan, the CEO of Texas Health Resources. (Photo: Ben Garrett)

When Barclay Berdan became CEO of the nonprofit giant Texas Health Resources, he was just the second person to hold that position. He spent years as chief operating officer and the No. 2 to Doug Hawthorne, the man who orchestrated a merger between health systems based in Dallas and Tarrant counties. Berdan had big shoes to fill, and two dozen hospitals to oversee. But 25 days into his tenure, unbeknownst to the staff of the emergency room of Presbyterian Dallas, Ebola had been hiding inside a patient who would be misdiagnosed with sinusitis and sent home. He returned when symptoms worsened. Over the course of treating Thomas Eric Duncan, two nurses would become infected with the virus. Berdan was now leading a system that was ground zero for the country’s first case of Ebola.

Along with his leadership team, he launched an internal investigation to figure out the errors—from triage to the electronic health record to communication—and areas that could be improved. He then shared these so-called “learnings” with hospitals across the nation. He also commissioned an independent study led by Mayo Clinic CEO Dr. Denis Cortes. It placed the blame at the feet of Presbyterian. Instead of deflecting, Berdan welcomed the report and its findings, making public vows to improve.

Scary public health threat or not, business continues. And about a year later, Berdan joined UT Southwestern Medical Center President Dr. Daniel Podolsky to announce an alliance called Southwestern Health Resources. It’s still in development, but a goal is to link Texas Health’s clinical volumes (it sees more patients than any health system in North Texas) with UT Southwestern’s research initiatives.

Hawthorne’s merger was a carefully placed bet on the future, that the system would need to be bigger to remain competitive. Berdan has strategically taken the next step—using the patient volumes created by the merger to reach more North Texans while researching ways to improve the health of populations. – M.G.

Outstanding Healthcare Practitioner: Dr. Gonzalo Gonzalez-Stawinski

Dr. Gonzalo Gonzalez-Stawinski. (Photo by Ben Garrett)
Dr. Gonzalo Gonzalez-Stawinski. (Photo by Ben Garrett)

His full name is Dr. Gonzalo Gonzalez-Stawinski, but at Baylor University Medical Center, all you’ll hear from his colleagues is “Gonzo.” It’s short for his first name, sure, but he’s got the personality of many others who’ve shared that moniker—he’s brash, deeply intelligent, fiercely dedicated, and full of ideas that shatter the mold. In the three years he has been at Baylor, the cardiothoracic surgeon has helped transform the medical center’s heart transplant program into one of the nation’s best and most trafficked.

In 2014, the center did more transplants—102—than any other program in the country except for Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, which did 120. In 2011, the year before Gonzo arrived, Baylor did 30. Part of his achievements come from confidence. Another part is about going places where others won’t. The heart has roughly four hours out of the body before its cells start dying and transplantation becomes a serious risk. Gonzo pushed Baylor’s mile limits and started going a little further to procure organs. These trips took them to Puerto Rico and southern Florida. “Everything changed when we did 23 in six weeks,” he says.

From then on, the gas pedal was on the floor. Gonzo got more staff to help ease the volume. He doesn’t have to sleep on the couch in his office anymore, or at least not as often. And more people are getting hearts. Recently, at about 2 a.m. on a Tuesday, he successfully transplanted a heart and went out to share the news with the family. He didn’t have to say the first words. “We’re good,” the woman said, her tone of voice only hinting at a question.

“Yeah,” Gonzo replied, “We’re good.” —M.G.

Larry Anderson, UT Southwestern Medical Center

Outstanding Healthcare Deal: Tenet Healthcare Corp.’s Joint Venture With United Surgical Partners International

In June 2015, Tenet Healthcare Corp. announced that it would be joining forces with United Surgical Partners International to create the largest ambulatory surgery center (ASC) platform in the United States. The deal combined the assets of Tenet and USPI, resulting in more than 250 ASCs, 18 short-stay surgical hospitals, and 20 imaging centers across 29 states.

With the changing model of healthcare delivery, this joint venture puts both Tenet and USPI in a position to capitalize on a consumer-centric approach. USPI was an attractive partner to Tenet in part because of its novel three-way partnership model, which created an unprecedented network of 50 not-for-profit partners and 3,500 physicians. Tenet achieved a 50.1 percent stake of the USPI joint venture through a combination of cash and contribution of its own assets, with the remainder of the company held by private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson and Stowe and other existing investors. Tenet sees an “attractive path to full ownership” of USPI by 2020.

The venture also strengthens Tenet’s outpatient services network, which jumped from 63 facilities in 2008 to 127 facilities in 2013. With the addition of USPI, the network now includes 440 outpatient facilities.

This is hardly the only recent joint venture for Tenet, which has been focused on forming relationships with reputable not-for-profit health systems sharing its principles of high-quality, low-cost care. It has also recently announced partnerships with Baptist Health System in Birmingham, Ala.; Dignity Health and Ascension for the Carondelet Health Network in Tucson, Ariz.; and Baylor Scott & White Health in Dallas. – Hilary Lau

Children’s Health System of Texas’ acquisition of Our Children’s House