Changing the Face of Tarrant County Healthcare

Changing the Face of Tarrant County Healthcare

According to estimates based on data from the American Hospital Association and the American College of Healthcare Executives, in 2019, 89 percent of all hospital CEOs were white*. Yet, Fort Worth proudly boasts three Black leaders at some of the largest healthcare organizations in the city.

Charles Williams, MBA, MOT, FACHE, is President of Baylor Scott & White DFW – West Region, which includes Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center in Fort Worth. The Fort Worth native knew in high school he wanted to pursue a career in healthcare. “I decided to be an occupational therapist because I liked the idea of incorporating both the functional and the psycho-social—of making sure that Grandma could get out of bed, cook her own meals and live independently.”

Dr. Karen Duncan, MD, MBA serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of JPS Health Network. The only girl in an extended family of boys, she grew up with the mindset of being capable of accomplishing anything she put her mind to. “Growing up standing side-by-side with my brothers and cousins gave me the courage to go through the world alongside anyone, to become a pediatrician.”

Dr. Sylvia Trent-Adams, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, President of the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, a health science center made up of six nationally recognized schools that train students to become the healthcare providers, public health workforce and scientists of the future. She saw families as she was growing up in rural Virginia go without healthcare. “I wanted to see the world and travel, so my ROTC scholarship gave me the opportunity to get an education as well as travel to new places.” Trent-Adams spent five years in the Army and served as Deputy Surgeon General for four years—retiring from the U.S. Public Health Service after 33 years and joining UNTHSC shortly after.

These dynamic leaders are positively impacting healthcare in an increasingly diverse Tarrant County community. While each has different approaches, they are all embracing the rapid change precipitated by the pandemic and share common values that unite them as they lead their respective teams – collaboration, service, and faith.

“Before COVID, it would sometimes take years to implement changes. But the pandemic forced us to change operations quickly and showed us it was possible,” said Dr. Trent-Adams.

“COVID meant there was no playbook, so it empowered our team to be very creative. Change stimulated the creativity and innovation that was needed during the pandemic, and that has continued in how we approach our operations to meet the needs of our community. Change does not scare me at all—I thrive in it, which gives me the opportunity to energize those around me who may struggle with fear of change. In order to thrive in a changing environment, you can’t be afraid of failure. So, giving others permission to fail, giving yourself permission to fail – that it’s going to be ok, and that you can always change direction is important. COVID taught us that,” said Dr. Duncan.

Dr. Trent-Adams echoed that sentiment, “I stress to our team that it’s OK to fail, but let’s try. The pandemic taught us that we can solve hard problems and do it quickly. So, it’s important to harness the moment of now, and to do better based on what we’ve learned from previous experiences.”

“I’m quick to jump in and say, ‘Let’s get it done.’ I adapt well to change. But there’s an African Proverb that says, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ So, I’ve learned to adjust my time to ‘team time’, to motivate and inspire our team to come along on the journey. Our team is very collaborative and really smart, much smarter than me,” Trent-Adams laughingly said. “So, we all go above and beyond to make sure everyone is successful.”

Collaboration is the cornerstone of their management style. “The question I’m constantly asking myself as a leader is, ‘How do I empower you?’ Because at the end of the day, we have thousands of employees – doctors, nurses, lab techs, rehab, accountants, engineers, pharmacists – all with great minds. Why would I leave all of the ideas and resources at the top when I can empower the team to be innovative and creative so we can do things better and serve our customers better,” says Williams.

For all three, the collaborative spirit stems from a foundation of service that is woven into the fabric of their being. It is a common value instilled in each from a young age and is the foundation upon which they’ve built their careers.

To read the full story, click on the cover of the December 2023 issue.


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