Writing Our New Chapter

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemLast weekend, I had the great privilege of returning to my hometown to deliver the commencement speech at the University of Illinois-Springfield graduation ceremony. This was the largest graduating class in the history of the school, so it was a truly momentous occasion for the university as the graduates walked across the stage to receive their bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees. Many of these graduates were the first in their family to earn a degree, while many others would now begin the career of their dreams.

On the flight home, I had a chance to reflect on the events of the weekend and the incredible experience I had. I was moved by the historic significance of the university’s growth, as well as the accomplishments of the students and the growth they had personally experienced. In many ways, their growth is similar to what we have experienced at UTMB Health since Hurricane Ike.

It was only a few days after the storm that we reopened the doors of our mainland clinics. Months later, we reopened John Sealy Hospital on our Galveston campus, as well as TDCJ Hospital Galveston. From that moment forward, we began a journey of recovery and renewal. Since then, we have experience tremendous growth. In time, what began as a chain of small clinics scattered about the mainland has flourished. Now, we have a comprehensive system of beautiful, spacious, centrally-located clinics. Today, we are a health system ready to meet the primary and specialty care needs of the Southeast Texas region. In the past two years alone, we have acquired a community hospital in Angleton Danbury, opened Jennie Sealy Hospital in Galveston, and in just a two weeks, we will open League City Hospital to become a five-hospital system.

In the same way I was welcomed at the commencement ceremony by the faculty, administration and students, UTMB has been welcomed into the communities we serve. From Alvin to League City, Webster, South Shore Harbor and beyond, businesses and community members have welcomed our clinicians and staff to their neighborhoods. This region is one of the fastest growing in the nation, but previously, there was limited access to physicians. Now, people in these communities have access to the care and medical expertise they need to stay healthy—and it is all close to home.

When UTMB Health opens League City Hospital on Saturday, June 4 at 8:00 a.m., it will be another historic moment for our organization. It is the first hospital we have built on the mainland, and the staff members who will work there are already trained and preparing the hospital to care for patients. Our colleagues in Materials Management, Business Operations & Facilities, Campus Security, Information Services, Purchasing and so many other areas are busily working so we can open on schedule. And as always, our colleagues in Environmental Services are working hard to ensure the facility is sparkling when we open our doors.

Opening League City Hospital will be different from opening Jennie Sealy Hospital. This time, we will not be moving patients; instead, our patients will come to us. Initially, the first patients will come to us through the emergency room over the weekend. Then, on Monday, June 6, we will begin admitting patients from our local clinics to the new League City Hospital, many of whom will need surgical procedures that require a brief hospital stay. The new hospital will be a welcome addition to the League City community, because there are so many UTMB patients in the area who already see UTMB physicians, but prefer to be hospitalized in the area, as well. Now this is possible! This is an exciting moment for UTMB Health!

In my commencement speech, I advised the new graduates that they were about to embark on a new chapter in their lives—the pages of this new chapter were blank, ready for them to write their own story from this point forward—this was to be their own story and no one else’s. As I thought about the words I imparted to them, I realized how much those same words correspond to our growth at UTMB Health.

I reminded the students that they alone are in charge of shaping their story, and so is UTMB. Just as I reminded them to remain focused on their goals and to not allow themselves to be swept off course by temporary events or distractions, UTMB Health is what it is today because we decided to shape our future, and not let the events of the moment shape us.

Just as I told them to move forward boldly and to pay no mind to the naysayers they encounter, we at UTMB did not listen to the naysayers who said it was not prudent to rebuild UTMB on Galveston Island. If we had listened, there would be no League City Campus, either!

Just as I told them that it is okay to step out of their comfort zones and take a few chances, we at UTMB stepped out of our comfort zone and we took a leap of faith. There are so many times when the seemingly impossible becomes possible through hard work, determination and resilience. I remember the physicians who supported UTMB by splitting their practices between the island and the mainland to create a new set of patients who could benefit from our exceptional care. I think about the many people who spent countless hours planning the new clinics, getting them ready to open, and delivering UTMB’s great care with exceptional compassion.

I know there were times when many of us felt frustrated and less than optimistic about the future. This reminds me of the words of Ralph Marston, a motivational speaker, who said that when we feel like we are ready to walk away from something, it is then that we must “redirect the substantial energy of our frustration and turn it into positive, unstoppable determination”—that is when our experience transforms into something good.

The new League City Hospital is a symbol of the experience and determination of the UTMB faculty members, clinicians, staff and administrators who, on September 14, 2008, decided to rebuild UTMB Health. In the depths of despair, UTMB stayed true to its tripartite mission to educate future health professionals, discover life-saving cures, and deliver exceptional care to patients. We rebuilt UTMB stronger and more resilient than ever. Let’s take a moment to stop and celebrate what we all have accomplished!

If I bought a thank you card to match the size of my appreciation, it wouldn’t fit in your mailbox!

As we approach the end of Nurses’ Week & Health System Week, I want to remind each of you of how important you are to UTMB Health. Our success as a healthcare provider depends on the positive interactions you have each day with our patients and visitors, your willingness to do what is in the best interest of the patient, and your unrelenting quest to deliver the best care to our patients.

Last week, I had a firsthand opportunity to witness the wonders you work every day when one of my family members became a patient. The week became one of comparison and contrast. Our experience started out at another hospital about an hour away. Without going into the details of that experience, I will say that there was a point where my family member wondered out loud if the nurses, technicians, doctors and other staff even cared about the people who were there to receive care.

I asked my family member why they felt that way, and I wholeheartedly agreed with their response. In a waiting room jammed with people, there was no communication. Staff sat around and visited or looked at their phones and never communicated with the patients who were waiting to be seen. It took almost six hours to get to the exam room from the waiting room. During that time, the only communication we had with anyone was when someone from our family actively went up to the desk to ask when we might be seen. Each time the answer was the same: “I have no idea. It’s busy tonight.” It was true—the place was so busy, patients were being placed in rooms that had not even been cleaned. In short, it truly seemed like no one cared about the patients or even cared about their job.

The next morning, we chose to come to UTMB, and in contrast, my family member’s experience was light-years apart from the experience of the night before. After we got the patient settled into the room, several nurses, physicians and residents came into the room to get things started. My family member commented to me that they were so relieved to be at UTMB: “It is obvious that they really care about their patients. I always feel well cared for and safe when I am here.”

Naturally, I could not help but wonder if the fact that my name was “Sollenberger” was part of the reason for this service, but as I watched other patients in the area, what I witnessed makes me feel certain that the staff members here treat all patients alike—with respect, compassion and concern for their privacy and safety.

To me, it is odd that a patient would even have to be concerned about whether or not other people are eavesdropping in on what they are telling their caregivers. It is odd to me that a patient would ever have to worry about their safety while in the hospital. It is concerning to me that a patient should have to be concerned about acquiring an infection from dirty rooms, soiled linens, or from people entering their room without washing their hands. It is concerning to me that a patient would have to worry about whether or not they have a voice in their care.

At the other hospital, all of these concerns were valid. At UTMB, they were not. At UTMB, each person treated our patient with the utmost courtesy and attention. Each person who came in contact with our patient followed the proper protocols for patient identification, each person performed hand hygiene, and each person explained in detail what to expect and asked if the patient had any questions. Each interaction with a nurse or physician made it clear that we were at the center of their work and decision-making. As support staff interacted with the patient—whether when cleaning the room, transporting the patient, or delivering meals—it was clear that they genuinely cared about the patient and took their role in the care process very seriously.

Fortunately, we were able to leave the hospital last Friday. We are so relieved that our family member is on the mend. However, we simply cannot forget the feeling of care and compassion that each person with whom we interacted demonstrated as they went about doing an exceptional job. What will not leave us is the sense of confidence we had in the total care experience. It simply was the BEST!

So, to every person who cares for or interacts with our patients, THANK YOU! Thank you for blending compassion with your care. Thank you for showing respect for the patient, regardless of circumstances. Thank you for stopping to listen, even when you are busy beyond belief. But most of all, thank you for treating your work at UTMB as more than a job or a paycheck. You are setting the bar high for all healthcare professionals in the Greater Houston area. You are making UTMB known as a place where everyone truly works together to work wonders.

HAPPY HEALTH SYSTEM WEEK! HAPPY NURSES’ WEEK! And because I cannot say it enough, thank you!

Thank You

Thanks for all you do…Happy Nurses & Health System Week!

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemToday marks the beginning of 2016 Nurses & Health System Week. At UTMB, we celebrate this week each year in appreciation of everything our Health System employees do to deliver excellent patient care and to demonstrate compassion for our patients and their loved ones.

National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6 and ends on May 12 (Florence Nightingale’s birthday), and National Hospital Week (May 8-14) celebrates hospitals and the women and men who support the health and wellbeing of their communities through dedication and compassionate care from the heart.

Whatever your role, as a member of the healthcare team, you will touch a life or a life will touch yours every day. In fact, a patient recently said to me, as he compared his experience at UTMB in the new Jennie Sealy Hospital to another leading hospital: “I feel like people truly care about me here.”

This week is an opportunity to thank all of the dedicated individuals – physicians, nurses, therapists, engineers, food service workers, volunteers, administrators and so many more – for your contributions. I would like to thank our colleagues in nursing, who have organized a series of events that will occur beginning today and continue throughout the coming week to thank our employees in the Health System and in Correctional Managed Care (CMC) for the work they do each day.

Events include a breakfast for the Health System and CMC, special events, cake and ice cream (in honor of Florence Nightingale’s birthday), and a blood drive. All week long, executive leadership will also visit different units and clinics as they “walk a mile” in the shoes of our nursing staff. Click here to view the schedule of events.

I hope you will enjoy the activities they have planned that celebrate and recognize YOU for the incredible work you do each and every day on behalf of UTMB!



Caring Begins Where Skill and Compassion Meet

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemSince we officially opened Jennie Sealy Hospital, the lobby has been bustling with activity around the clock. I am proud to say that we have a wonderful group of staff working at the front of the hospital, all of whom I have met. They are present at the front desk and driveway, greeting our patients and visitors with a smile, answering questions, and helping people get to their destinations in the hospital and around the Galveston campus.

One day, however, I noticed an individual from Hospital Transportation Services whom I had not yet met. I introduced myself and learned that this gentleman was Justin Sanchez, and he has worked at UTMB for about two years. Most often, I see Justin in the driveway assisting patients and visitors in and out of their vehicles and into the hospital. I have noticed that he stays very busy. I also noticed that even when he is not actively assisting someone, he is almost always on his feet.

As Justin and I talked, I mentioned to him that in John Sealy Hospital, we have a podium and a chair for transportation staff to sit and rest while they wait for the next person to arrive. It also helps guests know that the person behind the podium is a staff member who can assist them. I let him know that we would arrange to have the same set up for him and the other members of the transportation team in Jennie Sealy Hospital; however, he did not seem too concerned about having a place to sit.

“I really don’t mind,” he replied. “I just want patients to be able to see me and know I’m here, ready to help them.”

His statement stayed with me. For many people who come to our hospital, Justin will be the first person they encounter. I truly appreciate his attitude toward greeting and helping our guests. It is a mindset I hope we will all emulate! I believe this sort of an approach to helping our patients and visitors sets the stage for the welcoming, caring atmosphere all people should experience when they visit any UTMB campus or clinic location. I hope we all will follow Justin’s example to be visible so our patients and visitors will know we are here to help them!

After all, caring begins where skill and compassion meet!

 Justin Sanchez (Hospital Transportation Services), Donna Sollenberger (EVP & CEO, UTMB Health System), and Cindy Jones (Hospital Transportation Services)
Justin Sanchez (Hospital Transportation Services), Donna Sollenberger (EVP & CEO, UTMB Health System), and Cindy Jones (Hospital Transportation Services)


We Never Know Whose Lives We’ll Touch

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemWhen it comes to the size of the planet, I’ve always found two things fascinating. First, it’s actually a small world, because you never know who you are going to meet or encounter. Secondly, we never know how our connections and relationships will have an impact on our lives and the lives of others. These phenomena rang true for me as we officially opened Jennie Sealy Hospital for our patients and their loved ones on April 9, 2016.

The Earth’s circumference (the distance around the equator) is 24,901 miles; its surface area is two hundred million square miles (nearly 71 percent of that is covered by water); and the world’s population is nearly 7.5 billion people. Yet, although the planet is so large, it seems as though we will inevitably run into someone we know, whether we are traveling across the state or across the globe—even when we are not planning anything with them.

My husband has always been fascinated by how often this happens to me during our travels. It began when we lived in Illinois and would often visit Chicago. It seemed that on every trip, I would cross paths with someone I knew from one of my health care jobs or professional associations. As my circle of relationships enlarged, so did the distance we traveled where I would see someone I knew. It happened so often, my husband started teasing me about it, but I would just laugh and tell him he was exaggerating.

After a trip to London, however, I started thinking that perhaps he was right. We were standing in the middle of Heathrow Airport waiting for our luggage to come off the carousel when I heard someone call out, “Donna Sollenberger!” I turned around and immediately recognized the individual as an old friend. I had not seen him in 25 years! As my friend and I embraced, I could see my husband behind secretly mouthing, “I told you so.”

Then, some years ago, my kids taught me a game called “The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”. This game, which is based on the premise that any two people on Earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart, supposedly began after two college students saw an interview in which actor Kevin Bacon had commented that he had worked with just about everyone in Hollywood or someone who had worked with them. As they explored the veracity of this statement with others, the conversation spread, eventually turning into a widely-known game.

The game proceeds like this: someone in the group provides a name, and the group has to connect that individual with Kevin Bacon as quickly as possible and in as few links as possible. Here is an example, using Elvis Presley:

  • Elvis Presley was in “Change of Habit” (1969) with Edward Asner.
  • Edward Asner was in “JFK” (1991) with Kevin Bacon.

We tried it several times, and we generally found it worked. We are all connected in some way, even if it is over many degrees of separation. I think the same is true of health care.

So, where am I headed with this? Well, this past weekend as we moved our adult patients from the medical/surgical and intensive care units in John Sealy Hospital to the new Jennie Sealy Hospital, the very first patient we transported that day had completed his medical residency at UTMB. The very last patient we transported had once been a UTMB faculty member. By whatever chance this had occurred, I could not help but consider the significance.

As I traverse the 765,000 square foot Jennie Sealy Hospital, I think of the many people who helped plan, design, build and activate this facility. I see the names of so many individuals and employees who made contributions toward the construction of this building. I think of the renovations currently under way in John Sealy Hospital and the future opening of the League City Hospital in June 2016. I wonder whether or not the family of the first John Sealy* could have ever envisioned how much the gift they gave to Galveston Island would flourish when they first established John Sealy Hospital in 1890.

I also think about UTMB’s history and all of the individuals who not only made this organization what it is today, but who helped pave the way for its future. I think of the individuals who will care for our patients in our hospitals, both today and in years to come. I think of the employees at UTMB who help make exceptional patient care and education possible through the support they provide. I think of tomorrow’s medical professionals who will train in our facilities—UTMB’s reach extends across the state and around the globe as our trainees and graduates work wonders near and far.

Whether you care for our patients in one of our hospitals or clinics or you work in a setting that supports our research, education and patient care missions, I hope you feel connected to the story of UTMB and the impact you will have on the lives of our patients and their families, both today and in the future. We never know whose lives will be touched! For me, this sense of connection to the past and to the future was brought about by the presence of these two patients last weekend.

“In life, we leave a legacy to our children, we leave our footprints wherever we travel, and we leave our fingerprints on every heart we touch.” ― Pat Patrick

The original John Sealy Hospital opened in 1890.

The original John Sealy Hospital opened in 1890.

*The first John Sealy was born in Pennsylvania. In 1846, having heard stories of the new State of Texas, he moved to Galveston to seek his fortune. Galveston was the principal seaport and commercial center of Texas where he prospered in banking, shipping, railroads and cotton businesses. John Sealy married Rebecca Davis and they had two children, John and Jennie. He died in 1884. In his will, he left $50,000 for a charitable purpose in Galveston to be decided by his executors.

In 1881 Texas voters had decided to locate the University of Texas Medical Department in Galveston, but by the time of John Sealy’s death it had not become a reality. His executors, wife Rebecca and brother George, decided to build a hospital in Galveston with the bequest. The Sealy family paid the additional costs of construction not covered by the bequest and the John Sealy Hospital opened in 1890.

The Sealy family decision to build a hospital swayed the State finally to build the medical school in Galveston. Thus began the Sealy family 150-year legacy of health care involvement in Galveston.

For more on the history of The Sealy & Smith Foundation, click here PDF.

Opening a long-awaited gift…

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemAs a young girl, I always looked forward to Christmas, a holiday that our family celebrated. Each December, the anticipation would build as I wondered if I would get the “big” present from Santa that I wanted. One year, I had very high hopes for that gift…and I received the present about which I had dreamed.

Tomorrow, we will transport our adult patients from John Sealy Hospital to Jennie Sealy Hospital. As I think about this historic moment, I cannot help but notice the similarities between opening our beautiful new hospital and the year I received that “big” present I had always wanted for Christmas.

As a ten-year-old fifth grader growing up in Paris, Illinois, I already knew that Santa got a lot of “help” from my parents. However, this knowledge did not diminish my eagerness to find out whether or not I would receive the shiny new aqua and chrome bicycle I had recently seen at the bicycle shop. Without a doubt, that was the bike I wanted. But, as my parents had sensibly pointed out to me, it was very expensive. With those words, a feeling of uncertainty had been created—although I believed I would get a bicycle of some sort, I was not so sure that I would get the one I really, really wanted.

When I went to bed on Christmas Eve, I could hardly sleep. I wondered through the long hours of the night whether I would get the bike I wanted. When I awoke on Christmas morning, it was still dark outside. I checked my alarm clock to see it was only 3:00 a.m. My parents never minded that my siblings and I got up early, but I was certain that getting everyone out of bed at three o’clock in the morning was out of the question. So, I quietly got out of bed so as not to awaken my sister, and I tip-toed to the living room.

In the darkness, I could vaguely see the outline of a bicycle, but I could not tell if it was the one for which I had wished. Very quietly, I pulled back the living room drapes so the light from the street lamp in our front yard shone in through the window. I saw the light bounce off a shiny aqua and chrome bicycle. It was the exact bike I had wanted!

Christmas morning came and went, and that afternoon, I took my new bicycle outside for my first ride. Fortunately, winter that year had been milder than usual, so I did not have to contend with snow. But as I sat on the seat, I realized that this was a much larger bicycle than I was used to. My feet barely touched the pedals. My dad noticed this immediately and helped me lower the seat so that it fit me better. In addition to being a much larger bike than the one I had before, many of its features worked differently than my old bike. The handlebars where higher, the basket was in the back instead of the front, and it did not have a bell like my other bicycle.

As I pushed off to take my first ride, my first few minutes pedaling around were a little wobbly. I could tell that my dad was concerned, but I let him know I would get used to it. “Don’t worry,” I told him. And I was right. Within the hour, I was riding the bike as if I had it my whole life.

Just as I waited with eager anticipation to receive my new bicycle, we have also waited a long time for the official opening of Jennie Sealy Hospital to become a reality. When I arrived at UTMB in September 2009, the Texas Legislature had approved rebuilding UTMB on the island, but the business plan had not been completed, and the University of Texas System Board of Regents still had to approve it, which they did in August of 2011. Now, a little more than four years later, we are ready to open the hospital to care for our patients.

Our gift of Jennie Sealy Hospital to the communities we serve required many helpers, including the UT System and Texas Legislature, the entire Galveston community, many generous donors, and our faculty and employees. Whether you helped with the design, helped get the building ready for our employees and patients, served as a volunteer for the official patient move day, or you made your own special contribution to the Jennie Sealy Hospital, all of you were critical “helpers” who got us to this pivotal moment in UTMB’s history.

Our new gift is also shiny and clean, thanks to the entire Environmental Services team, led by Jason Botkin, who worked endless hours to ensure that the hospital would be clean and ready to accept new patients on Saturday. It is my hope that we will all take the responsibility to keep Jennie Sealy Hospital as beautiful as it was the day it opened through simple actions like picking up trash on the floor, keeping the hallways clear, and ensuring visible work spaces are tidy and uncluttered.

Just as I quickly got accustomed to the bigger bicycle, I know that once we adjust to the size of our new space in Jennie Sealy Hospital, we will really enjoy it and fully appreciate its features. For example, the patient rooms in Jennie Sealy Hospital are twice the size of rooms in John Sealy Hospital*. Work spaces for clinicians are also larger, and there is additional storage for supplies and medications. Because the space in the new hospital is so much larger, we added a new nurse communication system. The placement of decentralized nurse stations between every other patient room will help nurses stay close to their patients while working on the computer.

Finally, just as my father needed to adjust the seat and handlebars on my bike for me, I know there will be things that will need to be changed once we move into our new space and as we get settled. If the adjustments that are needed relate to the safe care of our patients, those items will be triaged and addressed immediately; meanwhile, to-do items that are not patient safety issues will be compiled on a master list and addressed in order of importance.

For many of us, April 9, 2016 will be an exciting day, and it will also be a day filled with emotion. In many respects, opening Jennie Sealy Hospital means we are officially closing the chapter on Hurricane Ike and beginning a new chapter of exemplary health care at UTMB. I want to thank each one of you today for helping UTMB give this beautiful new gift to our patients and the communities we serve, to our health care teams and our employees, and to tomorrow’s health care professionals who will train in this new state-of-the-art facility.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Hope is wishing for something to happen. Faith is believing something will happen. Courage is making something happen.”

Thank you to each one of you who stood by UTMB Health throughout this chapter in its history. Your faith and courage to forge forward to rebuild a new UTMB made the new Jennie Sealy Hospital possible!

University of Texas Medical Branch- Jennie Sealy Replacement Hospital

Jennie Sealy Hospital – Photo courtesy of HDR Architecture, Inc.; © 2016 Dan Schwalm/HDR

*Phase II of the John Sealy Hospital Modernization Project will soon begin, and those renovations will expand all units to match those in Jennie Sealy Hospital.

The people who helped make Jennie Sealy Hospital a reality…

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemThe other day, I was in my office when I heard some familiar voices. I got up to find Dr. Joan Richardson, Dr. Barbara Thompson, and four other people outside my door. Drs. Richardson and Thompson had some family and friends in town and wanted to give them a tour of Jennie Sealy Hospital. Since I had some “desk time” on my schedule, I offered to give them a quick tour, which they accepted.

As I began telling them about the hospital, its features and our approach to the design, I realized that I had become really energized, animated and happy. I feel that way every time I enter the lobby or go on a tour of the hospital, especially when I think about how far we have come as an organization since Hurricane Ike.

University of Texas Medical Branch- Jennie Sealy Replacement Hospital

Main Lobby, Jennie Sealy Hospital – Photo courtesy of HDR Architecture, Inc.; © 2016 Dan Schwalm/HDR

To me, Jennie Sealy Hospital is a symbol of the determination and resilience of the UTMB community, a symbol of the teamwork that went into making our renewal and growth possible, and a symbol of our hope for the future of UTMB Health.

Nothing this big can be done without the support and effort of so many people, working together for a common cause. Previously, we acknowledged the generous spirit of our donors, in particular The
Sealy & Smith Foundation, who donated $170 million toward making Jennie Sealy Hospital a reality. We have also recognized the incredible support we received from state, county and local officials who came together to assure that UTMB stayed in Galveston. But, it is the people who work at UTMB—the individuals who shared their ideas and expertise on excellent patient care delivery and service—who really should be recognized. To those of you who contributed to this amazing project in large or small ways, directly or indirectly, you have made the seemingly impossible possible!

Jennie Sealy Hospital - Photo courtesy of HDR Architecture, Inc.; © 2016 Dan Schwalm/HDR

Entrance, Jennie Sealy Hospital – Photo courtesy of HDR Architecture, Inc.; © 2016 Dan Schwalm/HDR

Jennie Sealy Hospital is a 765,000 square feet facility and a beautiful new addition to our Galveston campus. Between the John Sealy and Jennie Sealy Hospitals and all of our education and research buildings, UTMB-Galveston is starting to feel like its own city! To be able to open, operate and maintain our patient care facilities, we need facilities expertise, architects, housekeepers, transportation aides, parking experts, financial analysts, information technology experts, doctors, nurses, technicians, greeters and the list goes on.

If you are one of the people who contributed your time and energy into assuring that Jennie Sealy Hospital opened on time and under budget for our patients, thank you! Your steadfast support of UTMB and your passion for excellence have made all the difference—you have shown how far a determined and resilient group of people can go to reach their goal.

University of Texas Medical Branch- Jennie Sealy Replacement Hospital

Patient Room, Jennie Sealy Hospital – Photo courtesy of HDR Architecture, Inc.; © 2016 Dan Schwalm/HDR

Those who supported the construction of Jennie Sealy Hospital through their contributions to the 2012 Family Campaign had a chance to forever become part of this symbol of hope by signing one of the structural beams that is now in the uppermost stairwell (located in the southwest wing) of the building. This beam will forever be a visible reminder of the many people at UTMB who supported the effort to build our new hospital. Each signature on the beam represents an individual’s commitment to improve the health in the communities UTMB serves, while the beam itself represents the collective gift of nearly 4,000 employees who raised more than $10 million toward the new hospital.

Every building has a story – and this one will be no exception. There will be stories from the people who designed it, the people who built it, the people who work in it, and the people who will come to it to receive unprecedented care and healing. But no matter who tells the story, it will always be centered on you – the people who helped make this building a reality.

“When the world says give up, Hope whispers try it one more time.”

Family Campaign Jennie Sealy Hospital Beam Signing

Family Campaign Jennie Sealy Hospital Beam Signing

Jennie Sealy Hospital opens April 9, 2016.

Never underestimate the healing effects of beauty.

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemIt has already been one month since I moved into my office in Jennie Sealy Hospital. It seems like time is flying! I am starting to feel at home in our new space, even as activation of the building continues and preparations are ongoing to prepare to greet and care for our first patients. I have truly enjoyed being in the new hospital and am impressed by and proud of its features.


“The Fab Four,” by Rene Wiley-Janota. Rene Wiley-Janota, of Galveston, is known for her paintings of a variety of local subjects including historic Galveston’s magnificent architecture, Texas seabirds and songbirds, and dramatic landscapes of the harbor, estuary marshes and beaches.

As a lover of art, I cannot help but tell people how much I am enjoying the collection we selected. As I walk the hallways traveling from unit to unit in the hospital, I still find it remarkable how the art collection transformed the patient care and public spaces. If you had an opportunity to tour the hospital during the dedication events held last month, you may have seen some of the beautiful prints and framed photography on each floor. I have noticed how the natural light that pours through the windows illuminates the different pieces and brings out different shades and tones in the art at different times of the day. It is also fun to know that many of the scenes in the art can be seen in real time, just by looking out the window!

I recall from my own experience as a patient, a hospital experience is an inherently stressful one—even for someone who came to get well. (I know I’d personally rather be at the beach!) So as I visit the units, I have also spent a lot of time trying to imagine how patients and their loved ones will experience the new hospital. Jennie Sealy Hospital is UTMB’s gift to Galveston Island, and it is the setting in which our patient care teams and staff will care for the people of the communities we serve. I feel as though the art we chose offers a beautiful depiction of what those who live in Galveston experience, as well as what tourists and visitors see of the area.

The large photographs on canvas in the main hallways give the viewer a sensation of almost actually “being there” on the beach and watching the waves come in under a beautiful sky, while reproductions of paintings by local artists like Rene Wiley-Janota and Randall Cogburn offer impressionist views of seabirds, dramatic landscapes of the gulf, and scenes from the beaches of Galveston. Photographs of local landmarks offer glimpses into the history and seaside ambiance of the island, and close ups of natural objects like plants and seashells convey the texture of surfaces so vividly, that one feels as though they might actually reach out to touch the object itself.

In my Friday Flash Report last week, I discussed some of the evidence-based design elements that were incorporated into the hospital that would help provide a safe patient care environment and healing atmosphere. Incorporating natural light and elements was one of our guiding principles. Using art as a positive distraction was also an important factor.


“Near Shore,” by Randall Cogburn. Randall Cogburn, of Alvin, describes himself as someone who grew to love going to places to sketch and paint as a way of getting outdoors and enjoying life.

Art as a positive distraction means that it is something—an environmental feature—that elicits positive feelings, holds the viewer’s attention and interest, and therefore, reduces stressful thoughts. It offers the viewer something else to think about beyond the fact that they are in a hospital environment. It also helps make the environment feel more homelike by “deinstitutionalizing” the hospital setting into a place that is more comfortable and uplifting. Conversely, when patient care environments lack positive distractions, it may cause patients to focus increasingly on their own worries, fears or pain.

After Cleveland Clinic conducted a survey among patients of their art collection in 2014, they discovered it had measurable positive effects on patients’ moods, comfort, stress and overall impression of their visit to the hospital. In fact, more than 60 percent of patients reported a reduction in stress from the hospital’s art collection. For some patients and visitors, the art offers a natural focal point or incentive to walk down the hall. For others, it provided an opportunity to peacefully reflect.

A 2011 University of London study found that blood flow increased 10 percent to the “joy response” part of the brain when subjects saw a beautiful painting – just like when you look at a loved one. Additional research suggests that art showing views or representations of nature can actually help promote restoration, particularly when it features calm or slowly moving waters, plants and flowers, spatial openness, and birds or other wildlife. (I found it interesting to learn that studies suggest patients favor shades of blues and greens in landscapes and nature scenes.)

Florence Nightingale is quoted as saying, “Never underestimate the healing effects of beauty.” Looking at the entire collection of art throughout the hospital, I believe patients and visitors will respond positively to the healing atmosphere of UTMB’s new Jennie Sealy Hospital. The art throughout the building will surely promote conversation, offer a pleasant visual experience, and create a relaxing atmosphere. I hope our patients enjoy the collection as much as I have!

Jennie Sealy Hospital: The Setting of a Healing Atmosphere

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemWithin the field of medicine, Hippocrates believed that healing came from within. But he also believed it is sometimes a “matter of opportunity”—while the body possesses its own means of recovery, the main function for medicine is to aid these forces of the body by enhancing therapeutic functions of the environment. By the same token, Florence Nightingale believed that the place of healing also came from within the person, and the art of nursing was to provide an ideal healing environment.

The art of patient care entails a holistic approach to healing and wellness. It is the patients’ experiences of being whole, that is, of being involved and able to integrate one’s physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual needs regardless of whether possibilities of being cured exist or not. Offering a holistic approach to care entails providing the best medicine and the best care in a healing atmosphere. This philosophy, supported by patient-centered criteria known to improve quality, safety and efficiency, was the very foundation of the design of the Jennie Sealy Hospital.

The inclusion of natural light, natural elements, soothing colors and beautiful artwork in the design of the hospital are intended to contribute to an atmosphere that promotes healing and wellness. But “atmosphere” encompasses much more than the physical environment of a health care setting alone. A healing atmosphere includes the philosophy that guides in the delivery of care and interactions between clinicians and staff with patients and guests.

Atmosphere describes one’s perception of what is contained “within the walls” of a setting; that is, the tone or mood. It can enhance or detract from the mood of patients, their family members, or clinicians and staff. In turn, their mood can affect both wellness and experience. For example, as a patient in a health care setting, we may get a sense of whether we could see ourselves healing or not.

For patients and families, the best health care is delivered by a care team with expertise and experience in a warm and welcoming atmosphere of physical and psychological comfort, calmness, safety, compassion, respect, cheerfulness, information, cleanliness, and convenience. The physical environment of the healing atmosphere is but a symbol  conveying messages of whether the atmosphere is caring and uncaring, homelike or institution-like. It is only a part of the whole that is a healing atmosphere.

A healing atmosphere also encompasses the safety of the environment, including the quality of the air and use of natural light. For example, did you know that artificial light can cause visual fatigue and headaches, and it also interferes with the body’s natural circadian rhythms? A safe environment is clean. It is space that is well laid out with equipment and furniture fitting well into their spaces. It is space that allows efficiency, offers privacy and provides adequate family space. It is an environment in which patients and families are given adequate information so that they feel a sense of orientation to their surroundings and can actively participate in the plan of care.

Most importantly, a healing atmosphere is the “culture of caring” that is interwoven with the safety environment and the physical environment. This represents the philosophy guiding the delivery of care – at UTMB, it is our pledge to care for our patients and their guests just as we would the most cherished of our loved ones. This is exhibited when we demonstrate care and compassion to help patients heal. It is exhibited when we engage patients and their loved ones in the care plan, because we understand it enhances healing and outcomes.

Twelve primary evidence-based strategies guided the design team throughout the process of designing Jennie Sealy Hospital to ensure it would support a healing atmosphere. Thinking about workflows and keeping an eye on technology trends so that we are still working “smart” well into the future also is of great importance.

All 252 patient rooms in Jennie Sealy Hospital are single occupancy, which not only increases privacy, but has been shown to reduce stress, decrease noise volumes, increase patient satisfaction, reduce infections and improve outcomes. The rooms are also acuity adaptable, which means the rooms can be used for acute care up to critical care and all care levels in between. This will help reduce patient hand-offs, transfers and errors; contribute to fewer staff injuries due to fewer transfers; eliminate delays and waits for treatments and results; and contribute to a decreased length of stay. The rooms are also equipped with HEPA filtration to reduce the risk of infection. Patient lifts were included for the safety of patients and staff in all intensive care rooms, as well as 20 percent of medical/surgical rooms.

Jennie Sealy Hospital Patient Room

Jennie Sealy Hospital Patient Room – photo by Erin Swearingen

The patient rooms were also designed to allow for maximum opportunities for family interaction and personalization of service. Rooms in the new hospital are configured to provide separate zones for family, patients and staff. A designated family zone promotes family involvement in the patient’s care and a feeling of connection to the clinicians and a sense of well-being. The family area also provides amenities for an overnight stay, including a sofa bed and a small refrigerator. A second small television in this area of the room allows the guest to watch television without disturbing their loved one.

Throughout the hospital design process, multidisciplinary teams worked to identify and ensure workflows would increase safety and efficiency for patients and staff, and that core support functions were centrally located in the unit to minimize travel distances for staff. Caregivers have immediate access to the patient at the room’s entry, and hand hygiene dispensers are strategically placed so that clinicians and staff can conveniently gel-in and gel-out every time they enter and exit the patient’s room. Decentralized caregiver workstations allow continual monitoring of patients, which enhances responsiveness to patient needs.

Jennie Sealy Hospital is a beautiful hospital that was designed with patients and their guests at heart. Natural light, pleasant views and more than 1,000 pieces of coastal-themed art reflect the beauty of the Gulf Coast and the history and ambiance of Galveston Island. It is a lovely and apt complement to our clinics and outpatient care settings, as well as our hospital in Angleton Danbury and future League City Hospital, that have also incorporated the elements of a healing atmosphere into their design and practice.

When our staff and patients move into Jennie Sealy Hospital on April 9, 2016, a building filled with natural light, elements of nature and soothing colors will be transformed by a caring, compassionate, safety-focused culture to become a true atmosphere of healing for those we serve across UTMB Health.

Twelve Evidence-Based Design Strategies

Twelve Evidence-Based Design Strategies

Find out more about the use of art throughout the hospital in next week’s Friday Flash message.

Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance.

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemLast Friday, before the formal Jennie Sealy Dedication Ceremony, I had the opportunity to join Dr. Callender, Dr. Jacobs and Ms. Sadro in welcoming to a luncheon the many dignitaries and benefactors who joined us on the Galveston campus. From state representatives to current and former University of Texas System Chancellors, from members of the UT System Board of Regents members to the Sealy & Smith Foundation Board and the Moody Foundation Board, a large and distinguished group of individuals joined in the day’s celebrations.

That momentous day, as I spoke in front of the group and recounted to them our journey, I felt a tremendous sense of pride in our people. So many of you have stood by UTMB throughout its recovery, renewal and growth after Hurricane Ike. I shared in the great feelings success we all feel about opening the doors of our beautiful new hospital to our patients and their guests on April 9. The Jennie Sealy Hospital represents the effort of so many people who put in thousands of hours of work, developing plans and working to garner the necessary support to begin construction.

It was a year and a day before I began working at UTMB that Hurricane Ike made landfall on Galveston Island. I remember watching the evening news before the storm struck. The forecast was grim. Just before midnight on Friday, September 12, 2008, I received a message from Dr. David Marshall, who was my friend and UTMB’s Chief Operating Officer at the time.

“I am headed to bed for the night. Pray for us.”

I went to bed that night with David’s message on my mind. I thought about the day prior, when UTMB staff had safely evacuated its patients – 471 patients to be exact. Then, they worked to secure the campus, even as storm surge approached. By the time I received David’s message, essential staff were waiting to ride out the storm. Hurricane Ike’s arrival was only hours away.

At 2 a.m., September 13, the eye of the storm passed over UTMB. Although Ike was considered only a Category 2 storm, its size made it one of the most devastating hurricanes in recent U.S. history (it was 70% larger than an average hurricane). In the days that followed, I watched the news with grave concern. Aerial footage showed places on Galveston Island where flood waters had reached nearly 20 feet. Interstate 45 was littered by boats. Homes had been washed entirely off their foundation. I couldn’t believe the magnitude of the devastation.

Town Hall Meeting, October 7, 2008

Town Hall Meeting, October 7, 2008

Nearly a month later, on October 7, I watched a video posted to UTMB’s website of Dr. Callender’s first Town Hall meeting after the storm. He calmly reassured the community that UTMB would be rebuilt, and it would emerge stronger than before. I am certain, at the time, people appreciated the words but had some doubts about whether or not this would truly happen. By then, people across the state were already seriously questioning whether or not UTMB should be rebuilt on the island.

But despite the storm’s damage and all of the naysayers who said UTMB should be closed forever, UTMB’s employees and students courageously marched on, wearing a smile as they helped clean up the campus. The old motto from the Great Storm of 1900 was adopted and prevailed: “UTMB stops for no storm.”

Hurricane Ike Commemoration, September 13, 2009 - Flag Raising

Hurricane Ike Commemoration, September 13, 2009 – Flag Raising

My first day as an employee at UTMB, I remember standing in the grassy area between John Sealy Hospital and the Administration Building to watch the UTMB flag being raised during the Hurricane Ike Commemoration Ceremony. It was an emotional and triumphant day for all of the brave and tenacious students, employees, and faculty who remained so passionately dedicated to rebuilding UTMB on Galveston Island.

John Sealy Hospital had been reopened only nine months ago at the time. One day at noon, I visited the MICU. The area was bustling with activity, and a nurse hurried out of the break room, chewing her last bite of lunch. I said to her, “You all are really busy today.”

Her response was not what I expected: “Yes, isn’t it wonderful that we have our patients back?”

Meanwhile, the pharmacy was still functioning but now out of a patient unit. The usual technology to support its work was absent—there was no robot, no medication carousel, nothing. Just determined pharmacists and technicians who filled hundreds of prescriptions a day with the same degree of accuracy as they had before. The kitchen still occupied a large tent on the top level of the Plaza Garage. Surgical instruments took a 120-mile round trip ride to Sugar Land each day to be sterilized.

Despite these challenges, everyone continued forward with hope and faith, and UTMB quickly moved from recovery into a new era, focused on progress and growth. Here we are today, four years after breaking ground on this hospital. Standing in Jennie Sealy Hospital feels nothing short of a miracle!

I also told these tremendous supporters of UTMB that we had designed our new hospital, first and foremost, with the patient in mind. We had involved nurses, physicians and staff in every step of the design process to ensure the facility would support patient care delivery. We involved students, residents and program leaders in our plans to assure the building would adequately support UTMB’s educational mission, and we identified space to support clinical research.

I told them about how much we had benefited by engaging our patients and the community in the design process. Their feedback added to—and even sometimes challenged—what we had envisioned from an administrative perspective. I told them about the separate zones in the patient rooms for clinical staff, the patient and their family, as well as the wonderful amenities we included thanks to their suggestions, like the specific model of sofa bed and a small refrigerator.

Jennie Sealy

Jennie Sealy Hospital – Community Open House, February 27, 2016

While Jennie Sealy Hospital is UTMB’s gift to the community, it would not have been possible without so many people who stepped forward to help. Students traveled to Austin to talk with legislators about UTMB’s importance. Our staff, alumni and community members advocated for UTMB at public hearings. Our elected officials listened to and championed our cause. The UT System believed in the importance of UTMB’s role in patient care and educating medical professionals in the state. So many people contributed to UTMB’s renewal and growth.

It was an honor to formally thank the Sealy & Smith Foundation, who made an extraordinary and visionary lead gift, signaling to the State of Texas their strong commitment to rebuilding UTMB and assuring excellent care on Galveston Island. It was an honor to thank the Moody Foundation, who are dedicated to supporting our work in managing complex patients and assuring that we have state-of-the-art facilities, equipment and programs to support that care.

I would be remiss if I did not also acknowledge the contributions so many of you, UTMB’s own employees and faculty, who together donated over $11 million to UTMB’s Family Campaign. Your contributions represent how passionately you care about and believe in UTMB. These combined contributions will help thousands of patients and families for many years to come.

There is a quote that I believe captures the essence of what each of you has helped UTMB accomplish:

“It’s impossible,” said pride.

“It’s risky,” said experience.

“It’s pointless,” said reason.

“Give it a try,” whispered the heart.

Thanks to each one of you here today who listened to the whispers of your heart.