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  • Final Friday Flash

    August 9, 2019, 09:05 AM by Donna Sollenberger
    Imagining a life without alarm clocks and a full plate of work to do is difficult for me. I have worked my entire adolescent and adult life. My first job was working as a clerk in the grocery store my father managed. In college, I worked two full-time jobs every summer to make money that could supplement my scholarships and loans, and during the school year, I worked twenty hours a week as a research assistant to a botany professor so I would have spending money and could buy my textbooks. After college, I became a high school teacher while, simultaneously, working on my master’s degree. After a stint in public service, at age twenty-six, I began my career in health care as the administrator for the Department of Surgery at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois. Now, as I wind down after ten years of service at UTMB Health, I have had a little time to reflect on a career I could not have imagined when I went off to college...
  • Dream big – Be bold!

    August 2, 2019, 08:46 AM by Donna Sollenberger
    Not long ago, I had the opportunity to be on a panel with several health system CEOs who lead hospitals in the Clear Lake and League City area. While many of the people on the panel lead hospitals and health systems that we generally think of as “competitors,” it was great to hear how much we actually have in common. One of the last questions fielded by the panel was, “What keeps health care CEOs up at night?” While there certainly have been many issues that have kept me up at night, there are a few concerns that have routinely done so, and there is one in particular that will continue to keep me up at night, even in retirement.
  • Reflections on leadership

    July 19, 2019, 09:29 AM by Donna Sollenberger
    As retirement approaches, I have thought a lot about the leaders that have inspired and taught me throughout the years. Some have been formal leaders to whom I reported. Others have been colleagues with whom I worked as a peer. And still others have been informal leaders. These were people without an official title but because of their insights and qualities, others were eager to hear their thoughts and to learn from them...
  • Sign Your Work with Excellence

    July 12, 2019, 10:17 AM by Donna Sollenberger
    When I was young, my grandfather used to save all of his change throughout the year. Every July, just before the Illinois State Fair opened for business in Springfield, my hometown, my grandfather would sit my brother, my sister and me down at the dining room table, give us the jars he had filled with change and tell us to divide it evenly among ourselves. Since my sister, Jan, was seven years younger than I, she generally was not involved in the distribution of the coins. My brother and I took care of that part. Once in a while, my brother would pull a fast one and give more change to himself and me than he did to Jan. For quite a few years, she was too young to notice.
  • When careers and passion come together

    July 3, 2019, 12:51 PM by Donna Sollenberger
    A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a luncheon in honor of employees who were celebrating career anniversaries of 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 years at UTMB. I enjoyed the opportunity to talk to these employees who are a part of the wonderful legacy of this organization. Dr. Callender walked us down memory lane, showing pictures of top movies, songs and television shows for each of the years the employees joined UTMB. In addition, we were reminded of the teams that had won the Super Bowl, NBA finals and the World Series in 1999, 1994, 1989, 1984 and 1979. We had lots of good laughs about the price of gasoline in each of those years. But the part I appreciated most was a panel of five employees, each of whom represented one of the service years that we celebrated. Dr. Callender asked each of the employees on the panel questions ranging from why they came to work at UTMB and stayed to what they would like to do once they retire from UTMB. I loved hearing their stories and thought you might as well, so what follows are the questions and some of the responses from these employees...
  • You can’t serve from an empty vessel

    June 20, 2019, 09:56 AM by Donna Sollenberger
    In 1988, I was a busy mother. I worked as an administrator for the Department of Surgery at a Midwestern medical school. I was married and had three children—a seventh-grade daughter and three-year-old twin boys. Our daughter was involved in every imaginable type of extracurricular activity. I was the room mother for her class, I chaired the annual pizza night fundraiser and I was enrolled in a doctorate class. Work generally involved a time commitment of sixty hours a week or more. Meanwhile, the twins had severe asthma and respiratory issues, so my husband and I had not had a full night’s sleep in months, maybe years. My husband and I also cleaned our own home because we did not have extra money to spend on outside help. I completed a lot of my work and projects by taking it home—I’d get up at 3:00 a.m. after five hours of sleep and work at the kitchen table until the kids started getting up around 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning...
  • Doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results

    June 14, 2019, 08:43 AM by Donna Sollenberger
    Last year about this time, our grandson, Jack, decided to join Junior Future Farmers of America (JFFA) and care for and train a goat to show at the Fort Bend County Fair. That project was successful in that Jack’s goat, Ace, came in second for his weight class, which meant he would go to auction. The auction was very successful as Jack earned more than double his investment in the goat. This year, Jack decided to invest his earnings from Ace to purchase a heifer. In January, Harley was delivered—a beautiful black heifer which is now 900 pounds with a mind of her own!
  • Leadership is an achievement of trust

    June 7, 2019, 08:43 AM by Donna Sollenberger
    Two weekends ago, my husband and I moved our belongings into storage and prepared to leave the home we have had in Sugar Land since 2009. We had purchased this home about a month before I committed to join UTMB as the executive vice president and CEO of the Health System. At that time in 2009, I thought I would retire, so this was an ideal home—it was in the same neighborhood where we had lived back in the 90’s and where some of our friends still lived. It was also the perfect home for us in that it needed a lot of tender loving care. Excited to create something that was our own, we gutted it and started over. When we were done renovating, we had our masterpiece—a home we had designed and decorated ourselves for the first time in our marriage. I loved that home!
  • When an emergency strikes, the time to prepare has passed

    May 24, 2019, 08:38 AM by Donna Sollenberger
    My father was the living example of the motto, “Be prepared.” For those of you who are not familiar with the Midwest, where I grew up, it has three types of weather that can cause emergencies: snow, heavy rains and tornadoes. My dad prepared his family for all of those potential risks. Before winter started, Dad would put newspapers, candles, flashlights and blankets in the trunk of our two cars just in case we got stuck or stranded on a highway during a blizzard. Dad would choose one weekend day where we all sat down while he briefed his family on what to do...
  • Expect progress, not perfection

    May 17, 2019, 15:26 PM by Donna Sollenberger
    Early in our marriage when Kent and I lived in Illinois, we bought a nice little home for our growing family. After living there a few years, we decided that the landscaping was too overgrown with large bushes that obscured the view of the park across the street. We managed to find someone to remove the bushes for us, but we had not planned far enough ahead to decide which types of plants, bushes or flowers to replace what we had removed. For months, Kent and I would take the twins and our daughter on the weekends to nurseries and garden centers to try to decide what we wanted. We would also drive around neighborhoods, looking for landscaping we liked. I cannot believe how much we agonized over our decision as we shopped for the right combination of plants. Literally, we did this for about four months while our front yard sat bare.