Dr. Selwyn O. Rogers, surgeon and public health expert, joined UTMB as vice president and chief medical officer in December 2014. He also serves as assistant dean for clinical affairs in the School of Medicine. Rogers provides leadership for the quality, safety, service, efficiency and outcomes of UTMB’s clinical services. He is a strong collaborator and advocate for patient-centered care and the elimination of health-care disparities.
Prior to arriving at UTMB, Rogers served as professor and chairman of surgery at Temple University School of Medicine since 2012. Before that, he was an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School. He also served as director of the Center for Surgery and Public Health and as division chief for trauma, burns and surgical critical care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and held academic appointments at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and Meharry Medical College in Nashville.
Now that he’s been on the job for three months, we caught up with him to ask about his life inside and outside of work.
What does the Road Ahead look like for you?
… “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
During my first 90 days as vice president and chief medical officer, I have had the great privilege to meet many of you personally and learn more about your love of UTMB, your concerns about the future of health care, and your challenges to deliver care. I learned that we have a mutual commitment to caring for the community, one person at a time. As I carefully ponder what the Road Ahead looks like for me, I remember Robert Frost’s famous literary quote. But I also realize that this health-care journey is not just mine to travel, but ours, together.
In our Road Ahead at UTMB, I will continue to execute this organization’s mission to provide our patient community with the safest, most effective, efficient and patient-centered journey that we possibly can. During the course of a single hospitalization, our patients and their families can have numerous interactions with many members of our team, from the parking attendant to the language interpreter, from the registration in-take specialist to the lab technician, and from the scrub technician in the operating room to the nurse at a hospital bedside. All of these team members are the face of UTMB and represent our mission for excellence.
Consider this scenario: Imagine a 75-year-old grandmother who learns of her diagnosis of breast cancer. She is afraid, stunned and confused in those first few weeks of palliative chemotherapy to stave back the metastatic cancer. We can’t reverse this life tragedy, but we can take an extra minute or two to ask how she’s doing and whether we can help her further even as we administer treatment. Because we can see our lives in her story, she becomes our mother, our sister, our aunt, our friend. As CMO, my Road Ahead will be not be to take the divergent road, but to join you in the road less travelled; one that is entirely focused on shoring up that personal connection to our patients in every aspect of our interactions.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job? The most rewarding?
By far, the most challenging and rewarding aspects of my job are our people. It is through the individual actions of each and every one of our people that we provide care to our patients. With over 12,000 employees, UTMB has a rich team of dedicated professionals who care for our patients throughout our distributed campuses from Galveston Island to League City to Angleton Danbury and beyond. However, how do we consistently maintain our focus on doing the right thing when no one is watching? Do we always wash our hands before and after patient contact? Do we perform all of the recommended patient safety steps prior to collecting a blood sample? Do we approach our patients with compassion at all times?
Without a doubt, the most rewarding aspect of my job is mentoring people. A friend of mine once told me that I have a gift for “building people.” I find it incredibly rewarding to help others become their best selves in relation to their professional growth at UTMB.
You have impressive credentials and have received numerous awards and honors for your contributions to teaching and patient care. To what do you attribute that success?
I attribute my success to three things: vision, passion and a relentless pursuit of excellence. In order to be successful, one must have a vision of what success is. For some, that is money, while for others it is power. I define my success by impact. What difference will I make by having the good fortune to walk on this planet for a yet-to-be-determined period of time. My passion drives me even in the face of adversity and failure. Finally, a commitment to pursue excellence drives me forward to be better tomorrow than I am today.
What is the one thing most people don’t know about you?
If I had not become a surgeon, I would have become a pastor. As a deeply spiritual person, I like to use my “gifts of listening and understanding” to help others. It is my love of science that convinced me to pursue a career in medicine. As an academic surgeon, I got to do both.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Listen attentively, act deliberately, and be wary of what you do not know.
What three words would people most likely use to describe you?
Passionate – because I care deeply about what is important to me.
Energetic – because my energy scale is abnormally high.
Caring – because compassion and empathy are two of my greatest attributes.
What do you like to do when you are not in your office?
Spend time with those I love.
Meditate when I run.
Learn something new.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Nepal. I have always had a fascination with the Himalayas, especially Mount Everest. As the tallest point on Earth at 29,029 feet, Mount Everest has been the target of many humans who seek to climb to its peak. Many have died trying. In many ways, we all have Mount Everests in our daily lives. I would like to see the physical Mount Everest before I die.
How do you like Texas so far?
I am enjoying Texas immensely thus far. I love the food from fine steaks to red snapper, the proximity to the Gulf Coast with its serenity and power, Southern hospitality, and the diversity of people.