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iUTMB  •  Published Friday, August 11, 2017, 5:26 PM

Health System Friday Flash Report - Aug. 11

by Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health System

Always leave people better than you found them.

The older I get, the more I hear family and friends who are around my age talk about their “bucket” list. I don’t think I really had one until the last ten years or so, but something I have always wanted to do is travel to Alaska. I had heard from many friends that the beauty of our northernmost state is breathtaking. So last February, my daughter and I planned our Alaskan adventure, which we completed with our two families last week.

First off, if you have ever wanted to go to Alaska, try to go! I promise it will be everything people have told you and more. I love the beauty of nature and all kinds of wildlife. I also really enjoyed a few days with cooler temperatures this summer! Alaska has vast natural beauty waiting to be appreciated. In fact, it is so beautiful that my son-in-law and I both agreed on the day we were cruising the glaciers that it is hard to truly describe the magnificence in words or evenly remotely capture that same beauty in photographs.

One of the things I had looked forward to seeing on the trip was Alaskan wildlife. Unfortunately we did not get a chance to see any bears, because as our tour guides explained, it was “too hot and sunny” for them to come out of the woods to the water to catch fish. I laughed because the Alaskans were complaining about the heat – it was 75-80 degrees at two of our ports! We did see a moose on the boat tour we took through primitive parts of state. We also saw orcas. However, we saw so many bald eagles that I finally quit counting!

I remember the first day we were in Juneau and we saw some bald eagles, I was so excited and clamoring with the rest of the tourists to take pictures. Three ports later, the bus driver pointed out some bald eagles just outside of Ketchikan, Alaska, and I didn’t move. I just sat there thinking that I already had seen so many of them. I guess it just started to seem normal – nothing out of the ordinary – to see a bald eagle. I felt a little bad when the bus driver said that although she has lived in Alaska for over twenty years, she never tires of seeing bald eagles. In fact, she told us that her family makes fun of her for always taking pictures when she comes across them. That is someone who does not take her surroundings for granted.

It made me wonder – how do we go from being amazed by the beauty of our surroundings to simply getting used to it all? Why are things that are plentiful less amazing to us than what is fewer and farther between? For example, I remember when we opened the Multispecialty Center in League City Town Center how we all were so impressed by how beautiful it was. The same was true of the Jennie Sealy Hospital and probably all new clinics and health care buildings we have moved into over the course of the last eight years. We get used to most things that we see or do daily, including our work environment – sometimes so much so, that we forget what that experience may be like to someone new, like a patient, visitor or even a new employee.

At UTMB, we may have gotten used to being in a large hospital and finding our way around. But for our patients and visitors, this might seem overwhelming. While they may be amazed by the size of our campus and the design of our facilities, some may be going through a difficult time or experience. I especially started thinking about this after a family member of a patient described his experience at UTMB some years ago. This person said that the warm greeting he received each time he arrived meant so much to him. Every time Cindy Jones, who worked in the UTMB Health Clinics transportation area at the time, saw him, she remembered who he was and asked how he and his loved one, the patient, were doing. He said that simple act of kindness and concern meant so much to him, and it helped him get through that very difficult time.

In addition to helping others in our beautiful health care environment, whether that means helping someone find their destination, delivering care or any other service, I like the idea of offering a few words of kindness and compassion when we have the opportunity. I also like the idea of getting to know our patients and visitors so we can be aware of what is most important to them, and we can help them with their questions and concerns. People want patient care from a knowledgeable care team, but they also value empathy and the importance of good communication.

As the saying goes, always leave people better than you found them. Let’s remember to try to see UTMB through the eyes of our patients and visitors. Delivering exceptional patient care and service in a beautiful, compassionate, caring environment – that’s why people come to us for patient care!