Not-So-General Hospital

In a 2013 stand-up performance, comedian Hannibal Buress recalled a trip to the emergency room where a nurse reprimanded him for swearing. In a snarky tone, he replied, “What? Does my cursing ruin the emergency room experience of the other patients?”

In an emergency room, being confined to a sterilized room with an IV attached makes tasks as simple as using the restroom an ordeal. The experience causes a large disturbance in your personal, professional and social life.

As such, the notion of an “emergency room experience” sounds so nonsensical that it is even a punchline, but it is no joke to Texas Health Frisco President Brett Lee. “We are focused, first and foremost, on providing outstanding clinical care and outcomes for our patients,” explains Mr. Lee. “But, we also make sure we do that in an environment with staff that is dedicated to providing a warm and welcoming environment.” 

The ribbon for the newly-constructed Texas Health Frisco facility on Dallas Parkway was cut on Saturday, December 14, 2019. Mr. Lee and the hospital’s program director, Shona Huffman, gave a number of tours around the new-age facility. Immediately, one notices amenities offered to nonpatients. There is a café area with an Ascension Coffee location and the hallway is filled with art pieces that exude far more authenticity than those of most traditional health facilities. A park and accompanying walking trail were both constructed on the back of the campus. “One of the things I am really proud of is that we engaged the community from the very beginning about what they want in a healthcare campus,” says Mr. Lee. “The feedback we received reflected all aspects.”

Texas Health Frisco truly makes an impression that defies the traditional hospital experience, and the warmth and amiability are on display even behind closed doors. Workplace morale is considerably high, even with the inevitable growing pains that not even months of prior training and consultation can curtail. 

Great emphasis is placed on the partnership between Texas Health Resources and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the latter being the largest medical school in the state of Texas. This partnership, Mr. Lee states, combines the quality control of a nonprofit, faith-based health system with the cutting-edge administration of care that comes with a medical school with hundreds of millions in research expenditures. 

This alliance may not seem significant from afar, but some procedures and medications are so specialized that less than a half-dozen facilities in the state of Texas have the resources to offer them. Medical schools are generally at the vanguard of these developments, and even if treatments do not meet the rigorous standards of pending Food and Drug Administration approval, clinical trials can be offered to the patient. 

Such synergy in a health system is exceptionally rare, and Texas Health Frisco’s commitment to patient care runs so deep that its development was even aided by consultants from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. This is a venture Mr. Lee takes immense pride in, and his optimism is even more convincing upon glance at his resume. 

Raised in McAlester, Okla., Mr. Lee volunteered at McAlester Regional Health Center at the age of 12. He earned his degree in physical therapy from the University of Oklahoma and pursued graduate-level education in allied health and health systems management at John Hopkins University, the University of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts General Hospital of Health Sciences. 

In 1999, Mr. Lee accepted a position as a senior physical therapist at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth. In 2002, he became the facility’s vice president of operations. He went on to hold managerial posts at children’s hospitals in Dallas, Indianapolis and Atlanta, the latter two for which he served as chief operating officer. 

“Most recently, I ran a joint venture between Baylor, Scott and White Health and Tenet Healthcare, which have five hospitals on each side of the metroplex,” says Mr. Lee. “When I think about this opportunity, it has a lot of the things I loved in my career path. It has the academic medical center and the community hospital.”

Indeed, Mr. Lee’s involvement in this endeavor has not been from afar. He manned a command center on Texas Health Frisco’s opening week, where he helped staff navigate the growing pains of this project in an efficient manner. This command center had a phone number that employees of all units could call in the event they received their first patients and encountered any issues. Still, the staff was amply prepared. 

“What really attracted me here was the ability to build something from the ground up. We spent the last three months or so designing workflows,” explains Mr. Lee. “We did two of what we call ‘day in the life’ events where we had fake patients come in.”

Mr. Lee’s career of late has entailed coordinating intense training and project management, and all of it has paid off, as operations ran rather smoothly on Texas Health Frisco’s inaugural week. The non-intensive neonatal care unit had its first delivery on the day of the hospital’s grand opening, and within the span of one day, two patients were transported via ambulance to the emergency care unit. 

Behind an efficient staff and high workplace morale is a successful leader, and Mr. Lee has demonstrated leadership in a way that emphasizes servitude. He passionately adheres to a leadership philosophy known as “servant leadership,” which, as the name implies, makes the role of a leader to serve. Or, as Mr. Lee put it, “Instead of thinking in this top-down, hierarchal leadership model, your role as a leader is to get to know your employees personally, understand what is important to them and understand what they need to do their jobs well. Our role is to make sure they have the tools, training and support to do that.”

Texas Health Frisco has already achieved its goal of providing care in a warm, welcoming environment, but there are still improvements that will be in the works for the next two decades. In adding more beds and extending the parking garage, some rather imminent plans are being made to have the facility operate on a capacity akin to that of Texas Health Presbyterian Plano. Further down the horizon are plans to build another patient tower. 

This expanding blueprint aside, the underlying vision Mr. Lee has for Texas Health Frisco is more abstract and has already come into fruition. “Our vision is that we grow up to become the medical district for these northern suburbs that leverage this wonderful expertise from the academic partner and continue to create this great community hospital environment that blends the best of both,” he shares.

Garrett Gravley is a Dallas-based arts and entertainment writer, journalist and music critic.

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