A Taste of Kindness: Prosper's Manager and Executive Chef DeWayne B. Pace, CDM, CFPP
By Malinda Mason Miller
Manager and Executive Chef DeWayne B. Pace, CDM, CFPP, is the first person to tell you he loves his job at Cook Children's Medical Center - Prosper. But when he started work in November 2022, he didn’t think the culture could possibly be authentic. With his vast experience at various health care systems and assisted living organizations, he had never seen anything like the attitude at Cook Children’s.
DeWayne was pleasantly surprised to find that fellow employees in Prosper really are kind, and that the culture isn’t empty words. Instead, it is collaborative. Generous. Respectful. And much more.
DeWayne discovered that the culture platform is not a vague cliche, but a daily reality.
Science of nutrition and healing
Prosper coworkers suggest that kindness shows up in the food DeWayne’s team prepares for patients and families. But DeWayne says comfort food is about more than kindness in the form of good nutrition: it actually fuels patients’ abilities to heal.
Experts, scientists and even home cooks tout the science behind nutrition and healing. Hospital administrators know that patients – especially picky ones – will not eat if they don’t like the food. Their bodies need nutrients to help recover from illness or injury.
“If a child is hungry, that’s one more stressor on their plate,” DeWayne said.
DeWayne’s “food as fuel for healing and calm” philosophy has helped him serve patients and senior citizen residents over the span of a 40-year career as an executive chef, in states from Texas to Florida to California. DeWayne’s career speaks volumes about his skills when it comes to cuisine and caring for patients. On top of his finesse in the kitchen, he exudes kindness on the job.
When it comes to the overall wellbeing of a child, the National Institutes of Health agrees with DeWayne’s philosophy. In fact, there’s a critical link between nutrition and learning; it even plays a vital role in postnatal brain and behavior development during the preschool years. Food is a kindness not only to healing, but to flourishing as a child.
Good food is vital to kids getting better, but perhaps almost as important, it’s vital to the caregivers who support them.
Business reasons for good food: Patient satisfaction
The culture platform guides much of the business side of Cook Children’s, such as the hiring process. In addition to exceptional skills, references and expertise, managers look for people who are a ‘culture fit.’
Kevin Greene, the Vice President and Administrator at Cook Children’s – Prosper, knew Dwayne was the right fit for our culture during their initial interview.
“Dewayne embodies so much of what makes Cook Children’s special,” Kevin said. “Take a walk with Dewayne to his office and count the times, people stop him on the way to his office.
“You see the example Dewayne sets for his entire staff. He’s created a culture of kindness and respect. He makes our employees feel special and the work he does here makes our families feel appreciated. That culture shows in the most recent Press Ganey survey where Dewayne and his team are in the 99th percentile in patient satisfaction scores. We are all so proud to have this incredible group of people working at Prosper.”
According to Kevin, the business of food in children’s hospitals is tricky. It must be nutritional, or kind to the body, while also being kind to the tastebuds. Finicky patients need to like the menu options, but so do families.
And families that are well-fed, in a caring environment, are happy. Kevin said he has the patient satisfaction numbers to prove it.
Healthy eating played a vital role in DeWayne’s own healing.
Sixteen years ago, doctors gave DeWayne 72 hours to live due to a severe staph infection. The medical team told DeWayne that if he did live, he would never walk again, nor have the energy to work again.
DeWayne would go on to prove the dire predictions wrong. He said his inspiration came in the form of a fever dream in which his late grandmother, Alice Grisby, called him in his hospital room. When he answered the phone in the dream, he heard Alice’s voice tell him, ‘If you will do everything the doctors say, you will get through this.’
DeWayne believed he would heal. Alice’s “words” – her inspiration – helped DeWayne find the strength to do everything the doctors said he would need to do to get better.
After more than a year of rehabilitation, both inpatient and outpatient, after fueling his healing body with nutrition backed by science, DeWayne healed to be stronger physically, mentally and spiritually than he was prior to the infection.
Affectionally known to her family as ‘Big Mama,’ Alice inspired DeWayne to rely on his faith when he felt stressed about all the physical work it would take to recover from the damage the infection had caused to his body.
“All my life, Big Mama would say, ‘Put it in the Master’s hands,’” DeWayne recalled. “I have been driven by faith ever since learning to do this. She was the kindest person I ever knew.”
According to DeWayne, at Cook Children’s, employees are encouraged to use their ‘God-given talents’ to help people. All of Cook Children’s Health Care System employees impact people and make a difference to healing patients in their own ways every day. In DeWayne’s case, he said being himself while nourishing others is not only a kindness, but also an honor.
“You are not stifled at Cook Children’s,” DeWayne said. “Just like the kids we serve; we can be our best selves.”