10:03 AM

Making History: First All-Female Executive Committee Leads CCPN Board


Alice Phillips, M.D., leads the first-ever, all-female executive committee representing physicians at a system level.

“I find this group of women intelligent, hardworking and compassionate. They are all amazingly dedicated women,” said Dr. Phillips, medical director for Ambulatory Quality and Safety and chairman of the board for Cook Children’s Physician Network (CCPN).

Along with Dr. Phillips, the committee includes:

  • Michelle Marcincuk, medical director of ENT, secretary of the committee
  • Julee Morrow, M.D., primary care physician and vice chair for Primary Care
  • Deborah Schutte, M.D., medical director of Cardiology
  • Bianka Soria-Olmos, D.O., primary care physician and medical advisor of Digital Health

Their roles involve managing agendas, serving as the touchpoint for physicians and partnering with the CCPN administrative leadership team.

As the first female primary care doctor to serve as chairman of the board, Dr. Phillips said one of the biggest challenges of being a woman in health care can be work/life balance.

Dr. Morrow, who came to town in 1987 when only six women served as pediatricians in the area, agrees with Dr. Phillips and credits her husband with empowering her to be successful.

“My husband took care of our kids when being ‘Mr. Mom’ wasn’t a common thing,” Dr. Morrow said. “It allowed me to put a lot of energy and time into building a strong practice.”

Dr. Morrow has seen many changes during her 35 years at Cook Children’s, including all the new facilities being built. She said the staff is standing on dedicated and hardworking pediatricians and specialists who set the groundwork for what Cook Children’s is today.

As vice chair of Primary Care Physicians for CCPN and vice chair of Cook Children’s Health Plan, Dr. Morrow said she has enjoyed the all-women executive committee which brings a different perspective to the table for understanding what pediatrics has become – a female dominant specialty.

“We are all moms and understand what it takes to keep all the balls in the air,” Dr. Morrow said. “So many women work at Cook Children’s from the top down and it’s amazing what a strong and caring group we have. It is one of the things that makes us a organization.”

Fostering Leaders 
As the youngest physician on the executive committee, Dr. Bianka Soria-Olmos has built leadership skills while taking part in mentoring opportunities.

“What better way to foster good leaders than to have someone younger learn the ropes,” said Dr. Soria-Olmos, who serves as the treasurer and leads the practice management committee.

She started as a hospitalist in 2014 which she said gave her a good foundation and helped her to gain independence in working with specialists. In 2018, she took a private practice opportunity with Cook Children’s Pediatrics Haslet. She offers representation of the perspective of a younger physician whose needs are different from those who have been in their career for many years.

“There has been active recruitment of physicians that are early in their career and I am proud and fortunate to represent them on the board,” Dr. Soria-Olmos said.

She said the physician-led executive committee ensures physicians remain represented so doctors still have autonomy and reasoning – why many physicians want to practice at Cook Children’s.

With physicians’ best interests at the forefront, Dr. Schutte serves on the board for a second term and brings several years of experience in the wellbeing of physicians.

Dr. Schutte, who has been at Cook Children’s for 20 years, attended the TCU Advancing Health care Leadership Class where she was put into a group with the task to address physician burnout. The group researched what has been accomplished at other medical centers. After presenting to leadership and getting approval to invest in physicians’ wellness, they identified the need to streamline workflow and reduce documentation. The committee also made plans for a physician breakroom which has been a place for physicians to gather and connect with colleagues.

Tough Decisions with the Best Intentions

The executive committee is often faced with making difficult decisions that affect the entire system. It is one aspect of the role that Dr. Marcincuk said is taken very seriously. Dr. Marcincuk has been at Cook Children’s for nearly 20 years, on the board for a second term and serves as secretary of the committee.

“Steering the ship is exciting,” Dr. Marcincuk said. “Sometimes you have to make hard decisions, and not everyone will be in favor of it. But we always have everyone’s best intentions in mind. No decision is made light heartedly.”

Dr. Phillips echoes that sentiment and said, “One of the biggest tasks for the board is how to provide the staff with equitable salaries and take good care of all employees.”

Dr. Schutte said taking a deeper dive into issues and being part of the solution to problems has been a benefit of her role on the committee.

“The women on our committee are go getters and it has been a pleasure to work with them. Everyone is well rounded and balanced in their thinking,” Dr. Schutte said.

Resiliency During an Ever-Changing Pandemic
The most rewarding part of serving on the board for Dr. Phillips relates to the pandemic. Dr. Phillips along with a collaboration of doctors, created a letter which was sent to area school boards in support of COVID safety protocols at area schools.

More than 250 physicians signed the letter which helped school boards have the courage to enforce those protocols.

 “We took great pride in working together,” Dr. Phillips said. “If the letter helped to prevent community illness and save even one life, it was worth it. No one can escape the challenges COVID-19 presented. We constantly pivoted and responded to ever-changing circumstances. It uniquely brought us together as an organization to focus commonly on how to best take care of our patients. It has proven everyone’s resiliency.”

Dr. Marcincuk said one of the challenges that presented during COVID was communication – explaining the reason for some hard decisions and that they had good rationale behind everything.

To open lines of communication, Dr. Phillips started a weekly coffee talk which brought together all primary care physicians on Zoom to discuss best practices to handle COVID-19, staffing and logistical issues. This innovative communication platform continues and is now led by Dr. Morrow with a similar specialty program led by Dr. Schutte.

“We continue to try to nurture those relationships through the coffee talk in addition to mentorship and the doctor society,” Dr. Morrow said.

The Spanish version of Checkup Newsroom which launched in 2019 provided a much-needed resource for the Spanish speaking audience during the pandemic.

“At the time, it was very COVID-driven,” Dr. Soria-Olmos said. “I am an advocate for the importance of making evidence-based medical information accessible to families in their native language. As a medical expert contributor and in my new leadership role as co-medical advisor of Digital Health, I continue to work diligently to help expand the information available in both versions of Cook Children’s Checkup Newsroom.”

All for the Kids
The group of five women always have one goal in mind – to make the decision that will ultimately have a positive impact on the patients/

“It is such a privilege to take care of little kids – ones who have nowhere to turn and need our help. It is the most rewarding job to continue to provide the best care possible for them,” Dr. Marcincuk said.

Dr. Schutte couldn’t agree more and adds that the culture at Cook Children’s is one of respect.

“At the end of the day, we want to be sure whatever decision we make is in the best interest of the patients we serve. It has been a pleasure to work in an environment where the administration values the input of physicians to the degree they do at Cook Children’s,” Dr. Schutte said.