Meet: Elizabeth Leeper, Manager of Surgical Clinical Excellence
Celebrating Women's History Month at Cook Children's
By Ashley Antle
March is Women’s History Month. While the country commemorates the role of women in American History, at Cook Children’s Health Care System, we celebrate the role of women in building one of the largest free-standing pediatric health centers in the country.
After all, it was the vision and generosity of two women that started it all.
One, a former postmistress with few financial resources, Mrs. Ida L. Turner, dreamed of a place where fragile babies would be cared for regardless of their family’s ability to pay. Her vision and hard work led to the opening of the Fort Worth Free Baby Hospital in 1918.
The other was a wealthy heiress who wanted to honor her late husband by helping sick children. In 1929, Mrs. Missouri Matilda Nail Cook dedicated the oil royalties from the Cook Ranch to build the W.I. Cook Memorial Hospital.
Eventually, the two children’s hospitals became one and grew to be one of the finest pediatric medical institutions in the country with more than 1.5 million patient encounters every year.
Throughout our 105-year history, the women of Cook Children’s have championed children; nurtured the sick and hurting; led innovation in science, medicine and technology; and steered the business of health care with imagination, safety, generosity, kindness, respect and collaboration.
While these women number in the thousands throughout Cook Children’s history, this year, we’re highlighting a few who have made their mark in medicine. Each comes from different backgrounds, different specialties and different decades, but they all share two things — a passion for their work and the Promise to improve the well-being of every child in our care and our communities.
Elizabeth Leeper, MSN, RN, CNOR
Manager of Surgical Clinical Excellence
Years at Cook Children’s: 27
Elizabeth Leeper has been a staple in Cook Children’s surgery department since she began as an operating room nurse in 1996. Today, she is the manager of surgical clinical excellence, a role she pioneered in 2017 and built from the ground up. So far, she is the first and only one to hold the position.
Leeper and her team of three reviews every single surgical case at Cook Children’s Medical Center to monitor for quality and safety. It’s no small feat for her small department. Under Leeper’s leadership, their hard work earned Cook Children’s a Level I designation as a Children’s Surgery Verified program from the American College of Surgeons.
To achieve this designation, hospitals must meet a rigorous set of safety standards and demonstrate they have the resources needed to provide children with high-quality surgical care. There are only five pediatric hospitals in Texas that have this designation, and Cook Children’s was the first in North Texas to be named a Children’s Surgery Verified program in 2019.
“By the time I finished our application, it was over 100 pages,” Leeper said. “They look at basically any part of the hospital system that might potentially touch a patient, and want to know information about that. I had to gather information from the lab, pharmacy, radiology, transport, all our surgeons, administration … you name it. I'm in the middle of our renewal application right now, so I'm working on pulling that information together.”
Leeper doesn’t mind the endless information collection and review. She follows in the footsteps of her childhood inspiration and founder of modern professional nursing, Florence Nightingale, who also used statistics and data to improve health care as far back as the mid-1800s.
“I discovered how much of a data nerd I really am,” she said.
Today, Leeper draws inspiration for life and work from her daughter.
“We have an adult daughter with a really rare neuromuscular disease,” she explained. “She lives with us and is wheelchair-bound. Knowing that she gets up every day and watching her deal with what she has to deal with, I know that if she can do it, I can do whatever is before me.”
When the load gets heavy, Leeper leans on her faith and prayer to carry her through.
“Just being able to know that there is a God, and he does love us and that he takes care of us is an important part of my life,” she said. “I know that he's there even though, sometimes, it's hard to see.”