10:30 AM

Peak Performers: First Quarter (October-December 2022)

Celebrate Our Peak Performers

Please join together to congratulate all Peak Performers for the first quarter of the 2022-23 fiscal year who have provided outstanding service, safety and quality across Cook Children’s Health Care System.

To nominate an employee that is committed to providing above and beyond service, safety and quality in their work, please see nomination examples and requirements here.

Want to send a special congratulations to any of these winners? You can easily do so with one of our Ecards that are available here.* Note: you must be connected to the network to access this page.

Here are Peak Performer recipients for October to December 2022 and what the people who nominated the teams and individuals for recognition had to say. 


Leslie Sidnez, Supervisor, Patient Access Services, Rehabilitation Administration

LESLIE SIDNEZ Photo​As Leslie's direct manager, I would like to acknowledge and recognize her for the level of dedication and commitment she has not only to Cook Children's, but to her department in rehab services. Unfortunately, due to the recent changes in workforce that we are all experiencing, Leslie lost three of her patient access leads at our various locations within a two-week time period. The losses were not unexpected, however, it was not expected they would all leave in such a short time frame.  During this period, Leslie has not missed a beat. She has taken over the financial support and preparation for all of our locations, which was previously a shared responsibility between three leads. This job responsibility ensures our financial success and that authorizations are in place, our therapy orders are current for licensure and compliance purposes, and that we are accurately collecting on all accounts. She has ensured that all of our accounts have been reviewed and has delegated responsibilities to line staff.   

​Leslie has supported and maintained the morale of all of our patient access services positions in all locations. Moving forward, she will be organizing and training all three leads in a systematic way that allows for the continued success of our department. Leslie has been a one-woman show for the past few months and she has done so with an upbeat and positive attitude. She has worked collaboratively with me during this time to find time to attend interviews and give her objective feedback.  Leslie has insisted that we find the right people for the job and understands that it takes time to find the ideal candidate who supports and represents our shared values with regard to customer service. Leslie’s level of maturity and steadfast work ethic have given me even more respect for her dedication to Cook Children's and the children we serve. She has successfully managed to keep four position responsibilities afloat without being short-tempered, frustrated, or negative. She has been an example to those who report directly to her and for those that manage her as well.  Thank you, Leslie for all you have done and continue to do on a daily basis for Rehab Services.  


Stephen Triggs, Radiographer, Radiology Diagnostic

STEPHEN TRIGGS, RT PhotoStephen is vital on evenings helping in the operating room (OR) and radiology team. I received an email from a physician’s assistant in OR who shared she has worked with Stephen for the last few years, usually on orthopedic trauma cases such as open reduction internal fixations and closed reductions of various fractures. He has a friendly and easygoing personality in the OR, and it's clear he's well-versed in skeletal radiography. Stephen is attentive to direction and knowledgeable about extremity positioning to obtain proper films. He is mindful of radiation to other members of the team, and the patient. What's impressed her more than his skills as a radiographer is his initiative to step in and help other team members. He helps gown the surgical team if the circulating nurse is busy, gathers appropriate splinting and casting materials, and holds an extremity while I cast if we are short on staff. He is always willing to lend a hand, and does so without being asked. Possessing the knowledge to recognize a need in the operating room, and motivation to help is not universal.

​Stephen has been with Cook Children’s for over 20 years. He has graciously given his time and dedication to this place. He is always there when you need an extra hand. In between cases in the OR, he always makes a point to come back down to the department and help out, including taking patients back or picking up a couple of exams to complete. This is something that no surgery tech before him has done, and is also a great example of his character and work ethic. No one can question his love for his patients and his team. Recently, our night shift has been incredibly short staffed. On multiple occasions Stephen has stepped up to stay late and help out, sometimes staying hours beyond his normal scheduled time. His commitment to Cook Children’s, the patients and employees around him are a great example to us all. 

Cassandra Wallace, Specialty Clinic Registered Nurse, Hematology and Oncology Clinic

CASSANDRA WALLACE, BSN, RN Photo​Cassandra has been a crucial asset to our hematology team as well as our entire hematology and oncology (H/O) clinic as a whole. From the moment I met Cassandra, I knew she absolutely strived for excellence. You can see it in the way she spends time with families, works within our team, collaborates with our physicians, and in every other aspect she completes for her work. The first example I can provide is when Cassandra trained me as a new hire, almost one year ago. She welcomed me into the department with open arms and taught me all that there is to know about the hematology world. Cassandra is incredibly knowledgeable and showed me everything I needed to know in order to be successful in this role. When I came into my role we were quite short-staffed as a clinic, and there was not a day I can remember when Cassandra was doing only the bare minimum. She is continually helping out staff, whether working in infusion, driving to our Grapevine clinic, or assisting in procedures, all while continuing to complete her day-to-day tasks. I am amazed by her ability to seamlessly flow from one area of clinic to the next, all while providing the highest quality of care to our patients and families. What made the biggest impact on me, though, has been her continual positive attitude and genuine enjoyment for what we get to do each day.

Recently, Cassandra was getting ready to head home for the day when a situation arose with a parent who had a lot of questions and concerns about their child's care. Cassandra took the time to talk to this mom on the phone for 30 to 45 minutes. She educated the mother, comforted her, listened to her concerns, and explained the care plan as well as the reasoning behind it. This situation easily could've been incredibly difficult but because Cassandra was understanding and empathetic, this mother felt heard and was truly appreciative of what was done for her and her child. Cassandra went above and beyond by staying late that day to make sure that our patients and families were receiving the highest level of care.

Cassandra is an integral part of our clinic and work would not be the same without her. Even as I have settled into my role and we have welcomed newer members to our team, Cassandra is always willing to train, precept, and represent the culture that Cook Children's is proud of. It has truly been an honor and a joy to learn from Cassandra and implement her attitude, teamwork, leadership, service, and kindness into my own work. 

Monica Aguilar, Physician Network Medical Assistant, Burleson Primary Care   

MONICA A., NRCMA PhotoMonica is amazing. She always has a happy smile on her face and is always willing to go above and beyond to help with the nurses or the front desk. One busy Monday she was helping her provider and noticed another provider was running behind. Monica helped to room that provider in order to keep the morning running smoothly. Monica is always trying to find ways to help her coworkers.

​Monica is great at giving vaccinations. We are always asking her what her secret is because I don’t think I have ever seen a patient cry after leaving her room. She is always able to help make the patient experience a little less scary and parents are very grateful. 




Cesilia Banderas, Physician Network Medical Assistant, Lewisville Castle Hills Primary Care

CESILIA B., MA Photo​Cesilia is an amazing medical assistant who has worked with us since the beginning of the pandemic. During a challenging time of maintaining staff, she has diligently worked to make sure our office had clinical staff coverage. At one point she was the only clinical staff member in the office and still managed to cover both physicians’ practices. She is always smiling and always willing to pitch in and cover her peers. As a relatively new medical assistant she has become a leader in our practice.

​Cesilia's compassion for sick children is heartwarming and her ability to calm frightened children is truly a gift. One day I heard a child crying because he was afraid of getting vaccines and I heard her calmly say "It is ok. I know what it is like to be scared but I promise I'll stay with you and we can be brave together." It was so lovely. Her compassion is something I witness daily. There are so many examples of her kindness and empathy. Our patients and staff cherish her. Her quiet, unassuming demeanor, her constant smile, her readiness to lend a hand to her patients and peers are all ways that she embodies the Cook Children’s Promise.




Ana Barboza, Specialty Clinic Patient Service Scheduler, Orthopedic Clinic

ANA BARBOZA Photo​Ana is very knowledgeable of her position. She is respectful to everyone she works with, including team members, providers, and patients. Ana goes beyond expected patient care as she sometimes works on the weekend to ensure parents can get their child scheduled for surgery. She also helps to get parents the information they need for financial assistance and answers all their questions. Ana is a team player, always helping out as much as she can, not only for her department but for other departments. 

When working with a parent who wants to discuss their child’s plan, Ana does not rush. She patiently listens before informing them of their provider’s plan and what to expect. Working weekends is not in her job description but Ana still comes in because she understands the difficulty of working parents who need to schedule appointments on workdays. Ana collaborates with everyone -- nurses, providers and other coworkers -- and is a helping hand whenever something arises. She was recently asked to help in a different department for scheduling surgeries because they were short staffed. She was happy to help and is still helping that department. We are very lucky to have Ana on our team.



Debra Cohoon, Physician Network Clinical Coordinator, Heritage Primary Care

DEBRA C. PhotoDebra joined our team as a Medical Assistant and within one month found herself as the clinical coordinator at Cook Children's Heritage. Even though it was her first time in this leadership role, she has seamlessly taken over the lead for our clinic. She knows exactly how to talk to our clinical staff because she was in their shoes just months ago. Debora pushes people to be their best, encourages them and allows each of their strengths to shine. She has earned the respect of our staff and really helped our clinic during a tumultuous time create the stability we needed.

Debra is the queen of knowing exactly what every staff member needs to help lift them up. Whether it is birthday surprises, popcorn, sweet treats, kind words or celebratory balloons celebrate, she selflessly spends her money, time and effort to ensure that everyone feels loved. Debra encourages collaboration, connection and teamwork. If this is not what defines Cook Children’s culture, I don't know what is.




Mary Kistner, Nurse Practitioner/Physician Assistant – Fort Worth Urgent Care Center

MARY KISTNER, RN, CPNP-PC Photo​Mary is a phenomenal Nurse Practitioner with superb clinical skills and a wonderful bedside manner. Her ability to work under pressure is amazing. We had a patient visit our Fort Worth Urgent Care Center when Mary walked into a room  andfound an unresponsive child with significant medical challenges. When another Advanced Practice Provider (APP) notified me of this sick patient, I raced to the back and when I arrived Mary had already placed the patient on monitoring, performed necessary checks, administered medication and had an IV being attempted. Emergency Services had already been called. When I arrived, she concisely gave me the overview of the patient and her clinical impression. She then proceeded to calmly and competently manage the rest of the patient's encounter while asking for feedback and input from the team in the room as we awaited an emergency crew. As the patient's clinical status decompensated after the arrival of the crew, she immediately lept back into action so that the patient would be able to be transported.  I was truly impressed at her complete command yet calming presence over the situation. This is exactly what we are taught in training but is difficult to put into practice. 

​Mary is a team player and she has a special love for our underserved patient population. Despite living almost 2 hours away, the Fort Worth Urgent Care Center is her preferred location to work. When she has to work the closing shifts, she often gets a hotel room to avoid driving such a long way late at night.

When Mary is on shift, she is selfless and the greatest team player. Without being asked, Mary will volunteer to run a fast track that causes her to see double the number of patients of her peers, which means she has to complete double the number of notes. She prefers this because she knows that it prevents patients from leaving without being seen, decreases the wait time for those patients and families, and allows us to further help the Emergency Department by seeing lower acuity patients in the UCC. You will also find Mary discharging her own patients, cleaning rooms, restocking rooms, rooming patients and helping out her coworkers whenever needed. She does not shy away from emergencies and will jump in and help every single time if help is needed. 

Katherine O'Bryan, Clinical Dietitian II, Physician Network Nutrition Endocrinology

KATHERINE O'BRYAN, MS, RD, LD PhotoKathy has gone above and beyond her job responsibilities in the Endocrine clinic to help members of our team. For months, she has helped out another nutrition department that has struggled with being short staffed. She took it upon herself to help the dietitians in our gastroenterology clinic by checking the voicemails of 4 phones in the mornings every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Kathy may spend up to 90 minutes in the morning checking voicemails and relaying messages to our team to help get their day organized before she even starts organizing her own day. This selfless act is a true demonstration of teamwork.

Even on her days off, Kathy remains dedicated to her team members. She sets her alarm to wake up before her nearly one-year-old son, so she can check the voicemails and relay those messages before he wakes up.

Dr. Sani Roy in Endocrinology praised the positive evaluation comments from a recent endocrine conference for primary care providers at which Kathy presented on Prader-Willi syndrome. She did a fantastic job on that presentation and she also gave a presentation to endocrine doctors and nurses at Cook Children’s and UT Southwestern on refeeding syndrome. She is not only knowledgeable, but also hard-working, reliable and incredibly proactive. She is a fantastic addition to the Endocrine Department and does a wonderful job caring for our patients, especially those with Prader-Willi syndrome.

Kathy continues to seek out opportunities to help our team/department out whenever she can. We are very lucky to have her on our team.

Christina Reed, director, Practice Operations, Neighborhood Clinic Administration

CHRISTINA REED, LMSW Photo​Christina has been an incredible resource and navigator as we have pursued the implementation of behavioral health therapists into our Primary Care Physician (PCP) offices. This was a Cook Children’s Physician Network goal and with her experience of rolling out a similar model in the Neighborhood Clinics she was more than willing to share with our team how best to implement. She participated in and often led the discussion about the creation of a referral order and workflow for PCP therapists. She also helped with recruitment as she is a licensed clinical social worker by background. She also created the new job description that better aligned with the therapists in the NHCs and PCP offices.

​Christina has continued to be supportive of these efforts through the implementation by meeting with the PCPs prior to go-live and helping to address workflow or referral questions. She also created an Integrated Behavioral Health Quick Reference Guide for the physicians and other team members to use as an ongoing guide to referrals. We could not have moved this project along as swiftly as we did without her. This will allow us to increase access to behavioral health to patients.



Amy Speaker, LVN, Urgent Care Centers, Prosper Urgent Care Center

AMY SPEAKER, LVN Photo​Amy is a Licensed Vocational Nurse at our Prosper Urgent Care Center. Amy volunteered to single-handedly set up our medication room and get it moved to its new location within the Urgent Care Center. She spent her own time searching for the right storage unit to work the best and made sure it all was completed as quickly as possible. She still oversees all the medication lists, expirations and medicine ordering lists for the Urgent Care Center. She volunteered her time for this massive project and did an amazing job.

​Amy enjoys being the preceptor for our new employees. She truly does her best to make sure they learn the ropes and feel like part of the family. She volunteers to train each time we hire someone new. She is flexible with her schedule and works a lot of extra shifts in order to help the clinic maintain a steady flow to keep the Urgent Care Center the go-to place for families in the area. She is proud of her work and it shows with every patient. She also tells everyone that Cook Children’s is an amazing place to work. 




Chasity Taylor, Front Office Lead, Walsh Primary Care

CHASITY TAYLOR PhotoSince Chasity started at our clinic, she has been a joy to work with. She has a very positive attitude and always goes above and beyond to help the patients. Chasity has a way with families and knows how to help them. Always a team player, she will help room patients if she knows they have been waiting a long time, even though that is not even in her job description. She likes to find solutions for issues that arise around the clinic and does so in a timely manner. She has great follow-through with the most simple of tasks to the most difficult. If Chasity doesn't have an answer she always finds one. We are happy to have her as our team lead and can't wait to see her potential and growth. She is a true leader. Patients always have great things to say about her. Even with her impact at the front, people always remember her kindness.

Chasity has been critical in keeping our patients and staff safe as she always follows protocols and encourages safety all around. When she is concerned about something, she takes initiative to look into it and resolve the issue without being told. Chasity is a great asset to our clinic and we love her drive, energy and problem-solving attitude.



Devin Windham, Nurse Practitioner, Physician Assistant – Urgent Care Centers, Cook Children’s Physician Network, Fort Worth Urgent Care Center

DEVIN WINDHAM, MSN, CPNP-PC Photo​Devin is one of our most skilled and fastest Advanced Practice Providers (APP) in the Urgent Care clinics and is always flexible and willing to help fill in the gaps. He will shift to any clinic where he is needed and picks up extra shifts often to help his coworkers. Dylan often sees more patients than all of us while on shift, while providing excellent, patient centered care. There was one day when his wife and child were sick and he had to call in to take care of his child because his wife could not. He felt so bad about calling in and the impact that would have on his coworkers that he offered to pick up a nighttime shift at Fort Worth Urgent Care Center later, despite having already working multiple of those shifts that month already. Those are very difficult, very busy closing shifts that often go until 2 or 3 a.m., and he volunteered to work, going above and beyond to provide coverage. This greatly impacted our team. 

Devin also picked up an extra half shift to help at the Fort Worth Urgent Care Center, and as I was coming on my shift, he was leaving. Before he left, he notified me that there was a very sick patient that had an altered mental status being treated by another APP. He stuck around and noticed that we were having difficulty starting an IV on this patient. He came into the room and mentioned that he used to be on the IV team and asked if we would like help. We took him up on his offer and he was able to get a much needed line in the patient that allowed us to give the necessary injection quickly before emergency services could arrive.



Marion D. Brantley, Manager, EPIC Principal Training, Information Services - EPIC

MARION BRANTLEY Photo​Marion has worked for the Cook Children’s for decades and became the manager of the Epic Training Team several years ago.  Marion spends time with each member of her team and is willing to take on whatever she can do to help that employee excel. As one of Marion’s direct reports, she has stepped up to train my classes on a moment's notice, saving new employees from having to postpone training. Her innovative leadership helped me to create Computer Based Learning (CBL) to enhance new workflow education and create a CBL tip sheet to quickly distribute last-minute workflow changes due to Epic. Marion has provided pep talks when I've felt at my lowest, which has provided me the motivation to keep going. Her supportive and professional guidance has served as an example of the type of employee I want to be.

For my team, Marion has arranged team-wide training on topics like captivate, advanced PowerPoint and excel skills to provide opportunities for connection and improvement. Marion facilitated workshops for training teams to familiarize with the rebuild and encouraged a family-like community among our staff that has provided a safe, positive, optimistic work environment. She advocates for the needs of her staff, promoting growth opportunities for her staff to expand their knowledge and expertise.

Although the Training Team has had high turnover since the pandemic, more than half of her current and former direct reports describe her as the best manager they have ever had. She is not willing to ask anything of her staff that she would not personally do in a heartbeat. Rather than being purely transactional, she makes her employees feel like human beings, which is surprisingly refreshing. Marion helps reminds us of why we are here, and why Cook Children's Promise is so important.  She has been transformational for the Training Team, and I hope Cook Children’s is able to recognize how valuable she is.

Rebecca Cabello, Payroll Specialist, Payroll

REBECCA CABELLO PhotoBecca is a superstar in the Payroll Department, with her positive attitude and her fun, outgoing personality. She is one of our resident holiday decorators and makes us shine like a star every holiday with her decorating skills! Becca is loved by her peers from all the departments she interacts with. Her enthusiasm and friendliness bring a warmth to everyone she encounters and talks to. She has exceptional customer service skills and tries to empathize with our employees while educating them on how to get their payroll issues resolved. She goes above and beyond on all employee calls and emails, and always puts their needs first. Becca receives kudos from many employees that she assists. Becca is a joy to work with and uplifts our department moral by bringing us baked treats. But she mostly brightens our day with just her presence. We are truly blessed to have her as part of this fabulous Payroll team.

A manager found an error on an employee timecard and reached out to get it fixed before the pay cut-off date. Even before her workday had begun, Rebecca was friendly and accommodating to get the error fixed in time to get the correction made on the employee’s next paycheck. She is very detail oriented and thorough in her work; it is important to Becca to make sure that employees are paid accurately. She volunteers for additional duties when needed and does what it takes to get the job done.



Blair Chappell, Marketing Specialist, Strategic Marketing & Communications

CAMILLA "Blair" CHAPPELL PhotoBlair joined the Cook Children's marketing team in November of 2021. She has brought so much energy and light to the department. She has worked tirelessly to support her partners throughout the system. In September she was asked to head up brand launch events for the system in early November. Even knowing this would be a massive undertaking, she jumped right on it and started organizing key staff to assist. Blair, along with that team, started contacting vendors that would be needed for supplies, worked with our design team to ensure all materials were designed, sent to print and arrived back in time. She worked with our in-house catering staff on the food to be served for the launch event on the main campus and with an outside vendor for food for the event at Calmont. Blair coordinated all the volunteers to man the giveaway tables for each event.  On the day of both events, at the main campus and at Calmont, Blair had all details lined out and although there were some minor hiccups out of her control (vendors being late, staff coming out early, video not working at Calmont), she handled it all in stride and made it all come together.

​For a third event for the ribbon cutting in Prosper, Blair worked closely with Laura Van Hoosier (who handled most of the organizing of the event) to ensure it went smoothly.  Blair ensured all giveaway items were sent up to Prosper, loaded up display items and coordinated all volunteers to man the tables. On the day of the event, she ensured all tables were ready and assisted Laura in last minute items.

Blair exemplifies our core values and commitments for our entire system.  I know she will say she couldn't have done it without the help of the rest of the marketing team, but the execution is only as good as the planning. So without her extensive planning and attention to detail, we would not have been able to pull off such great events for our staff.  


Brenda Crawford, Manager, Business Development, Global Health Services

BRENDA CRAWFORD, BSN, RN Photo​What is the definition of a road warrior? Brenda Crawford! During a 60-day period, Brenda represented Cook Children's at conferences and around the globe over 20 days -- and she is not done yet! Brenda goes above and beyond to ensure Cook Children's is portrayed as the world class institution that it is. Her partnership with specialists to deliver on our message, and ultimately our Promise, is unparalleled. I have lost count on the number of contacts she has made for Global Health Services at the last 6 conferences, meetings and trips she has made. Brenda is truly a gift for Cook Children's.

​Relationships, no matter in what setting, are so important. You can never underestimate the power of face-to-face contact in today's Zoom world. That's why it takes dedication, time and energy to get out and meet our new referring physicians. Brenda has recently been to Louisiana to visit former referring physicians and new ones. Her visits not only get Cook Children’s recurring business, but it keeps us top of mind. Patient families are smart as they research and shop around and our referring physicians always remember those people who have great follow-up on their patients. Brenda ensures she brings her "game" every time she goes out on the road. 




Shayla Grelle, Senior Physician Liaison – Cook Children’s Health Care System, Strategic Marketing and Communications/Business Development

SHAYLA GRELLE, RN, BSN, CDE PhotoShayla is genuinely one of the kindest people I have ever had the pleasure of working with and definitely has a servant's, heart exemplifying Cook Children's mission and values. Our Business Development team does so much more than people realize. Shayla and her team are constantly looking at ways to improve efficiencies in workflow and communications between referring providers and our specialty clinics. One of our regional clinics was having issues with labs being done at an outside facility. Shayla set up meetings between that facility and myself and we identified and implemented an improved process that corrected the problem. Shayla facilitated all of the meetings and was on hand to help.  The meetings were very positive and productive.  Her knowledge of the other facility and how they work as well has having great working relationships with that facility was extremely helpful.   This may seem like a small accomplishment to some but to a pediatric patient, avoiding a second poke for lab is HUGE.    

​Shayla is always willing to jump in and help in any way possible including assisting with picking up and dropping off traveling providers to our regional clinics when we have been short staffed.  Shayla excels in is making us feel like we are all on one team and not 2 departments working side by side on a project. Her focus is always the patient and advocating for them to get them to be taken care of in the best way possible. It is a sincere pleasure to work with her and she is a great asset to Cook Children's. ​



Gayle Harris, Director, Business Applications, Information Services

GAYLE HARRIS PhotoI've worked in the information technology industry for well over 20 years. Most of that has been with various health care organizations. Gayle is the first individual in a leadership role in which I've worked for that strives for perfection and clearly states her expectations but remains grounded. She has a strong relationship with her subordinates, which gives us the initiative to work harder and to remain on her team. On numerous occasions, she has been on calls after business hours to help resolve errors that have been a high impact. She encourages resolving issues, refrains from blaming anyone, and helps develop a plan to avoid future issues. Gayle leads by example. She is in the trenches with us. Most of all, she values the hard work and opinions of her subordinates. She cares about the future of Cook Children's.

​Gayle has led many significant projects, such as OnBase, CBord, Kronos, Lawson, and Workday. Because of her leadership and support, these projects have been successful. During the COVID pandemic, her team completed numerous projects that were current and back-logged. She leads and supports applications that work behind the scenes, without which the organization could not function. She remains positive even when things seem incredibly difficult and encourages her team to express their ideas and to work independently. I go the extra mile because of Gayle. I don't want to let her down. She is one reason I do what I do!



Merari Hernandez, Clerk, Community Health, Child Oral Health

MERARI HERNANDEZ Photo​Merari is the clerk for the Center for Children's Health Oral Health team, which includes the Children's Oral Health Coalition (COHC) and Save a Smile program. Over the past few months, she has shown initiative and improved several processes for both programs. One of her tasks is entering data collected at our 21 Save a Smile school-based dental screenings. Over the summer, Merari took it upon herself to attend an Excel class so that she could be better prepared for screenings (and other aspects of her work). With this skill, she single-handedly prepared the screening spreadsheet -- a list of over 10,000 students with data, including name, grade, teacher, school, and other information. Merari compiled this with careful attention to accuracy, privacy and security. 

At the screening events, she carefully records the results of each child's dental screening. She arrives to each school on time and completely prepared. She even brings her own table so that she can position herself near the team, which sounds minor but really helps save time. Occasionally there is a piece of student information missing, and she professionally works with the school office to obtain the missing data before we even leave the school. In the past it often took much longer to obtain this information. This results in a complete, accurate screening result summary for each school. 

This year, Merari began emailing these summaries to team leadership, who in turn shares the information with each school. Once the results are collected, they are entered into Track Via, our data collection program. With Merari's improved processes, this information is uploaded faster than ever before. The bottom line is that this enables our team to make contact with families much sooner, so that students who are in pain and dealing with severe dental disease can potentially have their dental needs addressed much sooner. Because of the processes improved this year as a result of her initiative and dedication, we can connect the dots and connect children and their families with the care and support that they need to be free of pain and on their way to improved oral and overall health.

During the time screenings were occurring (21 screening events over 8 weeks!), she was also working to improve processes for COHC. Merari took on a new role of recording oral health resources distributed by the Coalition. This involved scheduling time with our evaluation team to learn the record-keeping process in Track Via. Once she learned the system, she began entering records of oral health resources and education shared by the Coalition. This has helped provide an accurate measure of the impact and scope of the Coalition's work. She also conducted a thorough inventory count of COHC materials. This provides us with an accurate view of supplies and materials on hand, which allows us to plan purchases to be better stewards of resources. She also managed requests for oral health kits (bags with age-appropriate oral health materials) from local schools. During this time frame she single-handedly assembled approximately 1,000 of these kits. She often delivered them to schools so that busy school nurses did not have to take time to travel to our location. 

What makes this impressive is that Merari accomplishes all of this working just 48 hours per pay period. She is exceptionally organized and accurate, a great communicator, and keeps all of her projects moving along towards deadlines. She has the best attitude and truly shows the heart of a teammate. We are fortunate that she supports us and we are honored to call her a friend and coworker. We believe that, day in and day out, she shows the spirit of a true Peak Performer. 

Domingo Martinez, Home Health Medical Receptionist II, Home Health Administration

DOMINGO MARTINEZ PhotoDomingo (Dom) is absolutely fantastic at helping others as a medical receptionist in Home Health Administration. He is incredibly responsive and has great, efficient communication skills. When I email the Home Health Administration team, he is the first to respond and typically does so in less than an hour, if not in minutes. This communication has been critical in helping my patients get the best care and parents are so grateful that he is there to bridge the gap between outpatient physical therapy and the Home Health department of Cook.

​Dom has repeatedly called families very soon after our email connection to confirm communications. He works diligently to get our patients in as soon as possible and is always polite and kind. I have heard families speaking with him on the phone (even near the end of his shift) and his patience with them is evident. He is just as responsive to the families as he is with his team. His kindness and customer service is above and beyond. He makes a huge difference in the lives of families and patients but he rarely gets to see the true impact his effort makes.




Chrystal Bryant, Case Manager/Health Plan, Population Health Management

CHRYSTAL BRYANT, RN, BSN PhotoChrystal Bryant is a maternity case manager that is a great resource to staff not only in the STAR/CHIP program of the health plan but to our STAR Kids program as well. If you
need a resource or have a question, she is a good person to call. During the winter, Crystal went out of her way to get her sorority sisters to donate money to help provide coats and cold weather clothes for the child of one of our Health Plan Members. Chrystal is instrumental with bringing problem solving suggestions to the table to make the maternity program more efficient and to have better communication with our outside providers.

​Chrystal intently monitors her high-risk maternity members but one sticks out in particular. After one of her members delivered, Chrystal continued to follow up with her per protocol with a phone call 5 days later. Chrystal immediately assessed that the member sounded as if she was in distress. The member complained of incision site pain and Chrystal got a sense that the member had labored breathing. After talking with the provider’s office Chrystal felt that this member couldn’t wait for a call back from the provider and took the initiative to arrange for the member to go a hospital and receive emergency treatment. This high-risk situation was quickly evaluated and the member’s treatment began. The member was told by an obstetric triage provider that she was in danger of having a stroke and thanked Crystal for noticing the signs. Without her advocacy and going above and beyond her day-to-day duties, this situation could have been a disaster. Chrystal is more than a maternity case manager. She uses her nursing judgement and maternity instincts every day to help members achieve optimal health.​



Krista Cowell, Nurse Manager Pediatric Intensive Care Unit/Medical-Surgical, Cook Children’s Medical Center-Prosper, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit

KRISTA COWELL, BSN, RN, CPN Photo​Krista has taken on the role of manager for both medical surgery and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in Prosper. This makes her responsible for 46 new Cook employees. She has done so in an extremely graceful and compassionate manner. Krista has been working countless hours dedicated to ensuring that all staff is properly oriented and supported throughout the process of opening a brand new medical center. She individualizes staff's needs and schedules, both in Prosper and while staff is orienting in Fort Worth. She is in Prosper every day working behind the scenes to ensure that staff has all of the necessary resources and training to be prepared for opening day. On top of that, she also manages to make herself accessible and available for staff questions. She is always thinking ahead and raising questions with the staff's best interest in mind, which will translate into a safer patient environment. She views herself as an equal rather than a superior and is willing to adapt to any role or situation on the unit to provide the best patient care. 

On top of opening a brand new facility, she believes in building teamwork and morale within her staff. She has built an inclusive and welcoming environment for her team. Just this week, she brought bagels for the unit and set up an elaborate hot chocolate bar in the staff lounge. She encourages open communication and further career development by allowing staff to continue educational classes during orientation. Krista also exemplifies this in her personal life, as she is currently obtaining a master’s degree in leadership and management. She makes herself available 24/7 to accommodate for both day and night shift, while also managing her life at home with her family and kids. It is a pleasure to have a manager who has a positive attitude and smile on her face when approaching her. Her ability to compartmentalize so many tasks, meetings, and staff needs throughout the time that has gone into opening this facility is inspiring and deserves to be recognized. Krista sets a higher standard and raises the bar for what every manager should strive to be. 


Joanna Jaime, Registered Respiratory Therapist, Respiratory Therapy

JOANNA JAIME, RRT PhotoJoanna is always willing to help her teammates, staying late to help the nurses with the ventilation patients. Even when her shift has passed, she stays extra time if needed. She sees the Cook Children’s Medical Center-Fort Worth as her home, not as her job. Joanna is a phenomenal team player with innovative ideas and a comprehensive knowledge of respiratory mechanics. She has everything that is needed to be a great leader.

Joanna is always willing to discuss cases with me to figure out a comprehensive plan for my ventilation patients. I highly enjoy looking at compliance curves with her, because there is so much to learn from her. Families always give wonderful feedback when they have her as their respiratory therapist. I am thankful for all I have learned from her in the past 4 years. She is always willing to show me all the ventilation features as I learn each function and discuss E:I ratios. Joanna takes her time to educate families. Her guidance and patience puts her team and families at ease. There aren’t enough words to describe what a great asset to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit until Joanna is.




Mary Myers, RN, Staff, 5 South Tower Surgical Trauma Unit

MARY MYERS, BSN, RN Photo​Mary is an outstanding nurse and leader. Part of 5 South Tower, a Surgical Trauma Unit, opened up recently and was staffed by current nurse residents. Mary stepped up to the plate to spend many nights there as a charge nurse. However, Mary was more than just a charge nurse to me and the other residents. Mary acted as a resource nurse, confidant, friend, professional mentor, and so much more. She took me under her wing and guided me through a lot of my firsts as a new graduate.

Mary’s selflessness, empathy, and compassion make her deserving of being named a Peak Performer. Her devotion to the Promise of Cook Children’s is displayed not only to colleagues, but also to patients and their families. One night my patient had become sick all over their IV dressing. I knew that I would need help redressing it since this patient had a lot of anxiety around their IV. Mary graciously came to help and lend an extra hand. The patient immediately began screaming, kicking, and crying, thus making their mom anxious. Mary was able to calm the patient down and help successfully redress the IV. It may seem like a simple task, but that interaction made such a difference in that patient experience. The patient continued to have a bit of anxiety regarding the IV, but thanks to Mary’s kindness and patience the patient realized the IV wasn’t so bad.​



Jillian Mitchell, Program Coordinator, Community Health, Child Safety

JILLIAN MITCHELL PhotoIn the year that Jillian had been on my team, I know her to go above and beyond with customer service. In our work in Child Safety, customers are not only families but community partners, as we work collaboratively toward shared injury prevention efforts. Jillian represents Cook Children’s extremely well in the way she interacts and follows up with partners and families.

Jillian has connected with new partners in Cook Children’s expanded service area, Collin County. These partners were willing to install 5 Cook Children’s Loaner Life Jacket Stations around their lake. Installation of the stations proved to be a challenge for them, so Jillian facilitated discussions between the manufacturer of the kits and the installers. After several attempts to install, Jillian realized they had manipulated some of the kits, in error. Jillian persevered and continued to support both entities to ensure frustrations didn’t rise and that the standard of quality was ultimately met. Knowing installation was time sensitive because of the potential for ground-freezing weather, she went above and beyond to transport extra parts of the loaner station kits to Collin County. They were grateful for her efforts to expedite the process and installed the kits immediately. As a culture champion, Jillian understands the value of relationships and that connections are key. She represents Cook Children’s in the highest of heights and we should all be so lucky to have her on our team.

Jillian was here for an event for her department before the holidays. While visiting with an old colleague in the Child Life department, Jillian heard we were doing our donation drive-thru the next day and offered to help. On a Saturday afternoon, Jillian volunteered her own time for several hours the next day to help with our donation drive thru.  She met families at their cars, helped unload donations and moved them to "Santa's Workshop." She truly went above and beyond to give her time during a busy holiday season. Jillian no longer works in the Child Life department but saw a need to serve and collaborate. These donations directly serve patients in the hospital at Christmas and throughout the year. We appreciated all of her help.

Kari C. Mcmillin, Home Health Physical Therapy Assistant, Nursing - Rehab

KARI MCMILLIN, PTA PhotoKari is an assistant physical therapist with the Rehab team. She has been with Cook Children’s Home Health for 10 years and continues to exceed expectations, not only in her high productivity, but also with her compassionate heart, strong work ethic, and eagerness to assist her colleagues by offering to cover patient care visits while her colleagues are on FMLA, vacation, or on PTO. Kari simply elevates the patient experience just by being herself.

Kari carries a max caseload for her Case-by-Case position and serves as a beacon of positivity for both her patients and her teammates. She is always willing to go above and beyond to achieve her personal and departmental goals. ​

Kari is beloved by her patients and their families, as evidenced by the following family compliment: “I have nothing but wonderful things to say about Kari. She is, of course, an amazing physical therapist, but I would expect that from any Cook Children's therapist. Kari goes above and beyond in that every time she sees my daughter, I can tell that she loves her. I can feel how she celebrates every victory and empathizes with her in her struggles. This is a special gift that I don’t see in others, and I’m so grateful to know Kari. In my daughter’s therapy journey, we don’t know her final destination— that is to say, we can’t possibly know what she will or won’t achieve. Kari makes me feel like every little gain is worth celebrating and reminds me that the value of her little life is not measured by her physical achievement. In short, our lives are better simply because Kari is in it.”

We are thankful to have Kari on our team.

Molly Mcnown, Health Plan Utilization Review-Occupational Therapy, Care Management Utilization

MOLLY MCNOWN PhotoSince starting with Cook Children’s Health Plan in 2019, Molly has been active in helping her colleagues navigate change and improve efficiency. One of Molly's super powers is being an Occupational Therapist (OT) and a second one is having a keen eye for improving processes. When Molly started at the Health Plan, she was active in outlining processes and procedures and made tip sheets lovingly called "Molly Sheets" that helped organize the complex nature of a therapy reviewer's workflow. During this time, her attention to detail helped both experienced and new reviewers with key job functions.

Fast forward to the spring and Molly found herself as the lone occupational therapist on the Utilization Management Therapy Review team. The nature of the job meant that there was more work than she could possibly do by herself and she had the added responsibility to help onboard two new OTs to the team. Their orientation overlapped but was not completely aligned in a way that she could teach both individuals the same information at the same time​. Thus, Molly had triple the responsibility of completing the OT reviews that required her attention as the OT expert as well as being the preceptor for the two newest OTs. Molly rallied and gave both teammates a thorough orientation. She answered countless questions with kindness and grace. She has continued to support their training and clarify information as new circumstances and processes change in real time.

Molly is a huge asset to the team as a kind, considerate, thoughtful person. She has exceptional organizational skills and the ability to teach others with respect and consideration.




Experience Ambassadors Team

Kim Spaulding and Stan Hall have only been in their new positions for 6 months, yet the impact they've made on patients, families and staff in the Emergency Department (ED) is huge. Their primary role is supporting the waiting room, and with a significant increase in volumes, they are in non-stop motion. They do so with a positive, engaged attitude and strong sense of purpose, even when the patient flow is non-stop. The positive feedback from the ED staff, such as "they make it possible for me to do my job" is evidence of the powerful role on the team.

Stan and Kim are paving new pathways with opportunities to improve the patient/family experience with dedicated waiting room volunteers, an art cart and additional furniture for patient and sibling activities, identification of processes to reduce wait times, and creation of standards for information sharing to reduce stress and anxiety. Their presence in the waiting room, as well as their rounding on families in rooms in the ED, continues to support the ED team experience by alleviating some of the stressors from overwhelming volumes.

Media Services Team

Reaching preeminence requires collaboration and in collaborating with Terry Wilder & Charles Mills in Media Services, Cook Children’s was able to do just that in displaying our employee safety work to over 100 pediatric hospitals in the US and Canada.

In October of 2022, Cook Children’s was asked to give a presentation at the Solutions for Patient Safety (SPS) Fall National Learning Session. SPS asked the clinical collaborative team to give a virtual hospital tour depicting our employee safety efforts. Our team immediately started brainstorming and had a long list of videos to film in a very short time frame, so we reached out to the Media Services Team for help, and they jumped at the opportunity to film our videos.

All in all, media services helped our clinical collaborative team film 17 videos for our presentation with leaders and frontline staff all over Cook Children’s Medical Center-Fort Worth. Any idea we had, they were willing to film, including drone footage of our safety team welcoming session attendees, scripted scenes of some rounding sessions, early morning stretches with team members, and a humorous blooper reel video. Throughout the process they were supportive of our ideas and did not get frustrated with changes or the amount of work we were asking of them. Many of the videos were interview format and required extensive editing to pare down to a comprehensive 2-3 minute segment. The blooper reel made our team and all the participants laugh and cry.

SPS leaders and the attendees were very impressed and complimentary of the presention. We received a ton of accolades and were even named SPS Hospital of the Month in November. It was an amazing opportunity to highlight all the work we have done at Cook Children’s, and it came out even better then we wanted it to. It would not have been possible without the help of Terry and Charles. Not only did they commit an extensive amount of time to this project on top of their existing duties, their expertise, imagination and creativity elevated the whole project to the next level. We cannot thank them enough for their help. Many of these videos can be used in the future to help share with our internal team members how dedicated our organization is to their safety, all the way through the Board level.

Terry and Charles also helped to film an instructional video for a new patient care process here at Cook. They showed up to the shoot on time to set up all their equipment. They adjusted the lighting tirelessly with perfection to ensure there were no shadows and the end result was a product we could utilize for staff training for a long time. They were patient when we requested to re-film or re-record sections, and they asked important questions that made us rethink our approach and improve the final product. It is stressful being on camera, but their calm, professional demeanor makes it easy and fun to work on projects with them. They are both a HUGE asset to the organization.

Sports Medicine Clinic Team

Often time the first step in elevating any patient's experience is setting expectations. For kids, a visit to the doctor can seem mysterious and scary. Now imagine having suffered an injury, remembering the pain of the event and knowing that you have to return to have a cast removed. Lexi Kennedy and Carolyn Snow help kids through this process every day.  

Lexi and Carolyn realized that educating patients on what to expect would help better prepare children for the experience, or even prompt them to look forward to their visit. Lexi and Carolyn coordinated with Media Services to produce an amazing video on cast removal. This tool is not only helpful to families but also part of new hire orientation for orthopedic staff. It is a great way to introduce new staff to the process as well as reinforce our commitment at Cook Children’s to seeing the world thru our patient’s eyes.