Chief of Neonatology, Professor and Chair, UTMB Department of Pediatrics and Emergency Preparedness Officer.
Be prepared—continuing care with a plan for every emergency
Dr. Joan Richardson loves to make things grow. At her home in Galveston she has a garden, where she grows lettuce, tomatoes, beans, peas, and other vegetables. But her full-time job is caring for the tiniest babies—born premature and often barely clinging to life—at the newborn intensive care unit at UTMB.
“I think I’ve always wanted to be a physician, and the area I liked the most was pediatrics,” Richardson says. “When I first began my career in medicine, what I really enjoyed was taking care of small babies who were sick. I tend to get lassoed into doing administrative kinds of things, but I continue taking care of babies.”
Her administrative abilities were put to the ultimate test with the arrival of Hurricane Ike in 2008—a giant storm that delivered 110 m.p.h. winds, a 22-foot storm surge, and widespread coastal flooding. As the hurricane drew closer to the shores of Galveston, 60 small, sick, premature babies—many on life support—needed to be evacuated to a safe place. The organization and execution of this grand task was Richardson’s responsibility. “This required an incredible amount of specialized people and equipment,” she says. “But the main reason we were able to successfully transport every one of these babies was because we were prepared. We had agreements in place with neonatal intensive care units all over the state of Texas.”
The evacuation protocol developed by Dr. Richardson and her team became a model for how other hospitals will handle future emergencies. “As long as you prepare and you have a plan you’re okay. You always know that things will come up that are unexpected,” she says. “So you must have a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. You can’t prepare for everything, so sometimes you have to make things up as you go. You must be flexible and innovative and think on your feet.”
When the dust settles after every emergency, there is the aftermath to deal with. After the evacuation, and the hospital closed on Galveston Island, Richardson spearheaded efforts to keep pediatric services open on the Island. Following her own advice, Richardson continues to be a driving force for the growth and expansion of cutting edge care for babies and children. “Don’t quit, don’t ever give up. Follow your passions. Life is too short not to do that. Don’t get sidetracked and stay focused!”
Dr. Richardson shares thoughts on…
Women as Leaders
Leadership is really not gender specific. Although men and women tend to have somewhat different styles, the qualities of good leadership are generic. Leadership is all about character: trust trustworthiness, competence, knowledge, and skills.
Passion and Purpose
Leaders must enjoy being leaders. They must be focused on the meaningful accomplishments they can create and not on protecting their power and domain. They must have positive energy and attitude and be motivators, problem solvers, communicators, listeners, teachers, and mentors.
Accomplishing Goals and Vision
Communicate. Make decisions and do not procrastinate. Be accountable for your decisions. Practice what you preach and lead by example. Challenge people to think. Create an environment where it is safe to speak up. Ask questions, seek advice and counsel, seek and provide feedback. Understand the talents of your co-workers and utilize those talents to best accomplish the overall goals.
Biggest challenge now is to continue to grow and expand our services for children so that we can continue to provide high quality care and continue to provide cutting edge care to babies and children who are sick and need those services. W
From San Angelo Texas. Medical school in Galveston. College at UT.