In the course of his 44-year career in health care administration, Robert Walker '72 FACHE has witnessed many changes in the industry. However, he says, “None have been more dramatic than what has been experienced in the last five years.” Although he declines to predict the future direction of the industry, he does think it will be interesting to see how the health care delivery model continues to evolve over the next 10-15 years. Still, he maintains, “Now is an exciting time for people just beginning their careers as they will be involved in helping develop a new foundation for the health care delivery model.”
Robert, who has spent his entire career in Dallas, began as an Administrative Resident at Parkland Memorial Hospital (now Parkland Hospital and Health System) and remained on staff afterwards handling various administrative responsibilities. In 1976, he accepted a position as Assistant Administrator at Doctor’s Hospital, a 220-bed medical/surgical facility where he was deeply involved in operations and the design and building of a replacement facility.
In 1979, he joined the staff at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children (TSRHC), known nationally for its expertise in pediatric orthopedics. There, his role evolved from Assistant Administrator, Administrator, Executive Vice President and Administrator to his present role as President/CEO, a position he has been honored to hold since 2012. Robert is extremely proud to be part of an organization that has impacted the lives of tens of thousands of children through its clinical care, research and teaching. He feels fortunate to be surrounded by a team of internationally renowned physicians and dedicated staff who have accomplished so much throughout the hospital’s 94-year history.
In 2007, TSRHC researchers identified the first gene -CHD7- associated with idiopathic scoliosis, and in 2011, the hospital’s Molecular Genetics research team identified two additional genes -CHL1 and DSCAM- that give new insight into the condition. TSRHC researchers also developed the TSRH® Spinal System, one of the most widely used implant systems for spinal deformity in the world. And, the hospital has trained more than 160 fellows through its pediatric orthopedic fellowship program, accounting for the training of more than 10 percent of all pediatric orthopedists in North America. Tachdjian’s Pediatric Orthopaedics, the pediatric orthopedic textbook used around the world, is written by the medical staff at TSRHC for the benefit of children throughout the world.
Although the industry has seen dramatic changes and challenges over the years, Robert says, “One great thing about working at Scottish Rite Hospital is that it puts my challenges into perspective. Many of our patients have major hurdles to overcome in their lives. Observing their positive attitude and spirit has helped me realize that most of my challenges are very minor in comparison. Most of my challenges, however, have transformed into great opportunities.”
Robert credits the strong foundation he received through Trinity’s HCAD program for his successful career. He believes the program’s growth and national prominence as a premiere program offers the Trinity HCAD graduate superior opportunities for career advancement. His advice to current HCAD students: “Always stay focused on the needs of the patient and community. It will require a major commitment of time and a fundamental understanding of the evolving delivery model.” He also notes that the ability to develop good personal relationships will be important and urges those entering the field to “be honest with yourself and others, respect the views of others, and treat others as you would want to be treated.”
Although a great deal of Robert’s time outside of work is devoted to supporting the hospital through masonry, he also enjoys running and has had the opportunity to run a number of marathons, including the Boston Marathon, which he has run three times. He enjoys running because “it always allows me to focus on something other than work.” He also loves the outdoors and enjoys riding his John Deere tractor and working cattle on his farm in East Texas.