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Decades Interview with Paula Turner - Turicchi '88, FACHE

B.S., Business Administration, University of Arkansas, 1986
M.S., Health Care Administration, Trinity University, 1988
Administrator, Women & Infants Specialty Health, Parkland Health & Hospital System
Dallas, Texas

As a young Administrative Resident at Parkland Health & Hospital System, Paula Turner-Turicchi ’88, FACHE absorbed a sobering comment from her preceptor: Parkland does not hire residents and she should prepare to look for a position.  

Taking that intel to heart, Paula performed her responsibilities with an eye focused toward “securing strong recommendations for my next position from everyone I encountered.” Not surprisingly, her hard work and hustle paid off. Toward the end of her residency, her preceptor offered Paula a position as Administrative Director of Women’s and Children’s Services.  Ten years later, as Vice President, Paula left to raise a family.  

Despite the demands of parenthood, Paula remained active in the industry, consulting, writing grants and manuals, drafting policies and procedures, and preparing staff for Joint Commission surveys.

In 2006, when Parkland took over operation of the UT Southwestern Medical Center family planning clinics and needed help transitioning the business operations, they knew who to call. Starting back part-time initially, Paula eventually returned full-time as VP when her successor was promoted to Chief Nursing Officer. “I enjoy working at Parkland.” She explains, “because our mission is to serve patients who do not have access to services elsewhere. We operate one of the largest maternity services in the country with more than 10,000 deliveries each year and the largest OB/Gyn residency in the country. “

With more than 98 percent of Parkland’s patients covered by Medicaid, Paula faces the significant challenge of meeting high demand for care with limited resources.  She copes by staying abreast of the latest changes in federal, state, and local programs that cover services for women and children and working with colleagues to remove financial barriers to care and maximize funding from programs like Expanded Primary Care, Title X Family Planning, and Breast & Cervical Cancer Screening, among others.

Despite that formidable challenge, Paula derives great satisfaction from seeing patients return to her clinics for routine care. “We have created an excellent example of a medical home,” she says, “and I am proud of the fact that 95 percent of Parkland’s obstetrics patients receive prenatal care with an average of nine visits. More prenatal care and fewer barriers to care mean better clinical outcomes for our mothers and infants.”    

“The only way to achieve this success is through collaboration between clinical and business operations,” Paula continues, “and I am proud of the great working relationships that lead to our excellent results.”

Paula’s latest accomplishment is the design and construction of Parkland’s new years-in-the-making hospital, which became operational last August and features a state-of-the-art neonatal ICU that offers 96 private rooms.

Searching for new and creative ways to support her clinicians keeps Paula motivated. Most recently, she has been working on Network Access Improvements Projects that focus on outcomes-based payments rather than volume-based, fee-for-service care.

In addition to hospital operations, Paula has always been interested in the legislative aspects of health care. She has testified in Austin during the past few sessions on issues regarding access to family planning services, programs, and funding levels and their impact on state spending and population health.  Recognizing her expertise and commitment, the Texas Commissioner of Health & Human Services honored Paula in August with appointment as Chair of the Women’s Health Advisory Committee charged with providing input on consolidating several state health programs for women.

Reflecting on her career, Paula believes Trinity prepared her well. “The faculty offered a great mix of didactic study and exposure to experts who generously shared their real world experience,” she says. She also made life long friends and welcomes new connections. “I can always count on meeting a Trinity graduate at ACHE, THA, or other professional meetings.” Paula urges current students to listen to people at all levels of their organizations and combine metrics with observations. ”Going to the front line to see how things work is as important as watching your dashboard.”

Outside of work, Paula enjoys traveling and spending time with husband, Tom, and their two children. On the near-term horizon are campus visits with their college-bound son and Paula’s trip to Europe this summer with her daughter and her middle school class. Paula’s concern for the vulnerable population she serves extends to canines as well. Summers find the family providing a foster home for dogs through Golden Retriever Rescue of North Texas.


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