Written by Emily A. Cheslock

The Texas Hospital Association’s Chair-Elect, Chris Durovich, is a leader at Children’s Health and in his Dallas community. In his new role for THA, he will help shape the health care landscape in Texas and across the nation.

Located in the heart of Dallas, Children’s Health is the eighth-largest pediatric health care provider in the nation. Chris Durovich has served as Children’s Health’s president and chief executive officer since 2003 – a notable statistic in an industry where the average tenure of a CEO is less than six years.

During this time, Children’s Health has experienced an expansive transformation. Today, the system comprises two full-service hospitals in both Dallas and Plano, a rehabilitation hospital, the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern, numerous specialty centers and urgent care locations, the Children’s Health Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, the Rees-Jones Center for Foster Care Excellence, groundbreaking telehealth services both in and out of schools, and the Children’s Health Care Network, a collaborative network of community health providers. As the highest-ranked pediatric provider in North Texas offering more than 50 specialty and subspecialty programs, Children’s Health provides compassionate, high-quality care to nearly 300,000 children each year.

“By investing in the health and wellness of children, we enable them to capture their dreams and fulfill their potential. We are helping them grow into contributing members of society,” Durovich said proudly. “Children are 25% of our population and 100% of our future — we are caring for the next generation of success in our communities, our state and our country.”

Friends and colleagues describe Chris Durovich as being passionate and determined when it comes to improving the health of children in Texas and leaving his community better than he found it. As he takes on the role of Chair of the Texas Hospital Association Board of Trustees in 2020, there is no doubt that he will use that passion and determination to guide the association through a time of change and growth and to ensure that THA remains focused on what matters most: helping hospitals help Texans.

A Commitment to Service

Durovich said he comes by his passion for caring for others honestly. Growing up, his mother served as the executive director of their community’s local Red Cross chapter. It was there that he began to develop both his ability and commitment to serving others. He fondly described that childhood experience as, “having box seats to see a cadre of volunteers doing wonderful work for families in the community.”

After completing his freshman year at The University of Vermont as a scholarship Army ROTC cadet, he embarked upon his first official health care role – returning to his hometown to work as an orderly at a 40-bed community hospital where he was responsible for his own panel of patients.

“I remember prepping patients for surgery and helping them learn to walk on crutches. That summer job turned into a four-year summer job. And that four-year summer job turned into a life-long profession,” said Durovich.

The position also led to another life-changing commitment, as the administrator of his community hospital was a retired Air Force Colonel. He was integral in helping Durovich become commissioned in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps. There, he served his country on active duty for six years, both in the United States and overseas.

“The patient care experience I had in my community and the opportunity to continue that growth and passion through military service is what really put me on the path to do what I’m doing now,” said Durovich. He humbly attributes his success to the fact that he has had opportunities to work with exceptional people at extraordinary places throughout his career. “All of these opportunities have been the best learning experiences that I could have asked for.”

Keys to Success

Now one of the most influential health care leaders in the state of Texas, Chris Durovich has served in leadership roles at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, The University of Michigan Health System, The Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Through these extensive health care experiences, Durovich still identifies patient care as the most important part of his job. “You have to treat patients as more than their diagnosis. That’s what will make you successful,” he said.

“Patients come into our hospitals, whether as adults or children, at a time of great distress. You have to always be cognizant of the fact that people are placing a very sacred trust in you,” said Durovich. A key to treating a patient holistically is also considering the needs of their family members. Durovich stresses the need to prevent, diagnose and treat patients and their families. “Each person is different and complex. Health care providers must recognize each family’s unique makeup of emotions, experiences and psychosociological factors. If we do that, if we take time to truly understand those complexities – that is what leads to exemplary care,” he said.

“When we are invited into a patient’s life, we are not just taking care of the patient. We are taking care of the patient’s family,” Durovich said. “How we interact with those who are responsible for that patient is crucial.”

Investing in the Future

In addition to helping patients and their families, Durovich understands the importance of preserving the heritage and legacy of Texas hospitals – while ensuring that the industry as a whole is able to evolve, to thrive and to lead within the rapidly changing health care landscape.

He acknowledges that accomplishing that requires a successful integration of health care within the community, increasing technological capabilities, and making hospitals’ voices heard in the policy-making process.

“At Children’s Health, we work hard to engage our local schools, particularly school nurses. We make sure that we are serving as a resource for them and equipping school nurses with the knowledge they need to help students with a wide array of medical conditions,” said Durovich. “By working with the community, we’re able to make an impact on their daily lives. The list of diagnoses that kids can walk into the school nurse’s office with is long and growing. It’s important that we’re there to help them and ensure they receive the care and support they need.”

Durovich also is passionate about finding innovative, technologically based solutions to transform how children receive care through advanced technology and treatment. Under his leadership, Children’s Health has developed apps to help patients with everything from daily exercise and diabetes to asthma and sports medicine. This is perhaps best exemplified through the success of the Children’s Health School-Based Telehealth program. The award-winning program is one of the fastest-growing telemedicine programs in the country, reaching 116 schools across 16 Texas school districts. By removing the most common barriers to treatment, particularly for underserved children, its implementation has saved up to $2.1 million in health care costs and an estimated $850,000 in reduced student absenteeism costs. More importantly, the Children’s Health School-Based Telehealth and School-Based Telebehavioral Health programs have provided physical and behavioral health care to thousands of children across Texas who may not have otherwise received it.

“Investing in innovative technological resources will be key for the health care industry as we continue to evolve. As an industry, we now have the ability via telemedicine to provide quality care across the state and to eliminate the strain and costs associated with traveling long distances for medical treatment. That provides a value that can’t be understated.”

“Texas hospitals are on the cutting edge of innovation and finding ways to provide better and more affordable health care services,” said Durovich. “And we will continue to develop new and innovative ways to help Texas families stay healthy.”

A Clear Vision for THA

As Durovich moves into his role as Board Chair for the Texas Hospital Association, he continues to place a strong emphasis on community engagement, commitment to patient care and finding innovative ways to prepare hospitals for the future. “Hospitals cannot continue to grow at the pace they need to without implementing innovation and efficiency in our processes,” he said. “That is why there’s such a need for Texas hospitals to be engaged with organizations like THA.”

“Hospital leaders have to find a balance where we are focusing on both the present and the future. THA gives us the opportunity to work together with health care leaders across the state and to help find that balance,” said Durovich. “It’s all about intellectual curiosity. It’s about loving the work that you are invited to do in the moment, but also leaning into the serious problems that have to be addressed if we are to move forward,” he said.

Durovich highlighted the THA’s unparalleled capacity to build strong partnerships and serve as a unified advocate for Texas hospitals as playing a key role in improving patient care in Texas.

“THA members have a unique ability and opportunity to work together as advocates for the overall well-being of Texans – that’s a privilege that should not be taken for granted,” said Durovich.

“Chris brings a thoughtful and fresh perspective to the challenges and issues facing hospitals,” said Ted Shaw, THA’s president/CEO. “With his strong leadership and sincere compassion for the people we serve, Chris will represent THA very well as chair of the board. He pushes for innovation and can sit down with just about anyone and have a productive conversation, no matter how tough the situation. His leadership and communication skills are very valuable to the association, and I’m looking forward to our path for 2020.”

As Chair of the Board, Durovich will represent nearly 450 hospitals across Texas.