Excellence In Healthcare Part II: The Research, Wellness, Outreach Initiatives Shaping Dallas-Fort Worth

Last year, in introducing D CEO’s inaugural Excellence in Healthcare awards, we highlighted the economic impact of healthcare on North Texas. It’s a $52 billion industry that accounts for close to 600,000 jobs throughout the region. But it’s also a field whose benefits can’t be conveyed by just the numbers; it’s made up of men and women whose work often has life-or-death implications.

This year’s Excellence in Healthcare program honors 15 finalists and winners in 10 categories, selected by the editors from more than 100 nominations. Head here for Part I. 

Achievement in Medical Research: Dr. Ajay Goel, director of the Centers for Gastrointestinal Research and Epigenetics, Cancer, and Cancer Prevention at the Baylor Research Institute

Dr. Ajay Goel. (Photo: Ben Garrett)
Dr. Ajay Goel. (Photo: Ben Garrett)

Fighting cancer is a race against time. The American Cancer Society predicts there will be about 1.65 million new cancer cases this year and close to 590,000 cancer-related deaths. Identifying ways to catch cancer early or before it manifests at all becomes even more paramount with each new calendar that goes on your wall.

Dr. Ajay Goel, director of the Center for Gastrointestinal Cancer Research and for Epigenetics and Cancer Prevention at the Baylor Research Institute, has made this the target of his career. And earlier this year, he uncovered a strand of microRNA unique to colorectal cancer that could tip off doctors to its development and its chances of spreading to other organs. The study, published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, points to oncologists having more information at their disposal for developing treatment regimens. Now, Goel has set about finding biomarkers that would give oncologists even more insight into how far a tumor will likely progress.

Why this could be so impactful is simple: Colorectal cancer is now our third most common, behind lung and breast. And when it spreads to other organs, studies have found that its survival rate hovers around just 35 percent. Goel and his team, clearly, have a major opportunity to save lives.  —Matt Goodman

Achievement in Medical Devices/Technology: ZeOmega 

You could call ZeOmega co-founder Sathya “Sam” Rangaswamy a healthcare industry wildcatter. That’s because he and his wife, Nandini, co-founded the population health solutions provider in 2001 on the forefront of a large-scale economic downturn that would snowball into the Great Recession.

ZeOmega also presented the idea of streamlining workflows and lowering healthcare costs long before the Affordable Care Act. Today, the company serves more than 30 million patients and 2,500 providers in 59 hospitals across the country.

Rangaswamy credits ZeOmega’s consistent growth to its flagship product, called Jiva. It’s a scalable platform for population health management that helps healthcare organizations with tasks like managing multiple lines of business in one place. It has made improvements to care quality, cost, and patient satisfaction for healthcare organizations that employ it, plus a reported $6.5 million in annual savings and $3.7 million in administrative cost savings. Jiva helps providers incorporate detailed patient information into custom-tailored treatments and care management plans while also driving patient engagement.

Last year, ZeOmega moved from Frisco to a 31,000-square-foot building in Plano. It has also grown its Dallas-area staff from 70 to around 140 since 2011 and employs more than 500 people worldwide.

—Hilary Lau      

Mend, AccelSPINE

Achievement in Community Outreach: The Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute at the Juanita J. Craft Recreation Center 

In 2010, Baylor Scott & White Health opened the Diabetes Health and Wellness

Albert Black, the former chairman of the Baylor Health Care System, wants to use healthcare to revitalize southern Dallas, beginning with the project he spearheaded: The Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute. (Photo: Jonathan Zizzo)
Albert Black, the former chairman of the Baylor Health Care System, wants to use healthcare to revitalize southern Dallas, beginning with the project he spearheaded: The Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute. (Photo: Jonathan Zizzo)

Institute in the Frazier Courts community in South Dallas. The low-income area suffers from high unemployment, a lack of health insurance, and inadequate healthcare—and also has one of the highest incidences of diabetes in the entire state of Texas.

DHWI provides healthcare, wellness classes, and diabetes management and prevention programs to the community at the Juanita J. Craft Recreation Center. The one-of-a-kind resource has both the potential to save lives and the opportunity to educate the public on the importance of health and wellness.

In the last five years, DHWI has enrolled more than 4,000 people in its programs and classes. And, as of May, it has seen 17 percent fewer emergency room visits and 37 percent fewer hospital stays among those individuals. In addition, 40 percent of those diagnosed with diabetes achieved optimal hemoglobin of less than 7 percent. Improvement in blood pressure and cholesterol were also noted among DHWI members.

It’s not just about the numbers, though; DHWI has changed the fabric of the community and is a driving force in connecting residents through health and wellness. DHWI members have access to basketball courts, baseball and football fields, and a 22-acre park with walking trails. Kick-boxing, yoga, and cooking classes are offered. DHWI also hosts a weekly farmers market stand that offers fresh fruit and vegetables at low cost to community residents. And more than 1,000 people attend the annual Health Harvest Fun Walk/5K Run, which helps bring residents together to raise awareness for the facility.

Following its success, several leading medical institutions are now studying the DHWI model—including the Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Institute. In 2012, DHWI became the second training site in the nation for the program.  

—Lauren DeLozier

Parkland Injury Prevention Center
UT Southwestern National Cancer Institute

Achievement in Wellness Programs: Wally Gomaa, CEO of Naturally Slim, ACAP Health Consulting 

Today, nearly 155 million adults in the U.S. are considered overweight or obese, due largely to unhealthy lifestyles and modern diets. Obesity can lead to diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. The prevalence of diabetes alone has increased by 159 percent in the past 15 years, and that number is only expected to grow. ACAP Health Consulting wants to change this trend by outfitting organizations with the tools they need to truly make an impact.

One of those tools is Naturally Slim, a nationally recognized weight-loss and behavior modification program that has been clinically proven to help patients reduce their metabolic syndrome risk. So far, Dallas-based organizations including Southwest Airlines, Baylor Scott & White Health, Atmos Energy, and Brinker International have reported positive results with the program on behalf of their participating employees. (To date, more than 650 companies have participated in Naturally Slim.)

The online program starts with 10 weeks of skill building focused on behavior modification, not dieting. After the first 10 weeks, participants receive one full year of ongoing support to ensure the learned skills deliver sustainable and consistent results. The employee wellness model includes incentive-based weight-loss programs.

On average, Naturally Slim participants lose 5 percent of their body weight, and also reverse their metabolic syndrome—not to mention the drop in blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol that many participants also observe. The Naturally Slim curriculum focuses not on strict dieting but on mindful eating and behavioral changes—a philosophy that can be conducive to any lifestyle.


Mobile Cancer Survivor Clinic

Outstanding Medical Real Estate Project: New Parkland Hospital

Parkland’s new $1.3 billion, 2.1 million-square-foot hospital is said to be the largest healthcare construction project in the U.S.
Parkland’s new $1.3 billion, 2.1 million-square-foot hospital is said to be the largest healthcare construction project in the U.S.

The first thing you notice about Parkland Health & Hospital System’s new $1.3 billion hospital is its size. It is, after all, the safety net hospital for the nation’s ninth most populous county; it should be visible.

It’s a monolith—862 beds spread over 2.8 million square feet on 17 floors. It was designed by HDR and Corgan and built by joint venture team BARA, which included Balfour Beatty, Austin Commercial, H.J. Russell & Co., and Azteca Enterprises, and about $80 million was spent solely on digital technology. Patients lie on smart beds that weigh them and monitor whether they’re actually in the bed. Patient information is hosted on a screen outside the door for caregivers. Babies are monitored via a device attached to their umbilical cords. Patients use smart TVs to order food that’s been integrated with their dietary limitations.

These are all exciting upgrades, but it’s important to frame this achievement in the context of what it replaced. Parkland’s old hospital, built in 1954, was almost literally falling apart. The county’s sizable uninsured and underserved population didn’t just get a new hospital. They got one that’s among the most advanced in the nation. —M.G.

Baylor Scott & White Medical Center—Waxahachie

Achievement in Healthcare Innovation: The Partnership between TGEN and the Baylor Research Institute

It’s becoming increasingly clear to both medical industry insiders and outsiders that there will never be a “magic pill” that cures cancer. But researchers at Baylor Research Institute at Dallas and the Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) still believe in a relatively simple solution for a very complex disease. That’s why they joined forces in May 2015, aiming to find innovative ways to accelerate early detection of cancers and personalize treatments for patients with various forms of the disease. The goal is so-called “precision medicine,” to which the National Institutes of Health has allocated more than $200 million in funding for research grants.

Baylor and TGen hope to focus their initial research on three areas: women’s cancer, which includes breast and gynecological; abdominal malignancies, which includes pancreatic, colorectal, and liver; and hematological cancer, which includes leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.

Both of the partners bring unique strengths to the table. TGen is widely considered one of the country’s top cancer research institutes, thanks to its advanced genomic sequencing technology and expertise in proteomics, while the Baylor Research Institute boasts strong expertise in metabolomics and immune-based approaches to research. The partners will collaborate across these various areas, offering liquid biopsies, performing gene sequencing, conducting unique clinical trials, and creating personalized vaccines for Baylor Scott & White Health’s patients.

The partnership’s operations are based at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas’ Sammons Care Center, while research is being conducted in clinics and labs throughout the Baylor Scott & White Health system and at TGen facilities in Scottsdale and Phoenix. In the future, the venture hopes to expand its research efforts to other areas like diabetes; neurology; and infectious, cardiovascular, and metabolic diseases.  —H.L. 

DME Exchange
Madhukar Trivedi, UT Southwestern Medical Center

Outstanding Healthcare Volunteer: Janan Weeks, Baylor Regional Medical Center at Grapevine

Janan Weeks. (Photograph: Ben Garrett)
Janan Weeks. (Photograph: Ben Garrett)

Janan Weeks served as her husband’s caregiver as he was checked in and out of hospitals around Dallas-Fort Worth, including a stay at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Grapevine. The care and compassion the Baylor Grapevine staff delivered to Weeks and her husband during this time is what inspired her to join the team as a volunteer in 2008.

Since then, Weeks has clocked more than 2,650 volunteer hours. She works in the surgery waiting room, where she makes sure families and friends of patients have what they need—whether that be a shoulder to cry on or a medical update. Having first-hand experience caring for someone who is critically ill has given Weeks the ability to truly empathize with patients during some of their hardest moments.

Weeks also volunteers in guest relations, where she trains new volunteers, assists patients and visitors within the hospital, and delivers flowers and gifts. Whatever the task at hand, Weeks eagerly does it with a smile. 

Outside of her day-to-day volunteer duties, Weeks participates in the hospital’s “random acts of kindness” initiative, which gifts staff members with small tokens of appreciation. She’s also serving her fifth year as secretary of the volunteer board of directors. —L.D.

Stephen Apple, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children
Lisa Barker, Southwest Transplant Alliance