Rick W. MerrillApril 1, 2013
Healthcare Executive of the Year Award
Cook Children’s Health Care System
For Rick Merrill, president and CEO of Cook Children’s Health Care System, health care is much more than a job, it’s a calling.
And, he says a big part of his own calling is to recruit and retain nurses, therapists, social workers, administrators, doctors, donors and volunteers who are “at the point where their passion and their calling intersect and then to watch as amazing things happen.”
Cook looks for people who are not only very smart and dedicated, but also very caring, Merrill says. “My job is to keep that culture powerful and positive.
“Rick Merrill is a champion for all children and their families” said Nancy Kay Howard, chairman of the board of trustees for both the Cook Children’s Health Care System and Foundation. “He inspired Cook Children’s to make an enduring promise to improve the health and well-being of all children within Cook’s reach, and he works diligently to keep Cook Children’s ahead of the challenging changes currently taking place in pediatric health care.”
Merrill has led Cook Children’s at a time of unprecedented growth, including the historic expansion of the medical center and its network of out-patient clinics, which has nearly doubled in response to the growing need for services.
Under his watch, Cook Children’s began a new era by streamlining its mission and vision into a “Promise” to improve the health of every child in Cook Children’s reach through the prevention and treatment of illness, disease and injury.
“CEOs are seldom considered heroes in the health care industry,” said Bill Kennedy, Cook’s chief operating officer. “Rick is an exception and for good reason. He possesses all the characteristics of a successful CEO, such as intelligence, leadership, perseverance, courage and humility. But, one trait sets him apart – compassion.”
What drew you to the health care field?
From earliest memories, I’ve always known I needed to be at a place where I could make a difference in people’s lives, a real difference. My dad, who was on the board of the hospital in San Angelo, took me to a board meeting when I was a freshman in college and said I should think about health care administration, and it hit me: This is it. I have a deep passion and desire to do something that will really make a difference, and as a hospital administrator I could have such an impact on hundreds, if not thousands of lives.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Three people: My wife, who is not only beautiful, but who helps bring great perspective to my life and keeps me grounded; my dad, who is such an incredible role model – quiet, steady and always moving forward (He was a banker who later got into health care – after I did); and Winston Churchill, a remarkable politician who overcame all odds to save Western Civilization as we know it.
What is your advice for people getting into the health care field?
There is no higher calling in life than health care. It has so many areas where you can direct your passions – patient care, administration, the business side, insurance, so many opportunities for so many people with so many different talents. No matter how tired and frustrated you may become, at the end of the day there is absolute peace in knowing you are making a difference.
– Carolyn Poirot