Each year, the President’s Awards for Leadership, inspired by the late Michael Jimenez, recognize exceptional leaders from across our campus in three categories: classified staff, management/administrative and professional, and faculty.
The 2019 recipients are Cristina Sola, MSN, RN-BC, AGNP-C, nurse manager in the Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery at McGovern Medical School; Scott Patlovich, DrPH, director of Environmental Health & Safety in the Office of Safety, Health, Environment, and Risk Management at UTHealth; and Debra L. Fowler, PhD, associate professor of nursing and associate dean of Professional Development and Faculty Affairs at Cizik School of Nursing.
The awards for leadership were established in 2006 in honor of the late Michael Jimenez, former vice president and chief human resources officer at UTHealth, based on the qualities of leadership that he embodied: the consistent demonstration of leadership through service, compassion, and ethical standards.
The awards are presented annually at the STAR Awards luncheon to honor the memory of Jimenez.
“This award ceremony honors Michael in a way that he would be very humbled by,” said Patty Jimenez, the widow of Michael J. Jimenez. “He was a great leader, and had a gentle way of working with people to lead them to do what they wanted to do. It’s very inspiriting to see how this award has grown from the first recipient 14 years ago – he would be very pleased.”
“Each year, UTHealth accepts nominations for people who have shown exceptional leadership skills through the years. Mike believed that leadership qualities in employees should be and could be continually cultivated and encouraged to expand,” said Kevin Dillon, MBA, CPA, senior executive vice president and chief operating officer at UTHealth. “He would be proud of the work Human Resources is doing today through the highly successful leadership development program.”
“Thank you so much for what you do. When we have people like you contributing to the mission areas of the university, year after year, it speaks volumes for the passion and loyalty you have,” said Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, MD, president of UTHealth and Alkek-Williams Distinguished Chair.
President’s Award for Leadership: Outstanding Classified Staff
Cristina N. Sola, MSN, RN-BC, AGNP-C
Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery
McGovern Medical School
“Though Cristina has 16 years of surgical nursing experience, she is the trifecta of nursing: she has also been a cardiovascular intensive care nurse, and now serves as nurse manager and the vascular clinic nurse – the primary interface among our vascular surgeons and their patients,” said Dillon. “Her nomination letters for this prestigious award come from all levels and every corner of the McGovern Medical School and from within the Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery.”
One nominee stated, “She embodies the traits of excellent communication, collaboration, teamwork, mentorship, ethical clinical care, and creating a positive work attitude, and she earns our highest accolades.”
While accepting her award, Sola shared a few key insights. “Listening is key in leadership because you aren’t there to know it all. Your role is meant to facilitate, build, and inspire the team. It takes a willing leader to offer guidance, expertise, and room for the team to work effectively. A good leader recognizes the strengths in people and allows them to utilize their strengths to make and improve a system.”
President’s Award for Leadership: Outstanding Management/Administrative and Professional
Scott Patlovich, DrPH
Director, Environmental Health & Safety
Department of Safety, Health, Environment, and Risk Management
“The nominations for Scott were effusive with praise for the rare and nearly extinct skill of listening, his unconditional commitment to our safety, and his team’s rapid response time to issues from the trivial to the terrifying,” said Dillon.
Commenting on the breadth of interaction Patlovich encounters, one nominator wrote, “He has built a strong, technically competent team that understands that the operations of UTHealth span the health care continuum from basic benchtop research to bedside delivery of care. Few employees are involved in virtually every step of the UTHealth mission.”
“I’ve taken classes at UTHealth School of Public Health as a student, and learned about leadership from different books and from people across the institution over the course of my career,” Patlovich said. “When I wake up in the morning, there are three things I remind myself before I go to work. As a good leader I need to treat others as I wish to be treated, I need to work as hard as I expect others to work, and I need to surround myself with really good, really smart people.”
President’s Award for Leadership: Outstanding Faculty
Debra L. Fowler, PhD
Associate Professor of Nursing
Associate Dean, Professional Development and Faculty Affairs
Cizik School of Nursing
“When you look at the nomination letters, it’s amazing to read about the impact each individual has,” said Michael R. Blackburn, PhD, executive vice president and chief academic officer at UTHealth. “Listening to what they share, your hard work and dedication becomes evident.”
Blackburn shared what one nominator wrote: “I am retired military and I know what true leadership looks like. When you have a person in charge who genuinely cares about their people, whose door is always open and gives their full support to their people, that is the epitome of true leadership.”
“I have grown to understand that listening is more persuasive than telling, relationships are more important than org charts, and organizations will thrive when people within them are supported to develop to their full potential,” said Fowler. “During 10 years of teaching aspiring nurse leaders in our graduate program, I have witnessed huge transformation as students realize their potential as leaders. Seeing colleagues I’ve worked with and mentored excel in their professional development is extremely rewarding. My students and colleagues teach me to be a better leader.”