By Michelle Riley-Brown, Executive Vice President at Texas Children’s Hospital
When asked to describe the skill she needed most in her career that was not taught in school, Michelle Riley-Brown, Executive Vice President at Texas Children’s Hospital, gave a seemingly simple answer: flexibility. Throughout her working life, her ability to remain agile in her thinking has allowed her to expand into increasingly demanding and rewarding positions, ultimately arriving in executive leadership.
Following her graduation from Tulane University with a degree in Communications and Sociology, she began working in the insurance industry. Her first trial of flexibility and tenacity came when she admitted to herself that she wasn’t fulfilled in her career. She knew that she was capable of reaching for “something more from my career, a greater passion for the mission, a greater fulfillment of my desire for service to others.” She reached out to people in her life who she admired as she considered her next move. One of these mentors was her father, a surgeon in her hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana, who encouraged her to reach for a career in medicine, a field he knew she was passionate about.
A master’s degree in healthcare administration from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis Missouri led her to Texas Children’s. She started her career as the assistant director of ambulatory services, where she was eager to take on new projects and learn new aspects of the healthcare business. Each time she learned something new, she was open to a new assignment or promotion, whether the work was familiar to her or not. Looking back on the challenges in her career, Riley-Brown said.
“There’s a beautiful piece of wisdom given to me by my father that is ingrained in my thinking and has formed my philosophy in everyday life. He said: ‘There will be obstacles and challenges and you might get tired and discouraged, but never quit.”
Riley-Brown forged ahead until she was placed in executive level leadership and charged with the task of building new hospital campuses for Texas Children’s and imbuing those new locations with the same medical excellence and personal compassion as the original Texas Children’s Hospital. With each new challenge, she felt privileged to be able to assemble teams with “some of the most talented leaders that I have ever met.” She attributes a lot of the success of those projects to the talented people around her.
She currently serves as the president of Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands and Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus, and is leading efforts to build a new facility in Austin, Texas, with plans to open in 2024.
“I know that every decision I make will ultimately affect every patient and family who walks through the doors of the hospital. While that is a tremendous responsibility, I also see it as an opportunity to truly make a difference, to serve those in need.”
Throughout her twenty-three years of service to the Texas Children’s mission, she has found the purpose driven career that drove her to change her plans and obtain a master’s degree. Her openness to new ideas and confidence in her ability to accomplish new objectives, has allowed her to grow along with a vibrant and expanding business. Of her professional accomplishments, she said, “I truly don’t believe any of this would have been possible if I would have played it safe and stayed inside my comfort zone.”