Christie Hutchinson, an ER nurse and founder of the Texas Healthcare Advisory Council, ran into an issue we’ve all faced before, especially when looking for work — networking.
Except, in her case, she was networking to find other health care professionals because she had just started her own health care consulting company — QCC Healthcare Consultants. She did everything she could to find other health care professionals. She attended various events, meetings and gatherings, but to no avail.
So, naturally, she turned to the Frisco Chamber of Commerce about four years ago.
“I approached some of the leaders at the Frisco Chamber of Commerce and said, ‘Hey guys, what am I doing wrong? You know, is there another committee, or is there something where the health care people are?’ And they said, ‘No, we really don’t have anything to serve people specific to health care,’” Hutchinson recalled.
“And I said, ‘Well, why don’t we start one? Why don’t we start a health care committee?’” Hutchinson said. “And they said, ‘OK, great. You do it.’”
And while she did not go into that meeting expecting to start her own committee, she ended up writing a charter for what was then called the Frisco Healthcare Council. The Frisco Chamber of Commerce approved it, and what was eventually called the Texas Healthcare Advisory Council was born in January 2018.
From Networking to Philanthropy
Hutchinson put together a group of about 20 people in the health care industry and part of the Frisco Chamber of Commerce to discuss what the council would do.
“Honestly, for me, initially, it was 100% about the networking,” Hutchinson said. “I needed a place to meet people. Well, these people who I had asked to come and be a part of this brainstorming group, they said one thing very clearly to me — ‘If this is just about networking, we’re not interested.’”
Out of that discussion came the council’s four pillars — education, collaboration, philanthropy and legislative education. To accomplish its education pillar, the council brings in “kick-ass” discussion leaders each month to discuss various topics related to health care, Hutchinson said.
On the collaboration side, the council works to create a sense of unity and open discussion among health care professionals.
“So stop seeing each other as competitors and say, ‘How can we partner together? How can we work on this project collaboratively so that we can improve the health care of the people that live in our communities?’” Hutchinson said.
For philanthropy, the council supports a new local non-profit every quarter. Members of the non-profit come to the council’s meetings to raise awareness about their organization, and the council fundraises for them. And, at the end of the quarter, the council and non-profit members get together for a happy hour party.
Legislative education for the council is not about advocacy. Essentially, the council works to translate what various propositions, Senate bills and other legislation mean for the community.
“We’re not out there telling people that this is the position we have or don’t have,” Hutchinson said. “We’re simply saying, these are the things that are going on at the local, state and federal level. And here’s what you need to know.”
Texas Healthcare Advisory Council
The council meets every month, usually on the last Monday of each month, dependent on holidays.
Initially, the council met at the Frisco Chamber of Commerce but “outgrew” the chamber after about 14 months. And by “outgrew,” Hutchinson means that the chamber required the council’s members to be members of the chamber. But many people had approached council members from other cities who wanted to join, but not another city’s chamber of commerce.
“So we sat down with the chamber and explained all of that and, you know, really wanted them to see this as this was a way of letting us fly and spread our wings out,” Hutchinson said.
With that, they created a 501(c) and started the Texas Healthcare Advisory Council. At first, the council met at the Scottish Rite facility in Frisco. But, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The last thing hospitals wanted to use their extra space for was meetings.
Now, THAC meets in the Dancer Room at HALL Park in Frisco, which holds about 50 people. And they also stream their meetings via Zoom for those who don’t want to meet in-person.
THAC had about 200 members before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Now, they’re at about 150 members.
“You know, we have seen some drop-off,” Hutchinson said. “Although this month is looking really good. So I’m hoping with kind of the reopening of Texas, we’re going to start to see our numbers go back up.”
THAC Discussion Events
As mentioned earlier, THAC’s guest speaker discussions serve to fulfill its education pillar. However, the discussion events are primarily done in a Q&A format. The speaker talks for about 15 minutes, and then the remaining 50 minutes or so are audience-driven.
“It’s one of the things that I think makes us so different from other organizations,” Hutchinson said. “Because I’m a member of a ton of things, and you go to meetings, and you sit there, and you listen. And then you’ve got a couple of minutes, you know, [to] raise your hand … and that’s not what I wanted anymore. I wanted a place that really fostered a discussion.”
Past speakers have included the CEO of Baylor Scott and White Centennial talking about building a culture for hospital employees, to Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner discussing drug and human trafficking in the county. The discussions don’t have to follow a specific theme — they just have to be related to health care.
This month, THAC is hosting Rhonda Quintana, vice president and senior client executive at Optum, on March 29 to discuss the latest health care trends. On April 26, THAC is hosting Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney, who will either be bringing McKinney Mayor George Fuller or Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere.
“So, we’ll have the two of them up there,” Hutchinson said. “And what I’m asking them to focus on will be, how did we handle COVID from a city perspective. You know, did we do a good job? What would we do differently? Also — how are we currently handling the vaccination centers?”
It’s important to note that THAC’s guest speaker meetings in-person are not, necessarily, open to the public. Only the Zoom option is. Right now, in-person meetings are reserved for members only due to capacity restrictions. However, THAC members can bring guests who are potentially interested in joining and want to see what it’s about.
“When we were at Scottish Rite, we had an auditorium that sat 155 people, and we often filled it,” Hutchinson said. “Right now, we’re in a much smaller spot, and due to their own regulations in the building, we’re only allowed to have up to about 50 people in that room.”