September 21-23, 2021
Austin Convention Center | Austin, TX

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The Leaflet Article


The Symposium on the Road

Jenabeth Ferguson, Vice President, Symposium Director

Last month I had the opportunity to spend the day with one of our advisory board members, Jessica Gutierrez-Rodriguez, Assistant Superintendent with the Texas Department of State Health Service. Jessica graciously agreed to take me around two hospitals under her supervision.  The morning started with another board member, Brian McFarlane, Principal | HC Group Director for Development with HKS, Inc. and I arriving at the Texas Center for Infectious Disease (TCID).  Jessica greeted us and we were quickly introduced to James Elkins, Hospital Director, TCID Administration since 1994.  

TCID’s mission is to provide high quality medical care, research, and professional education of providers for patients with hard to treat/cure tuberculosis. Brian joined me on this visit because he is working on a white paper on infectious control.  Jim was more than happy to answer all our questions and was very frank in his commentary.  The quote of the day was “bugs live and they don’t understand the concept of green cards”.  The conversation that ensued was sobering based on our location as well as the close proximity to Dallas and the Ebola case.  We were able to go into a patient room which I was excited to see because of the complexity of this facilities’ care. We entered through the anteroom and waited for the electronic controls to allow us into the negative air pressure patient room.   After a relatively quick look around we walked out and went on our way.  We talk about patients and the impact of design on their care - sometimes I think “patients” can become an abstract thing.  Today was one of those days where the reality and seriousness of what our industry does was not abstract in the least. 

After lunch, Jessica and I made our way over to the San Antonio State Hospital (SASH).  It was here that I got to see firsthand the influence of Jessica’s involvement with the Symposium on the patients and staff.  My visit coincided with an art show where the patients had worked with a local artist to create their masterpieces. They were being displayed in a common area for other patients, staff and visitors to view.  This was a joint endeavor between Jessica and the Director of the Rehabilitation Therapies Department.  The art will be used all around the hospital instead of buying pieces off the shelf.  What a great plan! 

The other highlight of my visit was seeing the automated medication dispensing system.  It was a remarkable piece of equipment to see in action.  SASH is on their second ROBOT-Rx, they had the first one installed in 1999 and was the first psychiatric hospital in the country to do so.  Talk about a way to reduce mistakes in administering medication and improve operational efficiencies!  I was mesmerized by the robot and could have stood there all day watching it work.  

When Jessica joined our advisory board several years ago, I felt her perspective was vital to the board and the Symposium overall.  She is responsible for two state hospitals and is passionate in her desire to create healing environments with a limited budget and constraints in two facilities caring for people at a very low point in their lives. I was humbled to see what Jessica has been able to do.  And you could see her pride in what she has been able to glean from her involvement with the Symposium and bring back to San Antonio from her experience in Chicago each year.  

Check out photos from my visit >>  

Jenabeth Ferguson
Vice President, Symposium Director
Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo

PS Have a thought about the Symposium? Please feel free to contact me at any time at

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