Face Time: Lillie Biggins

THR Harris Methodist president, once a nurse’s aide, reflects on leadership.

Lillie Biggins got her start in healthcare sweeping floors more than 40 years ago and moved into nursing and then up through a range of executive and clinical leadership posts before becoming president of the big Texas Health Resources Harris Methodist Hospital in 2012.  But she always seeks out the employees today who do the job she first did.

“I walk over to them and give them a hug and say, ‘How you doing?’ ” Biggins, now 72, says.

This is part of what Biggins, who also is chairman of the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport board and spends a good piece of her time selling the region to the world, says is her leadership style.

“People have to feel valued; they have to feel like what they bring to the table makes a difference,” Biggins says.  “The other thing I’ve learned is that no job is too small.”

Biggins, who grew up on Fort Worth’s North Side, says she always wanted to be a nurse.  Her mother was a caregiver, and so was her older sister.  “I wanted to be a nurse,” she says.  “That’s where I started and where I stopped.”

She started as a housekeeper at John Peter Smith Hospital and made her way to nursing school, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in 1974 from the University of Texas at Arlington.  She later earned a master’s degree from Texas Woman’s University in Denton and worked for Columbia/HCA Plaza Medical Center, JPS, and Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas before landing at THR Fort Worth in 1997 as vice president of operations.  In 2012, she became president and is responsible for improving THR Fort Worth’s performance in cost effectiveness, clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction.

An early riser known for sending out emails at 4:30 a.m., Biggins has leaned on a long list of mentors who have helped her in faith and professionally, starting, she says, with her parents and grandparents.  Her first nursing director taught her the role of nursing.  Her mentors have also included the late Parkland CEO Ron Anderson, the former THR CEO Doug Hawthorne, and the current CEO Barclay Berdan.

Biggins loves dropping in on patients, part of the rounds that THR senior leaders are required to make.  How she says she often finishes conversations with patients: “Oh, by the way, my name is Lillie, and I’m the hospital president.”

Biggins is also known for keeping scrubs and shoes in her office in case they might come in handy, but they never do these days, a sign, she says, that things are running smoothly.

Biggins, who has four children and 11 grandchildren with her husband James, talks about retirement, but she’s not saying when or if that might happen.  “I don’t plan on going anywhere, except to rub my dog one day,” she says.  “That’s my retirement message.”