Guest Column

Texas needs to stay innovative, says this nonprofit leader

In order to stay competitive, Texas needs to stay innovative. Photo by gguy44/Getty Images

It's no accident that Texas has one of the strongest economies in the world. Generations of leaders have built and sustained a business climate that welcomes investment and innovation without allowing burdensome regulations and high taxes to get in the way.

Because Texas welcomes job creation and offers families a great quality of life, our population is projected to grow rapidly in the coming years. Experts say the Texas population will increase by 10 million people by the state we celebrate the Texas bicentennial in 2036. There is no doubt that this is a place where people want to live and businesses want to create jobs.

But we cannot assume that our past record of success is destined to repeat itself. When it comes to creating an economy that offers opportunity for our fellow Texans, we have a lot of advantages. But it is up to all of us to make the most of those advantages and also identify ways that we can do better.

That's why I founded an organization called Texas 2036. We are here to support the long-term strategies and investments that will help Texas remain an economic juggernaut for decades to come — a place where great ideas thrive and the brightest minds want to work.

Texas 2036 is intentionally and unapologetically nonpartisan. While we will engage closely with elected leaders, our work is far different from the short-term urgency of politics. We aren't just thinking about the headlines of the day or the whims of the electorate. We believe what Texas needs is someone taking the longer view and focusing on the demands we know are coming down the road, no matter who is holding public office.

This long-term focus requires actionable, credible data. The Texas 2036 team has spent significant time over the last couple of years building the data sets that will help Texas leaders and the people they represent make the best decisions for our future. This data will provide a foundation upon which we can build consensus around solutions that will support continued growth.

For example, there is no better magnet for job creation than a well-educated workforce with diverse skills. Yet there is plenty of work to do to ensure Texas has the robust workforce needed to attract high-quality jobs. Soon, more than 77 percent of jobs will require a college degree or certificate, but only 28 percent of Texas 8th graders complete a postsecondary degree or certificate within six years of high school graduation. We cannot continue our economic success without significant improvements in educational performance and attainment. But if we make those improvements — and I have no doubt that we can — then we will not only sustain our prosperity, but allow more Texans to partake in it.

Our mission is ambitious, but so are Texans. That's why we want as many people as possible engaging with Texas 2036. I hope you will become part of this conversation by texting JOINTX to 52886 and visiting our website. Over the course of the next year, we will be developing and releasing strategies and recommendations for how Texas can meet the demands of the future, and we need as many Texans as possible engaged in this critical effort.

Texas is a place of big dreams and endless possibilities. We have a storied past and a proud present. It's up to all of us to make sure the future is even better.

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Tom Luce is the founder of Texas 2036, an organization focused on bringing attention to issues that are going to affect the Lone Star State in the long term.

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Building Houston

 
 

SurgWise is giving surgical teams the right support for hiring. Photo via Getty Images

A surgeon spends over a decade in school and residency perfecting their medical skills, but that education doesn't usually include human resources training. Yet, when it comes to placing candidates into surgical programs, the hiring responsibilities fell on the shoulders of surgeons.

Aimee Gardner, who has her PhD in organized psychology, saw this inefficiency first hand.

"I worked in a large surgery department in Dallas right out of graduate school and quickly learned how folks are selected into residency and fellowship programs and all the time that goes into it — time spent by physicians reviewing piles and piles of like paper applications and spending lots and lots and of hours interviewing like hundreds of candidates," Gardner tells InnovationMap. "I was just really shocked by the inefficiencies from just a business and workforce perspective."

And things have only gotten worse. There are more applicants hitting the scene every year and they are applying to more hospitals and programs. Future surgeons used to apply for 20 or so programs — now it’s more like 65 on average. According to her research, Gardner says reviewing these applications cost lots of time and money, specifically $100,000 to fill five spots annually just up to the interviewing phase of the process.

Five years ago, Gardner came up with a solution to this “application fever,” as she describes, and all the inefficiencies, and founded SurgWise Consulting, where she serves as president and CEO.

"We help provide assessments to help screen competencies and attributes that people care about," Gardner says. "(Those) are really hard to assess, but really differentiate people who really thrive in training in their careers and people who don't."

Aimee Gardner is the CEO and president of Houston-based SurgWise. Photo via surgwise.com

These are the non-technical skills, like the professionalism, interpersonal skills, and communication. While SurgWise began as a service-oriented consulting company, the company is now ready to tap technology to expand upon its solution. The work started out of Houston Methodist, and SurgWise is still working with surgery teams there. She says they've accumulated tons of data that can be leveraged and streamlined.

"We're now pivoting from a very intimate client approach to a more scalable offering. Every year we assess essentially around 80 percent of all the people applying to be future surgeons — those in pediatric surgery, vascular surgery, and more,” Gardner says. “We’ve used kind of the last five years of data and experiences to create a more scalable, easy-to-integrate, and off-the-shelf solution.”

Gardner says her solution is critical for providing more equity in the hiring process.

“One of our goals was to create more equitable opportunities and platforms to assess folks because many of the traditional tools and processes that most people use in this space have lots of opportunity for bias and a high potential for disadvantaging individuals from underrepresented groups," she says. "For example, letters of recommendation are often a very insider status. If you went to some Ivy League or your parents were in health care and they know someone, you have that step up from a networking and socioeconomic status standpoint."

Personal statements and test scores are also inequitable, because they tend to be better submissions if people have money for coaching.

SurgWise hopes to lower the number of programs future surgeons apply to too to further streamline the process. She hopes to do this through an app and web tool that can matchmake people to the right program.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a platform for applicants to obtain a lot more information about the various places to which they apply to empower them to make more informed decisions, so that they don't have to apply to a hundred places," Gardner says. "We want to essentially create a match-style app that allows them to input some data and tell us 'here's what I'm looking for here are my career goals and any preferences I have.'”

While that tool is down the road, Gardner says SurgWise is full speed ahead toward launching the data-driven hiring platform. The bootstrapped company hopes to raise early venture funding this summer in order to hire and grow its team.

“As we continue to consider this app that I talked about and some of the other opportunities to scale to other specialties we're gonna start looking for a series A funding later this summer.”

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