Mother-daughter duo makes Children’s Health a family business

Wanda McPhail hugs daughter Denise Bates. photography Kathy Tranphotography Kathy Tran
Wanda McPhail with daughter Denise Bates. photography Kathy Tran
Denise Bates comes from a long line of medical professionals. Her mother, Wanda McPhail, has held many positions in health care, following in the footsteps of her mother, who was a nurse.

Denise Bates comes from a long line of medical professionals. Her mother, Wanda McPhail, has held many positions in health care, following in the footsteps of her mother, who was a nurse.

“When I graduated from high school, as we all did in our yearbook, we put what we aspired to be,” Wanda McPhail says. “Mine was aspiring to be a radiologist many, many years ago.”

After attending college at the University of Houston, she went into nursing, just like her mom.

McPhail worked at Texas Children’s in Houston for five years before transferring to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas in 1987. Though she’s been in many different departments and at several campuses, McPhail still works for Children’s Health.

Bates works in the same system at Children’s Health as a manager for clinical program operations at the Plano campus. McPhail works in research administration.

“Whenever you get a group working together with the same goal and the same energy, that’s when amazing things happen,” Bates says. “That’s one of the amazing things about Children’s. We all have the same goal.”

Wanda, you’ve worked in many positions within Children’s Health. What has your journey been like?

I started out once I got to Dallas in the radiology department. I was a radiology nurse and worked with some great coworkers and physicians there. I just loved them. We all really did work like a family and helped to make children’s dreams and their ambitions come true. Helping to make lives better for children, and that was the forefront of what we did every day. Helping others allows us to help ourselves. As we make other people better, whether it be an illness or something else that happens in life, helping them through their trials and in issues we were able to help ourselves as well. I love what I did. I love everything that I did, but my journey didn’t stop there after I left radiology. Children’s always has something for whatever you want. It’s there for you. I left there at that department and went to human resources where I was a nurse recruiter for about 10 years. I just loved everything about it and bringing other nurses to our hospital. Of course I didn’t stop there. I left for a while for a health issue, but I could not wait to find my way back to Children’s, and when I did I ended up in research, and that’s where I currently am, in research administration.

Denise, what about growing up with your mom working at Children’s made you want to work there as an adult?

My mom’s journey with Children’s was extremely professional from the beginning because she was a nurse. We were the kids, and we got to enjoy everything completely differently, but it was so much fun. We got to come up for the Christmas tree lighting. We’ve seen Santa come in on the DART train. We’ve just seen so many cool things that they do for the kids. They were like a family at the hospital. All of them [my mom’s coworkers] had kids whenever they would get together to hang out. We had drank the Kool-Aid by then. We always wanted to know how we can help and how we can be a part of it all.

What do you do at Children’s?

I got a job at Children’s working in psychiatry, actually. And then I went down to radiology because I can’t do anything first here at Children’s because my mom gets to do it all first, so I went down to radiology as a tech aid, and I worked in that department and got very interested in nuclear medicine, which is just one of the modalities of radiology. I went to school for that, but when I graduated from that program, they didn’t have a position available at the hospital at that time. I took a hiatus from Children’s and traveled the country, did some fun stuff. Eventually, they called me and said they needed good tech out here, and I’ve been at the Plano campus ever since.

What has it been like to follow into the same industry and system as your mom?

I’ve been fighting to become my own person. If anyone has ever worked in a place where their parents were or gone to church or school or anything where people knew your parents first, you don’t actually have an identity. You’re just Wanda’s daughter. So I have fought really hard to be Denise. On the Plano campus, I got to do it a little bit more because my mom didn’t work out here like she did in Dallas. But then as people started figuring out who I was, I started to lose a little bit of that. My mom had the opportunity to make her mark and build her legacy at Children’s Dallas and I’m hoping to do the same for the Plano campus. It’s really cool to be a part of Children’s growth and hopefully in 20 years, I’ll be having the same conversation again, passing the torch on as Children’s grows and as we grow and change over time.

What about you, Wanda? Did you ever imagine your daughters would follow your footsteps?

It’s been incredible. It’s a blessing to know that with my children I had something to do with their growth and development and to see that they are giving back to the community. I think that’s one thing as a parent that we always want our children to know. Of course, I’d love for them to be president or Miss Universe or something. But knowing that they’re giving back to the community is something that makes me feel proud to know that they’re my kids.

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