Skip to main content

Southlake Style

Talk About Traci

Nov 29, 2018 01:28PM ● By Ashley Madonna
Those who know Texas Health Southlake President Traci Bernard recognize the energy she brings into every room she enters. Whether she’s sitting down at a board meeting or organizing a nonprofit event, Traci carries the same wide smile and sense of focus with her. It’s what her friends and colleagues have come to admire and sets expectations for what it’s like to have her on their team: excellence, intelligence and heart.
People may assume Traci, the owner of arguably one of the largest Rolodexes in the area, has always been integrated into the fabric of Southlake. But it was her career that originally brought her to Texas. And it’s her giving nature and love for people that have made her a pillar of the city.
Getting To Southlake
Traci was born in a little farm town: Paris, Illinois. She grew up wanting to be a nurse and, with the help of her parents’ upbringing, developed a strong conviction that she could pursue any career she put her mind to. Quickly after graduating and joining the medical field, Traci found herself gravitating toward leadership positions in healthcare. From a young age, she accepted coordinator, facilitator and director jobs as they became available, which took her across the Midwest. Through those different positions, she learned how to create a positive health system environment.
In the late ’90s, her career led her to North Texas where she joined the Baylor Health Care System as the Vice President of Operations. After getting settled, she wanted to learn more about the people who called the Metroplex their home and how to make an impact on their lives. She joined the Grapevine-Colleyville Chamber of Commerce and started looking for ways to give back. As a stage-four malignant melanoma survivor, she volunteered with Cancer Care Services of North Texas. She then saw an opportunity to get involved with the American Heart Association and Go Red For Women – another cause close to home with her mother, brother and grandfather all having heart problems.
“[It] is a really personal issue for me,” Traci says. “That was really where my heart was at the time.”
So it’s no surprise that when her next career step brought her to Southlake, she carried that same vision with her.
Planting Roots
With almost 20 years of experience in the industry, Traci joined Texas Health Southlake as president a year after it opened its doors. She came in when the hospital was in the red and needed a leader. She sought out the position because of the opportunity to build up a hospital, shape the leadership team and form the culture of the space.
“I wanted to get out of my car and love going to work again,” Traci says. “And that’s the kind of culture we have tried to create here: where people truly want to work, the doctors want to practice medicine and the patients get great care because of that.”
Traci used her own people-loving personality and care for others to create that environment for her team.
“She’s a proactive leader who always has a positive outlook and generates an aura of positive energy to all those around her,” chair of the Texas Health Southlake Board of Directors Dr. David Rothbart says. “Traci has put her own personal stamp on her direction on the hospital.”
Her days can include trials and hurdles, but she knows she has to carry an eagerness to succeed with her to inspire her team to perform at their best – just like she does.
“I just admire her so much because it doesn’t take long being around her to recognize her energy and her vision,” Traci’s executive assistant Frankie Montgomery says.
That vision has formed into a reality over her tenure. She has taken the hospital, given it a personality and fostered a sense of community that expands out to include the entire area.
“When you focus on the positive, no task is too hard. Traci’s leadership example is to always seek the best for the hospital and work together as a team to achieve high goals,” says Karen Adams, the Texas Health Southlake’s ancillary services director and medical staff manager. “The hospital leadership team all knows we are supported in our efforts by a very encouraging president.”
Since becoming the vision behind the hospital, Texas Health Southlake has been recognized with several prestigious awards like Best Places to Work in Healthcare, America’s 100 Best Hospitals and Best Companies to Work for in Texas.
“I’ve never stepped into a hospital with a better culture or a better patient experience level than Texas Health Southlake,” Dr. Rothbart says. “Her vision has been one that has allowed us to ascend.”
That’s on top of the acknowledgment Traci herself has received like the Southlake Chamber of Commerce’s President’s Award and, most recently, SafeHaven of Tarrant County’s 2018 Legacy of Women award. But Traci is the last person who would start naming off her own accolades.
“I believe in teamwork,” Traci explains. “I think it takes all of us to make any of it work. I don’t believe any cog in the wheel is more important than anyone else. And I knew that even as a nurse. It took all of us to be successful.”
She brings that same value system into her volunteering. When she first moved to Southlake, Traci knew she wanted to get involved in the community, similar to how she had in Grapevine, but she didn’t know where to start.
She called up Mayor Laura Hill, who was on city council at the time, and asked her out to lunch to pick her brain. Mayor Hill’s advice resonated with what first inspired Traci to give back.
“I told her, ‘Find where your passion is, find where your heart is, and that’s where you should put your energy,’” Mayor Hill says. “It’s important to get involved in things in our community that make your heart feel good.”
To make connections, she joined the Southlake Chamber of Commerce and later took on the role of chairperson. Traci says it’s there where she met people who kept opening doors for her and led her to more opportunities to give back.
As the leader of the local hospital, Traci knows it’s her responsibility to nurture those connections and build relationships with the public.
“If you are in a leadership position at the hospital, you really need to be involved with the community and give back. Because the hospital is just a building unless you really know the people and know the heart of the people,” Traci says. “You’ve got to give the hospital personality, and you have to give it a relationship.”
But Mayor Hill knows Traci does more than the job calls for because of her desire to give back to those in need.
“Volunteering for her is really a calling, and I never got a sense from her that it was just a part of the job,” Mayor Hill says. “Her impact is really felt wherever she chooses to give her time and give her heart.”
Now her list of professional and personal affiliations runs long. She still contributes to those nonprofits that she originally volunteered with, but now she sits on the GRACE Board of Directors, the Women’s Choice Award Healthcare Advisory Board and the First Financial Bank Southlake board to name a few. While each position and nonprofit adds another commitment to her schedule, Traci knows how to balance it all so she can stay on top of all of her responsibilities.
Some may think it would be easier to skip a board meeting here and there or watch TV instead of jumping on the elliptical at the end of the day – because of course she also works out every day, but Traci says that’s just not how she functions.
“I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t busy,” Traci laughs.
Leading By Example
Through her decades of leadership, Traci has refined how she likes to be led, which has transformed how she works with her colleagues. Traci wants to inspire those around her to work hard toward reaching her team’s collective goal.
“I can’t be micromanaged. It clips my wings and I will never fly. And I am not a good micromanager,” Traci says. “So I do better with people who are independent thinkers. I’ve learned to let people be the person they want to be, which gives them the freedom to get to that outcome the best way they can.”
That’s not to say Traci sits and watches from the sidelines. She’s the first one to jump in and give her all to the project in front of her. GRACE’s Executive Director Shonda Schaefer knows that to be true after working with her on the nonprofit’s capital campaign and clinic.
“Traci gets things done and she gets things done quickly,” Schaefer says. “She’s become a real mentor to me. I value her leadership style so much because there’s not a job that’s too small for her, but she can also organize some pretty intense projects. She’s team-focused and she’s a servant leader.”
While she may be busy, she is intentional with her presence and energy. So the people she surrounds herself with know they have her full attention. Dr. Sara Suttle, who works closely with Traci as a physician at Texas Orthopedic Specialists, says she’s learned a lot from how Traci treats others in both her professional and personal relationships.
“You think you have a very deep personal relationship every time you talk to her,” Dr. Suttle says. “She really engages and makes everyone feel as important as they should be made to feel.”
It’s her positive energy that inspires others to give more of themselves to causes important to them. Dr. Suttle saw that for herself after Traci connected her with the GRACE clinic at the GRACE gala a few years back. At the event, Dr. Suttle made mention that she wanted to get involved and Traci immediately brought her over to Shonda to make the connection. Traci saw an opportunity to open a door for someone else, and she didn’t wait to make it happen.
One of the benefits of being highly involved in the community is the network Traci has formed. And she uses those relationships for good by creating connections for her organizations and her hospital to help find everything from volunteers to speakers to potential donors.
“She can see a need and know 10 people who can fill that need and then finds someone whose personality can fit the job,” Dr. Suttle says.
The people on the other side of the phone know she’s not asking them anything she hasn’t asked of herself. She’s the one who will be there working alongside them to see the task through to completion.
“She leads by example,” First Financial Bank Southlake President Mark Jones says. “She understands the community and what the needs are in the community. She’s more than willing to roll up her sleeves and do whatever it takes to make her project successful.”
Next time you run into Traci — be it at the hospital or at a gala, don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation about how you can get involved in the community. Her heart for giving and captivating energy can be felt immediately. It may just inspire you to make a little more time in your schedule for giving back.
Southlake Style is honored to recognize Traci this year for her work and her impact she’s made on the community. She is the first recipient of the Brian R. Stebbins Award, presented to her on November 29. As Schaefer says: “It’s the year of Traci, and she deserves it.”

As the city’s shopping and dining hub, Southlake Town Square has identifiably made an impact on this small town. When it opened in March 1999, it promised to bring big brands and retail opportunities to the area and enhance Southlake’s sense of community for locals and tourists alike. Over the past 19 years, it has become the heart of the city. To recognize that impact, we are renaming our Community Impact Award to the Brian R. Stebbins Award, the late founder and developer of Southlake Town Square and the first recipient of this award. We hope to honor his influence still felt in Southlake as well as recognize locals who are striving to affect positive change in town through their efforts.