If reorganizing your closet will help you get dressed more efficiently, Monique Lopez is all for it.
She has been improving processes throughout her 16 years at UT Health San Antonio. She also has developed a listening ear that helped her become the go-to person for process improvement in her previous positions in the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine.
It was only natural that when UT Health San Antonio was seeking an employee to coordinate the myriad changes of the new operating model that Lopez was selected. She was promoted Oct. 1 to a new position as senior director of business service quality, which is based in the Office of the Chief Operating Officer.
The aim of the new operating model, implemented through an institutional initiative known as EDGE, is to change the way services are provided to take advantage of process improvement.
For example, Human Resources; Information Technology; Finance; Marketing, Communications and Media; Research Administration; and Faculty Support Services are areas that provide important mission support services throughout the institution. As the institution has grown, processes in each of these areas have been developed and modified organically and independently through the years. Stepping back from the silos in which those services were developed and organizing processes into specialized functional units allows leadership to evaluate how processes can be improved and streamlined, while still allowing for some individualized services. It also provides a consistent framework for customer service and service delivery across all operational services.
Lopez said it’s a lot like going through the serving line at Luby’s. “There are lots of food choices and we can see our meal coming together as we make our way down the line. With the new operating model, we are trying to give our departments a standard delivery experience but with as many choices as possible to help them support their unique operations while simplifying processes. Their ideas and thoughts make up the options they need that can ultimately help us design better ways to support delivery of our missions to advance research and serve patients, students and the community,” she explained.
An example of process improvement that has been successful, Lopez said, has been setting up administrative teams by function rather than by having fragmented support spread out throughout the institution. “Now administrators have access to a bank of knowledge and dedicated resources that they can use to identify better ways of doing things to improve administrative services,” she explained.
“We are at unique point now in which all departments have input into how services are delivered and institutional offices are actively engaged in improving processes,” she said.
“My new role is to support the changes our institution is committed to under the new operating model,” she said. This includes:
- Helping departments navigate changes by being a resource for questions or concerns and facilitating feedback.
- Serving as a conduit for the functional units in developing new cross-functional processes and workflows while providing feedback for areas of improvement.
- Supporting and facilitating the institution’s commitment to continuous improvement.
Lopez’s love for process improvement goes back more than a decade. As an accountant managing the general ledger, Lopez was frustrated by the constraints of a software tool used to format a pivot table, a large spreadsheet used to analyze data. “Imagine needing to go through thousands of lines of data and click at least six buttons just to prepare the data for analysis,” she said. “I did this for a while and finally ended up going to one of our software programming specialists and he helped write code to do this repetitive process with the click of one button. I chose to make this button a happy face because it made me so happy to have an easier way to do this. So in all my jobs I’ve always gone toward process improvement and making the best use of my time. I consider this to be one of the most creative parts of my job,” she said.
Among the new projects she will undertake to achieve these goals are:
Establishing a governance committee comprised of functional services, departmental leadership and executive leadership. The governance committee will examine issues and feedback and convert new ideas into action.
Creating a new dashboard that will be available campuswide in January to provide metrics and visibility into the innerworkings of services. The dashboard can be filtered by service and department to provide data on service status, volume and completion.
Developing a new interactive tool with Human Resources that will allow managers to navigate an employee life cycle. The life cycle tool provides steps, contact information and guidance on everything from time of recruitment, to retirement, to anything in between. The tool is intended to allow managers to step into any phase and easily find the information they need to move forward.
Initiating a platform to inform the UT Health San Antonio community about business processes and service delivery improvements and to highlight progress.
“I hope people will see me as a resource. I want to hear their feedback. The only way to make these changes and improve our institution is by listening to ideas from others and hearing what they have experienced with their current processes and in implementing new ways of doing things. We are all partners in making these positive improvements,” Lopez said.
Lopez’s success is a combination of her quest to improve her productivity, the academic degrees she chose to pursue and progressively challenging job roles.
She earned a BBA with a concentration in accounting followed by an MBA. After moving into the School of Medicine, Lopez completed a Master of Science in Health Sciences with a concentration in health care administration in 2020. “I didn’t really need to earn the MSHS, but I wanted to learn more about what our people in the School of Medicine did, so I considered this part of my personal improvement plan,” she said.
Lopez began her career at UT Health San Antonio in 2005 in financial reporting within the Department of Accounting. About five years later, Lopez moved into accounting management. She then accepted a job in the Department of Psychiatry in 2013 as the manager of financial operations followed by a move in June 2016 as associate director of finance and administration over the Department of Biochemistry and Structural Biology, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery and the Pediatric Heart Center.
While completing her MSHS, Lopez moved in November 2019 to director of finance and administration as well as functional lead of the financial services center and post-award administration in the Office of the Dean in the Long School of Medicine.
“I have had family members retire from UT Health. These family members initially piqued my interest in working at the institution. At my start here I quickly realized we are a large organization. Knowing my family was here to provide me a guiding hand when I needed one can make a place feel like home. I hope to carry that same feeling forward to others whenever possible. We all hold different roles in a large place, but lending a guiding hand is how we help each other truly be successful,” she said.