Electrical engineer Jessica Gutierrez-Rodriguez, MS, is the new executive director of Facilities Management and Operations. She joined UT Health San Antonio on June 21 after assisting with the design and construction of the U.S.’s only specialty tuberculosis hospital — the Texas Center for Infectious Disease (TCID) — and serving as its hospital administrator.
The TCID is part of a three-mission campus on San Antonio’s southeast side that includes the San Antonio State Hospital and San Antonio State-Supported Living Center.
“Jessica’s inpatient operations and engineering experiences are invaluable,” said Raymundo Rivera, MBA, MS, P.E., CxA, executive director of Facilities Engineering and Construction. Initially, she will be responsible for maintaining existing infrastructure at the Medical Arts & Research Center, the Mays Cancer Center, the Center for Oral Health Care and Research, the Greehey Campus and the Joe R. & Teresa Lozano Long Campus.
“Jessica will be managing critical repairs to our mechanical, plumbing, controls and low-voltage systems,” Rivera explained. “She will also lead the review and implementation of new campus maintenance standards for all systems. With Jessica’s leadership and her expert inpatient background, I know our processes will only improve.”
A graduate of Harlandale High School, Gutierrez-Rodriguez was highly encouraged to go to college by her father. Even though she would rather have gone into journalism, her father and calculus teacher steered her to engineering because she was so good at math.
Starting in a student position at USAA, she had the opportunity to manage some construction and renovation projects as she worked toward her B.S. in electrical engineering from The University of Texas at San Antonio. She later earned an M.S. in management technology. After working in the private sector, Gutierrez- Rodriguez had the opportunity in 2004 to work for the Texas Department of State Health Services, which was beginning the design of the new TCID.
“I didn’t know anything about health care,” she said. “I was told the reason the hospital administrator was attracted to my experience was that he liked that I was an engineer and he needed someone to come in and help solve problems. Going through a rigorous degree program like engineering really changes how you think and prepares you to look at systems and solve problems.”
Being naturally inquisitive, Gutierrez-Rodriguez took every opportunity to learn and work at the three state-run facilities on the site. She accepted various positions during her 17 years there, from assistant hospital administrator to director of quality management, with her most recent position as hospital administrator — the top leadership position — at the TCID. Her various roles gave her the opportunities to complete several Joint Commission surveys for two of the hospitals, not only from the physical perspective but from the clinical perspective, as well.
Her management philosophy focuses on including the ideas of her staff to ensure that any process changes made are seamless and of benefit not only to employees but patients, as well.
Her passion for improving the physical and clinical environment for patients is bolstered by a personal challenge. Her oldest daughter, Marianne, was born with just one heart ventricle. Tricuspid atresia is a very serious childhood heart defect. Gutierrez-Rodriguez and her husband decided to go to Houston for their daughter’s surgery and care because they felt it offered the best care possible. Even now, her teenage daughter may still require a heart transplant in the future. The younger daughter Angelica, who is now 11, has brought much joy to her older sister and provided her support as she went through her major surgeries, Gutierrez-Rodriguez said.
“When our older daughter had her surgery at age 3, she spent six weeks in the hospital and we didn’t think she would survive,” Gutierrez-Rodriguez said, noting the expense involved in seeking medical care in a different city.
“When I was interviewing at UT Health San Antonio and heard Dr. Henrich’s personal story about his medical treatment in Houston, I was even more motivated to come work here. He understands what it is like to be a patient (in another city) and he has this vision to build this (new UT Health San Antonio Multispecialty and Research Hospital).
“I understand that running a hospital isn’t just about the physical aspects; it’s the entire patient experience. No matter what job you hold — housekeeper, security guard or CEO — everybody plays a part in how the hospital runs. When you have good processes in place, they improve patient outcomes and possibly reduce the average length of stay for the patient. I know that from having had that experience myself,” she said.
Gutierrez-Rodriguez is married to another electrical engineer, Michael Rodriguez, who currently works in cybersecurity at USAA. In addition to their two daughters, they have two dogs named Gregory and Penny.