Nearly Half a Century of Dedication for Cook Children's Most Tenured Black Employee
This Black History Month, We Salute Arlene Scott For More Than Four Decades of Service
How many people imagine their first job would be the same place they’d work almost half a century later? That is the story for Cook Children’s longest tenured Black employee, Arlene Scott. She has upheld the Promise of Cook Children’s for more than half of her life.
Arlene marked 47 years of service in January, and at 63, she says it wasn’t until a week later she realized another anniversary had come and gone. During her time at Cook Children’s, she has seen eight presidents in the White House and the cell phone evolve in every stage. Arlene’s longevity mirrors the story of growth and change that Cook Children’s Medical Center has embodied for more than 100 years.
The Early Years
A Fort Worth native, Arlene was only allowed to go to school with Black students until her junior year when she learned that she would be leaving IM Terrell High School for Southwest High School. For the first time in her life, she would be going to a school with white students, and she recalled the experience as ‘new’ and ‘scary.’ Arlene was bussed to Southwest High School from the south side of Fort Worth and to her surprise, she didn’t encounter very many issues. One thing she remembers is the mascot of Southwest High School being the Rebels. During her first pep rally, she says all of the Black students walked out because of the offensive mascot. Decades later, Arlene is happy the mascot has changed.
Her new school also brought new opportunities, including her first job at just 16 years old. Through her health occupation class, she was hired at Cook Children’s as a nurse’s aide in 1974.
“I assisted the nurses. I took the temperatures, emptied and filled water pitchers, and helped where they needed me,” Arlene recalled. She did that every evening until she graduated high school.
After graduation, Arlene became a ward clerk, now known as a unit secretary. She recalls being one of very few minorities working in the hospital and remembers other Black employees on the maintenance staff and working in the dietary department. Arlene recognizes she was hired during a time when segregation was still being battled in many places. But that was not her experience at Cook Children’s. She says she was welcomed with open arms and never had any issues due to the color of her skin.
What stands out most to Arlene is how close-knit the staff at Cook Children’s became during her early years when the hospital was located on Lancaster Avenue. She said the “meet-up spot” was in the kitchen and doctors and nurses were really good friends. Arlene reminisces on how things were different at the old hospital.
“We pretty much wrote everything by hand, and we had to physically get up and change the channel on the TV,” Arlene said. “Now, we just put the information in a computer, and it does the work for you and a simple remote click will change the channel.”
The Shift: Growth and Change
When the current medical center was built in 1989, Arlene says it was an experience she will never forget.
“The move was fun and exciting, but it was also scary. We went from a building where you knew everybody you worked with, to a building where every time you looked up you saw a different face you didn’t know,” Arlene said.
Arlene continued to work as a unit secretary when the new medical center was built. She worked in that capacity for five years before moving to Infectious Diseases where she was quickly promoted to office manager. Arlene’s position was soon phased out, and she decided to take a well-needed vacation. Before long, she received a phone call asking if she planned to come back, and letting her know there was a position waiting for her in patient registration. Arlene continues to serve in this same department today.
During her service at Cook Children’s, Arlene has seen many changes in the world and at work. One area she says has been monumental is seeing minority employees come through the doors in different capacities.
“It has been great. There are more minority physicians and employees and that’s not something you think we would be doing. It makes me proud when I see them and their titles,” Arlene said. “For example, Ms. Wini, her position brings out a sense of pride in me, because she looks like me. If she can do that, a lot of other girls can do it too,” Arlene explains.
Arlene is referring to Winifred ‘Wini’ King, senior vice president and chief of communications, diversity, equity, and inclusion at Cook Children’s. She says she was proud when Wini was promoted and the diversity, equity, and inclusion department was formed in 2020. She believes it is important to have representation and it is something that’s needed everywhere. Arlene describes having representation at the medical center to the recent presidential election. Not only has she seen a Black woman work her way through the ranks at her job, she says seeing Kamala Harris become the first woman U.S. vice president gives her something to smile about as well.
An Encounter with the CEO
Arlene’s favorite memory is sitting under the leadership of former Cook Children’s CEO, Russell Tolman. Mr.Tolman was the CEO of Cook Children’s Health Care System for 25 years before retiring in 2007. Arlene says she owes her tenure at the medical center to Mr. Tolman, and will always remember how hard he fought for her.
“When my position in Infectious Diseases ended and I took that vacation, it was a day or so after that time period that I would have lost my tenure and he fought for me not to lose my tenure,” Arlene recalled. “That will always be one of my best memories because I knew I didn’t want to start over somewhere else,” She said.
Another memory that serves Arlene well is the life-long friendships she developed at an early age.
“When I was working at the original hospital, I worked with the first pediatric surgeons in Fort Worth, Dr. Dick Ellis, and Dr. Charles Mann. Until Dr. Ellis passed in April of 2020, we had always been very good friends,” Arlene shared.
Cook Children’s met a need in the community by bringing on top pediatric surgeons, and they were able to help children from all walks of life, which in return enriched Arlene’s life. Arlene says it has been a blessing to see children who weren’t supposed to make it past 10 years old, grow up and defeat the odds.
The Future & the Next Generation
You may be wondering what drives someone to stay at one place for nearly 50 years. Arlene says she comes to work every day to see smiles on patients' faces. She adds that she looks forward to Christmas every year for that exact reason—seeing children smile because of the Christmas magic.
Arlene makes it clear to everyone who asks, that she has no plans for retirement.
“When God tells me it's time, I'm going to listen. Right now, there’s nothing that I want to do that I'm not doing. I can travel and still do things that I want to do,” Arlene explains. “I'm just not the type that can sit at home. I tell everyone, one morning, God may wake me up and say, ’this is the day, give them that resignation,’ I'll come in and I will give two weeks’ notice. I'm leaving it up to God to help me make that decision.”
As for advice for the younger generation starting at Cook Children’s, Arlene wants new employees to look forward to the next 100 years.
“First, remember #WeAreCookChildrens means love. Love for one another, love for our community and our patients,” she explains. “Have patience and don’t always expect everything to be perfect. Be willing to listen and learn, regardless of your position, and always remember to be willing to accept change.”