A person becomes a pillar of an organization when they’ve given 45 years to it; they can sense the air of change, feel, viscerally, progress being made, and understand more about the transactional value of a shared relationship between a person and their workplace more than most ever could. Scott O’Banion understands how life can be so tightly threaded through the mission of an organization like UMC, built to save and change lives for the better.
Born and raised in Lubbock, he’s the son of a locally-famed basketball coach at Lubbock High, Max O’Banion. The O’Banion name, to this day, is attached to a local baseball field off the Marsha Sharp, a place where members of our community meet in friendly competition day in and day out. After moving from Sweeny, Texas, a town south of Houston, in 1952, Max initiated the long trajectory of family and generational history here in West Texas that results, to this day, in benefits for Lubbock and the surrounding regions. Only a few years later, his son, Scott, was born.
Scott is a Lubbock boy through and through, having attended Parsons Elementary School, Evans Middle School, and Monterey High School. He even attended pre-pharmacy training at Texas Tech.
“While I was in training, I was also delivering plumbing supplies,” Scott said. “Believe it or not, one of the places I delivered to was the site that would eventually become UMC.”
Coming out of training, Scott worked at the Student Health Pharmacy, the precursor to the broader pharmacy at UMC. In fact, much of the Student Health Pharmacy staff and directors moved into the UMC pharmacy. That important connection resulted in Scott returning to UMC full-time and in the burgeoning pharmacy at the new hospital.
“The original director was a visionary,” Scott said. “He established satellite pharmacies and what could be considered early iterations of modern ‘retail pharmacy’ spaces and etiquette.” Scott spoke of early conveyor belt systems that allowed for filling up to 1200 prescriptions a day, something he says was “no small feat” in 1978. Further, the model included something entirely common today but rare at the time: one-on-one counseling with the patients when they picked up their prescriptions. This practice has since become law, but early pharmacists at UMC understood it to be incredibly valuable. “Knowledgeable patients end up being better patients, which ultimately results in them doing better.”
In talking with Scott, though much of the development of UMC happened slowly and over time, moments stand out. He spoke of the political challenges in developing the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center School of Pharmacy and how a powerful lobby representing the University of Texas and the University of Houston prevented the establishment of the school by putting pressure on the governor at the time. It wasn’t until wealthy businessmen from the region, in Amarillo specifically, funded the school that it became a reality—the exact trajectory one might expect from those fastened to West Texas and committed to its progress, a mentality built in since before the dustbowl period ravaged this part of the country. He remembered a time when the hospital ran the risk of bankruptcy in the early 80s. After a few failed attempts at turning the hospital around, Jake Henry, then CEO, and his boots-on-ground commitment to the hospital succeeded (with plenty of help) in keeping the hospital afloat.
“Jake one time came down to the pharmacy and asked what he could do to help,” Scott said through laughter. “Well, I don’t think he was prepared to be as busy as he was that day. After working with us in the pharmacy and recognizing some of the transport challenges we were facing, including some of the limitations of the early tube system, the very next day, we had a transport department.” But Scott recognized that this cultural shift, the importance of a CEO in administration spending the time he needed to with his staff, seeing their limitations, and offering solutions, was a sign of the shift that would become a new beginning for UMC, one that became increasingly focused on taking care of their employees’ needs and eventually resulting in the Service is Our Passion culture we see today, perpetuated by CEO David Allison, and today, CEO Mark Funderburk.
“It was tough for a while,” Scott says, returning to that trying time. “A lot of people wanted to work across the street. David Allison coming in and focusing on employee recognition and success turned that around completely. People wanted to be here. It’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed for so long.”
But it wasn’t only the broader shift in culture to a more employee-friendly environment that resulted in Scott’s longevity with UMC. His early interest in specializing in nutritional support, much of which he first learned about on his own and with a nutritionist friend, Mary, eventually resulted in a serendipitous opportunity to pursue the field with the hospital’s support.
“I ran into John Griswold in the hallway, and I’m not sure if you know about John Griswold,” Scott said. I admitted I didn’t. “Well, John would say, ‘My life is planned down to the second. For example, if I can’t get my contacts in right, I’m already behind.'” So, on the day that Scott pitched his idea about establishing a stronger nutritional support program at the hospital, Scott had to keep pace with John because John wasn’t the type of person to stop and talk about anything. In fact, at that very moment, John said to Scott, “Hi, I’m John Griswold. Can you walk this way?” Scott reminisced with laughter about the peculiarity of the statement and how it so defined John. “John was a former football player for Notre Dame. He suffered from an ankle injury that tweaked the way he walks a little,” and he grinned about how “walking this way” meant a few things coming from John. But the meeting was the beginning of a few important developments in what would eventually land Scott in what he was most passionate about—another example of how UMC supports their staff by listening to them and giving them pathways toward their personal passions, which results in 45 years of longevity and dedication.
“So how does it feel to be among the 45-year employees?” I asked him. “Well,” Scott began thoughtfully. “I’m 69. It doesn’t feel as old as it used to look, and I don’t feel like I’ve been here for 45 years. I suppose it hasn’t entirely sunk in. But finding a place that values people for who they are and their skills is important. That’s why people stay. When you find that, give yourself to the culture, and that relationship will result in a lot of long-term, shared value.”
Scott’s son is a pharmacist now too. The arc of the O’Banion family continues through Scott’s passion for pharmaceutical work and the opportunities facilitated by the hospital system. Big things, like Max’s notable success in the community as a coach, his lasting name, Scott’s contributions to the medical community and our patients for 45 years, and his son’s future contributions, undoubtedly built upon a long-established foundation of love for West Texas and its people, reveals a higher truth in understanding the impacts a family, or a single person, can have in changing the world around them. UMC appreciates Scott O’Banion in ways hard to define, and we all know there’s much more to come.