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Betsy MacKay

occupation: Vice President of Public Affairs at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas

personal stats: The southern Mississippi gal (who “likes her grits without cheese”) graduated from Tulane University with a degree in art history—a creative departure for a surgeon’s daughter (with two surgeon brothers). Making the most of her medical family background, MacKay moved to Dallas and began working as a communications manager at UT Southwestern Medical Center. During her five-year tenure at the hospital, she also graduated with a master’s in journalism at Southern Methodist University. It was then that the hardworking 20-something made a switch from medicine to luxury hotels: first to The Adolphus Hotel, then The Mansion on Turtle Creek and on to Rosewood Hotels and Resorts. It was MacKay’s driving force behind the first Adolphus Children’s Christmas Parade, which linked her to Children’s Medical Center, the next addition to her impressive résumé (in 1998). Soon after joining Children’s, MacKay married Angus MacKay, a restaurant executive (who’s Senior Director of Operations at LifeWorks Restaurant Group), and the two became parents of Wills (now 10).

a glimpse at her workday: “There’s an amazing variety in my workdays; every day is intellectually and emotionally amazing. I typically send Wills out the door walking (or riding his scooter) to school, and within 30 minutes, I’m in an environment with as much human drama as in any profession I can imagine. Yet, yesterday, I went on a field trip with Wills’ fourth-grade class. Thanks to the efficiency of a BlackBerry, it was like I’d never left the hospital. I do what has to be done professionally and what has to be done to stay engaged as a mother.”

most influential on your career: “Unquestionably, my dad. He’s the driving force in my career. With my father, I saw firsthand the life of a physician and his desire to keep learning and growing. Vacations were not taken or they might have been interrupted—sometimes he missed what I was doing as a kid. But my enduring memory as a kid was him coming straight out of the operating room to my basketball games … I learned the importance of the balancing act, that career and family can come together. But he also gave me an understanding of the pressures that physicians are under; I have an enormous, unwavering respect for what they do and what it takes from their lives.”

son’s view of your job: “Some days, I can tell by the twinkle in his eye that he thinks it’s really great; he loves that his mom is helping other kids. But there are other days when he resents [my job] because he’d like to have more of my time … most kids feel that way about working moms. But, I like to think that most days he’s proud. I hope it’s teaching him something that will be of value to his life.”

how motherhood influenced your career: “I had Wills at 43—motherhood converged perfectly with my job because I’m in a world of parents. It’s given me the ability to relate to them in a way that I just couldn’t before—it’s like everything went from black and white to full-on digital HDTV. The first time I took a media crew up to the neonatal intensive care unit after I’d had a baby, I burst into tears. It was that absolute ability to identify with how a mother feels; it floored me. I never predicted it would hit me like that.”

advice for new moms: “Feed your baby vegetables and fresh fruits first and they will eat them forever—Wills even likes Brussels sprouts!”

strategy to striking a work-life balance: “Without question, finding this balance is hard, and it’s always a work in progress. One of the things we do is to stay focused on the family meal—it’s our touchdown point. Most of the time, we’re gathered around take-out food, but as long as we’re around the table we can be successful as a family. I wish I could say that I’m highly organized, but we don’t really have [a set plan]. I need flexibility and Angus travels a lot, so we function as a team—there are a lot of trade-offs. And, the BlackBerry is my best friend. I try not to let it be invasive, but the BlackBerry is an incredible technology for working moms; it allows us so much flexibility and productivity without having to be in one place.”