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Meet Kathryn “Tate” Ringer of Metrocare

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kathryn “Tate” Ringer.

Thanks for sharing your story with us. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
What is interesting about life is no matter how much we try to direct or command or goal-orient ourselves, destiny seems to take on a life of its own. Yet, paradoxically, our journeys all make sense when you connect the dots looking backward. What I have told younger colleagues and mentees, and what I would tell my younger self is to stop “trying.” Everything will ultimately take care of itself and the wonderful, wacky, wild beauty of this journey is it will do so better than you could imagine. So the more you can let go and have faith – whether that is in a spiritual or universal guide or just in general – the more life will take care of you.

Looking back, I can see the decision points that I agonized over. I might even choose differently if I knew then what I know now, but I doubt the outcome would have been better or worse, just different. When I was offered my second job out of college, I had to choose between a job at a financial brokerage firm or a scholarship for my MBA. I took the job, thinking that I could always get my MBA. Now I think I should have gotten the MBA, I could always get a job. But the reality was the experience still serves me to this day. I did end up getting a graduate degree, but by the time I did I specialized in Organizational Conflict Management and that education I use on a daily basis.

The specific points of my career are not as important as the fact that I kept my integrity intact all along the way. I kept the value of serving the people who worked with and for me as high a priority as the success of the company and equal to my own. Each opportunity to be VP or CEO or lead a start-up came because I knew where my value was, and I made sure that my skills and strengths were in alignment with the company. I would add that for women, especially, keeping concerned for others AND for yourself at an equal level is important. When either gets unbalanced, you limit your own and the company’s success, whether it looks like it at the time or not.

I recently heard Neil Gaiman, the famous sci-fi writer, speak about “Finding your voice.” He said when you are young, you imitate others. And that is fine. You don’t know what else to do. But you must look for your voice, not develop it. It is always there to be discovered. The path to discovery is found by writing. And finishing even when your writing sucks. Failing forces you to dig deeper, to refine, to try something else. He is talking about writing but it is true no matter your profession. As the cliché goes, what would you do if you knew you could not fail—the times when I took that on led to my greatest accomplishments.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Has life been a smooth road? Thankfully not! The challenges I have been faced with have been the most rewarding. They have forced me to dig deep into my character and go beyond my limited view of myself.

My first-born was very, very sick as an infant. We took her to a specialist at five months old who said, “This is a very sick baby. You are going into the hospital today.” I still remember my hand shaking as I called my boss and said I wouldn’t be coming back to work. They put a tube down her nose and IVs in her little bare head because that was the only place, they could get a vein. We were in the hospital for two weeks and she nearly died two different times. We left the hospital with no answers and a baby that had completely stopped cooing and babbling and stopped trying to crawl like she had before we were admitted. What followed was a harrowing path of feedings every two hours around the clock and visits to specialist after specialist to find out why she was so sick. At around eleven months old, we took her from Dallas to Atlanta to have a special muscle-biopsy to simply “rule out” this rare metabolic disorder called mitochondrial disease. This was in 1994, the very beginning of the internet, thankfully, so I had access to Medline and scientific research. What I discovered is that all (100%) of the infants diagnosed with mitochondrial disease died by the time they were three or four. Fast-forward four months later, the phone rings. The doctor who made the referral for the biopsy was on the line. “Mrs.,” he said in his deep west Texas drawl. “Looks like she’s got this thing here. I have a fourteen-page report, but I don’t understand it. What do you want me to do with it?” The world went black. Literally, for a moment, I stopped breathing. My baby girl had just been given a death sentence. As I sucked in a deep gulp of air, I spit out. “Well, why don’t you fax it to me?”

This was back in the day of thermal fax machines. I actually had to plug in the machine into an outlet in my daughter’s nursery. As she lay sleeping in her crib beside me, the paper was rolling out of the machine-like paper towels as tears streamed down my face. I remember thinking to myself. “No one should EVER have to go through an experience like this. And, if I have anything to do about it, no one ever will.”

I consumed everything I could get my hands on about mitochondria and cellular respiration and metabolism. I traveled the world to meet other parents and doctors, and less than a year later, six other parents and myself – all who had horror stories like my own – had formed an international organization to support both physicians and families for better outcomes for mitochondrial disease. The result of these efforts 25 years later is we have advanced millions of dollars in research, we have encouraged and supported brilliant scientists and clinicians to come into and stay in the field of metabolism. And, every parent can easily find support, encouragement and hope. And, next January, my beautiful daughter will turn 27.

That fateful day in April 1995 was the beginning of my life. Everything preceding it didn’t matter. Everything after transformed and molded me in beautiful ways I could have never dreamed.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Metrocare – what should we know?
Metrocare is the best-kept secret in Dallas. We are Dallas County’s largest provider of mental health, substance abuse and disability services in Dallas and larger than most in the state of Texas. We have recently received state certification as a Certified Community Behavioral Health Center. This prestigious status that was hard-earned over the last four years puts Dallas on the national map for influencing best practices, contributing to national measures and building innovative practices. We have come a long way to reduce stigma on mental health in our 50-year history, but our progress is exponential. Science has proven the mind-body connection. Physical health is interconnected with mental health. Especially with COVID, people are aware, now more than ever, how important mental well-being is.

Do you feel like our city is a good place for businesses like yours? If someone was just starting out, would you recommend them starting out here? If not, what can our city do to improve?
When I was younger, I figured I would go to college on the coast and never move back. I quickly learned what a great world it is “out there” and how amazing Dallas, Texas, is. Dallas’s business and cultural community is even more robust now. There is no better place to grow a business, find business opportunities or build a family anywhere in the world. We have room to grow with becoming more anti-racist and building equity for People of Color, but there is no reason why we can’t lead the nation in this area too. We are one of the most philanthropic cities in the world as well as one of the most supportive of innovation. Equity can progress and flourish with the seeds we are sowing at the cross-section of these endeavors.

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Image Credit:
The Metrocare Images attributed to Sebron Snyder.

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