Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
All of us are smarter than one of us

All of us are smarter than one of us

ceo minute teamwork


Most of you won’t remember, but there used to be an 80s television program called “The A Team.” At the end of each episode, Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, played by actor George Peppard, used the famous catch phrase, “I love it when a plan comes together!”


This summer, we witnessed a beautiful plan come together with the rescue of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach from Thailand’s Tham Luang Cave. As the world watched, and against great odds, most of the rescue went flawlessly.


The situation was extremely difficult and dangerous. The twelve boys and their coach were stranded on a rocky perch more than a mile underground about 2.5 miles from the entrance to the cave. Rescuers dealt with rising water levels and strong currents. Furthermore, extricating the thirteen individuals required everyone to swim underwater in ice-cold water in long stretches lasting about 40 minutes at a time. The team and their coach survived the entire ordeal. The conditions were rough. At times, the stranded players had to lick water off of the cold limestone walls just to stave off intense thirst.


What impressed me were the organizational skills this effort required. According to news reports, military personnel and officials assembled a collection of brawn and brains of approximately 10,000 people from around the world including 2,000 soldiers, 200 divers and representatives from 100 government agencies. Proud to say the U.S. military helped with logistics – the effort was multinational with the Thai people deserving the lion’s share of the credit. More than 150 members of the Thai Navy SEALs, outfitted with the latest modern search-and-rescue equipment brought by many countries had to improvise equipment at times. They resorted to old reliable duct tape to help create the escape route. A crew of foreign and Thai cave divers flirted with death every time they explored Tham Luang’s tight chambers. Sadly, one diver died during the rescue. British divers navigated the most challenging stretches. Hollywood must make this into a movie, and I’ll be the first to buy a ticket.

So, what did the world learn or what principles were reinforced from this wonderful story? What lessons can we, Texas Tech Physicians, learn?

 I will suggest a few:

  • All of us are smarter than any one of us. True, we have some brilliant people around our school, but scholarly studies indicate a motivated team almost always can come up with a better solution to problems than a single individual. There are notable exceptions, but actually the exceptions just prove the rule. This is why teamwork is one of our SPIRIT values.
  • Perseverance conquers a lot. Our SPIRIT values of service excellence and patient first come to mind. One of the Thai Navy SEAL divers shook his head in amazement at how this plan came together said, “I don’t think we had any other choice. The whole world was watching.”
  • Innovation is critical. Besides the sophisticated equipment, the team in Thailand had to use duct tape, plastic spoons and sheer “dead reckoning” to get this job done (GPS doesn’t work in a cave). Innovation is a SPIRIT value.
    In conclusion, while our work is not watched worldwide, it is important to each patient we treat. Enjoy your summer!