Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital CEO Chris Siebenaler

Dr. Marc Boom, President and CEO of Houston Methodist, and Chris Siebenaler celebrating Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s 20th anniversary in March 2018.

Twenty years. From 22 beds and 160 employees to 347 medical, surgical and intensive care beds and more than 2,200 employees. How has Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital grown from its humble beginnings to become Fort Bend’s premier health care provider in a relatively short time period?

Like any growing business, the hospital’s success is built on understanding what the customers want – and meeting those needs.

“Houston Methodist Sugar Land was initially conceived as a community health center that would provide a gateway to Houston Methodist in the medical center for Fort Bend residents,” said Chris Siebenaler, Regional Senior Vice President and CEO of Houston Methodist Sugar Land. “Our original mission was to provide basic services here and transfer patients with complex conditions to the medical center, but from the beginning, the community wanted more from us. We listened – and responded.”

Rooted in Community

The community spoke loud and clear: People in Fort Bend and surrounding areas wanted a full-service, premier hospital close to home. So as the community grew, the hospital grew as well – meeting the need for leading medicine right here in Fort Bend.

“We realized early on that our objective had to change,” Siebenaler said. “So we began the process of building out not only our physical footprint, but also our physician staff and employee team to be able to deliver unparalleled, state-of-the-art medical care. And along the way, we’ve successfully achieved numerous ‘Fort Bend Firsts’ – complex procedures in cardiology, neurology and other services that had never been done locally but are routine now.”

To effectively manage its growth, the hospital planned expansions in 10-year increments. From 1998 to 2008, Houston Methodist Sugar Land evolved into a 54-bed hospital while it prepared for a more substantial build-out. During the next phase – between 2008 and 2018 – it grew to 347 beds, six specialized care centers, three medical office buildings and multiple physician offices located throughout the community.

To provide the latest, most sophisticated care, the hospital’s medical staff has grown from just 47 physicians in 1998 to more than 1,000 today – in virtually every specialty.

A Winning Culture: I CARE Values

The Cookies for Heroes program is a program where cookie customers can support Girl Scouts by purchasing cookies and donating their purchase. Girl Scout Troop 157134 chose Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital as the recipient of their donated cookies to say thank you and to recognize the heroes there who so greatly supported and served the community during Hurricane Harvey. Pictured: Sophia Bersi, Sydney Hudzietz, Victoria Mosher, Jaya Sheth, Chris Siebenaler, Roma Ghorpade, Deborah Adebo and Amelia Cox.

Another important element in the hospital’s growth and success is Houston Methodist’s values-based approach, designed to guide physicians and employees in all day-to-day activities. These I CARE values – Integrity, Compassion, Accountability, Respect and Excellence – provide a solid foundation for decision-making and action.

“Our I CARE values drive our behaviors, and those behaviors lead to positive outcomes – a safe environment, high-quality care and a personalized patient experience,” said Siebenaler.

To ensure that I CARE values remain top-of-mind, Siebenaler and his executive and management teams make “walking the walk” a priority.

  “As a leader, you have to model the behavior that you expect and make certain to hire staff members who demonstrate those core values,” he said. “We talk about our values a lot, but we also strive to show them in action every day. And we constantly recognize physicians and employees who do the same.”

Attracting and retaining a quality staff – one that rises to the culture – is an interactive process at Houston Methodist Sugar Land.

“We hire for fit and train and develop staff in a specific way,” said Siebenaler. “For example, at the end of every new employee’s first four months, we survey them to gain important feedback on how we’re doing and how they are learning our system and values. It’s just one of the many ways we measure outcomes and adjust as needed.”

This employee feedback is critical to Houston Methodist’s philosophy, and it continues on an annual basis.

“We look at the data we receive from our employee surveys to help us develop action plans to continually enhance our work environment,” said Siebenaler. “We ask, ‘What are the specific ways we can improve to continue to be a great place to work?’ Our employees know that we are listening and responding to their ideas and suggestions, and it increases commitment and engagement. In fact, we rank at the 96 percentile in employee engagement, which puts us in the top four percent of employer’s nationally.”

This employee engagement was never more evident than in August 2017 during Hurricane Harvey. When the Brazos River crested at a record of 55.19 feet and countless homes were flooded, the dedication of the physicians and staff allowed Houston Methodist Sugar Land to remain fully operational – the only hospital in Fort Bend to do so during the historic event.

“The ability of our hospital to remain open throughout Hurricane Harvey is a direct result of Houston Methodist’s commitment to our I CARE values,” said Siebenaler. “Our staff’s advance planning in addition to the dedication of our physicians, nursing staff and employees, who stayed at the hospital as long as necessary to continue serving our patients and our community, was remarkable.”

As the waters continued to rise, close to 300 Houston Methodist Sugar Land employees were at the hospital providing care around the clock. Many employees, along with their families who were forced to evacuate, took shelter at the hospital.  The hospital’s dietary staff prepared nearly 6,000 meals for patients, family members and employees.

“A storm like Harvey creates a great deal of stress and worry for everyone, but our staff made the well-being of our patients a priority,” said Siebenaler. “I am proud of how we supported our community during that devastating time.”

After the storm, Houston Methodist created an employee relief fund to aid staff members who suffered losses from Hurricane Harvey, which raised more than $8.4 million.

Team Houston Methodist Sugar Land

Siebenaler likens his personal management style to that of a coach.

“Health care is a complex, multi-faceted business that requires a great number of moving parts all working together in unison to be successful,” he said. “It takes a team, and each person on that team must be able to utilize their strengths in concert with others. No leader can do everything that needs to be done. It’s important to recognize others’ strengths, help them build their skills, experience and knowledge, and let them do what they do best.”

Siebenaler has high expectations of the Houston Methodist team, and he holds himself to the same standards.

“As leaders, our job is to serve our community and serve each other,” he said. “My focus is on supporting the outstanding people who care for our patients and determining how best to meet everyone’s needs – our patients, physicians, nurses, staff, and family members. Our patients need us at a time when they are not at their best, which means we have to be at our best.

“Everyone I interact with on a daily basis is ultimately a customer.  Being consistently authentic is important.”

Community Culture

As the hospital has grown, so too has its commitment to the community it serves. Well-known for supporting multiple local organizations and creating vital partnerships to provide much-needed services, the hospital continues to expand its outreach to enhance health care beyond its growing campus.

For example, for more than 18 years, Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine at Sugar Land has partnered with Fort Bend ISD and Stafford MSD by offering annual student physicals for high school and middle school students for $20. The $20 fee is donated back to the schools’ athletic programs. This year, physicians performed 5,477 student physicals – raising more than $100,000. Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine physicians, athletic trainers and physical therapists support student athletes from across the area throughout the school year.

From hosting community baby showers offering valuable information and support to new parents, to hosting annual cancer luncheons celebrating survivors, to free educational seminars with physicians and specialists, Houston Methodist Sugar Land is first and foremost an integral Fort Bend neighbor.

“When our community wanted us to do more, we responded by creating a major medical facility that delivers Houston Methodist quality right here in Fort Bend,” said Siebenaler, who is a Fort Bend County resident for 17 years himself. “Today, our community has access to the broadest possible range of high-quality, complex services and procedures in a convenient, comfortable location – and that is tremendously rewarding.  Now, we are in a constant cycle of doing what we do and doing it well. Our goal is to keep doing that as we continue to grow.”

And growth is still on the horizon for Houston Methodist Sugar Land under Siebenaler’s care and leadership.

“As Fort Bend grows, and as medical technology and procedures evolve, we’ll continue to invest in and support the facilities and people we need to serve our patients,” Siebenaler said. “Our goal for the next 10 years is to continue listening to our community and responding with the services and care they need.”