Memorial Hermann CEO Malisha Patel Advancing Leadership, Advancing Health


COVER STORY | By Christopher Hill –

Leadership is one of the qualities we most admire in others and strive for in ourselves. However, leaders are not made; they are developed. The positive influences of those around us throughout our lives help us find each rung on the ladder. As leaders develop, they take their next steps, but those steps are guided by the memories and teachings of the influencers in their lives. When leaders arrive, they bring with them those lessons and become the influencers who develop the next generation of leaders.

Extended Family

Malisha Patel.

Malisha Patel, Senior Vice President and CEO of Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital  and Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital, is one of those new leaders inside our county – intelligent, energetic, compassionate and ready to take on the challenges of our healthcare system and be a beacon in our community.  When you walk into her office, the first thing you see is a photograph of a beautiful family and the stunning vacation backdrop of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It is said that what we display is what we value, and the love of family radiates from that room. As we spoke, that love of family was evident, their influence undeniable. And Patel’s admiration for her Memorial Hermann family was also on display.

“We are the results of our experiences,” said Patel. “Those family adventures help to make you who you are. Being able to work in a location that understands that and wants to develop that type of atmosphere in the workplace is the goal for our workforce – employee partners, affiliated physician partners and volunteer partners. We have a family at home and a family in the workplace.”

Patel’s story began, as all of ours do, with her family. She, alongside her older brother and younger sister, are first-generation Americans. Their parents came from India in the 1970s with the goal of finding a better life through education. Her father earned a master’s degree in California, then he and his wife made their way to Texas, in this case, San Antonio, Texas, for an opportunity in the hospitality industry.

“My parents are the epitome of the American dream,” Patel told me. “Their hard work and perseverance taught us the value of education and effort. They sacrificed a lot to make sure we had the benefits they did not have growing up.”

A Passion for Health Care

Malisha Patel, Keri Schmidt and Sterling Carter.

For Patel, the path led her to the medical field. In her youth, she volunteered in hospitals and was always attracted to health care. Her parents supported her in any way they could to continue her education. She entered The University at Texas at Austin as a biology major, fully set on one day becoming the first doctor in her family. Then she sat in on a seminar on healthcare administration.

“Coming into college, I was excited about the opportunity to help people,” Patel explained. “When I sat in that seminar, I discovered an opportunity where I could help large numbers of people at one time. It was invigorating. From then on, the business aspects of the curriculum became a driving force.”

With a biology degree in hand, Patel made the decision away from medical school and to Trinity University in San Antonio, where she obtained her degree in Healthcare Administration. Quickly, after some time working with the Veteran’s Administration and Tenet Healthcare Corporation, she was discovered by the Memorial Hermann Health System and the Sugar Land facility, but not in the position she occupies today. In her first year at the facility, she began her journey, and for the next 11 years, she was learning and training under some of the top executives in the nation.

“Those years were vital, and I was blessed to learn from two different CEOs, each with their own styles. In the hospital, they created a culture of caring for our patients, but also our workforce. Learning and developing was expected and that enhanced every aspect of our teamwork,” said Patel.

A New CEO

Stafford MSD Superintendent Dr. Robert Bostic, Malisha Patel and Lamar ISD Superintendent Dr. Thomas Randle.

Those years were a crucial cornerstone in Patel’s development, growth that culminated in 2018 when she was tapped as the new Senior Vice-President and CEO of Memorial Hermann Sugar Land, as well as Memorial Hermann Southwest.

Patel comes into this position during a turbulent time for healthcare. Government involvement ebbs and flows with each administration, reimbursements continue to drop and there are new players from outside of traditional healthcare looking to provide their versions of service. To the outsider looking in, the constant whipsaw between policies could be staggering, but Malisha Patel takes it all in stride.

“Medicine will continue to advance. We must keep up with research and examine where we can be more proficient. We must always be focused on our patients and constantly assess how we can provide high-quality service with lower costs.”

New providers from outside traditional healthcare sources could bring additional changes to the industry. Amazon and JP Morgan are two examples of unknowns coming into the market. They bring with them new ways of doing things and a disruptive mantra.

“We have to continue to be innovative,” Patel said. “We must disrupt ourselves as an organization. Right beside us in that effort are our associates. They are our front lines, and they see things first. We have to find innovations that are disruptive and incremental.”

It is the incremental part where you see Patel’s ability to discern the larger picture while also recognizing the trees before her. The incremental is the process changes that continue to improve quality and reduce cost. The disruptive part is the big ideas and changes in how they make services convenient and more accessible. Both are vital to advancing health care for  the next generation.

For a company the size of Memorial Hermann, this could be a daunting task, but Patel knows that the company as a whole embraces this philosophy, and she has senior leaders within the company reinforcing innovation.

“Over the past year and a half, we have implemented a program called iGenerate. It is a platform where any employee can recommend changes at any level, hospital-specific or throughout the entire system. As we develop new processes from those ideas, we share them as best practices system-wide. We had an idea at Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital that improved services and saved a few hundred thousand dollars. That idea is now being implemented throughout Memorial Hermann,” Patel explained.

The Future of Memorial Hermann

Limited layers of leadership allow Patel’s hospitals to remain nimble and ready to develop new opportunities for the community. Past leaders of Memorial Hermann Sugar Land foresaw the growth of this county, and their foresight led to the expansion of the hospital from an initial 89-bed facility to one with 149 beds. During Patel’s tenure, the hospital will expand again, this time to 179 beds.

“The community continues to grow, and we need to be right there with them and ready to serve their needs daily, as well as have the vision to be prepared for where the county will be years and decades from now.”

These efforts have led to groundbreaking additions to the system in general and in her hospitals, specifically. Their willingness to disrupt the system has brought unique programs to the campus, including:

IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute – An athlete-driven performance environment  where people of all ages and abilities can receive individualized orthopedic care. At this   single location,  athletes can receive customized treatment and training programs developed by top orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, exercise physiologists, biomechanists, strength and conditioning coaches and athletic trainers.

Pediatric ER – As the number of children in Fort Bend County expands exponentially, so has the Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Emergency Center with the addition of a Pediatric ER. The pediatric ER offers  24/7 dedicated board-certified emergency or pediatric personnel focused on delivering pediatric emergency care to ensure quality pediatric services close to home.

Center of Excellence, Bariatrics –  Memorial Hermann Sugar Land  is home to the NewStart comprehensive weight-loss surgery program, complete with specially trained affiliated surgeons and a staff attuned to patients’ specific needs. Memorial Hermann Sugar Land  has been recognized as a fully accredited Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP) Center by the American College of Surgeons (ACS), the only one in Fort Bend County.

School Based Health Clinics Last year, these outreach clinics served over 6,000 children in Lamar Consolidated School District. Providing more than just physicals, these clinics assist the uninsured, underinsured and Medicaid populations.

“We have more on the way. Recently, thanks to the George Foundation, we started several new programs that seek to support Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) patients, homeless students and parenting students in a wrap-around environment. The goal is to help get these kids from crisis to thriving,” Patel explained.

Malisha Patel sees the role of a community hospital as one of constant evolution. “A community like ours is rapidly changing, and we have to grow and change to meet those needs. Sometimes it is adding new programs to respond to a specific need, and other times it is refining a process to deliver better outcomes.”

Memorial Hermann offers a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week Nurse Health Line. This free nurse triage service is available to everyone in Fort Bend County and the entire Greater Houston area. The service connects callers to experienced registered nurses to help with some of the complex medical decisions patients and their families face. Every month, over 3,000 callers find assistance through the service.

It also means refining existing programs, like adding certified community health workers in the emergency room to assist with some of the non-medical processes that can complicate outcomes. They help those who are uninsured, but they also  educate patients in need about how to access additional health and wellness services available in the community. Last year the program assisted over 3,500 people.

These additions and refinements are responses to the community’s needs and examples of  the industry’s continuing evolution to a more customer-focused experience. “We are here to serve the patients, both directly in our hour-to-hour interactions, but also to make sure we have the people and processes in place to ensure that their experience is superior. Our healthcare hospitality aids in recovery,” said Patel. “No one wants to come to the hospital, but if you do come, we want that time to contain the best experience possible.”

Eleven years ago, Malisha Patel joined the Memorial Herman family. She was armed with a strong education and a commitment to advance the quality of health in her community. She grew within the hospital. Mentors in the system quickly recognized her value-based leadership style. As she progressed, the lessons learned from a close upbringing and a father who developed a business based on customer care shone through. Today, she is the Senior Vice-President and CEO of two area hospitals, responsible for advancing health care for a community that is growing prolifically. She is redefining what health care looks like locally with an eye to the future. The task is daunting, but her focus is on point as she views the mission the same in the office as she does at home.

“I believe our primary goals as people are to be respectful, compassionate and kind. As parents, we look to imprint those characteristics on our children. As the CEO of these hospitals, it is important to bring this value-based approach to our patients, as well as our workforce.  We are the result of our experiences, and our commitment to our patients and workforce is for those experiences to be positive,” said Patel.