David Bernard became CEO of Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital on Jan. 1, following Debbie Sukin's move from that position to president of Texas Children's.

Community Impact asked Bernard about his career and his plans for The Woodlands-area hospital.

What drew you to hospital leadership as a career path?

Helping others was a way of life for my family growing up in south Louisiana, so the health care field seemed to be a natural fit for me. Yet, hospital leadership was not my first love. For as far back as I can remember I wanted to be a football coach—building teams, putting together strategic game plans, striving for perfection, inspiring players and winning championships.

Although I did not take that career path, I have the opportunity to coach and help others every day as a hospital leader at Houston Methodist striving for unparalleled safety, quality, service and innovation. I believe I have one of the greatest jobs in the world and am humbled to lead our team.

Before joining The Woodlands location, what was your primary impression of the campus and its programs?

My predecessor, Debbie Sukin, and I have known each other and worked together for nearly 25 years. I knew with Debbie at the helm, Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital was going to be an exceptional place. I have been incredibly impressed with the people, organization, hard work and progress that Houston Methodist The Woodlands has made to establish itself as an integral part of the Montgomery County community since opening our doors in 2017. I look forward to building upon this great foundation.

I spent the first 15 years of my career at Houston Methodist in the Texas Medical Center serving in key leadership positions and leading world class clinical, education and research programs. Over the past nine years, as CEO of Houston Methodist Baytown, I had the opportunity to lead major capital expansion projects, build integrated care delivery networks and improved the hospital’s Vizient ranking from No. 104 in 2017 to No. 2 for the past two years in a row in our cohort of almost 200 hospitals nationwide. Why do I bring up No. 2? Because Houston Methodist The Woodlands was ranked No. 1 and the only other hospital in the country that outranked us the last two years.

We are leading medicine at Houston Methodist The Woodlands, and being ranked No. 1 in the country for three years in a row demonstrates our commitment to providing our patients and community with the very best care possible.

What goals do you have for The Woodlands hospital?

I want Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital to be the very best place in the country to receive care as a patient, work as an employee and practice medicine as a physician. Our faith-based, values-driven culture makes our hospital a special place, and I want our friends and neighbors in Montgomery County to know that Houston Methodist The Woodlands always puts the patient at the center of everything we do, and we are committed to providing the very best care possible. We are excited for the opportunity to expand our facilities and services to meet the growing needs of our community.

What do you see as its current strengths?

Our greatest strength at Houston Methodist The Woodlands is our people. Each day, our staff, nurses, physicians and volunteers all come together to create an amazing culture that leads to unparalleled safety, quality, service and innovation for our patients. This is a direct reflection of our values of integrity, compassion, accountability, respect and excellence in action.

Working together, we make a difference in the lives of our patients every day, and we are proud to have achieved national recognition as the No. 1 ranked hospital in the country for patient safety, quality and service by Vizient for three years in a row.

In addition to our people, culture and excellent care and service, we are blessed with health care facilities that are second to none, filled with cutting-edge technology and new innovations to ensure we are providing the best care possible for our community.

What areas do you think can be further developed?

We are always looking toward future expansion, growth, and new ways to improve the care and service we provide to our patients. We opened up our newest tower at Houston Methodist The Woodlands in 2022, which pushed our capacity up to almost 300 beds. As Montgomery County’s health care needs continue to grow, we remain committed to finding ways to provide the very best for our patients and meet the needs of our community.

What are the greater challenges for this campus based on its location and specialties?

The Woodlands is one of the fastest growing communities in the country and for good reason—it is an amazing place to live, work, play, learn and pray as envisioned by its founders. So, one of the challenges for our campus will be to keep up with the fast-paced growth The Woodlands and surrounding communities are experiencing.

Over the past eight years, we have developed several primary care and specialty care clinics, physical therapy and emergency care centers throughout the area, and built a world-class hospital campus to support the tremendous growth in our community. Houston Methodist shares in the grand vision for The Woodlands, and we are excited to growth with our community.

How do you see the hospital working with the surrounding community and education institutions?

For decades, Houston Methodist has partnered with members of the community and education institutions to further our mission of providing high quality, cost-effective health care that delivers the best value to the people we serve in a spiritual environment of caring in association with internationally recognized teaching and research. We are deeply committed to cultivating partnerships with local community organizations, school districts, colleges and universities to train and grow the next generation of medical professionals, and improve the quality of life in our community.

We are also excited to start our own graduate medical education program this July. We participated in national match day in March, and our inaugural cohort will include six internal medicine residents. We look forward to growing this program, and expanding our educational partnerships and opportunities to develop and train the next generation of health care workers and physicians.

What technologies are most important for hospitals to invest in in 2024 and beyond?

Houston Methodist is committed to leading medicine and providing the very best care possible to our patients. Innovation and new technology play a part in this, and we are always looking for ways to benefit our patients, and make our processes and work environment safer and more efficient for our staff.

Since opening our doors in 2017, the use of advanced technologies, such as robotic surgery, advanced therapeutics in orthopedics, stroke and heart care, along with access to clinical research trials has been a part of our culture. We will continue to foster this innovative environment and focus on introducing effective technologies to benefit our staff and bring cutting-edge clinical options to our patients.

We have introduced many virtual care technologies, such as virtual nursing, virtual ICU and other key specialty-based services that have proven to improve the safety and outcomes for our patients, and allowed our teams to be more efficient in coordination of patient care. Our Center for Innovation has helped us to thoughtfully evaluate and implement effective technologies that increase safety, efficiency and create value for our patients and staff. As new innovations emerge and the digital world evolves, so will we.

I do not believe technology will ever replace the human touch. Yet, we will continue to seek out cutting-edge technologies, and use them to create the safest and most efficient environment possible for our patients and staff.

In what areas do you see job growth occurring at this hospital?

Since opening our doors with our first hires in 2017, Houston Methodist The Woodlands has grown to nearly 2,500 employees and one of the largest employers in the area. As our campus expands, we will continue to bring in physicians, nurses and staff to support our mission.

The delivery of health care is a team effort, and we have an amazing team. We are deliberate in attracting the very best to Houston Methodist to support our amazing culture and vision of providing unparalleled safety, quality, service and innovation.

What else would you like the community to know about his hospital and your vision for its future?

Since I joined Houston Methodist The Woodlands in January 2024, I have had the great fortune to meet several community and business leaders who have been instrumental in the development and success of The Woodlands. With their help, I’m learning to appreciate the history, passion and George Mitchell’s vision for The Woodlands, which centered around the idea that residents could live, work, play, learn and pray without ever leaving the community. I would like The Woodlands community to know that Houston Methodist is committed to adding “heal” as a part of this vision by providing the very best care possible right here in our community.

I would also like The Woodlands community to know the future of Houston Methodist The Woodlands is bright. We have an amazing culture, and I look forward to working with our team to grow with our community, set new standards in care and service, and introduce new and effective innovations to continue leading medicine in Montgomery County.