“Growing up I wanted to help people, and for me that was something in health care,” Patel said. “At the age of 16 I was a candy striper; I was volunteering. My freshman year [of college] I started off in pre-med classes. I went to a seminar in the business school on health care administration, and there was just something that clicked. I loved the concept of being able to influence health.”
A San Antonio native, Patel earned her undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Texas in Austin and received her Masters in Health Care Administration from Trinity University. She completed her residency at the Veterans Affairs North Texas Health Care System in Dallas over a course of about 3 years.
“It was a great experience for me,” Patel said. “It was very humbling as my first time really serving the country. It was a really unique group with a great mission.”
Patel is halfway through her yearlong chairmanship for the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce and has spent the last year as Chief Operating Officer at Memorial Hermann Southwest. Prior to that role, she served as COO at Memorial Hermann Sugar Land for 5 years.
Patel follows CEO Greg Haralson, who was appointed to become the new CEO of Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.
How has your time with Memorial Hermann shaped and prepared you for this role?
I’ve been blessed with the different opportunities that I’ve had. I’ve been in several different roles, and each role I’ve gained new insight and different skill sets to better prepare me for the next role. In addition, I’ve had great mentors along the way that have provided me feedback and guidance. I feel like every day in my past 15 years in health care has been helping me prepare to get to this role. I wouldn’t change any of that because each one of those steps has helped me understand the patient in different aspects and employees and volunteers and everyone that plays a role in what we do. I learn something new every day.
What is your vision for both hospitals?
I think it’s really important to understand our purpose in the community. For both [Memorial Hermann] Sugar Land and Memorial Hermann Southwest, it is about serving the people of Southeast Texas in this community. That’s our mission—how do we provide high-quality care to the community, and how do we do that and advance health at the same time? We don’t really want people to be in the hospital, but if they are, we’re going to take good care of them.
What are some specific goals you have for the Sugar Land campus and Southwest campus?
I want to continue to focus on delivering high reliability in all that we do from quality to patient experience. I also think it’s important to enhance the population’s health and see what are the opportunities that we have in our community for education? Specifically, to Southwest, we know in this area we have a high population of the community that is in need of food, so where could we partner with local food banks, and how do we encourage folks to go for primary care visits or clinics or support groups? That’s what’s really important is educating the community.
What have you gained from your time with the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce?
It’s amazing to be a part of Fort Bend County—one of the fastest-growing counties in the country and one of the most diverse counties in the country. At the chamber, this mission is very similar to health care. With Fort Bend chamber, it’s how do we promote business excellence in our community? It has been a role model, it’s five-star accredited, and it’s just neat to be a part of an organization who strives for excellence. That experience continues to help me in the expectations I have for us as a business organization with Memorial Hermann.
How do you balance everything?
I think balance is every day, and I wish I could say 50 percent of the time I’m at work and the other 50 percent of the time I’m going to stay with the family, but that’s hard, so it’s a constant balance. I couldn’t do it without the help of my team. My No. 1 priority is my family, and how I manage to do that and make sure I meet the needs of both hospitals and the chamber is a constant focus. I have a great support group.
How is the transition into your new role going?
Since the announcement [in May], I feel like the transition already started occurring. [Greg Haralson] is being pulled into different things at [the Texas Medical Center] campus, and in doing so, I’m being pulled into more things at both of these campuses. The transition has started, it’s just trying to regroup and focus on the key priorities that we have—what’s going to be important for Sugar Land and our vision there and Southwest and what we’re going to do here, and make sure we don’t lose momentum on what’s important. For me right now, it’s do we have the right team to continue our vision?