After 20 years of serving as the Memorial Herman The Woodlands Hospital CEO, Stephen Sanders is retiring to make way for the next phase of leadership.

Sanders has worked in the Memorial Hermann system for 32 years, and he was named CEO of The Woodlands Hospital 20 years ago, a few years after the hospital was brought into the system.

Sanders will be replaced by current hospital Chief Operating Officer Josh Urban, Sanders said. Urban's replacement as COO has yet to be announced.

"You need to know when to step down and allow the other generation to have the opportunity that I had to be the CEO of this hospital," Sanders said. "I am very pleased that Josh was the choice. He has been an outstanding COO, he knows the hospital, he lives in this community, and he is a very bright and capable guy."

Urban will be tasked with leading the hospital in difficult times for a health care industry undergoing dramatic changes, Sanders said.

"I think Josh and our health care system [are] going to probably face some of its most difficult and challenging times," Sanders said. "One is competition is going to get severe. Then of course you have state and federal regulations that are making things very difficult."

Sanders will formally retire from the position in early July, after the turn of the fiscal year, to facilitate the transition. Still, Sanders plans to find new ways to contribute to health care as a consultant or through interim CEO work after his retirement.