The Woodlands rapidly developing medical center undergoing cultural shift

By: J. Werner
| Published 07/10/2014


THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- The Woodlands’ rapidly developing medical center is undergoing a transformation in cultures that transcends all the major hospital systems. Interestingly enough, the CEOs of the three major hospitals in The Woodlands will all be undergoing a changing of the guard simultaneously.

The new CEOs of the major hospital systems to define corporate cultures.

Houston Methodist recently announced that Debbie Sukin, CEO of CHI St. Luke’s Health - The Woodlands Hospital, will be returning to become regional senior vice president and CEO of its new Woodlands hospital, a 470,000-square foot, 193-bed, state-of-the-art medical facility, which will also include a 135,000-sq. foot medical office building in the complex.

After a 10-year tenure with St. Luke’s, Sukin will start her new position later in July, and will also be overseeing Houston Methodist's Willowbrook and San Jacinto hospitals.

The hospital system, slated to open in 2017, will be located at Texas 242 and Interstate 45 on the southeast corner, directly across the freeway from St. Luke’s The Woodlands Hospital.

Coincidentally, CHI St. Luke’s Health system just named Michael H. Covert, chief executive officer on June 3. At St. Luke’s The Woodlands Hospital, no new CEO has been announced to fill Sukin’s position. The hospital’s website lists, David Argueta, MHA, as Interim President and Chief Operating Officer. Argueta just joined CHI St. Luke’s Health-The Woodlands Hospital as COO in mid-May of this year. He’s a native Texan, who made his way to The Woodlands via Waco; originally born in Harlingen. He studied at Baylor College of Medicine, and worked for Scott&White-Hillcrest in Waco. Argueta is a music lover, whose personal slogan is “Live life daily!” He is social media savvy, but posts only occasionally on Facebook and Twitter. Little else is known about him. A call to The Woodlands Hospital to obtain the status of the CEO position, has not been returned as of this writing.

At the same time, Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital just announced the retirement of CEO Steve Sanders in mid-June, appointing their COO, Josh Urban, to the top executive position, retroactive to June 1. Although Urban has been with the hospital since 2000, like his counterparts, all three will be new to their positions.

This attrition in CEOs comes at a time when Montgomery County is seeing the largest growth spurt in its history. Although it appears that there will be sufficient hospital beds to go around, where we choose our medical care when it comes to emergencyor elective medical care, is contingent on our previous experiences and those of others.

“ If Schaef’s theory is accurate, all three hospitals may see a change in cultures, which could be distinctively different. This is not a bad thing. Sukin and Urban have distinguished themselves as community leaders. Both have proven track records of giving back to the community, which will transcend to their respective organizations. Having worked together in the past on projects for the greater good, they probably regard each other more as colleagues than competitors.

How significant is corporate culture in the medical industry? As important as it is in all other industries. A company’s culture can be a major source of competitive advantage. The one that most closely aligns its corporate culture with that of the community’s, will gain significant competitive advantage. With all three under the age of fifty, it does appear that the torch has been passed to a new generation. Their ages are not as much of a concern as the timing. The simultaneous attrition of all the CEOs in the Montgomery County Medical Center, occurs at a time when the burgeoning county can ill afford any missteps in medical care.

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