From scratch: A tale of diversity in action

Mario Garner drives success through mirroring the community

Mario Garner drives success through mirroring the community



What would you do if you had the opportunity to start a hospital from scratch? How would you staff your leadership team? What type of culture would you strive to create?


Mario Garner, now the chief operating officer for two Memorial Hermann hospitals in Houston,
MH Southeast, Pearland and a free-standing emergency room, has had the chance to start with a blank 
slate twice, and he’s not even 40 yet.


In 2013, he became the CEO of New Orleans East Hospital, which was built after Hurricane Katrina decimated the neighborhood in which it is placed. And in 2015, he moved to Texas to serve as CEO of the new Memorial Hermann Pearland Hospital.


“It was a tremendous opportunity to build a team to meet the needs of the respective communities,” Garner says today. “It was a clean slate, so I did not inherit a way of doing things. I was able to spark a level of interest by being creative with the teams I was able to build at these respective campuses.”


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Diversity is a must-have ingredient


In both cases, Garner made it a point to make sure his leadership teams reflected the communities they served. New Orleans East is an urban hospital in the inner city; Pearland is in a diverse suburban setting in the Houston metro area.


Diversity has been shown to be essential for successful organizations. Study after study shows that companies with diverse leadership are more successful financially, are more innovative, function better and make more deliberate decisions than those lacking diversity.


“The leadership teams at both of these de novo hospitals were able to bring innovative ideas and best practices from various other locations,” he adds. “At New Orleans East Hospital, we were able to recruit physicians fairly easily. By the time we opened the doors, we had more than 100 credentialed physicians for the campus – which spoke to the physicians’ interest. Some were eager to return to the community, while others wanted to come in and serve in what was in many regards an underserved area. We also didn’t have the challenges of overcoming an aged physical plant, so it was very easy to recruit.”


Pearland was a bit different situation, but just as exciting, he says. “Memorial Hermann has a methodology for operating our hospitals, so we were able to take many of those components and lay them as a foundation. Then, we were able to build on that with the unique aspect of opening a new hospital and establishing a positive culture, one that would create employee engagement, as well as engagement with our physicians and patients.”


Working effectively with the board


The unique governance structures of both hospitals also gave Garner broad experience in very different situations.


“At Memorial Hermann, I had the opportunity to work closely with corporate infrastructure,” he says. “I reported to a regional president who was able to provide significant guidance as

to the Memorial Hermann way of hospital operations. She helped me overcome any barriers or roadblocks when it came to acquiring what I needed to execute contracts and other activation components to get the hospital open on time and under budget.”


New Orleans East was completely different. The hospital was built with ...


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