In this Fireside Chat, we sat down with Dr. David Callender, President and CEO, Memorial Hermann Health System. We talked about the COVID-19 pandemic, lessons learned in crisis management, the importance of communication with state and local officials, and Memorial Hermann’s growth strategy.

Dr. Callender has faced significant medical crises during his time as a leader in the healthcare industry, so he is well equipped to lead Memorial Hermann through the COVID-19 crisis today. He says the team at Memorial Hermann has looked to other leaders’ guidance nationwide when it comes to facing the pandemic at home.

Like many health systems, Memorial Hermann has had a pandemic response plan in place long-term, but they’ve never had to deploy it fully. Dr. Callender says Memorial Hermann has been operating its emergency command center at a modified mode for over two weeks as the team prepares a coordinated response to the coming surge of COVID-19 patients.

“I think most of us have plans that describe all of these things, but now we’re having to use them and test them and make sure that we’re ahead of the curve in terms of the execution of pandemic plans,” he says.

All in all, reducing the impact of the threat is paramount. Memorial Hermann is working diligently to prepare its staff and facilities by providing necessary training, resources, and preparation ahead of time.

At the moment, the hospitals experiencing the greatest overwhelm are smaller, outlying, suburban hospitals–not necessarily the large, central health systems. By their nature, smaller hospitals will experience limited capacity because it was more limited prior to the pandemic.

Dr. Callender has served as President and CEO of Memorial Hermann since 2019. He is an ENT surgeon specializing in neck and head cancers. Before joining the Memorial Hermann team, Dr. Callender served for 12 years as the President of the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB Health). Prior to that, he was the UCLA Hospital System’s Associate Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer, and MD Anderson’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.

Dr. Callender earned his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine, where he also completed his residency. He completed his fellowship in oncology at MD Anderson and earned his MBA from the University of Houston.

Memorial Hermann’s network consists of over 300 hospitals and specialty and diagnostic centers. Over 27,000 employees and 6,700 physicians are part of the system.

To hear the full conversation, click here.