Malisha Patel ’04 knew from an early age she wanted to help people and set out on a path to become a physician. Her road took an unexpected turn during her freshman year at The University of Texas at Austin. Malisha, a pre-med student majoring in biology, decided on a whim to attend a seminar in Health Care Administration conducted by Professor Bill McCaughrin. By the end of the hour Malisha knew “the role of health care administrator would be more fitting,” and she was right.
Malisha’s administrative residency at the VA North Texas Health Care System presented her the opportunity to lead two of the system’s largest departments, be involved in primary care clinics, and help start the Polytrauma program for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. From there, it was a seamless transition to Tenet Health Care, where Malisha was part of the internal consulting group C2Q (Commitment to Quality) and worked with “great leaders focused on improving key operational metrics.” A year later, Malisha joined Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital where she rose quickly from Six Sigma Black Belt to Director of Perioperative Services to Director of Hospital Operations, and ultimately, to Chief Operations Officer and VP of Operations, her current position.
Malisha credits hard work and the connections she made at Trinity for much of her success. “The alumni network is unbelievable,” she says. “You say the name Trinity and it is as though you are automatically part of this large family. Every significant change in my professional journey has been with the help of a Trinity graduate who has opened a door for me.”
Passing through those doors, Malisha has dealt with numerous industry-wide changes. One of the biggest, the ACA (Affordable Care Act), “has challenged us to think differently and changed our focus from health care to health,” she says. By way of example, she points to Memorial Hermann’s focus on providing more access through Convenient Care Centers and Urgent Care clinics being established throughout the Houston metroplex. “At Memorial Hermann Sugar Land, we are continuously thinking of ways to be better stewards of our resources and provide value to our patients with a keen focus on safety and quality at the core of what we do,” she adds.
Malisha foresees more significant changes ahead to the look and feel of health care. “Disruption via innovation will continue to transform traditional health care offerings in hospitals to more outpatient settings and homes,” she says, “and technology will be a major factor in that change.” While she hopes to see a continued focus on prevention and education, “the model of care will continue to be more efficient and streamlined as we evolve to value-based care.” Further, she predicts, “transparency in all areas of health care will continue to increase because we are in a consumer driven world. These changes coupled with what the future has in store will reinvent the patient experience.”
With this in mind, Malisha thinks early careerists in health care administration should be aware that “the traditional path no longer exists.” She counsels openness to different opportunities and a willingness to take intelligent risks. Also, she says, “it is essential for a leader of an organization to relentlessly learn and grow.” The Baldrige Framework, which Memorial Hermann Sugar Land has embarked upon, provides great discipline and a framework for doing just what she notes.
Typical of most successful executives in the industry, Malisha is active in her community. She serves on the Fort Bend Literacy Council, the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce, and is an active member of the Indo-Asian American Chamber of Greater Houston and the Texas Hospital Association.
Outside work, Malisha loves spending time with her husband and two sons —“they are my life.” She also enjoys travel, reading and recently began the Orangetheory Fitness workout craze. While the cardio-focused exercise program keeps her fit, “it is the people I work with that give me energy and a purpose. Making a difference in the lives of our patients and employees is what drives me.”