The HCD 10 Owner/Provider

Debra F. Sukin, MHA, PhD, FACHE, regional senior vice president, Houston Methodist; CEO, Houston Methodist The Woodlands (The Woodlands, Texas)

Mission statement: “I have made a career of taking nothing and making it into something with big, lofty visions.”

Who she is: Sukin balances two roles within the Houston Methodist system. As a regional senior vice president, she’s responsible for four suburban hospitals. And as CEO, she operates Houston Methodist The Woodlands, a 187-bed greenfield hospital that opened in July 2017—a project for which Sukin led design, development, and implementation. She’s long been dedicated to the creation of patient-centered environments, with a reputation for redefining community hospitals in Texas.

Year in review: The opening of Houston Methodist The Woodlands brought a four-year project to an end, one that was guided by Sukin’s quest to bring patient-centered, wellness-focused care to North Houston. Sukin was immersed in every aspect of planning and delivery after becoming CEO during the early stages of design. She’s credited as being both highly involved and highly available during planning to coordinate with the project team, as needed. The result includes direct impact to the project thanks to her engagement, including the relocation of the dining area from the interior to the perimeter of the building to allow for more natural light and connection to an outdoor plaza. She identified locations for key visitor spaces, such as the chapel, dining, gift shop, and outpatient imaging, to ensure they’re easily accessible off the main lobby for a more user-friendly and intuitive experience. For staff, she reassigned space for a workout area. She collaborated with the local artist community to commission geographically appropriate pieces. She even hand-picked the furniture and finishes, knowing what details would make the residents of her long-time home more comfortable.

Industry impact: Sukin defines what provider involvement can mean to a project. Although the original template for the project was based on four-year-old sister location Houston Methodist West, when Sukin came on board, she saw the opportunity to shift gears a bit. She took lessons learned at the other site and made strategic changes where needed. Her insight and knowledge inspired the delivery of project elements that will make a difference to both patients and staff: pre-op areas with private rooms and bathrooms; USB ports and charging stations integrated in furniture, patient rooms, and business centers on all floors; patient rooms with telemetry capabilities for maximum flexibility; a multiroom conference center open to the public for wellness education; and observation rooms in the ED to reduce wait times. The result now serves as a model from which others can learn.

What’s next: Sukin will continue to focus on developing and enhancing key clinical service lines at Houston Methodist The Woodlands as well as the other hospitals she oversees in the region, with strategies in place to recruit physicians over multiple years while also expanding primary care and community outreach. As demand for services grows, she’ll be working on additional expansion projects, including building out all remaining shell space in Houston Methodist The Woodlands.