George Gaston understands the important role healthcare workers play in the lives of patients and their families. That's because Gaston has been on the receiving end of patient care, an experience the 38-year-old says changed him as a leader.
“I turned my life over to the hands of others numerous times,” Gaston says, adding that placing trust and confidence in caregivers is not something to take lightly. “Sometimes we get caught up in the hustle and bustle and throughput, but we've got to stay focused on the impact we have on people in their lives and their loved ones.”
Gaston had been a part of the Memorial Hermann system for five years when physicians discovered a major cyst in his brain on the day after he turned 30. Although found to be benign, the cyst caused headaches and numbness in his hands and feet. He underwent several surgeries and had to leave his role as assistant vice president of operations at Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital. Today, as CEO of Memorial Hermann Southeast, Gaston says he relates to the patients and families he sees when he makes rounds at the hospital.
A 1993 graduate of Baylor University, Gaston began his career at the Houston-based system in June 1996, when he started a two-year administrative fellow program there. It was the same year he earned a master's degree in health administration, with honors, from Washington University in St. Louis. He rose quickly in the ranks at Memorial Hermann, serving first as an administrative director for Memorial Hermann Northwest, then as a senior administrator in two capacities: assistant vice president of operations from 2000 to 2002 and assistant vice president of campus expansion and specialty projects until 2003.
For the next two years, Gaston served as assistant vice president of hospital operations at Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital before he moved to the Southeast facility in June 2005. After serving as the facility's chief operating officer, Gaston was named CEO in May 2007.
“George understands processes and how to make processes a reality that really does work,” says Rebecca Lilley, director of physician development at Memorial Hermann Southeast.
Lilley, who began her career at the system in 1983, says Gaston is the only administrative fellow about whom she wrote a glowing letter to the system's CEO at the time: Dan Wilford. Now, working for Gaston, Lilley continues to hold him in high regard and describes him as a “servant leader.”
“He feels like it's his calling to be here to serve everybody that's here, to serve our community and to put everybody else ahead of himself,” Lilley says. “He looks at the big picture.”