For nine years, following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, eastern New Orleans was without a hospital. In July 2014, the newly built New Orleans East Hospital, an 80-bed public facility, opened its doors, returning medical care and jobs to a community in need of both.
Mario Garner, 34, was hired in the summer of 2013 as CEO, asked to oversee construction of the $130 million facility, lead licensing and accreditation efforts and recruit the hospital's physicians and employees. Today, the facility—on the site of the former Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital that was destroyed by Katrina—has 100 physicians on staff and 230 employees serving a community of more than 120,000 residents.
“There's been a lot of excitement around the reopening of the hospital. Many in the community feel it's been well worth the wait,” said Garner, who previously was chief operating officer at HCA Fairview Park Hospital in Dublin, Ga., for two years. Garner said he was confident he was up to the task when he was named CEO.
“My professional background has involved leading initiatives in construction, renovation, building profitable hospital service lines, recruiting physicians, as well as championing employee- and patient-satisfaction initiatives.”
Garner said he knows his job has only just begun. “My greatest opportunity is to get the new hospital's service delivery model right,” he said. “For the past nine years, it has become the norm for [patients] to not only go to other hospitals, but also to follow their physicians, most of whom also have relocated outside of the neighborhood post-Katrina. My goal is that every patient who enters our facility leaves with a positive experience, and as a result, will request that their providers send them to us for care.”
In recognition of Garner's work in the Crescent City and throughout his young career, the American College of Healthcare Executives has named him the recipient of its 2015 Robert S. Hudgens Memorial Award for Young Healthcare Executive of the Year. The award is given to an exceptional executive under age 40 who is an ACHE Fellow and holds a CEO or chief operating officer position in a healthcare organization. Last year, Garner also was named one of Modern Healthcare's Up & Comers, which recognizes accomplished healthcare leaders age 40 or younger.