National Hospital Week

May 7, 2019 | Blog


In honor of National Hospital Week, we are highlighting our GHWCC healthcare leaders. 

Liisa Ortegon is a health care leader with more than 28 years of progressive experience. She possesses a wealth of nursing, operational and leadership experience. Liisa holds a bachelor’s of science in nursing degree; master’s in administration degree (MBA core curriculum with organizational development minor) and a doctorate in business administration degree. She was named as a fellow by the Wharton School of Business and subsequently completed the Wharton School of Business executive certification program. Liisa is a recipient of distinguished leadership awards, is an ANCC Board Certified Nurse Executive and member of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. She has also presented nationally on various health care-related topics. Liisa’s strengths include establishing strategic direction, translating strategy into operational reality, achieving results by setting high goals for herself and her team members and building organizational talent and change leadership.  She is passionate about encouraging individuals to stretch beyond expectations to promote innovation in the health care field. Liisa believes that every person in the organization has value and wants to do meaningful work that makes a difference—no matter the role. Liisa’s leadership style supports Houston Methodist’s I CARE values, a positive work culture and high employee morale. She has an ability to communicate an organizational strategy in a very clear and meaningful way which helps others understand and feel how things will be different when the future vision is achieved. Liisa is committed to nursing excellence and improving patient care through system improvements, research and other meaningful contributions that advance the profession.   



Why did you choose the healthcare field? 

I started candy striping when I was 13 years old and loved the hospital environment. I had an uncle who was an administrator and a step-father who worked in an emergency department. Loving hospitals and learning about the field from my family made health care a natural fit.  When I became a cancer patient in my 20’s, I learned about health care from a different perspective. This gave me an even better understanding and further commitment to improving the health care system in little and big ways. 

Who influenced you? 

There are so many mentors and colleagues who have influenced and inspired my journey. While my journey definitely began with a strong mentor in my uncle, I have been guided by those that I have had the opportunity to work for and those who work for me. You pick up little pearls of wisdom from each person who touches your path. Cherish all your interactions and learn from each of them. 

What advice would you give to women considering entering the field of health care or wanting to advance in health care?

Health care is a special field. We touch people at challenging points in their lives and we are so lucky to be able to help so many on their journey. You must have passion and dedication to be in this field. If you are considering health care administration, learn from everyone who surrounds you; interact with the patients continually so that you are keeping in touch with those that we are serving; and strive to make every interaction count to improving health care. Don’t dismay about lateral moves or shifting environments. These just present new opportunities to learn and grow. Don’t focus on titles—focus on what you are accomplishing. When you lose the passion, it is time to move on. Explore the field widely. There are new opportunities to serve patients each day with technology, payers, providers and those that serve the industry. 



Roberta Schwartz

Roberta L. Schwartz is the executive vice president and chief innovation officer of Houston Methodist Hospital, one of the Texas Medical Center’s founding institutions. She is responsible for overseeing all operations at the 924-bed hospital, which has been named by U.S. News & World Report as the No. 1 hospital in Texas for seven straight years and been named twice to the publication’s prestigious “Honor Roll” of America’s best 20 hospitals. In her role as chief innovation officer, Roberta is responsible for advancing and expanding Houston Methodist’s digital innovation platforms, including telemedicine, artificial intelligence and big data. Houston Methodist is recognized by many national organizations for quality, safety and employee and patient satisfaction. Houston Methodist Hospital is also home to a comprehensive medical residency program and research institute.

Prior to joining Houston Methodist, Roberta worked as director of business development for Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, as a consultant and project manager to several academic medical centers for APM/Computer Sciences Corporation, and for CMS (HCFA). 

Roberta earned a Masters in Health Science from Johns Hopkins University and an honors undergraduate degree from Barnard College at Columbia University. She has a Ph.D. from the University of Texas School of Public Health.

Roberta co-chaired the Race for the Cure in New York City and served in volunteer capacities of many breast cancer organizations. For her work, Roberta has received many honors and awards, including the national Jill Ireland Award for Voluntarism, Houston Hadassah “Women of Courage”, Houston’s “Women on the Move” award, “Yoplait Champions” for 2008, Houston’s Top 50 women in 2009, ABC Channel 13 Woman of Distinction for 2015 and she was also inducted into the Greater Houston Women’s Hall of Fame in 2016.

Roberta lives in Houston with her husband and three children.



Why did you choose the health care field? I chose the health care field because the death of both my father (cerebral aneurysm) and my sister (metastatic breast cancer) showed me the need for more compassionate coordinated care for patients and their families. I wanted my career purpose to have an impact and make a difference in improving health care. My undergraduate focus was Health Economics and I started medical school at 31-years-old after working in business for many years.

Who influenced you? I was influenced by clinician educators during my training who were 100% patient focused, and I’ve also been influenced by health leaders who were able to find common ground with multiple stakeholders to drive change which improved patient care.

What advice would you give to women considering entering the field of health care or wanting to advance in health care? Be a transparent collaborative leader who embraces change, which is inevitable in health care.  Listen more than you speak and give your teams a voice to continually improve processes and outcomes.  


Julia D. Andrieni, MD

Julia D. Andrieni, MD, is Vice President of Population Health and Primary Care at Houston Methodist. She is responsible for Houston Methodist’s Population Health Management strategy with the development of Houston Methodist Coordinated Care, a Medicare Shared Savings Program Track 3. As President of Houston Methodist Physicians’ Alliance for Quality (HMPAQ), she is also responsible for developing the private physicians’ alignment model.  Dr. Andrieni is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, a board certified Internist and member of the AOA.

Prior to joining Houston Methodist, Dr. Andrieni was the Vice Chair of Clinical Services and Chief of the General Internal Medicine Division at University of Massachusetts Medical School. Dr. Andrieni was awarded the Joy McCann Professorship for Women in Medicine where she developed an institution-wide Mentoring Advisory Board for faculty and students in the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Graduate Biomedical Sciences. UMass Memorial Health System chose Dr. Andrieni as the faculty member for Drexel University’s Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) fellowship.

Dr. Andrieni authored the chapter, Population Health Management: The Lynchpin of Emerging Healthcare Delivery Models in the textbook America’s Healthcare Transformation: Strategies and Innovations. In 2017, Modern Healthcare recognized her as one of the Top 10 Women in Healthcare to Watch.  In 2019, the American College of Physicians awarded Houston Methodist Coordinated Care (HMCC) ACO with the 2019 John Palmiero ACP Quality Improvement Team Memorial Award.

A native of Augusta, Georgia, Dr. Andrieni earned her B.A. in Economics at Vassar College and was inducted into the International Economics Honor Society. Dr. Andrieni earned her medical degree from State University of New York – Stony Brook Medical School. For nearly a decade, prior to attending medical school, Dr. Andrieni was the Director of Marketing and Business Development for the US for Hoya Crystal, Japan’s largest glass and optic corporation.



Why did you choose the healthcare field?:

Relative to my 30 year career in brand marketing, I am fairly new to health care.  I chose this field 6 years ago because I felt that it was ripe for understanding and learning about the importance of the consumer in how we message and deliver our health care services.   As a brand marketer, my work centers completely around the consumer and the insights and understanding we can derive through research about their needs and desires so that we can deliver on them.  Since health care is an industry new to consumer marketing, I felt that I could make a tremendous impact. 

Who influenced you?

I have had many influencers in my career and for the choices I have made in my career.  However, when it comes to leadership, I can say that Don Knauss was one of my most inspiring leaders who influenced my outlook on leadership.  I have a deep passion for effective leadership and how to bring out the best in people and he helped shape my view on it. 

What advice would you give to women considering entering the field of healthcare or wanting to advance in healthcare?

I would encourage women to consider health care for their profession.  I think health care is a great industry for women leaders.  Having worked in other industries that have been more male-driven, I think that health care has a more inclusive approach to leadership.  This can help foster women in leadership roles because the models of leadership aren’t as predefined as they are in other industries. This is one of the reason I love the health care field. As a woman it’s always great to find and see others like us in senior roles. You see a great deal of women leaders in health care and that’s a wonderful thing for young women. 


Laura Lopez
Laura joined Houston Methodist in 2013 as vice president of marketing, communications and public relations. Prior to joining Houston Methodist, she was highly successful as vice president of marketing at The Coca-Cola Company, and most recently, as a consultant who helped many businesses and industries achieve superior results through leadership and branding. She is noted expert in those fields, and has been interviewed and quoted by numerous media outlets, including “The Today Show,” Fox News, Harvard Business Publishing, “Success Magazine,” “The Houston Chronicle,” and “Latina Magazine.”

Laura is the award-winning author of “The Connected and Committed Leader,” a highly-regarded book on the topics of leadership and branding, and her articles are regularly featured in acclaimed magazines. She is also a recurring guest host on the local talk show, “Latina Voices: Smart Talk,” and regularly serves as a keynote speaker for professional organizations, helping thousands advance their careers in business. Laura holds an Master of Business Administration from The American Graduate School of International Business and a Bachelor of Science degree from Bucknell University.



Why did you choose the health care field?

I grew up with two parents dedicated to helping and healing sick children with their own expertise. Both were equally passionate about the pursuit of excellence and helping others achieve their very best. I had no idea that their passion would serve as a backdrop to what would become my interest in health care administration. 

Who influenced you?

While my parents definitely influenced me, I can honestly say that several instrumental leaders in the Texas Medical Center over the last 25 years have made an indelible impression upon me. My mentors have changed over time as my roles have evolved. I would never have pursued a career in health care administration without the influence of Larry Mathis and Mark Wallace. Both of these charismatic and successful leaders encouraged me to attend the Washington University School of Medicine, Masters of Healthcare Administration program back in the early 1990’s.  

What advice would you give to women considering entering the field of health care or wanting to advance in healthcare?

Follow your passion with a strong work ethic. This is always the best advice regardless of gender. Become a master in problem solving and multi-tasking. Delegate when and where appropriate. Prioritize the work that needs to done; the emotional energy that needs to be extended; and how you give of yourself to those who need you. Nothing is a disaster without a solution unless you or your family’s health is in jeopardy. Recognize that it takes a team to achieve your goals at work as well as at home. Spend time putting the right resources and infrastructure in place so that you can use your time wisely. I often joke that I am the employer of choice at my house where my husband refers to me as the CMO … “Chief Mama Officer.”



Debra Sukin

As Regional Senior Vice President of Houston Methodist, Dr. Debra F. Sukin has responsibility for four suburban hospitals in addition to her role as Chief Executive Officer. Houston Methodist West Hospital and Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital both operate as market leaders in the communities that they serve. Houston Methodist Continuing Care Hospital is a long-term facility that provides extended hospitalization for patients across Greater Houston. In her role as CEO, Dr. Sukin designed, developed, and implemented Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital as a greenfield project. This 187-bed, comprehensive acute care hospital opened in July 2017.

Prior to joining Houston Methodist, Dr. Sukin served as Senior Vice President of CHI St. Luke’s Health System as well as Chief Executive Officer of CHI St. Luke’s The Woodlands Hospital.

A Houston native, Dr. Sukin is an active community advocate and public speaker. She is past Chair for both Interfaith of The Woodlands and The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership Board of Directors. Dr. Sukin also serves as a board member for Woodforest National Bank, The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, Lone Star College Foundation, Texas Hospital Association HOSPAC Board and the Greater Houston YMCA. She is a member of the Texas Hospital Association Council on Policy Development and The Greater Houston Chapter of the Young President’s Organization.

In 2007, Dr. Sukin was recognized as one of Modern Healthcare’s “Up & Comers” in healthcare leadership. The American College of Healthcare Executives honored her with the Regent’s Early Careerist Healthcare Executive Award in 2010. She was recognized by Becker’s Hospital Review in 2013 as one of the top Women Hospital and Health System Leaders in the country, and by Montgomery County Women’s Council on Organization as a 2014 Woman of Distinction. In 2016, Dr. Sukin was named a Hometown Hero in The Woodlands. Most recently, Houston Business Journal recognized Dr. Sukin as an “Outstanding Business Leader in Healthcare” for Women Who Mean Business and “Business Woman of the Year” in 2017.

Dr. Sukin earned a PhD in Health Policy and Health Management from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. She received her Master of Healthcare Administration degree from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. She is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Dr. Sukin resides in The Woodlands with her husband, Steven Sukin, MD, and their two boys, Jacob, age 17, and Eli, age 14.



Outstanding Nurse Leader Profile

Texas, like the rest of the United States, is experiencing a severe nursing shortage. Estimates are that by 2020, the state will need 70,000 more nurses than will be available. This means that well-qualified nurses today have their choice of literally dozens of workplaces. In 2018, Kelli has recruited more than 1,470 additional highly qualified, well-educated, skilled nurses to HCA Houston Healthcare in order to meet the needs of our patients. This, despite a highly competitive environment in which nurses of this caliber are among the most sought-after professionals anywhere. Of the 1,470, nurses, more than 700 nurses are new graduates, which we are excited to train in high-profile areas such as medical surgical care, obstetrical and neonatal services, and critical care.  

Kelli began her career at HCA almost 19 years ago as a staff nurse in the medical Intensive Care Unit at HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake. Because of her natural leadership abilities, she was soon climbing the ranks, first as a charge nurse, then working in nursing education and quality, and finally serving as chief nursing executive at several HCA Houston Healthcare-affiliated facilities.

In 2016, she achieved her dream of being named chief nurse executive, a position in which she has been singularly successful. She has masterfully created an atmosphere in which nurses are highly respected as integral components of the health care team, skilled professionals who have a voice and who are always willing to let it be heard for the benefit of their patients. Kelli knows that nurses are the backbone of modern health care. Without them, a hospital cannot function. Therefore, she ensures that every HCA Houston Healthcare nurse feels empowered, admired, and valued. She does this by channeling her indefatigable energy and spirit into being a highly visible, charismatic, and well-liked member of our leadership team.

A graduate of the division’s staff development program and the holder of a bachelor of science degree in nursing and a master’s degree in health care administration, both from Texas Woman’s University, Kelli somehow still finds the time to pursue a doctorate in business administration with leadership development from Northcentral University. She is also certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center as an advanced certified nurse executive.

Health care is big business in Houston, and it is a competitive market – both for patients and those who care for them. In an atmosphere that demands the best of the best, Kelli Nations has risen to the top of her field, and we, both HCA and the residents of Houston, are lucky to have her. 

Kelli is a board member of the University of Houston College of Nursing Advisory, member of the Chi Omega National scholarship review committee and alumnae membership chair of the Chi Omega Montgomery County.



Please share why you chose the healthcare field.

“Good people beget good people” are the words of HCA’s founder, Dr. Thomas F. Frist, Sr.  Those words ring true as HCA celebrates 50+ years of caring for our communities, and are the reason I was called to serve as a leader in healthcare.  Healthcare leadership affords you the opportunity to utilize all business and relational skill sets on a daily basis, while working to improve human life…there is no greater personal or professional challenge or calling than that. 

Who influenced you in your career?

I had the good fortune of having strong role models growing up at home with my parents, and in the healthcare industry.  Jody Abbott, chief operating officer of North Kansas City Hospital, is a dear family friend and was the first role model in the healthcare leadership profession.  Healthcare leadership affords you the opportunity to utilize all business and relational skill sets on a daily basis, while working to improve human life…there is no greater personal or professional challenge or calling than that.  

Both of my parents played a significant role in who I am as a wife, mother and leader today…in that order.  My parents taught me that luck is a byproduct of hard work; the harder you work, the more luck may come your way.  That is true in all aspects of life, at home and work.

Today, I am motivated in my role as the CEO of the #1 facility caring for women and children in the state of Texas and in HCA to improve maternal and child mortality and morbidity.  Above all else, I am committed to the care and improvement of human life.   

What advice would give to women who are considering entering the healthcare field and/or those wanting to advance in the healthcare field?

As you join an organization, take time up front to build trusting relationships with those you work with and serve.  In today’s environment, you may be integrating many new team members into the workforce and facing the increasing demands of managing or collaborating with a multigenerational workforce.  Having trusting relationships builds credibility and rapport to help you navigate a complex and dynamic work environment.

Also, be steadfast in your personal and professional development in all stages of your career.  Always take the high road, clarify expectations, and over- communicate!



Please share why you chose the healthcare field.

I volunteered at a Children’s Hospital in high school and it sparked a desire in my heart to be a part of a healthcare organization. Healthcare is invigorating because it is so complex, fast-paced and change is a constant. No two days at the hospital are ever the same.

Who influenced you in your career?

My mom has been a (cardiac) nurse for many years. She has an inspiring passion for her patients and the role she plays in their healing process. My passion is for supporting those, like my mom, that are committed to the care and improvement of human life.

What advice would give to women who are considering entering the healthcare field and/or those wanting to advance in the healthcare field?

Every single role in healthcare is important – if you are looking for a career with purpose…this is it!



Please share why you chose the healthcare field.

My mother managed a physician practice, but my first role in the field actually came somewhat by accident. While putting myself through college, I found a job as a receptionist at my hometown hospital. That role taught me that you don’t have to be a physician or a nurse to have a direct impact on patient care – everyone within a hospital from the receptionist to the nutrition department plays a key role in supporting great outcomes for patients. As soon as I saw firsthand the difference I, personally, could make in people’s lives through healthcare, I was hooked. From there, I sought roles in a variety of healthcare settings, including acute care, hospice, and more, to understand the basics of healthcare delivery. The next natural pursuit for me was leadership where I could leverage my diverse background to help caregivers continue to improve their level of care.

Then, in 2015, as a hospital CEO, a personal tragedy deepened my commitment to healthcare in a way I never could have imagined. Another hospital’s medical error killed my otherwise active and healthy husband and father of my young children. This was beyond devastating, but it helped me see more clearly than ever that patient safety and quality are the heart of what we do in healthcare – more than just metrics on a spreadsheet – every error has a life and a family attached to it. Most people go into healthcare to help people, but my personal experience requires me to come face to face with that calling every time I step foot in my hospital. It shapes my decisions, and makes me certain that after all this time, healthcare is still the right path for me.

Who influenced you in your career?

I’ve had many mentors in my career. Early in my career, I received job offers from two different hospitals simultaneously. One was from a large hospital with service line breadth and much complexity. I was attracted to the title and responsibility I’d have there, but the CEO was a much older man who I really didn’t click with. The second offer was from a small community hospital with a “family” style culture. It was a humbler role, to be sure, but I’d be working for the first female CEO I’d ever been exposed to. This woman inspired me from the first time I met her, and I wanted to be just like her. Which job do you think I chose? I learned so much working for that first CEO. She was dynamic, strong, and a great mother and friend to boot. Perhaps most importantly, she taught me that a strong leader and culture can be more powerful than titles or compensation when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent. 

In this job, it’s impossible not to also be affected by your patients. It’s a balancing act because you have to have somewhat of a thick skin, but at the end of the day, it’s also critical to stay human and allow yourself to be inspired and changed by the stories you see. I’ll never forget when I was working for a hospice organization and came to know a 23-year-old woman who was dying of cancer in December. She had five children and was struggling to pay her healthcare expenses and keep her family afloat during the toughest time in their lives. I learned she didn’t have a Christmas tree or presents for her children, and I was able to rally community and civic organizations to give her family a memorable Christmas. This experience showed me the power of women helping women and how I could leverage my leadership skills to impact many lives. 

 What advice would give to women who are considering entering the healthcare field and/or those wanting to advance in the healthcare field?

The first step is to keep the end in mind. Know where you want to end up and develop a career map to get there. Volunteer for projects and assignments to stretch your knowledge.  Get to know your boss’s boss and make sure he or she knows your aspirations. Meaningful networking is critical, too – become involved in the American College of Healthcare Executives and find a mentor (this person should both be someone you want to be like and someone who is totally different from you). In the meantime, be present and excel in your current role even if you know you’re destined for greater things. Advancing in healthcare takes time, and your reputation and credibility are everything.



Please share why you chose the healthcare field.

Coming from a family of physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, I was fortunate to grow up with several role models that inspired me with their compassion and the differences they were able to make in patients’ lives.  Because of those examples, I have always had a passion for healthcare and, truthfully, never considered another career path. Now that I’ve spent my entire career in healthcare, and have seen firsthand the impact caregivers can have, I know without any reservation that I made the right choice. 

Who influenced you in your career?

I’ve had countless mentors throughout my career and each has imparted on me a similar lesson: team is paramount. As a leader, your success hinges on surrounding yourself with talented people who share your values, have an aligned mission and are fully committed to working together to support the needs of patients and their families.

Everyone I’ve admired and aspired to emulate in healthcare has been persistent, results – oriented, and mission – driven. Like any industry, healthcare can be challenging, but at the end of the day, you are evaluated on some very specific criteria: Do you provide high-quality care? Can you establish a culture where the team is motivated to serve?  Are you an efficient steward of increasingly limited resources?   It’s not easy to balance all of these priorities, but in my experience, the ability to execute on these strategic priorities tends to be the primary driver in how you are viewed within your organization.

What advice would give to women who are considering entering the healthcare field and/or those wanting to advance in the healthcare field?

The hospital environment is unique so hands-on experience is critical. If you’re interested in healthcare, get your foot in the door as soon as and wherever you can. Even if your first job isn’t your ideal role, you’ll gain invaluable perspective into the “behind the scenes” operations of a hospital.

You must also have a strong work ethic, confidence, and balanced humility – you will need to display an openness to feedback.  You have to constantly  evaluate your outcomes and commit to continuous improvement so you can give your absolute best to your patients and your staff.

Due to the nature of our work, every job in healthcare has the potential to be incredibly rewarding. It’s indescribably powerful to be in a place where you simultaneously welcome babies into the world, and sometimes, hold people’s hands while they take their last breaths on this earth. Healthcare leadership is a calling and a truly fulfilling career.



Why did you choose the healthcare field?

In 10th grade, I took a biology class and fell in love with Science! I knew that I wanted to study science and be a scientist, although at that time I had no clue what that meant. After receiving my master’s degree, I taught high school biology and found that I really enjoyed it. However, an opportunity to work in the Radiation Therapy department at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) took me down a different path in research and healthcare. The department was looking for someone with a radiation biology background to set up a lab and design a course for the residents. The experiences, the opportunities, the people I met in the radiation oncology/biology world, the exposure to radiation as a treatment for cancer- all these were crucial to my career, and my growing love of research. After graduating with my PhD in experimental pathology and completing a postdoctoral position in the Gray Laboratory in England, I accepted a position in the Radiation Oncology department at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Finally, I was recruited to MD Anderson, which I have made my scientific and professional home for my career.

Who influenced you?

My junior high and high school teachers influenced me. In junior high, one of my teachers told my parents that I should go to college, and although I was a straight-A student, my parents were a little surprised and had not thought about it. At that time, only three family members (all male) had attended and graduated from college. My mentors also influenced me. At every phase of my career, I had mentors who were teachers, became friends and taught by example how to be a mentor. I also just realized that one of my mentors was a sponsor, and I learned that from him. I have long appreciated and will always be grateful to those individuals who guided and taught me during this journey and had faith in me.

What advice would you give to women who are considering entering the healthcare field or those wanting to advance in the healthcare field?

I “grew up” in science when gender bias was alive and well. I faced issues with professors believing that I did not belong in science because I am a woman. I also encountered salary bias in one position, but my department chair rectified this after I questioned why he had offered a new male employee with the same credentials and experience as I had more money than I was making. Times have changed and this would be illegal today, although some things still have not changed. My advice is stay true to yourself, live your passion, “know your value” and stay focused on your goal. Finally, remember that this career, whether as a scientist or a physician, is a marathon, not a sprint.



Why did you choose the healthcare field?

I thought I wanted to go into law and government, but I was always much better at science. Fundamentally, what I love about healthcare is the ability to impact and help others when they are at a very vulnerable time in life.

Who influenced you?

I didn’t have any physicians in my family, but my parents have influenced me the most through their unconditional love and support.

What advice would you give to women who are considering entering the healthcare field or those wanting to advance in the healthcare field?

Healthcare is an amazing field, and we will always have a need for people who want to dedicate their careers to helping others through preventing and curing disease. Healthcare is also a broad field, so that you can always find a niche that fits your personality and workstyle, and you can evolve different interests within healthcare over a long career.



Why did you choose the healthcare field?

I wanted to be a physician since I was very small. My parents were happy for me to pursue any career path I wanted and they supported me. I realized in high school that I had an aptitude for math and science. That was a confirmatory moment for me, as I knew those metrics needed to be met in order to attend medical school. I was a chemistry major in college and really enjoyed it. But there were very few women in chemistry, especially in physical chemistry which was my focus.

Who influenced you?

When I was in medical school I worked with a surgical oncologist who was involved with the full spectrum of oncology patients – from pediatric patients to adult patients with gynecologic malignancies to colon cancer and a range of other diseases. He was a really compassionate person and extremely knowledgeable. He was an excellent technical surgeon who enjoyed being in the operating room. He was a strong role model and I felt like if I could achieve the type of career that he had, enjoying being in the operating room and enjoying being with the patient, then I would be fulfilled in my career. That’s probably what led me into the oncology field and influenced my own mentorship style. I enjoy trying to help people see where their talents are and helping direct their career path toward those strengths.

What advice would you give to women who are considering entering the healthcare field or those wanting to advance in the healthcare field?

One of the reasons why women should pursue STEM careers is we all bring different talents to the patient experience, to research, and to the many other aspects of patient care. Everything we do at MD Anderson, women bring a lot to that equation. I think we have to encourage women who have the interest, the desire, and the skills to pursue these types of careers.

When I was a general surgery resident, there was another woman in my class who is now a liver transplant surgeon and she and I supported each other. We knew we had to be so much better than the men in order to be considered simply acceptable. The first year she got the award for intern of the year and the following year I got the award for resident of the year. We both recognized that there were people who necessarily didn’t want us to succeed or weren’t invested in our training. Finding and promoting support for women in surgery was really important.



Why did you choose the healthcare field?

My mother and grandmother did not have the opportunity for higher education, and my father was the only of 8 children to graduate from college. They strongly encouraged my sister and I to pursue terminal degrees, which was a synonym for medicine way back when. Squeamish about the healthcare field to start, I have come to value the opportunity to walk the journey with the many inspiring patients who have taught me grace.

Who influenced you?

Mum (home economics teacher and homemaker) and dad (physician)

What advice would you give to women who are considering entering the healthcare field or those wanting to advance in the healthcare field?

It is a wonderful field to park your passion. Give yourself permission to dream, aspire, have bold, audacious goals, and to fail! Healthcare may be daunting, but it is dynamic, ever-changing, fragile, delicate, rewarding, humbling, and all about humanity.



Why did you choose the healthcare field?

I have always wanted to be a physician. I come from a family of doctors, all of whom valued patient care first and foremost.  My father was one of the last doctors in the Bronx who still made house calls to his older and shut in patients.  I still remember sitting in the back of his car and reading his medical journals while waiting for him.  To me, medicine, and more specific surgery, combined all my passions:  continuous learning, continuous exploration, working with my hands and patient relationships.

Who influenced you?

My parents Carl and Dorothe Lewis, Dempsey Springfield, Orthopaedic Oncologist

What advice would you give to women who are considering entering the healthcare field or those wanting to advance in the healthcare field?

The healthcare field is still a great field. There are so many and diverse opportunities within the field, even within the medical field itself.  A medical degree opens up a world of possibilities in addition to working with patients.   The administrative and organizational skills you acquire are highly marketable. Women physicians now lead multimillion-dollar institutions and companies, and many physicians are branching out into the technology field as well.  Although previously a male dominated field, especially orthopaedic surgery, things are changing.  More women are entering the field because they see that it is quite possible to be an involved mom and a physician/Chair of a surgical department at a major cancer institution.  Working hard and perseverance are the keys to success.



Why you chose the healthcare field?

I was just drawn to helping people and I liked math and science, so healthcare made a lot of sense. I started volunteering at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital when I was 18 years old, just out of high school. I held a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and I saw what everyone did here and I knew this was what I wanted to do. When I came back to find a job following my first semester of nursing school, they didn’t have an opening in Women’s Services. They walked me over to the NICU and I that’s where I was hired.

Who influenced you?

From a leadership standpoint, one of my teachers, Dr. Lynn Wieck, was President of Texas Nursing Association. She was all about nursing leadership and recognizing generational differences in the field of nursing. She was inspiring to talk to and she supported me in running for president of the student association when I was in nursing school. That planted the leadership bug in me. I enjoyed nursing at the bedside but knew that leadership would have to be part of my career and that I could make an impact globally. Dr. Wieck was the catalyst for me taking the path of leadership.

What advice would/do you give to women who are considering entering the healthcare field and those wanting to advance in healthcare?

Concentrate on getting a good education, but it’s also very important to develop relationships and get real-life experiences. Getting early experience in a hospital and getting a better idea of what healthcare actually is versus what you believe it to be.  

You might not make everyone happy every day but you have to believe what you did was right and fair. I try to do the right things for our patients and staff and if you do those things, the next opportunity will present itself at the right time for you and the hospital.


Nicole Francis
Associate Vice President of Nursing
Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital

Nicole Francis has nearly 20 years’ experience in healthcare, a majority of which has been spent in nursing leadership positions at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. Francis has served as Associate Vice President of Nursing at the Children’s Memorial Herman since 2017.

Prior to her current role, Francis was responsible for overseeing quality outcomes, fiscal stewardship and customer focus as clinical director of the hospital’s 118-bed, Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Francis also earned her Master’s in Nursing Health Systems Management from Texas Woman’s University while serving as clinical director of the NICU.

From 2005 to 2013, Francis was oversaw performance management of more than 300 NICU nurses and was responsible for ensuring the unit’s quality standards, outcomes and regulatory compliance. Francis began her professional career as a student nurse in the Children’s Memorial Hermann NICU in 2001, while earning her bachelor’s in nursing at Texas Woman’s University. She was hired as a staff nurse in 2002 before she was promoted to charge nurse responsible for staffing and bed management.

A member of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Francis has presented on numerous topics related to neonatal quality care. She holds a State of Texas Nursing Licensure and is ANCC Nurse Executive-Board Certified.



Why you chose the healthcare field?

My father was a veterinarian. So I was always exposed to science and medical care. That sparked my interest in healthcare, though I wasn’t as interested in helping animals as I was helping people. There are so many different areas of opportunity—specialties, disciplines, etc. to help people and that was really attractive to me.

 Who influenced you?

My father definitely influenced me. I was pretty determined at a young age and knew I wanted to go into nursing. I worked at my father’s veterinarian office in high school. I helped with surgery. I sterilized syringes and needles, cleaned up and stocked the pharmacy. I did lots of different things with my father in caring for animals—I went on calls with him and the first surgery was a c-section on a cow.

 What advice would/do you give to women who are considering entering the healthcare field and those wanting to advance in healthcare?

There is a tremendous amount of diversity in nursing—in the type of care you deliver, the setting in which you deliver it in, or the role you take in delivering care or educating others. It’s important to have that core nursing foundation, but there are so many different avenues you can take in specializing the type of care you deliver. Because of that array of options, there is a lot education and a lot of opportunity available. You can work part-time or full-time. You can take an administrative role and be a chief nursing officer or a CEO, or a professor at a university. 

Karen Brumley, Associate Vice President of Operations
Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital

Karen Brumley has more than 30 years of experience as a registered nurse, including more than 25 years in nursing leadership positions.

Since 2017 Karen Brumley has served as Associate Vice President of Operations at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, overseeing nursing operations, performance and outcomes in the hospital’s pediatric operating room, post-acute care unit and imaging and outpatient areas. Brumley is also the AVP of the Children’s Heart Center, including the pediatric catheterization lab. She also oversees the Child Life, Pediatric Case Management and Social Work departments for pediatric patients.

Brumley has worked with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital since 1985, first coming to the hospital as a neonatal intensive care unit staff nurse following five years at Driscoll Foundation Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas. She has held several different roles at Children’s Memorial Hermann during her time at the hospital. Prior to her current role, Brumley was AVP of Women’s Services after serving as Administrative Director of Children’s Clinical Care from 2013 to 2015.

From 1996 to 2013, Brumley was the director of the hospital’s 80-bed Level IV NICU, overseeing the unit’s budget and the performance of more than 300 nurses. She was named the Children’s Memorial Hermann Employee of the Year in 2000. Throughout her tenure at Children’s Memorial Hermann, Brumley has held concurrent leadership positions, including serving as director of the Neonatal Transport, ECMO, Pediatric Transport; Neonatal Nurse Practitioners, Neonatal Respiratory Care, Hermann Children’s Respite House, General Pediatrics and the Infant Care Center.

Brumley earned her Bachelor’s in nursing science from Baylor University and Master’s in nursing science from University of Texas Health Science Center Houston. She has also taken part in Rice University’s Accelerated Development Program for Executive Education.

Licensed by the Board of Nurse Examiners by the State of Texas, Brumley is certified for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing by the National Certification Corporation for the Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing Specialties; and Nurse Executive Advanced by American Nurses Credentialing Center. She is a member of the National Association of Neonatal Nurse, the Academy of Neonatal Nurses and the Houston Association of Neonatal Nurses, serving as president in 1989 and 2002.