Mario Gar­ner, 34

CEO New Or­leans Hos­pi­tal East

Modern Healthcare - - UP & COMERS - —Sabriya Rice

Long be­fore Mario Gar­ner de­cided to pur­sue a ca­reer in health­care ad­min­is­tra­tion, the Lake Charles, La., na­tive had a child­hood ex­pe­ri­ence that helped shape his pro­fes­sional path: Filling the role of pa­tient ad­vo­cate while his grand­fa­ther un­der­went treat­ment for lung can­cer was a life-changer.

“I had lots of early ex­po­sure to in­ter­act­ing with physi­cians and in­ter­pret­ing med­i­cal ter­mi­nol­ogy,” says Gar­ner, who was about 8 years old when his grand­fa­ther was di­ag­nosed. Be­cause his grand­fa­ther could not read or write, Gar­ner would ac­com­pany him to his on­col­ogy ap­point­ments, take notes and later read the notes back to his fam­ily. “It helped me to re­al­ize the im­por­tance of be­ing an ad­vo­cate for those who may have dif­fi­culty ma­neu­ver­ing the sys­tem,” said Gar­ner, now CEO of the re­cently opened New Or­leans East Hos­pi­tal.

Last year, Gar­ner was se­lected as the first CEO of the 80-bed pub­lic hos­pi­tal, which opened in July 2014. The new $130 mil­lion fa­cil­ity re­turned health­care ser­vices to east­ern New Or­leans neigh­bor­hoods that had been with­out a hos­pi­tal since Pendleton Memo­rial Methodist Hos­pi­tal closed on the same site in 2005, an out­come of Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina floods. Gar­ner, who evac­u­ated to Hous­ton dur­ing the dis­as­ter, says be­ing se­lected to head the hos­pi­tal is a great re­spon­si­bil­ity with high stakes.

“The eyes of the en­tire city have been on this project,” he said.

Though he ini­tially pur­sued a clin­i­cal path, Gar­ner said he re­al­ized in med­i­cal school that his true pas­sion was hos­pi­tal lead­er­ship. He switched gears and ob­tained a master’s of health­care ad­min­is­tra­tion from Tu­lane Univer­sity, and later a doc­tor­ate of ed­u­ca­tion from the Univer­sity of Hous­ton. He also com­pleted an HCA ex­ec­u­tive de­vel­op­ment pro­gram, de­signed to pre­pare fu­ture C-suite lead­ers.

Carolyn Cald­well, CEO of Desert Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Palm Springs, Calif., served as a men­tor for Gar­ner and nom­i­nated him for the award. She says his pas­sion for health­care and com­mit­ment to men­tor­ing oth­ers are com­mend­able.

“You can al­ways find peo­ple with great skill,” Cald­well said. But when one finds lead­ers like Gar­ner who are pas­sion­ate about what they do, “it’s more than a job. He gets so much joy from the work he’s do­ing,” she said.

THE COL­LEGE YEARS:

Was a mem­ber of the Omega Psi Phi fra­ter­nity His pledge name was “QueFes­sor” be­cause he was “al­ways telling

peo­ple what to do.”

ROAD RUN­NER: An avid run­ner, he can fin­ish a 5K

in less than 18 min­utes.

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