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Houston Methodist’s Dr. Marc Boom 2020 Medical Person Of The Year

A pestilence out of the mouth of Hell had strangled hospital operations, and forced Dr. Marc Boom, President and CEO of Houston Methodist, to scramble to save patients and protect the lives of employees. An important administrative duty was to construct Highly Infectious Disease Units for COVID-19 patients. Far more difficult was to restrict family visits, which caused Richard Steubinger to die without his children and grandchildren present. Richard’s nurse, Tabatha Ketner however, filled in and acted as family. Wearing personal protective gear that required shouting through a face shield, Ketner flashed family pictures and transmitted messages of love.

Boom began every day with a 7am conference call to the CEOs of the other Texas Medical Center institutions, he told Intown. Their war room sessions hashed out strategies like finding ventilators.

At every turn, his attention was required. In mid-April, Governor Abbott green-lighted diagnostic surgeries such as biopsies, with elective surgeries soon to come off lockdown. Boom didn’t need his Wharton School MBA to know the importance of revving up services. Days before, Methodist began administering the antiviral drug Remdesivir in clinical trials, and several weeks before, led the nation in transfusing blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients into sick COVID-19 patients. Further, Methodist hooked up with VGXI Corporation to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. But Boom’s most fundamental duty was to inspire the beleaguered staff, which he did in a video message.

In it, Boom framed the virus era as historical. “Future generations will look back at this point in history and recognize it as one of our finest hours.” And emphasized duty. “Like other first responders, health care professionals have chosen these bedside roles with the understanding that they come with certain risks. Throughout history, whether during wartime or natural disasters, physicians, nurses and other clinical personnel, and the teams who support them have recognized their profound duty to do what is necessary to care for patients. We all must now be ready to act. It’s hard work, but the rewards are priceless, as we are all given the sacred privilege of caring for patients in their most dire hour.”

A colleague told Boom he looked tired on video, so he fessed up to it in an email. Yes tired, Boom wrote, but he wasn’t complaining or looking for sympathy, it was a blessing and a privilege to lead the organization, and his employees were tired. “I wish I could promise you that this will be over soon and that things will be back to normal. But I can’t. What I can promise you is that I will continue to pray for guidance and strength. And I will continue to come to work every day and strive to be unparalleled at my job so that you can be unparalleled at yours. Never forget that we are all in this together.”

Boom’s email revealed he was genuinely blindsided. “Our battle against COVID-19 is something I’ve never experienced before as a physician or administrator.” A telling admission for a guy who watched Tropical Storm Allison wallop the largest medical complex in the world. Unfamiliar terrain, yet Methodist was favorably positioned. Early in his career, Boom developed a hankering to work in the business side of medicine, so as CEO, he championed tech innovations that served patients and reduced costs. During virus, telemedicine and virtual care helped operations to continue.

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“We must all be ready to sacrifice,” he said on video. Indisputably, the CEO included himself. “I felt the need to speak from the heart to acknowledge the difficult situation we were about to face and to let everyone know I would be right there with them fighting day in and day out,” Boom told us.

Aware that long hours and the stress of disrupted child care from school closures compound the threat to those in the virus trenches, we asked Boom about his personal situation. Boom’s wife Julie is a pediatrician at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s, and school closures have their three children home, Kathryn and John from universities, and Janie from eighth grade. The entire family worries about “both Mom and Dad in a health care setting each day.”

How does he stay healthy during virus? He walks two miles every evening with Tessa and Major. His hounds are bouviers. For reinforcement, a morning walk too. “Tessa and Major think they’ve died and gone to heaven!”

Dr. Marc Boom (b.1966) has been CEO for nine years. He administers eight hospitals, outpatient facilities, emergency, imaging and orthopedic annexes, a research institute, residency program, and affiliated, and specialty and primary care physicians. And helps to reign in gifts such as the $21 million recently forked over by the Jerold Katz Foundation for medical research. Surprisingly, he also sees patients. Last year, Houston Methodist celebrated 100 years.

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