When the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the United States last year, it hit Texas harder than many places, especially its largest city of Houston.

To date, one in eight of the state’s COVID-19 cases have been reported in Houston and surrounding Harris County.

But at Houston Methodist Hospital, experience with disaster response and a culture of innovation had prepared one of the state’s biggest and busiest hospitals to respond, according to Roberta Schwartz, executive vice president and chief innovation officer at Houston Methodist, and incident commander for the hospital’s COVID-19 response.

“We basically had so much of the foundational technology already in place and ready to go, having been tested in many cases, and in great shape, before the pandemic happened,” Schwartz said in a May interview with Becker’s Hospital Review. “We made an almost instantaneous switch to things like virtual physician visits, virtual intensive care units, you name it.”

Schwartz will discuss the importance of staying on the leading edge of new ideas and technology in a virtual talk titled “Digital Innovations Are Essential for Leading Organizations: A Houston Methodist Hospital Experience” at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 14.

Schwartz’s talk is the latest in the Maury Strauss Distinguished Public Lecture Series, hosted by the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC in Roanoke. The series is named for Maury Strauss, a Roanoke businessman and longtime community benefactor who recognized the importance of bringing top scientists to Roanoke. The lecture will be available to all free of charge on via Zoom.

“Houston Methodist Hospital is widely recognized as one of America’s leading hospitals, known for its willingness to embrace new technologies and develop new methods of healthcare delivery, and Dr. Schwartz’s leadership in recent years is a significant reason for that,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology. “Houston Methodist’s response to one of the nation’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks demonstrates the importance of not only preparedness, but innovation, and Dr. Schwartz’s role in it. But her lessons and wisdom are valuable beyond the healthcare setting, to organizations of all kinds. We’re fortunate to be able to hear from her.”

Schwartz believes organizations must be willing and passionate about continuously reinventing not only the way that they do their business, but also their technology. She will describe the structure and some of the products in use in Houston Methodist Hospital’s Center for Innovation.

Schwartz is an elected fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. This year, she was cited by "Modern Healthcare" magazine among its Top 25 Women Leaders to Watch. Schwartz has also been recognized with the Healthcare Executive Regent’s Award by the American College of Healthcare Executives, the Jill Ireland Award for Volunteerism from the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the Management Spotlight Award from Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Schwartz earned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Columbia University, Barnard College, a master’s degree in Health Sciences, Health Policy and Management from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, and a doctorate in healthcare policy and administration from the University of Texas School of Public Health.

Watch this lecture via Zoom or via live webcast on the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute website.

Share this story