Leadership Through Crisis
UMC CEO Reflects on Career-Defining COVID-19 Response
UMC CEO Mason Van Houweling has faced unprecedented challenges throughout his career, providing the unique experience and skills to support his leadership amid the largest crisis management effort in the hospital’s 90-year history. UMC now stands as a trusted leader in the statewide response to the COVID-19 pandemic, offering life-saving care, comprehensive patient safety protocols and the state’s largest COVID-19 testing center.
Since becoming CEO in 2014, Van Houweling has routinely guided UMC through seemingly overwhelming obstacles, promoting financial stability while developing a culture of preparedness and clinical excellence to ensure the best possible outcomes during the community’s greatest times of need.
“As Southern Nevada’s community hospital, UMC has a unique responsibility to offer leadership during times of crisis,” Van Houweling said. “UMC is woven into the very fabric of the community we serve, and our team takes tremendous pride in responding to the needs of our friends, neighbors and family members across Southern Nevada.”
His tenure as CEO began with a rapid financial transformation, reducing the hospital’s reliance on taxpayer funding while ensuring UMC had the resources necessary to provide the state’s highest level of care. In 2017, he guided UMC’s response to the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. UMC was fully prepared for this moment, and the hospital’s clinical team members saved every patient who arrived with a pulse. UMC’s response to the October 1 shooting is now recognized as a national benchmark for hospital crisis management, with Van Houweling and his colleagues frequently sharing the lessons they learned to support the crisis planning needs of other hospitals across the nation.
The unique challenges of the past prepared Van Houweling to lead UMC’s comprehensive response during the COVID-19 pandemic. Long before COVID-19 struck Southern Nevada, UMC already had highly detailed crisis response plans, with staff frequently conducting drills to ensure their skills remained sharp. Early in the pandemic, Van Houweling developed the UMC Coronavirus Education and Collaboration forum, bringing together local health care leaders to share detailed information about UMC’s response plan while promoting a collaborative environment.
Van Houweling and his colleagues at UMC immediately recognized the importance of providing community members with access to reliable COVID-19 testing. In a matter of weeks, UMC built a second on-campus laboratory dedicated solely to COVID-19 testing.
“As a result of the hard work and dedication of our team, UMC now leads the state in COVID-19 testing, offering a capacity of 10,000 tests per day,” Van Houweling said. “By significantly expanding Nevada’s COVID-19 testing capacity, our team continues to play a critical role in detecting and preventing new cases of the virus.”
UMC now operates multiple large-scale testing sites, offering widespread access to tests at no out-of-pocket cost. UMC is the only hospital in Southern Nevada to provide community COVID-19 testing.
UMC has also introduced the state’s most comprehensive patient safety and COVID-19 prevention protocols. In May, UMC became the first and only hospital in Nevada to provide universal testing for all admitted patients, significantly improving the hospital’s ability to quickly identify and isolate patients with active COVID-19 infections.
Despite UMC’s overwhelming success in expanding access to testing and introducing the protocols needed to prevent future cases of COVID-19, Van Houweling remains hesitant to accept credit for any of these accomplishments, recognizing the immeasurable contributions of UMC’s dedicated staff.
“None of this would have been possible without the men and women working tirelessly on the front lines and behind the scenes at UMC to save and improve lives in Southern Nevada,” he said. “UMC’s world-class team members continue to inspire me every day as they work together to offer valuable hope for our community.”