No wonder Justin Kendrick chose health care as a career. As a young boy, he spent a lot of time in hospitals with his dad.
“I remember being with my dad when something would come up with a church member and he would take me to the hospital with him,” said Kendrick, now chief executive officer at Memorial Hermann Northeast and Memorial Hermann The Woodlands. “My dad is a minister. In fact, we have many generations of ministers in our family. I have quite a few memories of hanging out in the waiting room while dad made his visits.”
Kendrick had a close friend in health care administration. Through him and his son-in-law he was exposed to health care.
“I did some shadowing over the years and got an idea of what they did,” Kendrick said. “Just like my dad. They were very servant-minded and driven to help people. That is the quality that attracted me to this work.”
To this day, Kendrick is grateful for their guidance.
Born in San Jose, California, Justin and the Kendrick family eventually moved to the Cleveland, Ohio area where he graduated high school, then earned his bachelor’s degree from Southern Nazarene College in Oklahoma City. When it was time to select a graduate school, he recalls pancakes with his friends at IHOP where they talked about health care. Kendrick chose Trinity University in San Antonio where he got a master of science degree in health care administration.
“I didn’t grow up in a health care family although, indirectly, I was exposed to health care through my dad and through my close friends and I am so grateful to them,” he said.
Kendrick cut his teeth as an administrative resident with the Memorial Hermann System in 2006, eventually named director of operations at the Sugar Land campus before he made the tough decision to leave Memorial Hermann.
“The most difficult decision I ever made was the choice to leave and explore other organizations,” Kendrick said.
Kendrick returned to California to join Universal Health Services in 2009, first serving as an associate administrator at what eventually became Palmdale Regional Medical Center in Los Angeles County, then back to Texas as COO at Texoma Medical Center in Denison, before returning to the Memorial Hermann fold.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to return six years later, armed with new experiences and perspectives,” said Kendrick who was named chief operating officer (COO) at The Woodlands, then COO at the Texas Medical Center campus before moving into his current position as CEO at Northeast and The Woodlands.
The past couple of years have been incredibly tough for Kendrick and his team. There has not been much escape from the pandemic, Kendrick said, and everyone has learned new coping mechanisms, resiliency techniques and overall self-care.
“Personally, when my team hurts, my heart breaks,” he said. “My greatest stress is taking care of the team so they can be in the best position to care for our patients while I also figure out ways to take care of myself so I am in the best position to lead. It is a different look and feel than pre-pandemic, but we are all evolving together and finding new ways to be there for each other.
That singular purpose of providing the best care possible to patients and to staff still rings true, aligning with Kendrick’s personal and professional beliefs and needs.
“It is incredibly rewarding to have been given responsibilities of leading in a wide variety of settings, from the smallest to the largest hospitals, and then to systemwide initiatives, all due in part to being part of an organization like Memorial Hermann that encourages professional growth,” he said.
Kendrick’s perspective about professional guidance could be a textbook lesson for anyone interesting in being mentored.
“I have had many role models, beginning with the friends who led me to health care,” said Kendrick. “I stay in communication with everyone I have worked for. From every single one, I have learned and evolved in my professional life and in my personal life, learning to balance a career and family.”
Over the past couple of years, Kendrick, has sought out mentors and role models with leaders outside of health care, too.
“My current mentor is the wisest guide I know,” he said. “He has challenged me in so many ways. I am incredibly grateful for the time he has invested in me.”
Kendrick invests his own valuable free time serving as an elementary school mentor, participating in Memorial Hermann’s Women’s Leaders program, and serving on the boards of or working with Partnership Lake Houston, Interfaith of The Woodlands, Montgomery County Food Bank, Heart Ball Chair for the American Heart Association of Montgomery County, and board member with United Way, Rotary and Habitat for Humanity.
Family time is important, too.
Justin and Chelsea, celebrating 15 years of marriage, are parents to Collins, 9, Ellison, 7, and Brooks, 5, and Emma, the family Golden Doodle.
“All go to the same elementary school making this the first year ever that Chelsea has one drop off,” said Kendrick.
Considering the past couple of COVID-influenced years, it has not been easy for Kendrick to have much family time.
“We have been stretched beyond what anyone could have imagined,” he said. “This pandemic has affected everyone and what we have learned is that the impact has been pervasive through our professional and personal lives.”
Kendrick found himself alone for a few hours a few Saturdays ago and was able to work in nine holes of golf with some great music playing from the golf cart speaker. He also got to have a daddy/daughter date recently with his 9-year-old daughter “ … and we went to a Houston Dash game together. Those are moments I will hold onto forever,” he said.
“Watching gymnastics and soccer. Pool time. Soccer in the backyard. Golf, wine, live music, barbecue, college football, Friday nights with family and friends. I just wish I could find a way to work everything into a single weekend!”
Kendrick has one private ambition, and a great stress reliever — getting better on the guitar.
“I love live music, especially the Texas country artists,” he said. “I am not ready for any stage yet, but it is something my son and I can do together. He looks pretty natural, holding his ukulele.”
These are exciting times for Memorial Hermann and for the Northeast campus, too.
“Our expansions and renovations will allow our service line programs to grow and I anticipate we will begin offering new services to Lake Houston that we haven’t been able to do,” Kendrick said. “We will bring in these new services only when they have been built to give every patient the best possible outcome and experience possible.”
Despite the pressures of the pandemic, Kendrick is soaking up every precious moment with his family.
“This pandemic has heightened my awareness that we aren’t guaranteed anything,” he said. “I choose to hold onto the perspective that we are so blessed with every single moment we have with our loved ones, and I will concentrate on being the best leader, husband, father and community member that I can possibly be.”
“I am so thankful that I get to wake up every morning to help people.”
Learn more about Memorial Hermann, memorialhermann.org, or 713-222-2273.