AdventHealth is a faith-based nonprofit health care system with one of the largest physician groups in Tampa Bay. Its West Florida Division includes over 200 primary care and specialty employed physicians running 13 hospitals and seven freestanding off-site emergency rooms in seven counties.
My dad was born and raised in Ecuador and became a pastor and met my mom, a nurse, whose family members were missionaries in Central and South America. So my childhood was spent in several different Central American countries before we moved to the United States. In the United States, we lived in Texas, North Carolina and Maryland before I went to live in Europe for a year of college to learn German and the culture.
There are two areas of interest I have always had. One was to become a doctor, and the other was to go into international business. I started down the clinical route and then switched to the international business route. With my background, it made sense that I would also want to build a career centered on these areas. Today, almost my entire extended family is in the medical field as doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and certified nurse anesthetists. Although I ended up in business, it is still in the medical field.
My business philosophy revolves around the commitment to grow leaders and keep true to our mission. It’s a natural fit with AdventHealth, whose mission is to extend the healing ministry of Christ. Every day, we are focused and committed to making our communities better and helping others live the healthiest life possible. I believe our mission extends outside of our hospital walls to our communities and even to our global mission work. Health equity is a key focus for me, as I have seen transportation, housing and food insecurity impact individuals all around us. I grew up in a missionary household inside a life of service, and that has shaped me tremendously in how I do business now as a health care executive.
As president and CEO of AdventHealth West Florida Division, I support our teams and provide oversight in the direction, development and expansion of our division, which includes 14 campuses spanning seven counties. Our division also includes a long-term acute care facility; seven freestanding emergency departments; nine urgent care locations; our Walgreens Express Care locations; our medical group, which includes nearly 100 locations and 400 physicians and providers; and all of our ambulatory services, such as home health and outpatient services such as imaging, lab and an ambulatory surgical center.
The greatest challenge about my job is transforming health care from a group of siloed businesses in a community within which information is often not shared to a connected, affordable and viable network that is easy for a consumer to use. Another tough challenge is attracting new talent and growing a skilled workforce. The digitalization we have seen in health care, in the form of robotics or medical record platforms, has been encouraging and exciting, and although there is typically a high initial cost to use, I believe it will create a strong benefit for consumers.
My job is most rewarding when I speak to the patients we serve. I receive story after story of patients letting us know our teams have improved their lives or changed their lives or given them hope. These stories motivate me to plow through the tough issues. Our entire system is focused on helping people in need, and we define how we treat them with our service standards: love me, keep me safe, make it easy, and own it. We literally have millions of patient encounters each year. If every interaction could meet and exceed our standards, then our hearts would be full.
Our industry is certainly in a challenging time, especially when you talk about the labor shortage we’re facing. In the past two years, we’ve invested over $500 million as an organization into our team members and future candidates to stay competitive in this market and maintain our team stability. Our investment includes more competitive pay, retention and recruitment bonuses, and enhanced benefits, such as more flexibility with time off, tuition reimbursement, education assistance and other methodologies we’ve implemented. In health care, we tend to think of nurses and doctors as the team members, but we have multiple experts, whether it’s engineering, computer science, infection control or quality, and the reality is that, in many areas, we’re competing with other industries in those specialties. We’ve done a lot related to the financial stability of these groups, and you’re seeing that in other industries as well.
I love where we’re headed as an organization. This year, we’re investing millions to connect all aspects of our care to a single platform; whether you’re in home health, a hospital, the Care Pavilion or a physician’s office, our goal is to connect all the information into one single platform that is easily accessible to you. We are growing our network in Hillsborough with a new hospital in Riverview, expanding several of our hospitals, increasing the number of easily accessible care pavilions, and developing more access points both in person and digitally. I’m highly optimistic and excited about how we’re transforming ourselves.
The AdventHealth app, which continues to go through rounds of improvement, gives consumers more control in their health care journey: the ability to schedule appointments, refill prescriptions, see lab work or pay a bill; that’s the infrastructure that you may not see but the benefit you’ll start noticing as things become more connected behind the scenes. Many of us grew up in a disconnected system, and that’s evolving. We’re providing solutions that offer consumers an easy one-stop location for everything they need.
The last few years taught us to provide health care in different ways; all the innovation is not lost on us, and we’re working on how to incorporate it into our system and provide more convenient access to care, whether that’s through a virtual visit or a more convenient time of day. We’re bringing hospital services to people’s homes and even working to be part of solutions to issues like transportation, housing and food insecurity, which we know can impact someone’s opportunity to live their healthiest life possible.
The conversation piece that surprises most people when I talk to them is when they ask if I have any pets. My four kids and wife like pets, and over the years, various animals have joined the family. At first, I had a rule that we should never have more animals than family members, which capped the number at six. Today, I feel like we live on a small farm, and luckily, we have some land for our horses, chickens, snakes, cats, dog, fish and tarantula. Combined, we have over three dozen.
When describing the Tampa Bay area, I say that this is a great city with a small-town attitude; I have met a lot of amazing leaders already in this beautiful, well-positioned city. I love everything, from the bustling downtown to the pristine beaches, and then just outside the metro area, you can experience a little bit of Old Florida with farming, fresh springs and outdoor adventures. Tampa has a feel to it that is modern and urban and very forward focused on the future, building diversity and culture and creating collaborations that solve real-world issues for the people who live here. We’re blessed and honored to be the exclusive hospital of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the exclusive health care partner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, national partnerships that allow us to enhance our health care support and reach underserved communities who may not otherwise have access to quality health care. It’s a privilege to see how the businesses and leaders of Tampa come together to create a sense of unity — that we’re all in it together when it comes to making everyone’s life better.
I’m not one to keep things on a bucket list. I truly embrace every opportunity and try to create memories along the way instead of bottling them up and checking them off later. If there’s a bucket-list item, I generally make it happen within a couple of years of deciding I want to do it.
It has been a true joy to see my kids grow into the cool young adults they are today. From a work perspective, we do have a lot of fun as well, with the multitude of successes our teams have achieved. On a personal level, I received a Crystal Angel Award from AdventHealth, which honors individuals who are committed to our faith-based mission.
I know it’s not the coolest sport, or the most popular, but I do like to play table tennis. I played a number of competitive sports like soccer and basketball, which I still enjoy and play. But table tennis is still one of my favorites.
I didn’t grow up with any luxuries. We have had a house burn down, and we lost everything in it. We have had a hurricane hit another house, resulting in thousands of dollars in damage. While living in Guatemala, we encountered some tough and dangerous circumstances that caused us to leave in a rush. The income of our family gave us a true appreciation for every dollar we earned. Today, I guess, by American standards, my home is my luxury; we have acreage for animals and a pool and enough room for a good game of soccer, pool or table tennis. We do have a lot of people come over on a regular basis.
A perfect day for me is getting up long before the sun comes up, getting out on the water and watching the sunrise from there — just to watch the day as it starts and as things are happening and waking up around me. Sitting in the calm and still of it all is perfection. It allows me to truly reflect on and be grateful for the blessings we have received. It’s even better if I can enjoy it with my friends and family.