Corner Office: AdventHealth Winter Park CEO Justin Birmele on following in his parents' footsteps and being a team player

Justin Birmele is the new CEO of AdventHealth Winter Park (Fla.), but he isn't new to the organization.

He became CEO in January after serving as vice president and COO. During his tenure at AdventHealth Winter Park, his responsibilities included overseeing hospital renovation and construction projects, including the new Nicholson Pavilion and the AdventHealth Oviedo (Fla.) emergency room. He's also led hospital operations, including ancillary and support service departments.

Before joining AdventHealth Winter Park, he worked for Altamonte Springs, Fla.-based AdventHealth, and AdventHealth Central Florida.

Here, Mr. Birmele shares with Becker's the healthcare problem he would eliminate overnight, his greatest talent or skill outside the C-suite and how he revitalizes himself.

Editor's note: Responses have been edited lightly for length and clarity.

Question: What piqued your interest in healthcare?

Justin Birmele: Healthcare was always a topic at our dinner table. My parents are both nurses. My mom was in the operating room and my dad was an emergency department nurse. I was born in the hospital where they were both in nursing school. My brother and I grew up immersed in the environment. In fact, we used to walk to the hospital a few blocks away after school and hang out. As a kid I thought it was the coolest place ever. Clearly times have changed, and hospitals aren't really the ideal environment for after-school child care. But it really spurred my passion. More importantly, it gave me a front row seat to watching how my parents care for the community. They taught me to always do more than is expected because it always matters in connection with others.

Q: What do you enjoy most about Winter Park?

JB: Winter Park is a beautiful community. There's a lot of history and culture. The dining, shopping, arts, entertainment, they're all something special. And because I'm such an extrovert, I love running into people I know. You'll never feel like a stranger in Winter Park. Plus, everything is pretty much within walking distance.

Q: If you could eliminate one of the healthcare industry's problems overnight, which would it be?

JB: The desperate need for mental health coverage. I have a psychology degree, and my wife is also a therapist. Lack of resources or access for those struggling with mental health can lead to a potentially scary journey for our patients. It's inspiring to work for an organization like AdventHealth that's forward-thinking in finding resources to treat not just the body but also the mind and the spirit.

Q: What is your greatest talent or skill outside of the C-suite?

JB: Being an excellent husband to my wife and a father to our beautiful 1-year-old daughter is the skill I'm trying to grow on. I love being a dad, and especially having a new daughter, and it's a blessing our daughter was born in the hospital where I work. The experience was awesome, and it changed my life. I remain grateful to the entire team here. As a hospital executive, the hours can be very long, but it's important in my family to not only be someone who is an influential executive in the community, but also setting an example of being a man who loves spending time with his family.

Q: How do you revitalize yourself?

JB: Morning devotion and prayer before the sun comes up. I find that time with God really jump-starts my day in a positive direction. Taking time to visit patients comes in a close second and comes as a good personal reminder of my "why."  

Q: What is one piece of advice that you remember most clearly?

JB: I'm always reminded of a quote a former executive and mentor shared. He said, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, you go together." I'm a team player, and I think that phrase says a lot about working with a team. Healthcare is forever evolving. We have to work outside of our silos to prepare for the next industry transformation.

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement at AdventHealth Winter Park?

JB: We've completed some new buildings and introduced new services in the community. And even growing leaders within our organization is an achievement. But my greatest achievement so far is being asked to participate and graduate in the first AdventHealth executive leadership program. And with almost 80,000 employees, it was an honor to be picked to go through the program as one of 35 handpicked classmates. That experience will stick with me forever.


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