CEO brings new vision of future growth to Baptist Health

CEO brings new vision of future growth to Baptist Health
Brett McClung, FACHE

Brett McClung knew he had big shoes to fill when he took over from Hugh Greene as president and chief executive officer of Baptist Health eight months ago. Yet, the Texas native, who had never set foot on the First Coast before being considered for Baptist’s top job, appears to fit right in as an executive who will build on Greene’s legacy of growth and expand it with a vision of his own.

The son of a Methodist minister, McClung previously worked for Texas Health Resources, one of the largest faith-based, nonprofit health care systems in the United States. At the end of his 26-year tenure, he was executive vice president and chief operations leader for the North Zone of the company, which included nine hospitals and more than 150 points of care.

Taking over from Greene, who retired after leading the hospital system as president and CEO for 19 years, McClung now heads a locally governed health system comprised of five hospitals, including Wolfson Children’s Hospital, as well as Baptist Home Health Care, and is also CEO of Coastal Community Health, which is an integrated network of seven hospitals that includes Baptist Health and Southeast Georgia Health System. In short, he oversees a system that cares for more patients than any other in the region.

“I’ve been privileged to be in healthcare for almost 30 years. My dad was a minister, and I grew up feeling like I needed to extend ministry in some way, so I’ve gravitated to faith-based health systems, and there are not many like Baptist Health in the country,” McClung said, noting his new job is similar in scope to what he was doing in Texas. Meeting him, it is clear to see he is ready to choreograph a system that includes Baptist’s extensive hospital network, which recently announced a new $200 million, 100-bed full-service hospital on Fleming Island that will serve Clay County’s growing population.

“It is a privilege to build on the incredible legacy going back 60 years of Baptist Health’s founders – Preston Haskell, Jack Williams, O’Neal Douglas, and Bill Mason – who were completely committed to the health of the community,” he said.

McClung’s vision is one of future growth and will follow Baptist’s new strategic plan that articulates five important points important to the health system. “Not everything we do is going to be a $200-million new hospital because healthcare is expensive, and we’re really keenly focused on how to make it accessible and easily navigable for the consumer,” he said, adding that he wants to work on integrating Baptist Health’s collection of physician offices, hospitals, cancer and heart centers and children’s hospital so that patients can go between them seamlessly. Through collaborating with partners such as Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, he hopes to make Baptist a “one-stop shop, and not just for someone who needs intervention or health services.” He hopes to have the health system be among the top 10% in the country in performance, and to design it so that people can trust Baptist as a source of health information, especially in genomics and fitness.

To accomplish this, Baptist will be rolling out its new “My Family App,” in March, which will assist families in coordinating care and managing their health, particularly when members of the family are not sick.

He also plans to install a new electronic health record platform that will allow Baptist patients and customers to view their medical records online in real time.

“Part of growing for the future will be new relationships. Some of those things will be applications like you have on your phone that will make it easy to schedule appointments into a physician’s office. Another will be partnering with health plans, and maybe even employers, around products and services that they may need directly from us. Having seen other markets in the country, we expect the healthcare market will continue to change and evolve dynamically in Northeast Florida, and we will be prepared for that,” he continued. “We’re also looking beyond Florida at opportunities to partner, collaborate, and learn from likeminded health systems, but then we’re also looking way, way outside of health care for industries that make it easy for people to get the products or services that they need. When you think about travel – how people use Kayak to get to the right location, or how they use Netflix to watch the right show – we’re in a very digitally consumable marketplace for everything,” he said.

“Our vision, ‘a lifetime of health together,’ which is new, doesn’t say anything about sickness, or illness or fixing people that are broken or even delivering babies,” he continued. “It’s really about folding the walls of our hospitals down and continuing the incredible work that I didn’t start, for sure. It’s about our partnerships with community agencies in Jacksonville, and those community agencies may not be in healthcare but rather are likeminded and interested in what we refer to as the social determinant of health in positively impacting those social determinants like poverty, food scarcity, and lack of family or transportation. We want to look at how we can partner with those agencies locally and afar to improve the health of those in the community,” he said.

One of the community agencies McClung is referring to is the United Way. “Being Baptist Health, we’re the glue for about 25 different community agencies where, through grants and relationships or even shared board members, we’re aligned with the work that they’re doing. When we discharge somebody out of one of our hospitals, they go home, and the goal is for them to begin a normal life. Sometimes they need nonhospital resources to do that, and so many of our partner agencies are in a position to provide those things.”

Another important relationship is with Sulzbacher Center. “We know that poverty is the cause of so many things we end up managing from a health perspective and from a city perspective downstream,” he said. “How do we get upstream from poverty? I don’t have a specific answer for that, but what I can tell you is that we don’t get a pass. We should be part of answering that question, and we will be.”

McClung understands Baptist Health is the single largest private sector employer in Northeast Florida. He regards its 12,000 employees as a sort of family and is committed to assisting them and their family members as well as the outlying community, in ways of being “as healthy as can be” physically, mentally, and spiritually. “I do believe we have an obligation to be a good partner in the community,” he said. “The community is coming to us and trusting us with their sickness and their health.”

Settling in Ortega

McClung said he and his wife, Nancy, have so fallen in love with Jacksonville that it was a challenge selecting a neighborhood to purchase a home. After more than 100 days of exploring the area, they finally settled on Ortega, where they bought a 100-year-old house and began renovations. “It felt like home to us. We love to restore old homes. The one we bought is our fourth one,” he said.

“We had this commitment: Our kids are grown, and they are both in California. This is a new chapter of our life. If we are going to move to Jacksonville, we are going to find a small, new home close to the office that’s not on the water. However, fast forward and 100 days later, we bought a 100-year-old house that’s three stories. It’s not large, but it’s on the other side of the river from the corporate office, and it’s on the water. So, we’re 0-4. But we fell in love with the place, that’s why we did it, and we’ve had a lot of fun with it,” he said, noting that when At-large Group 4 City Councilman Matt Carlucci heard about his plans he called it a “trifecta” because McClung and his wife had to redo the plumbing, electrical, and the roof.

Although he lives close to the Timuquana Country Club, McClung is not a golfer. He instead prefers to spend his free time jogging, hiking, fishing, and surfing, and travels out to the beach with his wife at least once a week.

 He is also an accomplished musician, who plays piano, brass instruments, drums – anything but guitar – and enjoys singing. In Texas, he was a longtime member of a cover band that has gone by three different names – Providence, Crossroads and Back 40 – and once opened for the Texas stalwart Robert Earl Keen. “Music is in my blood. My dad played guitar. My mom sang. I was on a music scholarship in college,” he said.

And it was in college that he met Nancy, his wife, while sitting in the last row of church. “She was late, and I was later. That was in the fall of 1987,” he laughed, noting he has been married 28 years.

The couple has two daughters: Mackenzie, a senior at the University of Southern California, and Madison, a graduate of Stanford who is now working for a start-up firm in Palo Alto.

Moving to Jacksonville and working at Baptist has been an incredible experience, McClung said. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had.” I love the people I work with. I still think working at a safe, reliable, compassionate place for people that are having the worst day of their life is what I’m called to do.” He added that when he was a boy he would travel with his father in their 1962 standard Volkswagen beetle to visit members of his father’s congregation in the hospital.

“He had a weird schedule as a minister, and to get time with him, I would visit hospitals and we’d go fishing afterwards. I grew up around this, which is why I am here,” he said.

“I want Northeast Florida to be the healthiest place to live and the chosen place for people to work. I think we can accomplish that.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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