18 Local Leaders in an Age of Crisis: David Strong
President & CEO, Orlando Health
The man at the helm of 13 hospitals and emergency departments in nine Central Florida counties says he has been impressed and humbled by the way medical professionals on the front lines have risen to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. They are working hard, David Strong says, with compassion, courage and resilience despite emotional and physical fatigue.
“Those who work in health care make a difference in the lives of others every day,” he says. “This occurred before COVID-19, it continues today and it will be true in the future. They brought the best of themselves into the light to carry out our mission of caring for our community. Our greatest challenge is getting them to take care of themselves because they are so focused on meeting the needs of their patients and loved ones.”
As of the end of August, Orlando Health had treated more than 3,200 COVID-19 patients in its hospitals. More than 6,500 additional COVID-19 patients were treated in its emergency departments and clinics and sent home without needing to be admitted to the hospital.
Strong says Orlando Health has led with “credible science, dispassionate calmness and objectivity, rather than panic. While it is important to know what the external crowd is saying, ultimately we must make our own decisions in the best interests of serving our patients—even if these decisions are not aligned with the majority.” He says he was referring to general perceptions about the virus that were not based on science or fact.
Orlando Health has focused on listening to its team members and the community, answering their questions and addressing their fears all while caring for patients whether they have COVID-19 or another health issue. “In the process, we have become better prepared and more resilient for the next crisis,” Strong says.
Senior leadership visited the front lines at every Orlando Health hospital when the virus peaked in April and June, providing updates and listening to concerns.
Strong and two Orlando Health representatives served on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Re-Open Florida Task Force, and hospital leaders served on the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force and the Orange County Public Schools Medical Advisory Committee. Orlando Health launched two resource websites—Business Ready and School Ready —to help businesses and schools prepare to safely reopen.
The hospital system continues to win accolades and move ahead with growth plans. Orlando Regional Medical Center, the region’s only Level One Trauma Center, was ranked the No. 2 hospital in metro Orlando—and No. 9 in the state—by U.S. News & World Report for 2020-21.
Orlando Health has partnered with Jewett Orthopaedic Clinic to build a $250 million Orlando Health Jewett Orthopedic Hospital at its downtown campus, with groundbreaking expected before the end of this year.