Heather Havericak’s health care journey started at the age of 12, when her mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 head and neck cancer. Though she had originally planned to go into elementary education as a college freshman, she soon changed her major to nursing, and began working her way up the ranks as a nurse while earning more advanced degrees. Today, she is the CEO of Broward Health Medical Center and Salah Foundation Children’s Hospital, where she is responsible for overall strategic planning and functional operations.
“I was introduced to the healthcare community at a young age, and realized that I wanted to be a part of it after experiencing my mother’s journey,” she said of her passion for the field.
Originally from Chicago, Havericak attended the College of DuPage School of Nursing to get her associate degree before moving to Florida, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Florida International University. She received her Master of Science in Nursing Administration from Indiana State University.
“I started as a nurse at Miami Children’s Hospital, (now Nicklaus), and later joined Broward, where I’ve been for 14 years,” she said.
“What I like most about my role as the CEO are the people I work with and the community we serve,” she said of the medical center that cares for the northern two-thirds of Broward County. “Many of the people that we work with do not have the means for health care, so our mission is very important. And I continue to be impressed by the people at Broward who carry out this mission every single day.”
According to Havericak, there are a number of challenges facing those in health care, including reimbursement, pay-for-performance and transparency issues, especially with the shift from an inpatient setting to an ambulatory care setting.
“I became a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) in 2015, because as I continued to take on more leadership roles, I wanted more professional growth and development opportunities,” she explained. “ACHE was a very well-respected organization, and several mentors of mine were fellows, so it was something to which I aspired.”
Havericak attends many of the conferences and local networking events hosted by ACHE’s local chapter, the South Florida Healthcare Executive Forum (SFHEF), and uses the knowledge she gains to advance the hospital’s mission.
“I think relationship-building with different health care leaders—within and outside of the community—is incredibly important,” she said. “Health care organizations are now aligning with each other and it helps to have this network of professional connections.
“When you look at the topics the organization covers—such as population health, employee engagement, enhancing quality and safety and more—you can see how it applies to hospital operations on a daily basis,” she added.
Havericak believes that it’s never too early to take advantage of the education that ACHE and SFHEF provide. “Attending these events gives you the opportunity to expose yourself to different topics appropriate to every level of leadership,” she said, adding that there are tracks for everyone from novices to administrative and clinical leadership. “It’s good to get a head start on enhancing your professional growth and development and developing the networks you need locally.”