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Monday Meeting: Wael Barsoum, president of Cleveland Clinic Florida


The president of Cleveland Clinic Florida, it turns out, actually comes from Cleveland. He likes to check the weather there on a phone app and, especially in the winter, reflect on the wisdom of living in South Florida.

Wael Barsoum said his first job — hospital orderly, as a teenager — was not exactly an automatic fast track to management. He learned a lot, though, and knew he wanted to work in medicine and become a doctor.

Then again, life takes twists and turns people don’t always foresee. While he predicts his organization’s local operations will continue to grow, he sees an overall reduction in hospital beds in Palm Beach County ahead.

“I believe that you’re going to see some significant healthcare consolidation over the course of the next several years,” Barsoum, 47, said.

He thinks the quality of care will improve, with more focus on outpatient treatment, wellness and prevention. Along the way, he figures, people may not need as many hospital rooms as the county already has — at least for a while.

Since opening its first office in Palm Beach County in 2007, Cleveland Clinic now features locations across the county, providing services in nearly two dozen medical specialties.

Cleveland Clinic Florida opened an office in Palm Beach Gardens in the summer of 2013. With the acquisition of Cardiology Associates of Palm Beach in June, it added locations in Atlantis and West Palm Beach.

Would he recommend medicine to his three young daughters? “Emphatic yes,” he said.

Name: Wael Kamal Barsoum

Age: 47

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Where you live now: Fort Lauderdale

About your company: Cleveland Clinic Florida, with locations in Weston, West Palm Beach, Atlantis, Palm Beach Gardens and Parkland, is a not-for-profit, multi-specialty, academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Cleveland Clinic Florida has 240 physicians with expertise in 35 specialties. The medical campus in Weston is fully integrated and includes diagnostic centers, outpatient surgery and a 24-hour emergency department located in the state-of-the-art hospital.

Cleveland Clinic Florida is an integral part of the Cleveland Clinic Health System, which consistently ranks among the nation’s Top 5 hospitals by U.S. News and is renowned for pioneering many medical breakthroughs and providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Physicians at Cleveland Clinic are experts in the treatment of complex conditions that are difficult to diagnose. Cleveland Clinic recently announced a $302 million expansion plan for Cleveland Clinic Florida that will include capital improvements to our campus in Weston and a new clinic and ambulatory surgery center in Coral Springs.

As a destination for critical care, Cleveland Clinic Florida provides an advanced level of care for the highest acuity patients including individuals facing cancer, cardiac and neurological conditions, and those in need of organ transplant services. In fact, our Weston expansion will double our ICU capacity allowing us to care for the growing number of high acuity patients who choose Cleveland Clinic Florida for organ transplant services, including many residents from Palm Beach County. Our Transplant Center is one of the leading institutes for adult heart, liver and kidney transplantation in South Florida.

How your business has changed: Healthcare has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. We now have more insured patients, improved outcomes, many hospitals looking at merging, and we have seen a significant shift towards wellness and prevention.

First paying job and what you learned from it: My first real paying job was working as an orderly in a community hospital, just outside of Cleveland. I learned the importance of treating every patient like a family member. I learned that to be successful in healthcare, you have to be part of a successful team.

First break in the business: My first real break in business was the ability to return to the Cleveland Clinic’s main campus and practice. It was there that my academic career took off. I became the fellowship director for a total joint replacement fellowship and started a research team that has been very successful in studying clinical outcomes as well as basic and translational orthopaedic science.

Best business book you’ve read: I’m not sure that I really have a favorite business book. I’ve read many books on business over the last 10 years, and I think you can take something away from most of them. There are so many different leadership styles in business and so many different strategies for success that no one person has all the right answers.

Best piece of business advice you received: I think the best business advice that I ever received was when I was finishing my fellowship in Boston and buying my first home in Naples. One of my professors told me to buy the biggest, nicest home that I could afford. He said that Naples was a growing community and I would likely do well with that financially. I ended up selling the house two years later and made a 30 percent profit! Other than that, don’t sell when the market is soft!

What you tell young people about your business: I think the best piece of advice I can give to young people about healthcare today is that it is a great career. I have three young daughters and people continually ask me if I want them to be doctors and my answer is an emphatic yes. It’s an incredible honor to take care of patients and that will never change.

What do you see ahead for Palm Beach County? I think Palm Beach has an incredibly bright future. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I believe that you’re going to see some significant healthcare consolidation over the course of the next several years. I also think there’s going to be a reduction in the overall number of hospital beds in Palm Beach County and the continued improvement in the quality of care.

For Cleveland Clinic Florida, I see continued growth. Our first office in Palm Beach County opened in 2007. We now have four locations across the county, providing services in nearly two dozen different medical specialties. We opened an office in Palm Beach Gardens in the summer of 2013 and with the acquisition of Cardiology Associates of Palm Beach last June, we added locations in Atlantis and West Palm Beach.

Where we can find you when you are not at the office: When I’m not at the office, you will likely find me with my family. My wife and three beautiful daughters are wonderful. We enjoy spending time boating, riding bikes, and playing music together.

Favorite smartphone app: Interestingly, my favorite smartphone app is cleveland.com. The reason I love it so much is that for nine months of the year, when I look at the weather reports, it serves as a reminder of what a great decision I made moving to sunny, warm and beautiful Southeast Florida!

What is the most important trait you look for when hiring? When hiring, I look for the three A’s. Ability, Availability, and Affability. People need to be good at what they do, they need to be available and ready to work hard, and they need to be easy to get along with.


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