Jay Hershoff is 79 years old. And he’s “retired.” Or, at least, as retired as you can be when you’re the chairman of the board of trustees for Baptist Health South Florida, an organization that stretches from Marathon to Boynton Beach and has 12 hospitals, 26,000 employees, 20 urgent care sites, 19 diagnostic centers and much more.
Many of us in the Keys may envision our golden years as a simple life where the most pressing decision of the day is: Should we eat at Ziggie’s or Lazy Days tonight? But since officially becoming chairman on Oct. 1, Hershoff has a say in how to spend $5 billion a year in annual revenue, on everything from a new physician and new services to a new building.
When Keys Weekly spoke to him on a phone call that was scheduled a few days ahead of time, he was frequently interrupted by calls and texts regarding Baptist Health South Florida matters.
“There goes another one,” he said, as his line clicked. “That’s a fellow board member. Since I started as chairman 31 days ago, I would say 25 of those days were spent on the hospital.”
In addition to juggling board chairman activities, Hershoff heads into his law firm, Hershoff, Lupino and Yagel, to work a few hours a week — even though he officially retired on Dec. 31, 2019.
“I should get a phone call from the ‘Not Retirement Society,’” he said, chuckling. “I have a hard time saying ‘no.’”
Jokes aside, Hershoff’s friends and colleagues are quick to point out his accomplishments. Marathon residents (and husband-and-wife team) Jim Rifkin and Jane Packard spearheaded efforts to raise $15 million from the community toward replacing the old Fishermen’s Community Hospital building that was destroyed during Hurricane Irma. As part of a deal that Hershoff brokered, Baptist Health agreed to pay for the facility as long as locals contributed at least $15 million.
“He’s an amazing person,” said Rifkin. “He’s the first person from the Keys to achieve the position of chairman at Baptist Health South Florida. And without Jay, there would be no hospital here (in Marathon). Jay went to the hallowed halls of Baptist Health and convinced them to get on board. In the last 20 years, only one rural hospital was built in the country — and I’m looking out the window right at it.”
“Jay eats, breathes and sleeps Baptist Health. That’s his passion,” said Packard. “Fishermen’s and Mariners would never have happened without him. To me, to know Jay is to love Jay. ”
Drew Grossman, CEO of Fishermen’s and Mariners hospitals, agreed that Hershoff is a people person.
“He realizes that it takes all kinds of different talent to get the job done every day,” said Grossman. “He has a good way of interacting. He’s the first one to say he needs to learn more.”
Hershoff is indeed humble about how he got his start in working with Keys hospitals in 1993, when a colleague suggested he fill a vacancy on the Mariners Hospital board.
“Before that, I had never been involved with a hospital, other than being a patient,” he said.
In the mid-1990s , using negotiating skills developed over years of working as an attorney in crime, personal injury and family law, Hershoff hammered out a deal for Mariners Hospital to become a part of the Baptist Health South Florida system and get a new facility as a result. Prior to that, Mariners had been housed in an old building with additions that had been slapped on over the years.
Eventually, he moved on to the Fishermen’s board, then finally joined the Baptist Health South Florida board in 2002.
“I have no hobbies any more,” he said, explaining that he physically can no longer handle the water activities he used to adore. “I’m passionate about health care and helping communities. I’m very proud of what we’ve done to get the new hospital and board approval for the medical arts building on the old library site in Marathon. My perfect day is getting things approved at Baptist Health, when the sun shines by the pool — and anything with my wife, Nancy.”
The Islamorada resident wears his power lightly—in that Florida Keys way.
On Oct. 28, he went to the Hilton in Miami to speak to an audience of 125 Baptist Health board members. When he went to unpack his suitcase in his hotel room, he realized that he had not packed any long pants to wear.
“I got up to make the speech, and I was wearing Columbia cargo shorts,” he said, laughing. “Everyone else was in long pants. I said, ‘The invitation said business casual, but I’m in Keys formal.’”
Needless to say, he brought down the house.