Orlando Health has named Philip Koovakada as the new president of the Orlando Health — Health Central Hospital in Ocoee.
Koovakada will serve as the senior leader of the location and coordinate the region’s operations with Orlando Health’s senior executive team.
“Philip comes to us with an outstanding background with broad experience in acute and outpatient care, quality improvement, strategic development, and operational and financial management,” said Jamal Hakim, chief operating officer at Orlando Health. “He will be a dynamic, optimistic, forward-thinking leader, and I’m eager for him to join our team.”
Koovakada, who began his new role in April, brings with him a long background in health care. He earned a bachelor’s in nursing from the University of St. Francis, a master’s in nursing and a master’s in health care administration from California State University — Long Beach. He is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives.
The new president comes to Orlando Health from Baptist Health System in San Antonio, Texas, where he served as president and CEO for St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital.
Prior to his role in San Antonio, Koovakada served as the chief executive officer for NMC Health Network in Nacogdoches, Texas, and held various leadership roles for Tenet in Nacogdoches and Palm Springs, California.
“It’s truly an honor and a privilege to be selected,” Koovakada said. “They (Orlando Health) wanted to make sure they selected the right fit, and I wanted to make sure this was the right fit for me, and I believe it truly is the right fit. For me, the responsibility does not go unnoticed. I mean, it’s something that I carry with myself every single day with every action and decision we make.”
Koovakada’s initial career aspirations weren’t in health care.
His parents are from India, and his mom immigrated to the United States in pursuit of her nursing career.
Koovakada was born and raised in Chicago and went on to study business, after his father, who was an entrepreneur.
He said one day he had somebody come into his class and talk about nursing, which is when he decided he wanted to pursue a new career path.
He was accepted into nursing school and began his clinical rotations. Those first few experiences in the field were transformative.
As a student nurse, Koovakada was taking care of his first patient, who was a quadriplegic, and his wife. Although he only spent a few days with the couple, his patient’s wife thanked him at the end for spending time with them and making an impact during one of the hardest times in their lives.
“That kind of just resonated with me, and ever since that happened, health care was my passion,” Koovakada said. “There was no other field for me at that point, and that’s kind of how I live and breathe.”
Koovakada said health care is an interesting industry, and as employees in the industry, they often deal with complex situations.
“Unfortunately, we’re not like the Hyatt or Four Seasons,” he said. “People don’t come to us because they want to come to us. They come to us because they’re in crisis, and it’s our responsibility, our requirement, and obligation to this community to make sure we can guide them throughout that entire time; be their light in that time of darkness, so that’s what drives me every single day.”
Although Koovakada only has been in the West Orange area for a few weeks, he feels embedded in the community. He’s already attended a few events, including the 2022 Education Awards Ceremony at West Orange High School and a legislative session at the West Orange Chamber of Commerce.
“You just see and feel the community and how much it cares for each other, and how much it wants to grow with each other, and how much it wants to support each other,” he said. “Not only that, but how much the community really cares about Orlando Health and Health Central. To me, being able to feel that … it makes me more passionate about what we do every single day.”
Koovakada said the reality is Orlando Health and its patients are also a community, as well.
“When I look at it holistically, I look at it as every single patient that comes through our doors, every staff member that comes through our doors, should be treated as our family, and that’s the barometer for me,” he said. “The barometer of, ‘Are we creating a climate in which you’d want your family to work in? Are we creating an environment in which you’d want your family to be cared in?’ And if the answer is 100% yes, then we’re doing something right.”
Koovakada said his first goal as president is to understand and learn about the community.
He said he wants to learn which direction to grow in with the community and what programs the community needs to thrive.
One of his biggest priorities is meeting the community’s needs during the rapid continuation of growth in the area.
“The work that our team does day in and day out to care for the community — you see that impact every day … we are one team that cares for one community,” Koovakada said. “And that is what we will continue to do as we continue to learn.”