Born in Kingston, Jamaica, to a family deeply rooted in roles of service — teachers, pastors and nurses — I developed an interest in leadership and helping others in need from an early age. Little did I know that this calling would eventually lead me to becoming the president and chief executive officer of a growing network of care across Florida’s Flagler, Lake and Volusia counties; leading seven hospitals and more than 10,000 team members.
Reflecting back, I can clearly see that a sense of resilience was an essential trait in this journey: the ability to bend, but not break. To stretch, but not snap. To survive and thrive through life's many challenges.
In my early career as a trauma and emergency registered nurse, I leaned heavily on this sense of resilience. Caring for others during their greatest moments of vulnerability ignited a passion that continues to drive me today. It also helped me to see how great nurses can positively impact the outcomes of patients. Through two decades as a health care executive, I’ve also witnessed the importance of representation in leadership.
In a world where women — especially women of color — are underrepresented in executive roles, leadership should reflect the diverse communities we serve. As a Black woman in a society where health disparities disproportionately affect marginalized communities, addressing these disparities and promoting diversity, equity and inclusion is core to who I am. This personal commitment to making a positive impact led me to AdventHealth and its mission to extend the healing ministry of Christ. Within our organization, inclusiveness is a core value. At AdventHealth, diversity is not a checkbox; it is a driving force behind innovation, compassion and equity.
Audrey Gregory delivers a keynote speech at a special forum focused on the Importance of Mission and Culture, July 2023.
While I do not consider myself a "crusader," my personal journey made me acutely aware of inequities within health care. As a Black mother of three, combined with the clinical expertise of a nurse, I was very aware that giving birth could result in a higher risk of death.
Professionally, I have faced challenges in navigating a traditionally white-male dominated space when it comes to health care leadership, despite the workforce being predominantly female. But by embracing my authentic self and leveraging my unique perspectives and experiences, I have worked through these challenges and have been able to drive meaningful change. I have found strength in integrating all aspects of my identity and confidently asserting my value in any room, ensuring that my presence is purposeful.
Through resilience, determination, and an unwavering dedication to authenticity, I feel blessed that God has given me the opportunity to inspire others and show how inclusiveness can lead to transformative change. My personal journey is a reminder that barriers can be broken, changes can be made and a more inclusive future can be created for all.
Audrey Gregory is the president and CEO of AdventHealth Central Florida – North Region