AdventHealth's CEO Shares His Vision

In this exclusive interview, Terry Shaw, head of the newly rebranded AdventHealth one of the largest non-profit health care systems in the US talks about starting as an intern and working his way up, why the name change is a big deal, and his goal of making spiritual care a bigger part of the patient experience.

Question: Recently, the 47-hospital system headquartered in Altamonte Springs, Florida, officially changed its name from Adventist Health System to AdventHealth. Is this a big deal? Why the change?

Answer: Going from Adventist Health System to AdventHealth is definitely a big deal. It’s about making things easier for consumers. One of the biggest issues in health care today is the difficulty consumers experience navigating the system to find the care they need.

Previously, our system consisted of about 30 different hospital brands. Now, as one connected system of care with one name, consumers seeking the type of whole-person care we provide can easily distinguish our locations and services across the network.

Our mission is Extending the Healing Ministry of Christ, and by making the care journey easier, we can share Christ’s love, through healing and hope, with even more people in the communities we serve.

You replaced Don Jernigan as CEO of (now) AdventHealth in December 2016, just over two years ago. Was the name change your idea?

Our journey to transforming the organization started years ago when Don Jernigan was our CEO. We worked with a Blue Ribbon Panel, which recommended that the company position itself as a national, connected system of care. There were many meetings, stakeholder and market analysis, lots of research, case studies and white papers from Seventh-day Adventist theologians along the way. We were sure to get lots of feedback and perspectives and took a well-thought-out approach.

Leading up to the brand transition, 60,000 of our team members took part in engaging training called The Whole Care Experience to prepare them to deliver consistently on the organization’s mission, vision, values and service standards. Those service standards are intended to feel personal: Keep Me Safe, Love Me, Make It Easy and Own It. All of our employees work to ensure that these four things happen whenever they are serving someone. And our goal is to provide this to every person, every time.

You have worked for AdventHealth your entire career, beginning as a finance intern during a summer break from college. Now you are in the top job. You know the organization so well — has the job held any surprises for you? Is it just what you expected?

I have been blessed to be part of the organization for more than 30 years, and throughout that time, I have worked with many great leaders and mentors, which helped tremendously when I became CEO. Leading a great organization with a sacred mission and so many dedicated employees is a tremendous honor and privilege.

I think what is really eye-opening is how much we have grown as an organization. Today, we are one of the largest faith-based health systems in the country. We have hospitals in nine states and more than 80,000 team members nationwide.

Back when I began as an intern, I don’t think I could have imagined us growing to this size and having the impact that we are having today.

Can you briefly describe some of the other positions you have held in Florida Hospital and AdventHealth? Was there a job that was the hardest? One that was the most fun?

Before I joined the corporate leadership team, I held roles at the hospital level such as chief financial officer, senior vice president and vice president. Each role was challenging and rewarding in its own way.

For me, the thing I always enjoyed is working with teams of people to solve problems and improve things. Whether it’s planning and problem-solving at the executive level or working in scrubs on solutions that impact our day-to-day work on a more granular level, there is something special about collaborating with others behind a common goal and achieving that goal.

What other changes, beyond the name, have you made in AdventHealth so far?

Aside from our name, we have embarked on some pretty exciting initiatives. One is around making spiritual care a bigger part of the outpatient care experience. As a faith-based organization, we know that spiritual health plays a big part in overall wellbeing.

We already have a robust spiritual care program in our hospitals, but more than 90 percent of our patient interactions happen in the outpatient setting, thus the impetus to focus on providing more spiritual support in our physician practices, urgent care facilities, rehabilitation centers and other outpatient touchpoints. To help shepherd this work, we hired and trained dozens of clinical mission integration specialists to support providers and frontline staff in the delivery of spiritual care in the outpatient setting across the system.

We’ve also integrated a “spiritual wholeness” screening into visits, which asks questions specifically pertaining to love, peace and joy in a patient’s life. If a need is identified, the patient could then be referred for spiritual support. Though we are early in this work, we’ve already received thousands of patient referrals for spiritual care. This is something that we know makes a difference and fills a need. We are very excited about it.

What further goals do you have for the organization?

I want us to be able to fulfill our mission to the best of our ability every single day. To do that, our goal is to operate as a consumer-focused clinical company that not only provides preeminent faith-based health care, but also helps make the communities we are in better and healthier places to live. Being able to impact lives inside and outside of our hospitals is very important to us and is the key to fostering abundant life in the communities we serve.

In addition, one of our imperatives is to improve our product, so we strive to continuously enhance the level of care we provide. With every consumer we come in contact with, we want to deliver exceptional experiences and outcomes.

What makes Adventist healthcare different from other systems?

I think the answer is found in our roots. The Adventist health care philosophy, born out of the sanitarium model, is grounded in faith and follows Christ’s healing ministry on earth as its example.

Some of the tenets of the sanitarium model — good hygiene, sunlight, fresh air, nutritious food and belief in God — are still relevant and applicable today. The way we approach care is not just about treating a person’s physical ailment, we focus on the whole person: body, mind and spirit.

In addition, we have the CREATION Health philosophy for delivering whole-person care and living as we were created to live.

So, as you can see, a great deal of how we deliver care today is still inspired by the legacy of our Seventh-day Adventist founders. Sure, we have lots of technology and research at our disposal, but the principles that began in Battle Creek are still prevalent in our work today, which I think is amazing.

Another thing is our people. We have great employees across our company, and we are fortunate to have a culture that attracts talented, mission-focused individuals who show up day-in and day-out to make a difference. These are huge differentiators for us.

How would you describe the relationship between Adventist healthcare (specifically AdventHealth), and the administration of the Seventh-day Adventist Church? How closely do you work together? How do the denomination's plans for health ministries impact your plans?

Our organization works closely with the church, and we appreciate and respect that relationship. Our board is made up almost entirely of church leaders. AdventHealth is an expression of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s health ministry operating with the church’s beliefs and guidelines, so it is important for us to be actively engaged with church constituents and developments.

AdventHealth has experienced significant growth in the time since you became chief financial officer in 2000. To what do you attribute that growth? Do you plan to continue to expand the network?

The short answer is, yes, we do. In the last 17 or so years, we have grown in revenue from a $2 billion to a $10 billion company, and I believe we are poised to double that to $20 billion in the coming years.

Now, we could grow faster than that for growth’s sake. But we strive to be good stewards, believe in smart growth and are very selective in our growth strategy. Expanding our footprint enables us to bring faith-based care to more communities. And to do that, we know that it takes great people, good plans and certainly God’s blessing.

What makes you the most excited when you get into your office every morning? What do you enjoy the most? What is the hardest job you have to do?

I really enjoy working with our teams. It is truly a blessing to work alongside so many people that are engaged and passionate about our mission of Extending the Healing Ministry of Christ. Whether they work in a clinical care facility or in one of our office settings, seeing our team members bring their collective talents together to contribute to our culture of service, love and compassion is great to be part of.

Overall, one of the biggest challenges is knowing that each decision that I make will in some way impact our employees as well as those we are entrusted to care for. This is a tremendous responsibility, and one that I put my heart and mind into.

Read Spectrum's interview with Don Jernigan.

Photo courtesy of Terry Shaw.

Alita Byrd is interviews editor for Spectrum.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

The need for integration of health care services has never been greater. this is a wise move. Far to often the bottom line is dollars not patient care. I have been on both sides as Chief of Dental services to multiple entries as a disabled veteran and the wear of aging. I carry enough metal to set off the entire security system at any airport. Except for a few missteps I give the system an OK even under big brother oversight.,

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i have real reservations over where our hospitals have been heading…the huge, multi-billion dollar empire that our hospitals have become seems a very far cry from the egw vision of smaller, natural method sanitariums that mingle overt three angels’ messaging with rational healing…in fact they seem to capture something that not only isn’t in our prophet’s blue print, but is antithetical to it…the change of name that has dropped “Adventist” seems to say it all…

the other issue i wonder about is the practice of abortion that goes on in our hospitals…on one level, it seems clear that our hospitals are simply taking advantage of an economic opportunity afforded by the less than clear direction that our GC has provided over the yrs…but it would have been nice to see them lead in a clear pro-life direction, despite the ridiculous confusion coming out of silver spring…why is it that catholic hospitals have the moral high ground when it comes to the subject of abortion…


I wonder whether dropping the name Adventist was intentional to establish autonomy from the world SDA church organization. Actually, I favor the transition.


Maybe a group of physicians and administrators should start a system like that and see how it works for them… :roll_eyes:


Maybe a great idea for other institutions: AdventChurch instead of NAD of the SDA. The reasons may be the same you tossed in… :wink:


Did EGW receive any messages from God regarding “blue print” for mental illness and its treatment? I only wonder how many of our church leaders are on benzodiazepines for anxiety?



In 20 yrs it will likely be Advent/Govt.Health. That seems to be the new Zeitgeist.
All the best!

With the kind of leaders we have at the GC now, we the members should probably be the ones on benzodiazepines… I would go with lorazepam!!!

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How many members are on meds for anxiety or depression?


Perhaps as many as what other church denominations have. :blush: We’re all traveling in the same boat.


I would have to respectfully disagree. Definitely not in the same boat as many other churches. The SS SDA boat is quite different from the mainstream Christian boat. Not to say there aren’t some very dysfunctional groups out there, but also lots of very healthy congregations.


Elmer, I was once teaching a SS class and it was on temperance. I was trying to point out that “drugs” were organic compounds including Ethyl Alcohol. A lady was very upset that I would compare Valium, a diazepam with Alcohol. Obviously, her drug of "acceptable medicinal " Choice.
I had said to my SDA audience in the late 1970’s…Paul’s words, Drink a little wine for thine often infirmities are not abstinence for all.
PS. VALIUM was prescribed for anxiety in the 70’s by Professional’s like acceptable candy.

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We are all in one boat since the importance of worshipping an object has nothing to do with the qualities and characteristics of the object. Worshiping is a reflection of how we manage our interpersonal relationship with whom we are worshipping. Therein lies the importance of worshipping.

There are cases where children have loved their abusive parents more than children who loved their nurturing parents. The same goes for worshipping.

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I’m not surprised anymore when I hear our church leaders talk about the evils of alcohol knowing that some have been on BZ for years. I tell my patients BZ are nothing but controlled use of alcohol.

Right George? @GeorgeTichy


This doesn’t deny that all have the possibility of habituation and “addiction” which you well know better than I.

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I think we are speaking about different topics, or issues.

No matter…

Have you gotten bigger for bigger sake? How do you know that this focus on spiritual care is helping? It sounds great but how is it measured? Real common sense suggests prevention and natural alternatives are the real answer and it sounds like that is part of what you are doing? However, on the other hand this large increase in growth to 47 hospitals is certainly part of the pharmaceutical medical model system I would think. Part of your name is Health but how much healthcare vs medical care do you really do? Why not operate 47 health (sickness prevention and healing) care centers instead? How many naturapathic doctors do you employ? Nurses and doctors are trained still I believe to spend the vast majority of the time on treating systems and doing paperwork.

maybe they should…it would create a niche that doesn’t exist now, and that at least some people would cater…

keep in mind that egw never spoke against many of the demonstrated treatments that modern medicine provides, nor did she have anything against huge tertiary hospitals that save so many lives (they weren’t in her mind when she wrote…we know this because they didn’t exist)…her point was that smaller sanitariums using natural healing methods represent a good opportunity to spread the three angels messages…the idea isn’t about what works for dr’s and their bank accounts…the idea is about what would spread the three angels messages in a secular world…

this isn’t necessarily an either/or situation…we can do both mega hospitals and natural healing sanitariums, but if we have to choose only one, why not do the one that comes with an inspired blueprint and that has a spiritual purpose…what spiritual purpose does a huge hospital chain provide that isn’t distinct from what secular or non-adventist denominational hospitals provide…

I am always puzzled that so many Adventists cannot live in today’s time. They always have to call upon EGW for everything, things that she wrote so long ago. The Adventist dependency on her is just puzzling to me.