This month, in partnership with AdventHealth for Women, we’re recognizing some of the women in our community who are selflessly giving to others while raising families, supporting their loved ones and/or building their careers. Whether they know it or not, their stories inspire other women near and far. One of those amazing women is Kari Vargas.
As AdventHealth Market CEO for West Orange and South Lake Counties, Kari Vargas oversees the day-to-day operations of AdventHealth Winter Garden. Kari will also lead the overall expansion of the West Orange and South Lake markets, developing and executing strategies that support the total network of care and building influential relationships with key constituents, communities and consumers. Kari is a forward-thinking leader that understands how to lead provider and care teams toward operational excellence. Kari’s passion for the AdventHealth mission fuels her ability to collaborate and bring teams together to continue expanding the promise of wholeness across communities.
What is your WHY?
Ever since I was in kindergarten and answered the question “What do you want to be when you grow up? “I always wanted to have a career in healthcare – it started as a pediatrician. In high school, I participated in a program through Orange County Public Schools that intends for students to get an early start on career paths, where I was able to spend time shadowing a local pediatrician and that solidified for me that I was headed in the right direction. Throughout college I worked in a primary care physician’s office and after college, while I was working on my MBA my passion continued as I interned at AdventHealth (formerly known as Florida Hospital). I have a passion to help people, especially those struggling with health issues, and I have spent the last 22 years serving the Central Florida Community.
On your toughest of days, what motivates you to put one foot in front of the other?
My family is one of my biggest motivators. It is important to my husband and I that we live out our family values, and our children see that even through tough times, that we keep to our true North and don’t compromise on what we believe is right.
Have you drawn inspiration from other women? Tell us about someone who has inspired you.
I am fortunate to say that I draw inspiration from so many women around me. Growing up, I had role models in my aunts (Aunt Andy, Aunt Ginny, and Aunt Kris) encouraged me by saying that anything was possible; that I could be a mother and have a robust career as a woman. My mother, Linda, is one of the most caring and selfless people you will meet, and she instilled in me to always put others first and to make them feel special. Professionally, I am surrounded by women leaders (Trish Celano, Marla Silliman, Monica Reed) at AdventHealth who have been my biggest cheerleaders. They have given me opportunities to learn and grow, always lifting me up when things did not go as I had planned and reminding me of the importance of celebrating successes. My 14-year-old daughter Caroline is an inspiration to me; as a young athlete with a strong academic focus, she is always positive and works incredibly hard and finds the fun in everything she does.
What is the one word that perfectly explains who you are?
Would you change anything about how you have handled challenges or successes thus far in your life?
Absolutely! I believe there are lessons to be learned in everything we do, in the areas that did not go as planned, but also in places that were executed well. I can be my worst critic, but I believe it makes me a more compassionate and resilient leader.
What are you most proud of?
I have had mentors guiding and coaching me throughout my career, and it has always been important to me to pay it forward. I believe that one of my roles as a leader is to also encourage, coach, guide and listen to young people, especially young women. I have felt it was important to dedicate time to mentoring, I find that often young people just need a little encouragement and someone that believes in their abilities. I feel that if I can touch just one person and make a difference in their life – it brings me joy.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced and what did you learn from it?
This pandemic could certainly be listed as one of my biggest challenges both personally (guiding my middle school children through school) at home and being away at work leading hospital operations for AdventHealth. There are so many lessons that I learned. I learned that it is ok to be afraid and resilient at the same time. I learned how to navigate through the unknown, being transparent that we don’t have all the answers, but this is what we do know and what we are going to do about it right now.