Meet Empath Health’s new CEO, Jonathan Fleece.
By Karen Davis-Pritchett M.Ed., Empath Health Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
PINELLAS COUNTY — Empath Health’s new CEO, Jonathan Fleece, felt called to service from an early age. He wasn’t sure how he could best serve his fellow man until he and his family needed help.
Fleece, who assumed the reins of the nation’s largest not-for-profit hospice and home care organization in January, is the son of a minister and a nurse. He spent nearly 25 years as a healthcare attorney and consultant. His 2011 book “The New Health Age: The Future of Healthcare in America” with futurist David Houle introduced Fleece as a national expert in the healthcare business.
But it was a personal tragedy that put Fleece on a path to Tidewell Hospice and Empath Health. During the early stages of his career Fleece and his wife, Amy, suffered the death of their first child, Catherine “Katie” Bette, due to a heart defect. The Fleeces participated in hospice bereavement services as they learned to cope with the loss. They now have three adult children.
After Fleece joined the Blalock Walters law firm in Bradenton, he volunteered to serve on the Tidewell Hospice Board of Trustees. Fleece spent 10 years on Tidewell and parent company Stratum Health System boards before accepting the job as Tidewell and Stratum President and CEO in 2018.
It was his way of giving back to hospice for the care it extended him.
“Tidewell became a place where I could turn my sadness into hope and serving others,” Fleece said. “Because of Katie, I have a very special personal understanding and connection to our mission. As Tidewell grew, I realized that this mission was calling me in ways beyond my service as a board member.”
Fleece served as Empath Health President alongside former Empath CEO Rafael J. Sciullo after the merger between Stratum and Empath in December 2020. Sciullo retired in January 2023 after a decade leading Empath.
Like Sciullo, Fleece is a strong advocate of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, not only for employees but for patients, families and communities. He believes a DEI-centered approach empowers healthcare providers to deliver person-centered care and demonstrates that Empath understands patients and families as people.
Empath is participating for the first time in the National Diversity Council Index to receive an independent assessment of how the organization stacks up against other companies in terms of DEI.
“Empath is fully committed to providing access to Full Life Care to all, which means we are fully diverse, equitable, and inclusive, both on the delivery side of our care and to those who need it,” Fleece said.
Fleece and Sciullo also have similar philosophies about how best to provide care and services to the community, embracing a Full Life Care model that emphasizes helping patients and families access and navigate the healthcare system.
Of course, Empath Health is much more than hospice, though legacy organizations Suncoast Hospice and Tidewell Hospice form the foundation of the company. Empath’s integrated care network provides expert medical, counseling, and support services, including home health, palliative care, grief services, all-inclusive elder care, HIV/STI prevention services and support, primary care and physician services.
Fleece said Empath Health is poised to thrive even as healthcare continues to evolve.
“Health care and the world around us are changing faster and faster. Empath must adapt to these changes to remain strong,” Fleece said. “Challenges surround us. Yet with every challenge comes new opportunity for greatness to break through. We, as Empaths, will forge ahead with new beginnings while never forgetting our roots.”
Welcome, Jonathan! Empath Health looks forward to joining you to execute the vision and mission of Full Life Care.
To read more about Jonathan Fleece’s hiring as Empath Health CEO, visit the Empath blog at EmpathHealth.org/blog.