Jessi Berrin with Chairman of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Tony Argiz.
Photo courtesy: Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce

News Reporter to News Maker

Jessi Berrin was getting sick from work. Literally.

Her long and peculiar work hours—midnight to 10 a.m.—and stress associated with being an Associate Producer for WPLG-TV in Miami were negatively affecting her health.

Six years later, Berrin (BS ’07, MBA ’12) still logs long hours, and her work commitments include many nights and weekends. And she loves every hectic minute. Berrin’s tireless work as Baptist Health South Florida’s Corporate Manager of Government & Community Relations has caught the attention of Miami’s business elite, and earned her the 2015 Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce HYPE Go Getter Award. The HYPE Awards were presented today at Jungle Island’s Treetop Ballroom.

In her position at Baptist Health, the largest not-for-profit healthcare organization in the South Florida region, Berrin’s duties include everything from leading system-wide community outreach, to raising proceeds for organizations dedicated to medically-complex pediatric patients, to lobbying legislators.

“We’re trying to make a tangible difference by helping patients, helping people,” Berrin said.

Before Berrin was making news, she was covering it. She began her journalism career as a news reporter for WUFT while pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Telecommunication. Less than a year later, she was back in her hometown of Miami writing and producing at WPLG.

During the week, she worked grueling shifts that began at midnight and ran through the station’s 5 a.m. morning show and ABC’s Good Morning America at 9 a.m. On the weekends, she accompanied veteran reporters on assignment to build her résumé tape. While she was successful, the hours were taking a toll on her.

“I didn’t feel good, and I did not love what I was doing,” Berrin said. “The stories were really hard to deal with; lots of murders and violent crimes. I did get sick, and I had no life outside of the newsroom.”

Berrin began her career at Baptist Health in a part-time position, helping develop media content for the system’s seven hospitals, 35 outpatient facilities and 15,000 employees. With her nights and weekends now free, Berrin considered attending graduate school—something her previous schedule couldn’t accommodate. She settled on UF MBA at the Hough Graduate School of Business’s South Florida Program because she did not want to leave the workforce.

“The program was really challenging,” said Berrin, “but I came out with a new skill set that I’ve been able to translate to my position. I don’t think I’d be where I am without it.”

Although Berrin’s workload at Baptist Health is similar to her demanding schedule at WPLG, she’s not experiencing the same difficulties.

“The difference is I love the people I’m connecting with,” Berrin said. “The hours can be absolutely crazy, but I really love what I do.”

Despite having had minimal experience in health care and no experience in politics, Berrin has been incredibly effective in advancing Baptist Health’s legislative agenda—which she helps devise with the hospital’s Corporate Vice President of Government & Community Relations, Phillis Oeters. One of Berrin’s recent legislative successes is helping a bill that would allow nurse practitioners more latitude in their positions pass Florida’s House of Representatives and a Florida Senate healthcare committee. Berrin said she learned her lobbying skills from Oeters.

“I shadowed her for almost three years, and went everywhere with her,” Berrin said. “She’s been doing this for 30-plus years. She’s like royalty in Tallahassee. I was so fortunate to be trained by her.”

Berrin said she is honored to be one of three finalists for HYPE’s “Go Getter Award,” which recognizes young professionals who have exceeded the goals, benchmarks and other quantitative measures set forth by their company. The acknowledgement reinforces the good work Berrin is doing.

“It’s very humbling,” said Berrin, “and it’s also motivation to continue what I’m doing.”