ORLANDO, Fla. – As division director of Hospital Operations and Patient Experience at UF Health Jacksonville, where he’s worked for 21 years in a variety of roles, Jason A. Hardwick strives to connect others with success and stability as some have done for him along the way.
This week on “Black Men Sundays,” host Corie Murray heard from Hardwick, asking first how the board-certified health administration professional got to where he did after essentially starting his journey in a Pensacola pokey.
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“I did about 11 and a half months in federal prison for bank fraud back in 1999. In 1996, at the age of 20, I was a sophomore at Florida A&M University. I engaged in a scheme, if you will, to defraud the banking system by creating worthless checks that were cashed for a significant amount of money, which resulted in me having to do time in prison,” Hardwick said.
To call a stint in a federal prison camp just a setback from your schoolwork would probably be an understatement, but what happened to Hardwick next showed him the trailhead to his prosperity path.
“I’ll tell you one of the interesting things about it is although I was indicted in (April) 1996, the judge permitted me to complete school, Judge Stafford. I definitely appreciate him, and even though I was young, I didn’t even understand the magnitude of what he was doing for me. He allowed me to stay out and complete school so I didn’t begin to serve my sentence until January of 2000,” Hardwick said.
The Jacksonville native would go on to earn his Bachelor of Science in business economics at FAMU and his Masters of healthcare administration at Webster University, achievements that sprung from the opportunity Hardwick said Stafford gave him.
“As I entered the prison system, I realized a lot of individuals didn’t have the opportunity that was afforded to me. Judge Stafford basically told me, ‘Quite frankly, I want you to finish school, you go finish school and you come back and see me,’” Hardwick said. “I think in terms of my career, my ability to come out of prison and become gainfully employed, that was significantly impactful for me to have the degree… and it afforded me an opportunity to actually start my employment here at UF Health Jacksonville.”
After securing a spot with the hospital system, Hardwick said he applied the following main factors, among other virtuous behaviors, to keep things that way:
Maintaining personal drive, for without it Hardwick said he may have resorted to a less fulfilling work environment or returned to a life with a criminal element.
Sticking with and being thankful for an employer willing to onboard him, as he started work with UF Health Jacksonville’s financial assistance department on supervised release, as well as with a felony.
Since joining UF Health, Hardwick’s many roles have included work as a financial eligibility specialist, quality control analyst, patient financial services supervisor, patient financial services manager and director of patient access.
Additionally, Hardwick serves as basileus of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Theta Phi Chapter; a board member of Omegas 4 Change; a UNCF Leadership Council member; president of the Trout River Bluff HOA; a board-certified fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives; a member of the National Association of Health Services Executives; a member of the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management; an NAACP Health Committee member; a Certified Patient Experience Professional; chairman of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Florida Statewide Organization Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Recovery; a board-certified fellow of America’s Essential Hospitals; a SPAR board member and Blue Zones Steering Committee member and co-chairman.
For a clue as to why Hardwick serves on so many boards, councils and committees, he said the opportunities he’s been given were “monumental” to his development, and now he seeks to help others in the same way.
“I’m in a place where I can help individuals. I share my story as often as possible because so many people feel like they just, you know- things aren’t going the way they desired,” Hardwick said. “Nothing went the way I thought it was going to go, but that doesn’t mean give up.”
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