Although his first love will always be the ocean and the exhilaration of the fight and landing of that 60-pound Wahoo, or the sight of the white underbelly and spectacular dorsal fin of a sail fish as it launches out of the water, Joe Palermo, Captain and owner of the off-shore sport fishing vessel, The Sea Wrangler, is committed to a future in healthcare.

Palermo, 26, has run his own offshore fishing charter business out of Port Canaveral, Florida since he was 19 and this successful charter and commercial fishing enterprise has financed his undergraduate and graduate education at the University of Central Florida.

Some might say that Joe is following in his father’s footsteps, but his pathway to a career in healthcare administration has been a bit more direct than his father’s.

“I skipped the medical school and residency part, substituted a degree in business management and will complete my Masters in Healthcare Administration at COHPA in November of this year,” Joe said.

Joe’s father, Dr. Jim Palermo, practiced general and vascular surgery at Cape Canaveral Hospital for 18 years and retired from clinical practice to become the full-time Chief Quality Officer for all three Health First Hospitals in 2002.

Joe reflects that, “Every evening during my childhood, my Dad would call home to talk to my sister and me and let us know how much he loved us.

Joe Palermo, owner and Captain of the Sea Wrangler off-shore sport fishing charter, and his father, Dr. Jim Palermo, display a couple of trophy red snappers bagged on a charter out of Port Canaveral in 2008.

“It was an infrequent treat to actually have him home for dinner, and he rarely got home before it was time for our bedtime prayers, but it was that special few minutes with him every night during which he would share the events of his day that framed my conception that service through a career in healthcare was not just a job, but also a much more meaningful life mission.”

However, Joe was not particularly inclined to the clinical aspects of medicine, and it wasn’t until Dr. Palermo’s career change to the administrative side of healthcare that he saw that you didn’t have to be a practicing doctor to really have an impact on the health and well-being of a community.

“After getting my undergraduate degree in business management and surveying the job market, it was crystal clear that my best chance for a solid future in a field that offered tangible opportunity to make a difference were in the many administrative and management opportunities in the diverse aspects of healthcare.”

Dedicated Golden Knight

Joe never considered going to school anywhere other than UCF. All through his undergraduate years, and now during his work on his masters at COHPA he has been able to maintain his business at Port Canaveral.

“The fact is that I never wanted to go away to college because I wanted to be able to maintain and grow my business,” he said.

“So, I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend UCF as an undergrad and now be in COHPA’s Masters in Science, Health Services Administration program – one of the most highly respected programs in the country.”

The past year has brought father and son closer together. Dr. Palermo said, “I work with a lot of very talented people who graduated from COHPA, and was, of course, delighted when Joe decided to pursue a career in healthcare administration at UCF. Since he started the program we spend a lot more time together discussing – and not infrequently – debating the many aspects and issues of healthcare.”

Joe adds, “My Dad brings a valuable first-hand perspective on what the “ground truth” is on things like healthcare reform, costs, quality, economics and liability.”

After graduation next November, Joe has plans to get married and, hopefully, land a job in healthcare administration somewhere in Central Florida. You might say that a commitment to healthcare and community service is in his genes.

You can also bet that, although it won’t be his day-job anymore, The Sea Wrangler will be out on the Atlantic on the weekends supplementing his income.

Story originally posted on on April 19, 2010