Danielle Drummond

Danielle Drummond is sharp-witted. When asked what magazine she would most love to be in, she instantaneously quips, “The Lakelander.”

You can tell she’s used to explaining complex things in more simple terms the way she talks with her hands and works to tie in local examples to broader answers.

And the 46-year-old has been leading the development and growth of Lakeland Regional Health since 2021 as President and CEO of what has bloomed into one of the largest hospitals in Florida and the second largest employer in Polk County.

She is deeply involved in the community, including as a board member with the Lakeland Economic Development Council, Polk Vision, Florida Hospital Association and WEDU/PBS.


The Lakelander

How does LRH create solutions to meet the evolving needs of people, especially post-pandemic, in communities that continue to grow and have more people who need quality healthcare?


At Lakeland Regional Health, we are constantly trying to ensure that patients can conveniently access our services and that we have the service offerings that they’re looking for. In a community that’s growing as rapidly as ours, that has required us to constantly evaluate, ‘What are those needs, and how do we best meet them?’ With that in mind, we’ve been hiring physicians and adding various services that we know our community is seeking. We want to make sure that there is good access to those services at our current locations…we know the community is growing in its geographical footprint, we need to make sure that we also are growing in those various areas, where we know new residents are deciding to live. With that has come a lot of new projects for us and new locations that we’ve never been in before. So I think really for us over the last three years, it has been growing and expanding, not only in the service offerings we have, but in the locations around the community where we provide those offerings.


The Lakelander

What are some of those markers that stand out to you as key developments of recent growth for Lakeland Regional Health?


The [Harrell Family] Center for Behavioral Wellness clearly has been one of our biggest investments over the last three years. The opening of that facility provided so much more access to that very much needed behavioral health service in our community. We’ve seen just amazing growth on both the inpatient and the outpatient side. So again, we know we needed the ability to be able to provide more of those inpatient services to our patients, but really our hope is that by growing and expanding access to outpatient services, that hopefully we’ll be able to get people connected with providers earlier in their journey so that they are able to live their best life and have their best possible outcome. I think that has been fundamental.

At the same time, we recently launched our graduate medical education (GME) residency program. We now have a number of new sites of service to not only house the residents as part of their training programs, but also to have our faculty physicians be able to see those patients in a variety of settings. That was really what led us to open our new Kathleen campus in the fall of 2023. We also have a number of LRH specialists that are part of the LRH physician group, which has been a large growing division within our organization, as well as urgent care. We have seen that there are a lot of patients, as new individuals come into the community, who may not have yet established with a physician.

We’ve been growing and expanding our footprint in the surrounding communities. Plant City and Lake Wales are two of our newest locations, and our first ever freestanding emergency department will be opening in January of next year.

The Lakelander

In the next three to five years, what are some of the things the public will see rolled out through LRH?


We’re really excited about opening our first freestanding emergency department. I think our emergency department at the main campus has a wonderful reputation in taking care of both the adults and the children in our community. We’re really looking forward to being able to extend that reach and have a much more convenient location for the residents of South Lakeland to be able to come for those emergency services. So that’ll be great to have that open in early 2025. Beyond that, we’ll continue to look at other locations where we feel it would be beneficial for community members to have easier access both to our emergency services as well as our urgent care services. We’ll be constantly adding on in our physician group as well; new sites for primary care providers, physical therapy—those things that we’ve identified where there’s just not as good of access as we would like to see in our community today.


The Lakelander

Do you see it as LRH’s job to inform, engage and educate community members in a way where they understand the partnership that you’re trying to offer them, and if so, how do you do that well?


Clearly healthcare is complex, and often it’s not top of mind unless you are using it or just recently had an experience. The more that we can do to try to have easier access to try to facilitate how patients can make those connections with us—be it scheduling an appointment, be it coming to one of our urgent care locations or emergency department—that remains a very high priority and focus for us. 

One of the other things we’ve been doing in a much more significant way as of late is be out with our community health outreach division. We enlist many of our 7,600 team members that we have to help support those events. For instance, we’ve been at Bonnet Springs Park holding events on bike safety for children where we provide education, bike helmets…whatever we can do to try and help them be the healthiest possible and enjoy all this community has to offer. We also can make sure that they know how to connect with the health system, be it LRH or wherever their health provider may be, so that they can make sure that they stay on track for those things that are important [for their health.]


The Lakelander

Whenever you’re creating strategic plans and you’re trying to see down the road a little bit, how do you connect the dots of the Graduate Medical Education program—where you’re developing and providing opportunities for new doctors—and connect the dots with the fact that obviously you’re going to need more physicians than before, you’re going to need more surgeons, etc. with all of the growth happening in the area?


We are so excited about GME and have been on this journey now for many years to try to bring this service to our community. First of all, we feel that at our size and with the amount of amazing work that goes on within our organization each and every day, that it really just is a wonderful environment for physicians to get to spend that next chapter in their training. We were one of the largest hospitals in the entire country that didn’t have a residency program. I think that speaks volumes. 

We also know that having residents as a part of the care team will elevate the quality of the work that we do; having residents results in better patient outcomes. If you look at the highest strength hospitals in the country, they are teaching hospitals.

We’ve already heard lots of amazing stories of patients and their families coming to us and saying, ‘Oh my gosh, having this resident as an additional member of the care team just allowed us to have so much more interaction with the physicians.’

When these residents are here as part of their training, they will be able to care for patients in our community that might otherwise not have good access to healthcare, so I think that’ll be a tremendous benefit. 

We’ve been very purposeful in trying to make sure that our residents feel that they have a warm welcome into our community, get to know Lakeland, and hopefully fall in love with it like we all have and want to stay here and practice for the rest of their career.


The Lakelander

How do you see the development of Lakeland through your lens as CEO of Lakeland Regional Health in terms of what you want to see in terms of healthy growth for our community as a whole?


One of the things we’ve been really focused on…and I’m really passionate about, is trying to be out and be partners with the residents of our community, with the companies within our community and other organizations so that we can really try and connect them to those services that are available and help to provide education, access to screening, etc. We know if you look at the data in our county we have a lot of opportunities to do a better job in providing access to those screening and preventative services so that then we can have better health outcomes in the long run.

I like to think that I can bring some of that perspective when I am serving on boards across the community to say, ‘How can we try to work together, be it through Lakeland Regional or other healthcare providers, to try and provide that support that individuals need for a healthy lifestyle.’


The Lakelander

In a community like ours where there are so many people coming here from all over the world and trying to make Lakeland “home,” what are the most interesting or intriguing parts of your day to day?


For me it’s just been really interesting to see how the long established community and then the newcomers are integrating. While there’s been a lot of longstanding community members that I think are very passionate about the history [of Lakeland], I also have found everyone to be very warm and welcoming and friendly, and allowing us to be able to integrate newcomers along the way. Just to give one example, I think going back to the residency program, one of the things I was most blown away by was there was just so much excitement here locally for bringing these residents to our community. A lot of community leaders got together between LEDC and the Chamber, and we hosted this amazing welcome party for the residents at the Catapult building. I had so many people come up to me afterwards, saying, ‘We loved this; please let us continue to do this every year,’ and then folks from the GME program, some of whom were the residents, but some who had worked at other hospitals, and they’re like, ‘We have never seen anything like this before.’


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