MIAMI (CBSMiami) – One of South Florida’s most tenured CEOs is stepping down, leaving quite a legacy in the healthcare industry.

After 50 years, President and CEO Brian Keeley is retiring.

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Keeley recalls the year 1969 when he took a job as an administrative resident at the original Baptist Hospital on Kendall Drive.

Back then the area was close to farms and dirt roads.

“I remember the ‘you-pick’ tomato fields and horse farms,” said Keeley.

Keeley rose up the administrative ladder as Baptist grew into the largest health care provider in the region, with 11 hospitals, 4,000 doctors, and 24,000 employees. In 1979 he was named Chief Operating Officer and in 1986 he was named CEO.

During his time, Baptist Health has consistently ranked as one of Fortune magazine’s best places to work.

“Well, that was probably my major accomplishment 22 years ago. If you have caregivers who love what they do and where they work and feel good about what they do, they will take good care of the patients,” he said.

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Keeley led Baptist during the devastation of Hurricanes Andrew and Irma, but his greatest challenge was the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on his staff.

“When your doctors, and nurses, and your job is to take care of people and you see people dying every day, that was very damaging for everybody,” he said.

Keeley’s replacement will be chief operating officer Bo Boulenger, a key player in the hospital’s expansion which includes a state-of-the-art cancer center, an international patient program, an emphasis on outpatient procedures and telemedicine, a training complex, and an orthopedic hospital next to Hard Rock Stadium.

He shared his thoughts on despite all the accomplishments there are still 31 million Americans who lack health coverage or access to health insurance.

“Most people in health care realize that we need national health insurance or universal care, it’s not socialized medicine, it’s providing insurance to people and encouraging people to do the right thing,” said Keeley.

Expanding health care coverage may be a fight for another day. For now, Keeley is focused on what he’ll do on his first day of retirement.

“Catch my breath!”

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And while Keeley is stepping away from the corner office, he will be staying involved, as a volunteer on Baptist’s Board of Directors.

Eliott Rodriguez