The following article was originally published by the Sun Sentinel
Peter Baronoff, mentor and healthcare entrepreneur by Paul Owers
A decade ago, as a favor to then-Florida Atlantic University football coach Howard Schnellenberger, Peter Baronoff agreed to have lunch with an FAU team captain in need of a mentor.
Baronoff, chairman and CEO of Boca Raton-based Promise Healthcare, met Cerge Sincere at the J. Alexander’s Restaurant across from campus.
“He just stared at me,” Baronoff recalls now with a laugh. “It did not go well.”
Baronoff left the lunch doubting that he had made any impression at all, so he was stunned to get a call a week later from Sincere, a Belle Glade native who was majoring in healthcare administration.
The two developed a friendship and business bond that continues today. Baronoff started Sincere as an unpaid intern and later promoted him to key positions in the company, which owns and manages 19 long-term acute care hospitals and skilled nursing facilities nationwide.
For his entrepreneurial success and community involvement, Baronoff won the Sun Sentinel Co.’s 2016 Excalibur Award for Business Leader of the Year in Palm Beach County. The award was presented Thursday evening at the Boca Raton Resort & Club.
Baronoff, 58, a former Boca Raton City Council member, founded Promise in 2003 with the goal of offering superior care for seriously ill patients, whose average stay is 25 days.
“We are seeing the sickest of the sick,” said Baronoff, a Brooklyn native who moved to Florida in 1994. “It’s a huge responsibility. Healthcare is a labor-intensive business, but it’s a people business.”
Privately held Promise generated $515 million in revenue last year, up from $489 million in 2015, officials said. In 2008, Baronoff founded a sister company, Success Healthcare, that manages two short-term acute care hospitals.
Baronoff said capitalizing on advances in technology are critical to improved healthcare.
Last year, Promise Hospital of Florida at the Villages, near Ocala, installed the BodyTom, a full-body tomography scanner. Hospital patients in need of CT scans now can get one there, eliminating the risk and expense of traveling to another facility. Other Promise hospitals also intend to install the BodyTom.
Growth is a large part of Promise’s mission. Baronoff has overseen the design and building of five hospitals, including facilities in Miami Lakes and Fort Myers. The five hospitals have created hundreds of jobs, company officials say.
Even though he travels frequently running a business with about 5,000 employees, Baronoff still finds time for community service.
Since 2012, he has served on the executive committee of the Board of Trustees at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. He now is chair of the hospital’s Medical Staff Review Committee.
In addition, he is a founding board member of the Boca Raton Police Foundation, a nonprofit group that helps obtain equipment and meets other needs for the police department.
For the past five years, Baronoff has served on the Foundation Board at his alma mater, the University of South Florida. He was a university president appointee.
Dr. Charles Posternack, a former neighbor of Baronoff who now is Promise’s chief medical officer, said he’s impressed at how Baronoff is “always able to multitask life.”
“One thing that just amazed me about Peter was how involved he was in the community, pretty much from the day he came down,” Posternack said. “He didn’t just sit back like most people and just go do their thing.”
Baronoff said he’s passionate about mentoring young people, especially Sincere, 32, who now is the associate administrator for the Promise hospital in Miami Lakes, the second-in-command at the facility.
It’s a position Sincere couldn’t have imagined that day in late 2006 when he met Baronoff for the first time over lunch.
Shy and reserved during their meeting, Sincere said he called Baronoff back because he was impressed that such a prominent business executive and community leader had taken an interest in him.
“I just answered the questions he asked me,” Sincere said. “I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. Now he can’t get me to shut up.”
Baronoff was the first person Sincere called after his father died in 2010. He was one of two best men at Sincere’s wedding and is the godfather to his daughter, Lilliana, 2.
“I feel indebted to Peter,” Sincere added. “The biggest thing that stands out about him is his heart. I’ll do anything for that guy.”
Powers@Sun-Sentinel.com, 561-243-6529 or Twitter @PaulOwers