Mohamad Kasti

New Position: Chief operating officer, Health Sciences Center, University of South Florida, Tampa. Previous Position: Practice manager, General Electric Healthcare, Waukeshaw, Wis.

By Times Staff Writer
Published June 27, 2005

Although a long way from his home in Beirut, Lebanon, where he once drove an ambulance during that country's civil strife, Mohamad Kasti is still providing aid and comfort - as well as leadership - in his new role at the University of South Florida.

As chief operating officer of USF's Health Sciences Center, Kasti oversees the day-to-day operations of the College of Medicine, the College of Nursing and public health services.The newly created position is designed to bring a corporate paradigm to the center. His duties cover a range of responsibilities - from overseeing the facility itself and the strategic planning to marketing, communications and public relations, he said.

"My role is to create the synergy for excellent execution," Kasti said. "I need to give them the goals of where we're headed. What do we stand for? What are the problems we have?

"Our direction is to become entrepreneurial," Kasti said. "You can still meet your mission of education, research and health care but do it in a good business sense."

At 30 years old, the Health Sciences Center has made a major impact on the Tampa Bay community. In its 2003-04 fiscal year, for example, the center had $145-million in research funds. With 400 affiliated physicians - "our greatest-kept secret," Kasti said - it had more than 350,000 outpatient visits. The center has an outpatient clinic on the USF campus as well as a campus next to Tampa General Hospital, and staff physicians working at Tampa General Hospital and All Children's Hospital.

Kasti drove a Red Cross ambulance at age 16 in war-torn Beirut in the 1980s. "I wanted to remain neutral during the civil war," he said.

He came to the United States at 18 to attend college. He earned dual degrees, a bachelor's and a master's, in 1990 from Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, majoring in biomedical engineering and clinical engineering.

Even as a child, Kasti liked to fix things. He would take radios apart and try to put them together. Kasti said he grew up "attracted to medicine. I had a sense of engineering and I wanted to do something that bridged both." Biomedical engineering is "a hybrid of both," he said.

Kasti started working in a Cleveland hospital while in college, taking a position with an Akron, Ohio, hospital upon graduation as a clinical engineer, responsible for helping physicians acquire new technology and teaching nurses how to use new equipment.

In 1995, Kasti moved to Tampa and took a position with Amsco, which later became Steris, a medical equipment company,. He served as quality specialist and worked in sales and marketing. Two years later, Steris was acquired by General Electric Healthcare, and Kasti stayed on. In 1999, he was offered a chance to relocate to corporate headquarters in Wisconsin, where he worked in marketing, sales, quality improvement, operations and product development - all "to learn what it takes to run a business," he said. Kasti stayed there until last month, leaving to join USF.

"It's coming back home, I tell people. I left here and always really wanted to come back," he said.

Kasti said he is passionate about changing health care. "That's really the opportunity here," he said. "It's rare that you have the combination with an institution involved in education and involved in the delivery and research and public health, that has to do with prevention and nursing and physicians, all in one place.

"I truly believe the health care industry is the last industry going through a change from the craft culture to both an industrial and an informational culture," he said. "If you continue to teach your physicians the same way you did 50 years ago, you'll never be able to change things."

Kasti, 38, has returned to Lebanon a couple of times since coming to the United States. He plans to go again in July.

He and his wife, Rana, have two young children and live in Tampa.