Behind the Scenes: Lennar Foundation Medical Center

In just two years, the Lennar Foundation Medical Center has forged a visionary new model for health care—with its success founded on staff satisfaction and stewardship.
In just two years, the Lennar Foundation Medical Center has forged a visionary new model for health care—with its success founded on staff satisfaction and stewardship.

At Lennar: Mondays are the new Fridays

by Michael R. Malone

It’s exactly 8:30 on a Monday morning, and Ben Riestra, the Lennar Foundation Medical Center’s chief administrative officer, punches the call buttons on the wall phone to launch the daily “huddle.” A few team members will call in remotely, but most departments—the comprehensive treatment unit, surgery, the multi-specialty clinic, the sports medicine institute, radiation/oncology, infusion, ophthalmology, parking, security and others—are represented with personnel. The team forms a close-knit circle in the medical center’s second-floor hallway for the morning call.

Each department checks in with precise, critical updates for the day ahead. Huddles are cordial and concise—and critical to Lennar’s operational model that empowers employees with information and encourages them to be engaged stewards of their workplace. The philosophy is simple, yet powerful: If your employees are satisfied, feel respected and valued, then the service they provide will be that much better.

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Teamwork makes the dream work

Great teamwork is what makes this one-stop-shop possible and communication is the key. Learn what makes the experience at Lennar so unique.

Crafting each experience

“My customer is not only the patient, but also the staff, and the providers—the doctors,” Riestra says. “It’s very important to listen to the doctors as well as the staff. They’re the ones treating the patients. As their processes improve, as the environment of care that they’re working in improves, it makes them happy and, in turn, provides for a better patient experience.

“We want to make sure that people walking into this building who work here like coming to work. We really like to hear ‘Thank God, it’s Monday’—that they’re back at it, at what they love to do: care for patients,” Riestra says. “And the better experience I make it for the staff and the providers—the doctors, it’s really going to be better for everybody else.”

And that experience has been exceptionally good for Lennar’s patients. So good, in fact, that hundreds of patients recently answered a survey that earned the outpatient surgery center a coveted Press Ganey Guardian of Excellence Award for Patient Experience. It was the center’s first year of eligibility.

Ready for anything

With almost 40 clinicians on a rotating schedule, the staff within the oncology and comprehensive treatment unit (CTU) are expertly trained to treat patients with diverse needs. Many of the nurses have trauma and emergency experience in addition to supplemental oncology training.

At the center of it all

As one of the select areas within the building that operates around the clock, the core lab is staffed by four medical technicians with more than 100 years of combined clinical experience. Their work provides essential support to nurses, M.D.s, and ultimately patients who rely on accurate blood work, plasma, and platelets for various treatments and therapies.

One foot in front of the other

Physical therapy is an essential part of the healing process, and the clinic at Lennar caters to every patient need. From extreme athletes in the EXOS training and performance program, to patients seeking a postoperative customized plan of care, physical therapists and support staff are involved every step of the way—literally.

Eye on the prize

For 17 years U.S. News & World Report has ranked Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami Health System as the nation’s best in ophthalmology.

Exceeding expectations

Lennar opened its doors two years ago to patients—and to sky-high expectations. The center, a single destination ambulatory center, was heralded as the future of health care. In these two years, those doors have opened and shut more than anyone could have imagined: growth has nearly quadrupled. The center is now attending to nearly 1,000 patients a day, and the staff has swelled to 400.

The growth has challenged the center on a number of fronts. Staffing at all levels has been modified. New equipment was required: A new MRI machine and new linear accelerator for radiation therapy have been added. Yet despite those challenges, employee turnover has been minimal, and Lennar has broadened its impact in the community as it continues to earn accolades and praise from an increasing number of patients.

Like the 244 sculptured white ibises that grace the medical center’s atrium with their artistic beauty, the Lennar team has flown above even those soaring expectations.

Power to heal

Ricardo Estrada, maintenance mechanic, is part of the small but mighty facilities team who are responsible for every aspect of the building; ensuring that each piece of equipment—from life-sustaining surgical apparatus to coffee makers—are functioning to their full capability.

Never a dull moment

Prepping rooms and beds in the postoperative area may seem like a simple task, but for a team that that typically sees 15 to 20 general surgeries, 20 to 30 gastroenterology procedures, and more than 10 interventional radiology patients daily, the prep work is never quite done.


The 10 members of the central sterile processing team ensure that each piece of surgical equipment is properly examined and tested. These highly trained technicians certify that each essential item—from gastrointestinal lines to scalpels—is rigorously sterilized, a safeguard that ultimately allows clinicians to do their best work and that helps to prevent the spread of infection.

A different type of photo

Twisted ankle? Irregularity during a check-up? Lennar is fully equipped to perform radiology and high-end imaging services under the supervision of experts all under one roof.

Valuing collaboration

Collaboration between the diverse teams, leadership that invites each and every employee to offer ideas and input, and a rigorous screening process to identify staff who embody the Lennar spirit has created a workplace culture unique in the health care field.

“We’re so proud of all that the Lennar Foundation has accomplished in just two years,” says Ed Abraham, executive vice president for health affairs and CEO of UHealth. “The center has grown faster than any of else might have imagined—a testament to the excellent efforts of all concerned and to the need in the community for such an innovative facility.

“Lennar’s focus on making sure that the care provided is superb and also that the patient experience—and the employee experience—are wonderful as well, truly reflects the five pillars—people, service, quality, growth, and finance—of UHealth’s 5 to Thrive initiative,” Abraham adds.

Empowered to succeed

“The biggest difference here is that our leadership empowers everybody to do what's right for the patients—and that sometimes means to go out of your way to do something that perhaps you wouldn't be able to do somewhere else,” explains Bryant Barajas, manager for patient access.

“We’ve grown a lot and staffing at times has been challenging, but since we are under one roof we're able to cross-train and move our employees around to make sure we're able to fill that need for our patients. Ultimately, it's the leadership that's empowering us,” Barajas adds.

They have your back

While most patients visit Lennar for services during regular business hours—Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.—the security team is always on-site to keep an eye on the 200,000 square-foot outpatient center.

It’s all in the details

Each afternoon Chris Loulan, executive director of nursing, huddles with a team of about 10 clinicians and support staff from perioperative services to review the next day’s surgery lineup. The meticulous work of her team—of almost 80 people—ensures that each patient and procedure have been thoroughly vetted and approved prior to entering the operating room (OR).

Under one roof

The ability to seamlessly transition from a check-up appointment to a specialist—sometimes in the same day—is one of the many benefits of being a patient at Lennar. In addition to the expansive list of specialities, patients are able to do complete blood work in the phlebotomy lab, which is fully equipped with relaxing recliner chairs, snacks, and refreshments.


Breathe in, breathe out

Ivan Flores, licenced HVAC mechanic, monitors the entire HVAC system in one glance. Aside from the standard equipment, Lennar also houses a high-tech air purification system, which filters and treats exterior air before circulating the purest form of air throughout the building. In order to ensure that the purification system remains sterile, every piece of equipment lives under a high-powered UV sterilization light.

Always a team effort

David Arnold, an otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) specialist and associate professor of clinical, joined Lennar at its start.

“There is continuous communication and input from everybody top-to-bottom, back-to-front, and the goal is to is to do things better tomorrow than we did today,” he says. 

“What makes the experience better and unique for everybody who works here and everybody who seeks care here is that people genuinely enjoy coming to work and doing what they do. I’m proud of how this team comes together and what it does every day as a group.”

Noris Perez, manager of the physical therapy department, brought more than a decade of professional experience with her when she joined Lennar at its opening. In two years, she’s seen her team mushroom from two therapists and two front desk staff to 10 therapists and five front desk staff.

She highlights Lennar’s emphasis on communication, high competence, and the commitment to continued education; many of the therapists—herself included—are clinicians and educators.  

“The basis of our teamwork is communication—and there’s an open door policy. We can all disagree, yet we listen to each other and collaborate. We come back, talk about the goals and any new ideas. It’s like a little family here.”

Ben Riestra, chief administrative officer

“We have a philosophy of listening and believing that we can always become better.”

Dr. David Arnold, associate professor, otolarangology, and head and neck surgery

“Everybody who works here genuinely enjoys coming to work and doing what they do. I’m proud of how this team comes together and what we do every day as a group.”

Bryant Barajas, manager patient access

“The biggest difference here is that our leadership empowers everybody to do what's right for the patients—and that sometimes means to go out of your way to do something that perhaps you wouldn't be able to do somewhere else.”

Noris Perez, clinic manager and assistant professor of physical therapy

“If anyone were to treat a member of my own family, it would be this family.”

A human experience

Nobody wakes up wanting to go to the doctor, and so facilities, such as Lennar, must manage not only patients’ medical needs but, as importantly, their anxieties and even fear.  

Tasked with creating a world-class medical facility, one that would be sustainable and, ultimately, replicable, administrator Riestra examined the “customer-first” hospitality focus of the airlines and hotel industries for insights and a new approach. Yet in many ways it was his own personal hospital experience that planted the seed for what Lennar has become.

Several years ago, Riestra’s 14-year-old son was battling leukemia, and the family was often stressed and anxious to make medical appointments.

“We were so often late, rushing out the door with no time for breakfast and then to get there and to find—coffee and bagels waiting,” he remembers. “It was that and the many little things that the hospital did for us that were so important at the time.”

Attention to those little things, a dedication to treating patients with dignity and empathy, and encouraging staff and providers to show up, speak up, take chances, and innovate help to create a unique workplace culture that is the heart of Lennar’s success.

“We like to say that we work on Lennar and not at Lennar—and that’s to quote Gustavo Fernandez, our chief medical officer,” Riestra says. “And that’s what this is all about.”


Contributing to this Special Report:

Videographers/photographers: Evan Garcia, Mike Montero, T. J. Lievonen, Diego Meza-Valdes

Writers/editors: Jennifer Palma Sanchez, Brittney Bomnin, Lorena Lopez, Charisse Lopez-Mason