Spotlight on Bob Hemker, President & CEO, Palomar Health

If you ask Palomar Health’s CEO about the best part of his job, he’ll tell you that he has always seen himself in a senior leadership role and that he is excited to have the opportunity to make the key decisions that provide patients with the exceptional healthcare they all deserve. Patient First is his vision. As president and CEO, Bob Hemker is responsible for providing strategic leadership and guidance throughout the healthcare district, which includes Palomar Medical Center, Palomar Health Downtown Campus and Pomerado Hospital, as well as its comprehensive continuum of care. He is also an intrinsic part of Palomar Health’s relationship with the Mayo Clinic Care Network.

Mr. Hemker believes that achieving his goal of delivering exceptional care requires a team-oriented approach. He sees himself as a servant-leader seeking to establish a patient-first continuum of care, stressing the importance of collaboration, adaptability and open-mindedness when making important healthcare decisions. Mr. Hemker instills his own core values of integrity, trust, compassion, dignity and accountability into Palomar Health, while applying his passion for business to ensure that Palomar Health remains financially successful despite challenging economic times. As he says, it is the careful balance of the humanness of healthcare services with the focused discipline over the business of healthcare.

Mr. Hemker’s passion for healthcare was kindled when he was 12 years old and a near fatal snakebite caused him to spend several days in a coma and four months in the hospital. While hospitalized, healthcare providers first told him that he would lose his leg, then later that he would never walk again. Neither one happened, and he ultimately made a complete recovery. This first-hand experience with weaknesses in the continuum of care, even at the young age of 12, impressed on him the need for collaboration and communication between healthcare providers to best serve the needs of the patient. Despite having become a successful business leader, including positions as CFO and CEO of Palomar Health, it was the snakebite that taught him the importance of viewing the healthcare system from the perspective of the patient and continues to resonate with him nearly 50 years later.

Mr. Hemker has been a member of the BAIS board of directors, which governs HealthPro, since 2007 and has served as its chair. He was elected to the BETA Council in 2014 and currently serves as its vice chair. Though born in Chicago, Mr. Hemker moved to southern California with his family at age three and has lived there ever since. He and his wife of nearly 40 years, Mary Ann, reside in Carlsbad, California. They have three adult children and four grandchildren. In his free time, Mr. Hemker enjoys woodworking and attending community theater. His philosophy of life is to hold true to who you are without compromising your values, to focus on your family and to work hard without taking yourself too seriously.