Top 25 Emerging Leaders
At an early age, Alex Mendez learned from his Cuban-born parents the meaning of hard work, loyalty and family.
“We were fortunate because my father had a job with Nestle when he came over. A lot of Cuban professionals couldn’t find work. We were lucky,” says Mendez, whose parents, Elena and Armando, fled to Connecticut from Cuba and Fidel Castro in 1961.
The lessons his parents taught him paid dividends in the fall of 2001 when he was named senior vice president and chief financial officer at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Fla.. He accepted a challenge to help turn around the 685-bed facility from Steven Sonenreich, his former boss at HCA’s Cedars Medical Center in Miami.
Facing more than $60 million in losses caused by a failed information system conversion and awash in more than
$100 million in municipal bond debt, Mount Sinai was in desperate need of a strong CFO, says Sonenreich, the hospital’s president and chief executive officer.
“I was aware Mount Sinai was having financial difficulty before I arrived,” Mendez says. “It was so challenging because it was multifaceted. It was an entire revenue-cycle meltdown. We needed to appropriately bill and collect.”
First, Mendez assembled a top-notch financial team to rebuild the hospital’s revenue cycle, including all of the processes and technologies associated with procedures from patient registration to collections.
Mendez also developed a project management office to track, implement and monitor cost-reduction initiatives. The office implemented a full financial overhaul and delivered more than $75 million in savings over nearly three years. “It is like an internal consulting group that helps with financial and operational issues,” Mendez says. “Managers turn to this group to help them become more efficient in their areas.”
During the turnaround period, Mendez also refinanced $107 million in bond debt, which primarily came from the $81 million acquisition of the Miami Heart Institute in 2000.
In his nominating letter, Sonenreich said of Mendez: “A professional of unquestionable integrity, he created an environment of transparency through full disclosure of financial reporting and implemented policies and procedures to ensure consistency in financial reporting. As the comprehensive plan began to show sustainable results, the institution was able to regain the trust and confidence of the rating agencies, investors and industry analysts.”
Mendez graduated in 1989 with a degree in accounting from the University of Miami. He became involved in healthcare while working as a staff auditor with the now defunct accounting firm Laventhol & Horwath.
He then went back to the University of Miami in 1996 for an MBA along with a certificate in healthcare administration as part of the degree.
“I’d like to expand on the role I have here at Mount Sinai and continue to serve the CEO as a strategic adviser,” Mendez says. “I’ve not been someone who has jumped around a lot. I see myself as having a long-term approach. There is something to be said about tenure in a marketplace. ”