‘It Doesn’t Mean Giving Up:’ Jason Hardwick on Finding Health and Wealth After a Difficult Start

Orlando, Florida – As Director of Hospital Operations and Patient Experience at UF Health Jacksonville, where he has worked for 21 years in a variety of roles, Jason A. Hardwick strives to connect others to success and stability, as some have done for him along the way.

This week on “Black Men Sundays,” host Cory Murray caught up with Hardwick, first asking how the board-certified health administration professional got to where he is after essentially starting his journey in a pokey from Pensacola.

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“I served about 11 and a half months in federal prison for bank fraud in 1999. In 1996, at the age of 20, I was a sophomore at Florida A&M University. I engaged in a scheme, if you will, to defraud the banking system by creating worthless checks that were cashed for a significant amount of money, which resulted in me having to serve time in prison,” Hardwick said.

To call a stint in a federal prison camp a mere setback from his schoolwork would probably be an understatement, but what happened to Hardwick next set him on his path to prosperity.

“I’ll tell you one of the interesting things about this is that even though I was charged in (April) 1996, the judge allowed me to finish school, Judge Stafford. I definitely appreciate him and even though I was young, I didn’t even understand the magnitude of what he was doing for me. He let me stay out and finish school, so I didn’t start serving my sentence until January 2000,” Hardwick said.

The Jacksonville native would go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in business economics at FAMU and a master’s degree in health administration at Webster University, accomplishments that stemmed from the opportunity Hardwick said Stafford gave him.

“When I entered the prison system, I realized that a lot of people didn’t have the opportunity I was given. Judge Stafford basically told me, ‘Honestly, I want you to finish school, go finish school and come back to see me,'” Hardwick said. “I think in terms of my career, my ability to get out of prison and start working, it was a significant impact for me to have the degree … and it gave me the opportunity to actually start my work here at UF Health Jacksonville.”

After securing a place in the hospital system, Hardwick said he implemented the following key factors, among other virtuous behaviors, to keep things that way:

  • Maintaining personal drive, because without it Hardwick said he may have resorted to a less fulfilling work environment or returned to a life with a criminal element.

  • Sticking with and thankful for an employer willing to include him as he began working with UF Health Jacksonville’s financial aid department on supervised release as well as a felony.

Since joining UF Health, Hardwick’s many roles have included serving as Financial Eligibility Specialist, Quality Control Analyst, Supervisor of Patient Financial Services, Manager of Patient Financial Services and Director of Patient Access.

Additionally, Hardwick serves as Basileus of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Theta Phi Chapter; board member of Omegas 4 Change; member of the UNCF Board of Directors; president of Trout River Bluff HOA; Certified Fellow of the American College of Public Health; member of the National Association of Healthcare Executives; Fellow of the American Association for Healthcare Administration; member of the NAACP Health Commission; Certified Patient Experience Professional; president of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Florida Statewide Organization Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Recovery; certified fellow of America’s Essential Hospitals; board member of SPAR and member and co-chair of the Blue Zones Steering Committee.

As for why Hardwick serves on so many boards, councils and committees, he said the opportunities he’s been given have been “monumental” to his development, and now he strives to help others in the same way.

“I’m in a place where I can help people. I share my story as often as possible because so many people feel like things aren’t going the way they wanted them to,” Hardwick said. “Nothing went the way I thought it would, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up.”

Black Men Sundays talk about building wealth for generations. Check out each episode in the media player below:

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