BY MARCY SHORTUSE – When Mark Driscoll was a little boy, all he wanted to do was be a fighter pilot. Generations of Driscolls had been in law enforcement and the military, or worked for other government agencies. Mark kept that dream alive right up until the time he completed his physical for the Air Force Academy. His eyesight kept his dream from coming true, and while it was a sore disappointment for him it was a great benefit to those of us who live and work in Boca Grande.
Mark is the chief executive officer of the Boca Grande Health Clinic. He started the job last year, taking over for outgoing CEO Hilja Bilodeau. The term “trial by fire” has never been used quite so applicably as it was with Mark, entering into a position with a health clinic in the middle of a pandemic.
“I am used to a fast pace but is has been difficult,” he admitted. “The clinic has really risen to the challenges and continues to amaze me as we tackle each challenge. One of the key challenges is balancing the patient loads between regular clinic visits, COVID testing, and now adding the COVID vaccination clinics.”
With his extensive background and expertise, combined with a cool head and a quiet, stalwart nature, though, he made the transition appear seamless.
Mark was born outside of Chicago, in Buffalo Grove (he is, as they say in “Chi,” a “northsider”). He spent the first 24 years of his life there, with a mother who was a schoolteacher and a father who spent most of his career in industrial sales.
“My dad was originally in sales, driving an hour-and-a-half every day,” Mark said. “He was successful, but when I was about 14, he and a friend started their own company. They got a warehouse in Fox Lake (IL) and started building fiberglass Jeep tops. He was into Jeep racing, too. Every weekend we would go to events all over the Midwest – to Wisconsin, or South Dakota, somewhere else in Illinois – and Friday would be a tractor pull. Saturday was always a Corvette vs. Jeep race (and the Jeep always won). Sunday would be an Enduro race, 50 miles through mud, up hills and in rocky terrain. Those would last a couple of hours.”
You might be asking yourself how a Jeep would outrun a Corvette every time in the quarter mile, and Mark had an answer to that question.
“There was this light blue Jeep with the name ‘Wicked Wanda’ and a blonde woman painted on the back,” he recalled, “and the guy who owned it had $5,000 to $6,000 in the engine alone. As you know, in a quarter mile drag race the vehicles are getting all revved up right before the flag drops, and when they hit it that Jeep would come out of there like a rocket. One time, though, he dropped his transmission. It was the first time I saw a grown man cry.”
Eventually International Harvester bought the business from Mark’s dad and his friend. Mark believes watching his dad start his own very successful business might have a lot to do with why he is so entrepreneurial.
“I do believe that was the genesis of that part of my life,” he said.
Mark attended Monmouth College in Illinois while he was preparing to go into the Air Force Academy, and had good times as a fraternity man (who got into more than a spot of trouble with his fraternity brothers, but he only alluded to that fact and would say no more). It helped him kickstart his change in careers, and after Monmouth Mark attended the University of Colorado at Denver for his executive MBA.
The second career choice Mark chose was accounting and finance, but at some point, he realized it just wasn’t for him. By answering an obscure P.O. Box ad in the newspaper, he started a new career, one he couldn’t have possibly expected to become as diverse as it eventually did.
“I decided I didn’t want to run an accounting department,” he said. “So, I answered an ad for a practice management job at a hospital in Denver. From there I did a lot of things, each one more progressive than the next. Eventually I came back to Illinois for a job, then went to North Carolina for a time. After that I took a job in Wisconsin in the Green Bay area. We were there quite some time; that was home for our kids for 20 years. I ran a cardiology group and heart center there.”
Mark left his “mark” wherever he went, and when he felt he had completed the challenge and left things better than when he arrived, he moved on. Eventually, though, he was tired of travel and relocating. He heard about an opportunity in Boca Grande years before but wasn’t ready to make the move.
He was working in Texas when he heard about this most recent opportunity at the Boca Grande Health Clinic, he decided it was time to make his move. Mark has family in this general area, including a brother who lives in Cape Coral, and cousins who live nearby as well.
“The Driscolls have been migrating down from Washington D.C. and the Chicago area since the late 1980s,” he said. “We have had dozens of family reunions on Captiva over the years. The kids love to come here, too, and the more they come, the better.”
Mark and his wife have four children, one of which, Kevin, lives with them in Florida. Their oldest, Brian has two children and lives in Spring Grove, Ill. He works for Abbott Laboratory in supply chain logistics. Colin lives in Chicago and is in sales and their daughter, Molly, is in Chicago finishing her master’s degree in applied psychology.
Mark enjoys his position here on the island as the Boca Grande Health Clinic’s CEO, and also loves the sunsets and walking on the beach.
“I love the people here, I love the town,” he said. “It’s nice when there’s only two or three doctors in town, and everyone knows you. I like the input I receive from our patients, whether it’s positive or negative, because I like complete transparency. My goal is to figure out how we can service the patient base on the island in the most effective way possible. That’s why we have a five-year strategic plan … to be the best we can be, in a way that makes the most sense to us.”