Kristi Aiello  Senior Director Business Development, Florida Blue

Photo: Laird

You’ve held several positions at Florida Blue; what has led to your longevity there? 

Throughout my career, I’ve looked for roles that have challenged me, provided me with an opportunity to continue learning and expanding my skills, and offered an opportunity for me to contribute to the overall success of the corporation. I also seek out a leader who is supportive, who will provide opportunities for my growth and who will be a mentor to me. My current role not only fits those criteria but also provides the extra added value of allowing me to work with many of the nonprofit and health-related organizations in our region. Florida Blue is so much more than just an insurance company—they truly care about helping communities and people be healthier. I am a firm believer that if you love what you do, you will be good at the job and that it will never feel like work!  

    In your current role, you help develop relationships between Florida Blue and stakeholders, business partners, and influencers. How would you describe that moment of connection, when two parties are meeting eye to eye?

    I am a firm believer in the importance of personal, face-to-face communications when building a relationship. So much communication today is via email or text, where messages may lose context. I appreciate and understand that working remotely has its benefits, but it has been harder since the pandemic to maintain personal connection. Maintaining focus and showing respect are also important to me. I try to put my phone away in a zippered part of my purse with the sound off, to keep from being distracted when I’m having a conversation with someone. Non-verbal cues, body language, a look in someone’s eye is the strongest way to convey trust and to have a non-verbal as well as a physical handshake. In my role, I go to many social and networking events, and at almost every event I either meet someone new or connect with someone I haven’t seen in person in a while. It’s such a great feeling to make that connection. It is also important to give someone your time and effort—it’s very easy to jot off a one-line text but it’s a much deeper investment to go out of your way to meet someone and to spend time with them.  

What do you believe is today’s biggest healthcare challenge?

I believe today’s biggest healthcare challenge is that not everyone has access to high-quality, affordable, and equitable care. Florida Blue is working hard to make health care affordable and available for everyone by offering many choices and helping people navigate the sometimes-confusing world of health care and health insurance. Also, technology is changing the way that consumers access care. Health care providers, consumers, and insurers are all trying to navigate how best to make the technology work for the better health of all. From telemedicine for rural areas to utilizing AI to speed up processes, technology will forever change the health care world. Finally, access to healthy activities and foods for everyone is a high priority for Florida Blue, and we work hard to provide these in the most underserved communities.  

You and your husband volunteer as medical missionaries. Can you please share a bit about this incredible work?     

We’ve both always had a love for the most underserved across the world and a desire to help the truly most impoverished. We first connected with a wonderful medical mission trip group, Helping Hands Medical Missions, and with them we went to the Philippines and Guatemala. We’ve also been to Haiti and Ecuador. They are very organized and have a great system for getting the needed medicines, obtaining governmental clearances, and also marketing to the villages prior to our arrival. We typically see almost 1,000 patients in less than a week. This led to our wanting to start up our own medical mission venture in Ecuador. We’ve been there twice, seeing more than 400 patients on each visit. We work with a group of nuns at a convent who run a school and food pantry, so they had the connections and were able to get the word out to the community. It’s much more challenging as we are starting from the base but still very rewarding. The work we do in the missions fills our cups and gives meaning to our day-to-day, ordinary lives.

Have you always had an interest in medicine? Were you the kid that could watch the needle for a shot go in? 

No! Just the opposite! I was a finance major in college. I can watch any medical procedure on TV, but in the field, I can hardly watch needles, incisions, or blood draws. When we are in the streets practicing medicine, we are doing some very gritty procedures, right there. I’ve seen everything from a skin graft on a burn victim to a hernia repair operation to mole removals, sometimes outside on an open basketball court. All I’m capable of is comforting. My husband is the doctor, I’m just there to organize and smooth the flow and make sure everything we need is there, even if it’s just a comforting look or a hand hold. I am good at handing out band-aids.

You once aided the grassroots efforts of a church to help the homeless. What did you learn from this experience?

 I learned that everyone could help, even if it seems small. When we led that homeless ministry, we made it our mission to serve the people living on the streets, who weren’t even accepted in the homeless shelters—the most truly forgotten and down-and-out. We had volunteers help pack the food bags, sometimes just a donation of bananas or a jar of peanut butter, which can actually change lives. I organized the clothing donations and giveaway. We would collect clothes, organize them, and then let our customers “shop.” It gives someone dignity to have a clean shirt or a clean pair of socks. I would bring my kiddos with me, and I watched my son once take off his own tennis shoes and give them to someone who was wearing shoes with holes in them. We all have enough to share, maybe a little, maybe a lot, but God’s given the world enough to go around. He’s just watching to see what we will do with what he trusted us with.  

What do you love about Jacksonville?

I’m a Jacksonville native, one of the few. I’m a proud Wolfson Wolfpack grad! I love the beaches, river, and natural beauty of our city. We have so many beautiful hidden gems in the city, from museums to hiking trails to historical homes. It’s an affordable, low-crime, health-conscious city with residents who care about and have pride in it. I love our sports teams—the Icemen, Sharks, Shrimp, and Jags. We have great universities—UNF, JU, FSCJ, and EWU. I love so much about our city!

Author: Arbus

Share This Post On

Subscribe for the Weekly Buzz from Arbus Magazine

Join our email list! It's your spot for cultural to-do's around Northeast Florida.

You have Successfully Subscribed!