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East County Friday, Nov. 23, 2018 4 months ago

Special Forces

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Brad and Terri Prechtl’s support of Florida Cancer Specialists keeps them rooted in Lakewood Ranch and laser-focused on taking better care of cancer patients.
by: Eric Snider Contributor

Brad and Terri Prechtl are not an opposites-attract sort of couple. They’re bookends — or as Terri says, “a mirror image” of one another. 

He’s the CEO of Florida Cancer Specialists. She’s a former registered nurse and an active volunteer at the organization’s bustling Lakewood Ranch clinic. They met on Match.com and were married in 2009, each for the second time. 

There’s more: “We met in our 40s and pretty much had parallel lives,” Terri says. “We’d both been married for 20 years, divorced two years, had a son followed by a daughter. We each had a list of what we were looking for and what we would not tolerate. We like the same things: working out, traveling, hiking, all the same spectator sports. We’re extremely compatible.”

Says Brad, “We’re meticulous about keeping the house completely organized. I have a closet I’m very proud of — everything’s hung on the same hangers, short-sleeves and long-sleeves grouped together, work versus casual. If someone wasn’t comfortable with that, it could drive them nuts.”

Terri more than tolerates Brad’s busy schedule, which often requires him to work nights and take calls on weekends. Plus —”equally if not more important, I can talk to her about what’s happening at work,” Brad says. “She has a tremendous ability to give me great insight and sometimes a completely different perspective.”

Terri and Brad Prechtl moved to Lakewood Ranch in 2012 and haven’t looked back. A tidy, well-organized couple, they say the community’s manicured, carefully arranged setting makes them feel at home.

Florida Cancer Specialists has experienced robust growth on Brad’s watch. When he relocated from the Pittsburgh area and came on as CEO in 2009, the practice, founded in 1984 by Dr. William Harwin, had around 50 physicians. These days it’s up to 230. 

Nine years ago, FCS was concentrated on the west coast of Florida, from Tampa to Naples. Now its clinics cover the entire state, with the exception of the Panhandle and Miami areas. The firm will see 72,000 new patients this year, with more than 1.5 million patient visits overall. In 2009, FCS amassed $300 million in revenue and is on track to bring in $2.4 billion this year. 

Brad has all these figures memorized, and it’s not because he likes to brag up his tenure. It’s that he’s hyper-organized, has a head for numbers and loves lists. 

“I believe that just because I have the title doesn’t mean I’m more important than a person, say, working in medical records,” says the CEO. “The person at the front desk who greets a cancer patient and puts a smile on their face has a big impact on how they feel about themselves. I hopefully project that throughout our organization.” 

His wife is one of those friendly faces. Having worked as a nurse, Terri has a natural empathy for patients. After losing her father to leukemia, her role at FCS become even more personal. As lead patient support volunteer, she takes the time to sit with people, listen to their worries and provide a distraction before the next round of chemo. 

“Sometimes patients come in and don’t have a family member,” Terri says. “The nurses are busy, so just sitting and talking with them for 30 minutes, letting them pour their hearts out or talk about something other than cancer has a positive effect.”

The Prechtls moved from Nokomis to Lakewood Ranch in 2012, shortly after getting married and merging families for the first time. “We never had all four kids under our roof,” Terri says, “usually two at a time. We moved here to have a bigger home, so we’d have enough bedrooms if everyone showed up at once.”

The couple immediately embraced Lakewood Ranch’s well-oiled joie de vivre. They golfed, participated in clubs and hobnobbed with friends at social gatherings. Now empty-nesters, the Prechtls still feel connected to the community. It suits their lifestyle and Type A tendencies. “We kind of like things that are uber-organized,” Terri says. “We love the manicured landscape, the flowers, the way the streets are laid out, the live music, the planned gatherings.”

They’re especially excited about FCS’s pending expansion. In August, the operation will occupy a new two-story, 42,000-square-foot multitenant building near State Road 70 and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard on the Ranch’s CORE campus. The move will double the size of the organization’s Lakewood Ranch oncology practice, allowing for 38 chemotherapy chairs, 10 examination rooms, an imaging suite and access to clinical trials. 

“It’s critical to have a cancer center of that magnitude in this area,” Terri says. 

The couple’s other project, Party Under the Stars, will celebrate its fifth anniversary Feb. 9. The fundraising event, which benefits the Florida Cancer Specialists Foundation, will take place this year at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota. In its inaugural year (2014), the Prechtls hosted it at their home, anticipating around 75 people and ending up with nearly double that number. Terri jokes they had to move it to a banquet facility so no one would fall in their pool.

Although Brad no longer serves as the foundation’s board chair, he’s still deeply involved in the success of the nonprofit, which helps offset the cost of living expenses for patients undergoing cancer treatment. At last year’s gala, held at Fête Catering & Ballroom in Lakewood Ranch, the foundation raised more than $200,000. At the event, it announced it had established the Brad & Terri Prechtl Fund in honor of the couple’s leadership and support. 

“FCS covers all of the foundation’s overhead,” Brad says. “That includes rent, supplies, the salary and benefits of six full-time employees and other expenses.”

Perpetually crunching numbers, he quickly estimates the cost of this overhead to be around half-a-million dollars. 

“It’s probably the only foundation I’m aware of that fully covers expenses like that,” Brad says. “That allows the dollars raised to go to the people who need it.”

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