People and Companies Women's Inspired Leadership

Spirit of Community: Pam Gould

Photography by Julie Fletcher

Pam Gould

President and CEO

Shepherd’s Hope

“All of these experiences were divine intervention — preparation for what I needed to be when I arrived at this chapter in life at Shepherd’s Hope and the school board. I had to understand the needs of the people to be a good servant.” — Pam Gould

Even in college, Pam Gould knew she wanted to work in the nonprofit world. She started in local theater, finding her niche behind the scenes in summer stock in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, where she honed her skills in everything from management to finance to marketing. That started a journey that took her from the Berkshires to Broadway to Central Florida.

Today she is the CEO of Shepherd’s Hope, a Central Florida nonprofit that serves as a voice and resource for people who are uninsured and underinsured. She is also a member of the Orange County School Board, serving as vice chair and representing District 4 in West Orange.

Shepherd’s Hope was founded as a faith-based organization 25 years ago by William Barnes, who was then the senior pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church on Apopka-Vineland Road. It has become the largest free and charitable clinic in Florida, with more than 2,700 licensed medical and general volunteers and about 35 staff members. Its five locations have provided more than 300,000 free patient visits and medical services.

Theater Background

Gould says her theater experience prepared her for, well, anything. “One day I’m in the boardroom and the next day I’m moving tables. That’s just how it is. We have to respond to the needs of the minute.”

She can rattle off names of some of the theater legends she worked with in New York, including the late Broadway director and producer Hal Prince. She worked in the back office on his productions of Phantom of the Opera and Kiss of the Spider Woman — two shows he is best known for along with West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret and Sweeney Todd.  Gould became one of the youngest managing directors of an off-Broadway theater.

But after eight years, Gould and her husband, who worked for a medical supply company, decided to move out of their rented brownstone and look for their own house. The former high school sweethearts were faced commuting two hours each way. Instead, they pulled up stakes and moved to Central Florida to start a family.

“I thought there was more in entertainment going on here than there was,” she says, laughing. “But it turned out my skills transferred beautifully to health care.”

Career Change

She worked with Orlando Health for almost 10 years — first in finance, helping with registration and collection for the self-insured, charity care, Medicaid and Medicare. She became chief development officer, where her skills with grants, philanthropy and partnerships came in handy. Then she was recruited to work as a vice president for Health Central in Ocoee and president of the Health Central Foundation.

“I like reinvesting profits back into what good we can do in the community.” – Pam Gould

Gould’s path took a brief detour when she went to work for a friend as a senior vice president of timeshare resort company Island One, later acquired by Diamond Resorts, which is now part of Hilton Grand Vacations. Gould helped start a foundation and retool the employee training and customer service recognition programs.

“It was a wonderful company, but it was not for me,” she says. “It was not in my skin. I like reinvesting profits back into what good we can do in the community. It’s just a different pathway, and when I got off that path, I wasn’t as happy. … It clarified that my heart, my soul and my leadership were best spent in service.”

Gould opened a consultancy and ran for school board in 2012. In 2019, some friends urged her to apply for the CEO job at Shepherd’s Hope. She arrived at the nonprofit in April 2019 and supported the move into a newly build facility in July 2019, and then COVID-19 hit in March 2020. “It’s been a whirlwind of challenges and opportunities, but the mission has never changed,” she says. “I’m so proud of the team and their commitment to continuing care through it all.”

Helping People

She shares stories about people Shepherd’s Hope has helped, like a woman in her 20s who had multiple sclerosis (MS). “She needed $10,000 worth of a medication she couldn’t afford,” Gould says. “We made that happen. She stabilized. She’s living a healthy, robust life.”

People who can’t afford medical care often let their health issues go until they end up in the emergency room or the hospital. Then they face years of debt and bad credit.

“It’s story after story after story where if we weren’t there to help solve a crisis, it would put that person into a welfare situation and on disability instead of thriving, working, contributing and living,” Gould says. “The woman with MS would’ve ended up in a critical situation at some point. Instead, she’s a healthy contributor and gets to live. That’s amazing.

“Every patient story is like that. Every single one of them.”

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