Director's Journey from Trades to Leadership

Joe Brothman used an opportunity in the trades at a hospital to pursue a career in healthcare facilities management.

By Dan Hounsell, Senior Editor  

Joe Brothman, director of facilities and general services with the University of California Irvine Health, used an opportunity in the trades at a hospital to pursue a career in healthcare facilities management. Along the way, he has developed successful teams and helped the healthcare system navigate a range of evolving issues, including the next challenge — a resilient and sustainable campus.

FacilitiesNet: Why did you get into facilities and maintenance management? 

Brothman: Gas is expensive. When I got my drivers permit, I realized I would not be able to drive very much if I could not afford gas. I applied to many places for a job but to no avail. I had no experience and was a 15-year-old high school student. 

Eventually, I got a horrible job offer, and I told my father and his friend about it. They felt bad for me, and my father’s friend, a facility director, offered me a job at one of his hospitals to help clean the shop. The job was flexible and offered good pay, and I always loved working with my hands. 

I stayed at this job for over 10 years through high school, college and graduate school, growing from a shop aide to a mechanic and eventually the safety and emergency management officer for a large trauma center. I learned the various facilities trades, as well as hospital operations, through this employer. When I finally moved from that organization, I had grown to love healthcare, facilities management and the construction industries. 

Eventually, I wanted to find an opportunity where I could grow professionally and make a difference in my community. Healthcare and hospital facilities management allows us to make a difference both in the lives of our patients and in our community through resiliency and sustainability endeavors. Healthcare is an exciting and rewarding industry that allows building professionals opportunities not found in every sector. The use of cutting-edge technology, the impact of research and discoveries, and the challenge of the unknown make healthcare operations a great sector in which to work. 

FacilitiesNet: What organizations have you worked for in your career, and what titles have you held? 


  • Coastal Communities Hospital, 2004 — maintenance mechanic 
  • Western Medical Center, Santa Ana, 2006 — cabinet maker apprentice; maintenance mechanic; safety officer; safety and emergency management officer 
  • University of California Irvine (UCI) Health, 2015-present — director environmental health and safety; director of safety, security and emergency management; director of facilities and general services. 

FacilitiesNet: What is the most challenging aspect of overseeing the operations of healthcare facilities? 

Brothman: Healthcare facilities management is a rewarding and challenging profession. Communicating adequately with all stakeholder groups is usually the most difficult part of any job. The many team players in any healthcare organization make coordinating changes, projects and workflows challenging but also rewarding because you function as a team and share a unified goal of patient safety and quality.    

FacilitiesNet: What professional accomplishments are you most proud of? 

Brothman: I have had many opportunities to assist in the professional growth and advancement of my employees, and helping people succeed and become successful is my favorite part of the job. I have assisted in the development of many important programs, including our regional Ebola response program and an award-winning workplace violence prevention program, construction of new healthcare facilities, like UCI Health’s new all-electric academic medical center in Irvine, and overseeing UCI Health’s COVID-19 response serving as incident commander for over two years. 

I have served as a regional leader for the Orange County Chapter of the California Society of Healthcare Engineering for over six years and have had a great time growing the chapter as one of the largest and most robust in the state. 

FacilitiesNet: What is your next professional challenge? 

Brothman: UCI Health has ambitious sustainability and carbon reduction goals that I am eagerly championing. The tremendous opportunity to open and commission a new, state-of-the-art, resiliency and sustainability-focused medical campus is a new and exciting challenge that I am very eager to manage. 

In addition, as our organization continues to grow in the community, creating an integrated network of facilities to allow unified control and monitoring of building automation and control systems is an exciting opportunity to increase our efficiencies and reduce our energy use with new technologies. 

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  posted on 4/10/2023   Article Use Policy

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