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Father knows best

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Members of the Portoghese family enjoy a day at Epcot.

No one wants to visit the doctor on Father’s Day, unless the doctor is your dad. Happily for AdventHealth’s Portoghese family, Father’s Day will feel just like home… or another day at the office.

Led by their patriarch, Dr. Joseph Portoghese, the Portoghese family has a collective 70+ years of experience working in and around health care, but dad is the only one practicing medicine.

Portoghese, who serves as chief academic officer at AdventHealth Central Florida Division, was the first in his family to go to college and immediately went to medical school and married his high school sweetheart, Lee. They started a family and have been active and involved at home and at various hospital locations ever since. The couple recently celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary.

Portoghese joined AdventHealth in 1989. The father of three has two daughters who also work at AdventHealth. He’s had a tremendous, positive influence on his family, and his extended family, including generations of medical students and residents, by living the mission at home and on the job.

“My dad was a strong influence on me, and his friends were physicians and dentists who inspired him,” said Portoghese. “That inspiration was passed along to me, and I’ve done the same with my kids.”

Portoghese’s oldest daughter, Sara Channing, works as divisional senior manager of women’s and children marketing. Her husband, Matthew Channing, is director of people strategy. Sara’s sister, Amanda Giddens serves as director of acute care services, clinical operations, and her husband, Leland Giddens is a project manager, surgery administration. All work in AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division.

“My dad will tell you he has six kids (three biological and our spouses),” said Sara Channing. “But as chief academic officer he works with students and residents and truly loves teaching. Every year he works with dozens of students and is truly helping to train the next generation of physicians.”

“I consider them all my daughters and sons,” Portoghese said. “One big, happy family.”

Additionally, Ann Marie Varga, Portoghese’s younger sister, worked in Population Health communications for a couple of years before her recent move to the medical group in West Florida division. Nearly everywhere you go at AdventHealth, at least in Florida, you’re bound to run into a Portoghese family member. The professional Portoghese tentacles are spread far and wide.

With a long history at AdventHealth, Portoghese cultivated interest in medicine among his daughters and their spouses, but insists he did not pressure them to get into the medical field.

“My kids grew up attending hospital events, so they knew a lot about the various jobs that contribute to the mission,” he said. “I think I pushed the mission on them more than medicine.”

Dr. Portoghese gets a helping hand from daughter, Sara Channing (left).

Mission and medicine mingled on several occasions, such as a trip to Juliaca, Peru, where Sara served in a medical capacity.

“Sara went with me on two surgical missions,” Portoghese said. “She was a great help and, I think, it was a great experience for both of us.”

As a father with immense responsibilities at home and in the hospital setting, Portoghese recognizes some missed family moments over the years. Medical crises are unpredictable, and sometimes they encroach on family time, but his influence remains strong.

"I am the person and leader I am today because of the amazing example my father set,” said Amanda Giddens. “He is one the most compassionate physicians I have ever met who speaks to anyone he encounters with kindness and respect. As my career has evolved at AdventHealth, I have tried to take those lessons with me every step of the way."

Portoghese makes it a point now, as he always has, to spend as much time as possible with family members to ensure family always comes first despite the pressures and busy schedules for each member of his clan.

“There are lots of pictures of my kids with me in scrubs,” he said. “Lots of great memories and missed opportunities, for sure, but no regrets. I thank God every day for all of my blessings.”

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