Life Sciences

The Jacksonville region features more than 20 high-profile healthcare facilities, research and innovation and a rapidly growing biomedical community. Northeast Florida has one of only three Mayo Clinics, one of six Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Centers, the UF Proton Therapy Institute and cutting-edge medical companies including Medtronic, McKesson, Availity and Forcura. With 1 of 8 jobs in the region being related to the industry, it offers jobs in clinical, non-clinical, pharmaceutical, IT and research roles.

Patient Side of Life Sciences Industry Report

Business Side of Life Sciences Industry Report

Biomedical Industry Report

Life Sciences Overview

Industry Deep Dive

Life Science jobs in Northeast Florida are among the highest-paid careers in the region. With a skilled workforce of more than 90,000, employment growth in the life sciences industry continues to outpace the national average.

Local health and biomedical companies value top-notch educational providers in the region, including the University of North Florida (UNF), Jacksonville University (JU), Keiser University, Florida State College of Jacksonville (FSCJ) and St. Johns River State College (SJR College). The area’s proximity to the University of Florida and Florida State University further allows companies to tap into the growing talent base of skilled healthcare graduates.

If you have an interest in life sciences, Jacksonville is the best place to start or continue your career. The region offers an array of job opportunities, some of which are located at some of the world’s leading health institutions. Review the Health & Biomedical Career Pathway to learn how to build a successful career.

Possible Career Paths
  • Patient-Focused Healthcare
  • Business-Focused Healthcare
  • Pharmaceutical
  • IT & Research

Popular Job Titles
  • Scheduling Coordinator
  • Dental Assistant
  • Veterinarian
  • Certified Nursing Assistant
  • Patient Account Representative
  • Fertility Care Coordinator
  • Registrar
  • Dental Front Office Assistant
  • Speech Language Pathologist
  • Radiologic Technologist
  • Ophthalmic Technician
  • Dental Assistant
  • Medical Appointment Scheduler
  • Patient Access Representative
  • Medical Assistant
  • Physical Therapist
  • Speech Therapist
  • Biomedical Engineers
  • Scientists
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Nursing Assistants
  • Pharmacists
  • Physician Assistants

Life Sciences Companies in the Region

I had a job shadowing experience in the X-ray department and I fell in love with it.

Amber GainerBaptist Health/Radiologic Technologist

Occupational Therapy is needed in all settings and plays an important role with physical and mental recovery.

Kensley HooverBrooks Rehabilitation at Memorial Hospital/Occupational Therapist

Health care is more than doctors and nurses. The hospital is a city of opportunity with a need for a wide range of professionals and workers.

Kat HasanovicSystem Director, Clinical Informatics/Baptist Health

Never waste time. Get all of the credentials you need quickly. It may look painful going to class and taking exams, but when you achieve your goal, you’ll appreciate it.

Dr. Abba Zubair, MD, PhDClinical Pathologist/Mayo Clinic

Anyone can learn but you need the drive, personality and desire if you want to achieve a career in nursing.

Brad NazworthBSN/RN at Baptist Health

It’s never entered my mind that I couldn’t do it. I just want to be the hardest working person in the room.

Sammie FendigFirefighter/Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department

This field ignites my passion and imagination.

Stacey PrinceSenior Specialist for Release of Information/Mayo Clinic

I have the opportunity to be a part of the solution, which is very satisfying.

Christopher CarterAssociate Software Engineer, Forcura

Christopher Carter

Forcura Associate Software Engineer

Internships are an excellent way to learn valuable work experience about your industry. Some students are also able to translate the internship experience into being a full-time employee as Christopher Carter did at Forcura, a leading healthcare technology company headquartered in Jacksonville.

A graduate of the University of North Florida, Carter is an Associate Software Engineer at Forcura. Originally from Sarasota, Carter stayed in Jacksonville to begin his career after earning a bachelor’s degree in information systems and turning his short-term internship at Forcura into a rewarding full-time position.

“Everything I’m doing at Forcura is impacting someone’s daily life and making life more efficient,” Carter said.

Forcura’s platform enables safer patient care transitions and more effective coordination. It improves continuity of care via technology and analytics, and it is driven by the company’s deep commitment to enabling better patient care. Carter's focus is on the company’s core software and platform, with goals of maintaining optimimal functionality to improve and enhance the user’s everyday workflow.

“My contributions help make the information flow smoother,” Carter said. “I have the opportunity to be a part of the solution, which is very satisfying.”

Carter learned about internships at Forcura from a friend at UNF. At Forcura, attracting and retaining top talent through innovation and company culture is a high priority. The company has a successful internship program and has converted 70% of its interns to full-time employees since 2018. Carter is pleased to begin his career in Jacksonville.

Carter’s interest in technology developed as a middle school student. He enjoyed tinkering with computers and programming, and built his own computer as part of a school project. Carter knew he wanted to follow an educational and career path in technology. He earned an associate degree at the State College of Florida in Sarasota before transferring to UNF, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Information Systems.

Carter’s internship at Forcura revealed opportunities to share his technical background at a fast-paced company with a culture that thrives on collaboration and innovation. He says it was an invaluable experience that allowed him to begin developing his skills. Carter’s advice to other students is to work hard and take advantage of the opportunity for on-the-job training that an internship provides.

“It’s important to focus on the core concepts,” Carter said. “My internship provided the motivation to explore new ways of doing things, and it was very satisfying to work as part of a team.”

With remote learning required during his senior year due to the pandemic, Carter’s communication and interaction with industry professionals was limited. He was inspired by the Forcura internship because it offered the chance to network, receive feedback from colleagues and establish mentors. Carter wants to give back to UNF and would like to serve one day as a mentor to technology students.

“My internship was a critical step in my transition from school to my profession,” Carter said. “I want to make sure other students are getting the best learning experiences they can get before graduation.”

Amber Gainer

Radiologic Technologist

Finding passion and purpose in health care

With more than 20 hospitals and medical institutions in Northeast Florida, there are plentiful career opportunities in patient care. Amber Gainer, RTR, CT, found her purpose providing patient-centered care as a radiologic technologist at Baptist Health.

“I take pictures all day long,” Gainer said. “There is nothing typical about my job. No two days are ever the same. I like that every day provides a new challenge and a new experience.”

Radiologic technologists perform X-rays and scans on all parts of a patient’s body for a variety of reasons. The images enable physicians to diagnose a disease, an acute condition or an injury. In addition to having the appropriate education in medical technologies, radiologic technologists are licensed and registered.

In 2013, Gainer took part in Tipping the Scale, a nationally recognized mentoring and advocacy program founded by Baptist Health and The Bridge of Northeast Florida. The program pairs Jacksonville high school students with Baptist Health team members who volunteer as mentors. The experience left a lasting impression on Gainer.

“I couldn’t see myself doing anything outside of health care,” Gainer said. “I was drawn to patient care and the sense of helping others.”

Gainer initially considered pursuing a career in veterinary medicine or pediatrics. She began her healthcare career working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). After two years, Gainer wanted to take her career in a different direction.

Finding the right career resulted after Gainer began searching for opportunities and exploring different career pathways that appealed to her interests. She took advantage of shadowing to explore different jobs and discovered her passion.

“I had a job shadowing experience in the X-ray department and I fell in love with it,” Gainer said. “I knew it was the career for me.”

Gainer attended Florida State College at Jacksonville and Keiser University, where she earned an associate’s degree in Radiologic Technology and a bachelor’s degree in Imaging Sciences. After graduation, she earned her certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists and was eligible to be licensed by the State of Florida.

Gainer returned to Baptist Health in 2019. Radiologic technologists play an important role in patient care. Gainer communicates with patients as well as physicians, nurses and other hospital personnel. Her job requires adaptability and working with others as a team.

“I enjoy being part of a system that helps people get better,” Gainer said. “My goal is to make every patient smile and to make sure I do the best for that patient.”

Gainer continues to advance her career with on-the-job training. In addition to her certifications in X-ray and CT, she is expanding her radiology expertise to include MRI modalities. She encourages everyone interested to consider and explore the vast opportunities in health care.

“There are so many career opportunities in hospitals and health care - more than most people realize,” Gainer said. “If you find something that interests you, pursue it.”

Brandi Zofkie

General Manager of Jacksonville's Lung Bioengineering facility in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic Transplant Center

An Unintended but Meaningful Career Pathway: the Niche World of Lung Perfusion

“No one grows up wanting to be an Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion Specialist (EVLP),” says Brandi Zofkie, General Manager of Jacksonville’s Lung Bioengineering facility in collaboration with Mayo Clinic Transplant Center. Brandi holds a BS in Biochemistry as well as MS degrees in both Public Health and Human Donation Science. Brandi initially used these skills and education in a non-profit space, serving in a procurement transplant coordinator role before making the transition into this aspect of biomedicine. Brandi has been on staff with United Therapeutics for seven years in an exciting career that saw her working in the Midatlantic, receiving training in Canada, and “transplanting” to Jacksonville.

Brandi’s current role can be traced to a scholarly project for a master’s program, which led her to make contact with a company to request some information and leading to a ventilator, pig lungs, and a dome to support her presentation. After beginning her career in the non-profit world, the relationships formed during the class project resulted in a hiring offer with United Therapeutics and six months of training at Toronto General Hospital, which created this niche within the biomedical space. United Therapeutics has the first EVLP service in the United States, including Brandi.

Organ procurement was Brandi’s focus, so this career transition to biomedicine initially felt risky. She wanted to ensure that she could still derive satisfaction from knowing that “every day, I did something to save someone’s life.” Brandi was used to working closely with families and transplant recipients seeking a variety of organs, so she was concerned the role would feel impersonal. However, fulfillment is still part of the work. To date, Brandi has helped ensure that well over 100 patients have received lifesaving lung transplants. She generates impactful results, but success is realized differently.

To best understand Brandi and her work with the Mayo Clinic via United Therapeutics, it helps to understand the context of this very innovative company for which she works, United Therapeutics. Dr. Martine Rothblatt, founder and CEO of United Therapeutics also founded what is now SiriusXM Satellite Radio. An attorney by trade, Dr. Rothblatt became an entrepreneur and later pursued her PhD in medical ethics after her daughter was diagnosed with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH). This patient population was too small to develop and sell medicines to assist those with PAH, so pharmaceutical companies were not willing to develop a drug that was just sitting on a shelf. Dr. Rothblatt started United Therapeutics to develop that drug now with multiple routes of administration (i.e., pump, inhalation, oral medication) to help patients like her daughter live. The next step after developing these drugs was to help influence more patients being able to receive lung transplants.

Less than 20 percent of all donor lungs are suitable for transplant. The EVLP process allows specialists like Brandi to support, maintain, and monitor donor lungs, as well as generate and analyze data to provide more information for decision making by the lung transplant program. The lungs are perfused with a blood-free solution and ventilated for several hours. A colleague of Brandi’s explains that the option to use EVLP can “help turn a ‘no’ into a ‘maybe’” regarding the availability for transplant of a donor lung, since these lungs would otherwise not have been used. Even lungs that fail may do so on the EVLP system rather than in the patient.

Donated lungs can be well-traveled before being transplanted. For example, a lung could be ex-planted from a donor on the west coast, sent to a Lung Bioengineering facility in Silver Spring, Maryland for evaluation, and then sent on to be transplanted at a center in other states including Illinois, Tennessee, or Florida’s Mayo Clinic. The company’s research studies are designed to show that lungs can come from anywhere in the continental United States.

Not only does Brandi need to understand the physical aspects of maintaining the lung, interpreting data, and providing information for physicians to make critical decisions about the use of the lung, but her role also involves non-medical, yet critical work creating inventory systems, writing standard operating procedures, and creating the structure for the department in their brand-new facility, expected to be live for transplants this fall. She also makes connections and develops relationships with the other providers that make operating a biomedical facility possible.

Brandi is excited for the potential of the industry, particularly as it relates to technology as a therapy platform to improve lungs that are currently unusable. Biomedical advances through future research could result in the rehabilitation and modification of lungs in the future, essentially making EVLP’s the “fixer uppers” of lungs to “flip” them to new owners. Brandi says, “We’re in startup mode. You wear a lot of hats and have to strike a balance to be successful. It’s really just about hard work and being dedicated to your mission. But, passion must be behind it. Don’t get into it without passion for it.” Good news for students in Northeast Florida? This field is growing rapidly, so the need for internships and a skilled workforce will only increase.

Loveann Burch

From military to Physician Assistant (PA) student

Loveann Burch entered the U.S. Navy a month after high school graduation and served for 14 years. In 2006, she qualified to advance to the medical personnel team, serving as a Corpsman in Orthopedics. This role is similar to a medical assistant, but with additional responsibilities.

In preparation to transition out of the military, Loveann began exploring educational options. She had taken college coursework throughout her career and wanted to transfer those credits. After careful research, Loveann chose the Biomedical program at Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ), earning a bachelor’s degree in 2018.

The program involves chemistry, anatomy, biology, physics, statistics, organic chemistry, quantitative analysis, scientific writing, critical thinking and communication. Loveann’s hands-on military experience set her up for success, as did the program’s format.

Loveann took hybrid classes, a combination of evening in-class labs and online coursework. As such, she began taking classes prior to fully transitioning out of the military service. This flexibility allowed her to balance family, work, and school commitments. An on-site counselor at the Navy college provided support in navigating both college and military cultures. “They went above and beyond to provide access,” Loveann says.

Loveann didn’t initially intend to utilize the articulation agreement between FSCJ and Nova Southeastern University. However, she decided to take advantage of this unique opportunity and applied for the competitive Nova’s Physician’s Assistant (PA) degree program. Loveann was accepted and will graduate in 2022.

After graduating from Nova, Loveann plans to serve as a Physician’s Assistant in Pediatric Orthopedics. She began orthopedic work in the Navy but also enjoys working with children. She’ll be able to assist babies with club feet and help set broken bones. She says, “Children have such a great bounce-back.” Loveann enjoys the pace of the Emergency Room, rushing in to assist patients with trauma, followed by assisting in the Operating Room. As a PA, she’ll assist throughout the multidimensional process of providing care.

Loveann shares, “Anywhere there’s a physician, you can work as a PA.” She was drawn to the field because her career pathway mirrors that of the military, with its emphasis on work-based learning. PA’s learn by doing. Loveann states that, “Unlike a Nurse Practitioner, a PA can learn a new specialty from a doctor first-hand rather than returning to school for several years. If you need a change of pace, feel burned out or have a lifestyle change, you have options. A doctor will make sure you are completely qualified in that aspect of the medical field. Looking at photos in a book and reading about an experience are very different than encountering a situation with a real person.”

Loveann’s Biomedical training will ensure an interesting career pathway. “It’s a great fit.”