Cottage Hospital Marketing Director Babak "Bob" Behbehanian

“Some kids have really serious health issues, and they have the best attitude,” says Bob Behbehanian with clear admiration. “It leaves such an impact on you.”

Bob is the marketing director of Cottage Hospital, and regularly sees how letting patients tell their own story makes a huge difference for others. “It’s good to hear from people who are going through the same struggles,” he explains. “A little bit of video and communication changes their outlook.”

Bob’s charm and easygoing manner put you immediately at ease. Like the subject of last week’s S.B. Questionnaire, Holly Hornavar, Bob was born in Iran. He wasn’t even two years old when his family fled the country during the 1979 revolution. His father worked for the Shah of Iran, who was ousted in that movement.

“I’d like to be back,” he says. “My first language was Farsi. I try to speak it with my parents as much as I can.”

Bob grew up in southern New Jersey and studied film and TV at Drexel University in Philadelphia, graduating in 2000. He recounts doing internships at pharmaceutical companies as well as at a sports television studio. “I’ve had a strange path to where I’m at today,” he readily admits.

His father was a health consultant at the New Jersey State Health Department. “I never had the aspiration to do what he was doing,” Bob recognizes. “It just happened.”

He worked as a TV news reporter for the ABC affiliate in Missoula, Montana from 2004 to 2007, and then for CBS in Charleston, South Carolina until 2010. “I started to get into the health beat,” he explains. “I would do stories about kids who were sick and had a great recovery. It mattered when those stories ran. We had other patients who would see the story and understand they’re not alone.”

In 2010, Trident Health, a hospital in Charleston, offered him a job as the director of public relations, and the job quickly evolved to include marketing. “I picked it up quickly,” he says. “So much about marketing is about communication with folks and also not having the same message for everyone. There’s so much noise out there. You have to cut through that and connect with people on their terms.”

He started at Cottage Hospital four years ago, and enjoys being part of a team of 13 in the marketing department. “What’s best for the patient is always top of mind,” he says about the hospital. “It feels good.”

Given that we only have one hospital in town, I ask why Cottage needs a marketing director — doesn’t everyone know where to go? “People don’t always know,” he explains. “I enjoy answering that question. We have 3,500 employees, so were also internally communicating as well as externally.”

Bob lives on the Mesa with his wife, Elise, who he met in Charleston, and their two-year-old daughter. “It’s great to have such a good network of friends here in Santa Barbara,” he gushes about our city. “Such a good environment to raise a kid. It feels like we’re in the right place.”

Bob Behbehanian answers the Proust Questionnaire.

What is your motto?

“Live everyday like you’re going to 115.” It’s kind of an inside joke with friends and family, because my grandfather actually lived to be 115. People always asked him what his secret was. His answer was consistent: eat a balanced meal.

What is your most marked characteristic?

For this I had to ask my wife. She had a few but ended on smile. So, my smile.

What do you like most about your job?

The creativity. We are always searching for innovative ways to communicate our messages to Santa Barbara and our surrounding communities. Those messages include everything from new services to free community events.

Our marketing staff also has the privilege of supporting our caregivers. Not everyone who works at a hospital is at the bedside with patients, but we strive to assist our physicians, nurses, and clinical staff with their caring of patients and their families.

I have worked in other hospitals that were also great, but there is something extra special about the staff at Cottage. Every day I see people go above and beyond to take care of individuals who need help.

If I had to choose one favorite part about my job it would be meeting and spending time with patients who are interested in sharing their story with others. It’s amazing how their stories can resonate with others who are in the same situation, and provide people with a sense of comfort.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

It’s spending Saturday at the park with my wife and two-year-old daughter. The line for the swing can get long, so if she gets on within 20 minutes, it’s a win! Being a new father really helps put things into perspective. I know it sounds a little cheesy, but if my family is happy, that’s all I need. For me personally, there is no greater joy than seeing our little girl laugh.

What is your greatest fear?

Driving over really high bridges, which makes me love Santa Barbara even more. Being from the East Coast, I drove over high bridges all the time without a care in the world. Now, it just takes a little self-talk and some breathing exercises.

Who do you most admire?

My parents. They had to flee Iran during the 1979 revolution. I was less than two. I can’t imagine having to flee the U.S. and take my family to a foreign land in my 40s. But my parents did it, and I never heard them complain once. I am extremely fortunate to have had them both.

What is your greatest extravgance?

I am a pretty big Philadelphia sports fan, so I will try to travel to one or two games a year. Fly Eagles Fly.

What is your current state of mind?

A combination of happiness and focus. I try to take some time to check in with myself every now and then. That really provides me the opportunity to practice some mindfulness. My family keeps me happy and my job offers exciting challenges so it’s easy to stay focused.

What is the quality you most like in people?

Humor. I enjoy being around people that laugh at everything — especially my attempts at humor.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

Dishonesty. Life can be hard sometimes — I feel like being honest with yourself and others is always the way to go.

What do you most value in friends?

Picking up where you left off. I have moved around a lot since college but have been fortunate to make and keep a good group of friends. Sometimes you won’t connect with someone for weeks or even months — but when you do it’s like your conversation just picks up from where you left off. That familiarity kicks in and you’re saying things like “We need to talk more often!” Text chains with friends also make it easier to stay connected.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

I don’t think I overuse this, it’s just for special occasions, but I will drop a “Bam!” when deserved.

Which talent would you most like to have?

Really nice penmanship. My dad could write notes for a living.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I really enjoy playing pickup basketball, but may have lost some of my quickness and ability with age. It would be nice to have that for a day.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Being a dad. I quickly learned how challenging and rewarding parenting is at the same time.

Where would you most like to live?

Exactly where I do now: Santa Barbara!

What is your most treasured possession?

I was really close with my grandmother growing up. She would sew anything I asked for — when I was a kid, I had a ninja phase and she made me a black mask for Halloween. In February of 2010, she finished making me a purple scarf a few days before she passed away. I haven’t worn it yet, but I cherish it. She also made some baby clothes for my future kids years ago — one pink and one blue, so I would be covered either way. She was an amazing woman.

Who makes you laugh the most?

My daughter. She’s at that age where everything she says is funny. The other day, she would stand still and say, “1, 2, 3….shee shaw!” And then run around the house. We couldn’t figure out what “shee shaw” meant. Luckily, one of her teachers informed us that she is saying “1,2,3….blast off!” Pure comedy gold.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I am a huge movie fan, so if it’s okay I can list a character who I always felt connected with: Daniel Larusso from The Karate Kid.

On what occasion do you lie?

I don’t lie, but I will stretch the truth to make a friend laugh when I think they could use one.


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