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Northwell Health

Photo from Town of Huntington

Last week, in a joint statement, the Town of Huntington and the Huntington Village Business Improvement District, announced that the BID would not be able to organize the annual Holiday Spectacular this year. That decision has now been reversed.

According to a Nov. 11 press release from the town and BID, Northwell Health will provide funding to help the event go on as usual. 

“The Town of Huntington’s Annual Holiday Spectacular has garnered a lot of attention this year,” the press release read. “One key issue for this year’s event being reimagined was not only the safety concerns but the costs involved in creating such an event. The crowning glory of the Holiday Spectacular was the magnificent 65-foot multi-media Christmas tree. It must be made clear that the tree is not owned by the BID or the town, but is provided by (along with other decor) each year through Looks Great Services, Inc.”

This year the BID did not have the resources to fully fund the event in order for it to be a safe and successful one, according to the press release. The hope was to reimagine the event, but new plans wouldn’t be completed in time for the 2022 holiday season.

“However, since the plight of the spectacular was made public, we have since heard from our lead sponsor, Northwell Health and they have committed to provide the additional funding needed to ensure that the Spectacular continues for 2022,” the press release read. “Northwell Health’s generosity will enable the BID and the town to continue this highly anticipated event for the third consecutive year at its original location in Huntington Village/Wall Street.  We are grateful to Northwell Health that we can continue the tradition!”

According to the town and BID, organizers will work with local fire officials and first responders to take into account safeguards and precautions.

“We expect that this event will be ever changing based on the needs of the community, our town, and our merchants,” the press release read. “For now, we are happy to return the event so many have found to be the epitome of the holiday season for the Huntington community. We look forward to welcoming you all back to Wall Street for 2022.” 

The parade and celebration is scheduled for Nov. 26.

Photo from Huntington Hospital

By Miriam Sholder

Huntington Hospital has earned the coveted Magnet® designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), which recognizes excellence in nursing.

Huntington is the only hospital with a fifth consecutive designation on Long Island – the first in the Northwell health system, second in New York State and 32nd in the United States.

The Magnet Recognition Program® spotlights health care organizations for quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovations in professional nursing practice. Developed by ANCC, Magnet is the leading source of successful nursing practices and strategies worldwide. Only 586 hospitals worldwide have achieved Magnet® status for nursing excellence since the program’s inception in 1983.

“Our nursing staff is known for upholding the highest standards of nursing,” said Susan Knoepffler, RN, chief nursing officer at Huntington Hospital. “With this accomplishment, our community is assured high quality compassionate care by our talented and dedicated nurses.”

The 371-bed hospital employs 600 nurses, 1,900 employees and specializes in neurosurgery, orthopedics and cancer care.

“The Magnet designation five consecutive times indicates this is no fluke,” Dr. Nick Fitterman, executive director of Huntington Hospital, said. “This represents consistent, high-quality care by a dedicated, professional, extraordinary nursing staff. The Magnet designation provides the foundation of care that has propelled Huntington Hospital to CMS 5-star recognition. The only Hospital in Suffolk County to achieve this.” He added, “The nursing staff continue to excel even while around the country we see health care workers burning out, leaving the profession. The staff here remain as committed as ever.”

Stock photo

The first in a two-part series, this article highlights the ways COVID-19 exacerbated an already difficult mental health landscape on Long Island, particularly for adolescents. Amid isolation and uncertainty, residents had an increase in anxiety-related and mental health crises. Additionally, residents in acute distress who arrived at the emergency room sometimes had to wait hours or days for an inpatient psychiatric bed. In the second feature, which will appear in a future edition, mental health workers describe the challenges of their work during the pandemic.

COVID-19 has taken its toll on mental health throughout Suffolk County, as people in a range of ages confront challenges related to isolation, depression, anxiety and grief.

Area hospitals report that inpatient psychiatric beds are rarely empty. Indeed, patients have had to receive treatment in the emergency room at times for a day or more as they wait for an available inpatient psychiatric bed.

“Our emergency room has two behavioral health beds, but often, we have more patients waiting for admission to [the] inpatient psychiatry unit,” said Dr. Adnan Sarcevic, chairman of the Psychiatry Department at Huntington Hospital. 

While patients receive the same treatment in the emergency room that they would in an inpatient unit, some types of intervention, like group psychotherapy “cannot be provided in an emergency room setting,” Sarcevic said.

COVID also exacerbated the shortage of beds when some units had to close after an outbreak of the virus.

“We had periods when some psychiatric inpatient units were closed for a variety of different reasons including COVID outbreaks” which created a shortage of beds, Sarcevic added.

At St. Catherine of Siena in Smithtown, beds filled up as soon as one opened, said Dr. Michel Khlat, chief medical officer.

Adolescent strains

The pandemic exacerbated trends that already reflected the mental health strain among youth and adolescents.

For the previous decade, youth presentations for mental health crises in the emergency room had been increasing.

During the pandemic, those numbers climbed nationally and on Long Island. Estimates of anxiety among youth increased to 20%, which is dramatically higher than the 12% prior to the pandemic, said Dr. Vera Feuer, associate vice president in the School Mental Health program at Northwell Health. Depression has also reached about 20%, which was previously below 10%.

Additionally, the pandemic caused a three-fold increase in children with eating disorders, which is consistent with new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, Feuer added.

“There’s a real big increase in presentation to the emergency room” with youth who are considering suicide, particularly for girls who are 10 to 13 years old.

Additionally, adolescents are showing an increase in tic disorders, which are involuntary movements of the neck, eye or facial movements, Feuer said. While some studies suggest a link between depression and these movements, other research has linked them to the increasing use of social media.

As for the availability of mental health services, adolescents are continuing to find it difficult to become outpatients for an overburdened mental health care system, which increases the need for emergency services.

Community services are often “saturated,” Feuer said. “There are not enough child psychiatrists” which means that children go without care for longer, she said.

On Long Island, the wait for inpatient beds is not as long as it reportedly has been in other areas of the country.

“We do have kids waiting at least a day or over the weekend,” said Feuer. She suggested that access to beds and to crisis programs in school have mitigated some of the adolescent demand.

Dr. Stacy Eagle, director of Psychiatry at St. Charles Hospital, cautioned that the potential for addiction and substance abuse is “concerning. Even marijuana is dangerous, because you don’t know what it’s laced with and it can become incredibly addicting.”

Broader challenges

The shortage of inpatient beds predated the arrival of COVID, with mask mandates, social distancing, remote learning and at-home work altering routines and creating stressors that often increased anxiety and triggered the kind of self-medication that led to substance abuse.

“I’ve seen it step up on a daily, weekly, monthly basis” in terms of generalized anxiety disorders and panic attacks, said Dr. Jeffrey Wheeler, director of the Emergency Department at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson.

Eagle said she has seen more anxiety, mood disorders and substance abuse, with more acute patients coming in from schools.

Doctors suggested that COVID itself can contribute to the worsening of a person’s emotional well-being.

“COVID certainly plays a role in mental health, both as a psychosocial stressor and due to the neurotropic nature” of the virus, said Sarcevic.

The types of treatment varies according to the severity of the symptoms, the underlying conditions, and any ongoing treatment plans.

“Some people come in who are in need of medication to be stabilized for depression,” said Khlat.

To accommodate the increasing need for non-acute psychiatric services, health care professionals have been offering telepsychiatry help.

In the last three months, St. Catherine of Siena expanded their telepsychiatry services, which had been offered primarily on the weekends, to seven days a week.

“Due to the influx of patients we’re having, with COVID depression we had to [expand that] to the rest of the week,” Khlat said. These services “helped us out a lot.”

Silver lining

Feuer suggested a few silver linings amidst the health care crisis.

“The attention to something we know has been a problem for a long time” will help the community, she said. “I’m hoping the right resources and interventions will come.”

Additionally, the increased vigilance of mental health challenges has enabled people to feel that asking for mental health resources is something they can, and should, do.

“It has normalized these conversations,” Dr. Feuer said.

Available resources

Dr. Gregson Pigott, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, urged people who think they need help to get it right away.

Those people seeking help for substance abuse or mental health can visit www.SuffolkStopAddiction.org to find a network of providers in the 2022 Suffolk County Directory of Behavioral Health Services guide.

The following are resources available to those in crisis:

— Family Services League’s Diagnostic, Assessment and Stability Hub (DASH) program. This is a 24-hour stabilization response program for children and adults in crisis due to substance abuse, mental illness and other life stressors. They are located at 90 Adams Avenue in Hauppauge. Their phone number is 631-952-3333.

— A free 24-hour hotline: 631-751-7500, or www.responsehotline.org.

— A Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP) at Stony Brook Hospital at 101 Nicolls Rd in Stony Brook is available at 631-444-6050. CPEP has voluntary and involuntary emergency psychiatric services for children and adults every day.

“It is important for individuals to engage in self-care,” Pigott wrote in an email. “Listening to each other and recognizing the signs of mental illness and substance use can help mitigate a developing crisis.”

Huntington Hospital is participating in Northwell Health’s initiative to plant a tree for each of the more than 30,000 babies born in its hospitals last year. Photo from Huntington Hospital

A tree grows in Huntington. When Huntington Hospital finishes its tree planting effort, 1,850 of them will grow.

Huntington Hospital will participate in Northwell Health’s initiative to plant a tree for each of the 30,500 babies born in its hospitals in 2021.

The babies born through the Northwell system, which includes Long Island Jewish Forest Hills, South Shore University Hospital, and Lenox Hill Hospital and six others, accounted for 15% of the births in New York and 1% of the total in the country.

“Northwell is committed to keeping our communities well — and to doing it in the most socially responsible way,” Donna Drummond, Northwell’s chief sustainability officer, said in a statement. “We believe that we will have a positive impact on the environment while providing our neighbors with a great way to commemorate a new life.”

Northwell started planting trees at its 10 hospitals April 29, on the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day, which is the last Friday in April.

At first, Northwell had considered planting plum trees, but those weren’t native to the area, so they planted cherry trees, said Adam Elbayar, senior project manager at Northwell.

The idea originated with Drummond, who suggested in a text to Elbayar that she wanted to plant a tree for each baby born in 2021.

Elbayar said Northwell is still working out the logistics of where to plant the trees, which will contribute to several efforts, including reforestation and a community canopy initiative.

Northwell plans to work with the Arbor Day Foundation as it searches for places to contribute these trees.

“What we’re planting on Long Island may be different than the trees we plant” in other areas, particularly the ones that rejuvenate an area after a wildfire, Elbayar said.

Northwell wants to focus on those areas where the need for trees is the highest and will use the tree equity score to find those neighborhoods that would benefit most from additional trees.

Northwell plans to work closely with leadership in obstetrician and gynecological offices to put together material that will alert new mothers to the project.

Part of the tree planting effort will include a children’s book new mothers receive in which the front page indicates that a tree was planted in honor of the child.

From what Northwell currently expects many of the trees will be saplings.

The tree planting effort at Northwell, which will cover the cost of the trees, represents one of several environmental initiatives at the health care company, including recycling and waste minimization.

Northwell’s goal is to make this an ongoing project, Elbayar said.

Elbayar said Northwell is pleased to join several other companies, including L’Oreal and Met Life, that are planting trees to boost reforestation and support the environment.

“There has been a lot of great work by other companies in this space,” Elbayar added.

Michael Dowling is the 2022 grand marshal for the Huntington St. Patrick's Day Parade. Photo from Northwell Health

Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, recently spoke with The Times of Huntington & Northport about being named grand marshal of the 2022 Huntington St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which will take place Sunday, March 13.

Michael Dowling is the 2022 grand marshal for the Huntington St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Photo from Northwell Health

Q: Before we get into the details of this year’s parade, could you discuss your own background? How did you get to where you are today?

I was born in Ireland, and I left when I was young. Then I went to England to work in the steel factories. My dream was always to go to college, but we didn’t have the means to pay for it, so I had to figure out how to get the resources. When I came to the United States, I was 18 years old. 

I came by myself, and I worked on the West Side of Manhattan on the docks for a number of years. The first three years I would spend half the year working in New York and in the second half of the year, I would go back to Ireland and go to college — I was fortunate enough to get into college in Ireland. Of course, I had no money, so that’s the reason I had to continue working. 

After I graduated from college in Ireland, I came back to New York and continued working on the boats for a period longer. Then I worked in construction and in plumbing and other manual labor jobs that I did not mind doing at all. Then I went to Fordham University to get my masters. 

I went, obviously, part-time because I was working all the time. I graduated from Fordham University and after I graduated, I was fortunate enough for them to ask me to come back and teach a course. I taught a number of courses at Fordham. Eventually they asked me to come on full-time as a faculty member at Fordham University, at the Graduate School of Social Service at Lincoln Center. I eventually became the assistant dean of the graduate school, having an administrative role and a faculty role.

I was at Fordham when Gov. Mario Cuomo got elected. His administration reached out to me to ask if I was interested in taking a job in government. I had not been involved in politics, I did not know the governor, but I am a risk-taker and I like new challenges, so I said yes.

I ended up taking on a job in Albany and relatively quickly moved up the ranks. I eventually became the Director of Health, [Education] and Human Services of the State of New York. I was also the deputy secretary to the governor and his chief adviser on health and human services. I did that for 12 years.

 I left Albany and then I was fortunate again. North Shore University Hospital reached out to me and asked if I was willing to join. North Shore, back at that point, was at the beginning stages of building a health care system. Subsequent to my arriving, we expanded through mergers with other hospitals. A couple of years later we merged with LIJ. Five years after I arrived at North Shore I became president and CEO. I’ve been president and CEO for 20 years.

I’ve done manual labor; I’ve been in academia; I’ve been in government; I’ve been in the insurance industry; and I’ve been on the provider side. That’s a very quick snapshot of my career.

Q: When did you first get involved with the Ancient Order of Hibernians? When were you selected as grand marshal of this year’s parade in Huntington?

I’ve been involved off and on over the years with the Hibernians in New York City. Three years ago, the Huntington Hibernians reached out to me asking if I wanted to participate in the St. Patty’s Day Parade. I agreed.

Then, of course, COVID hit and that changed everything, and it delayed everything. Fortunately, now with elements of COVID decreasing big time, hopefully we’ll have a good day this Sunday.

The Hibernians do great work — long history, great legacy, great humanitarian organization and good people. They do terrific work around the Huntington area, so I’m very, very proud to be a part of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and to be working with the Hibernians.

Q: Given that you were on the front lines of the COVID pandemic, what does this year’s event mean for you?

Well, we’re evolving into some normality now. You go through an issue like COVID and it’s a learning experience. Every so often, during various periods of time, you go through a difficulty like this. When you’re going through them, you just deal with it. Now it looks like it’s receding big time, but we’ve got to be vigilant. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean that there won’t be an uptick or some other kind of variant, but this is an opportunity for people to get back to normal. We can get together in-person and socialize and communicate together in-person, which is very important. 

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade next week in Huntington is their first parade since COVID began. The outbreak of COVID in the Long Island area happened right after the most recent parade held by the Hibernians in Huntington. We have had no in-person parades since 2020 and now, two years later, it’s a wonderful reawakening. 

Maybe it is a celebratory thing that we are on the exit ramps of COVID, and we can get together. It’s a positive sign. It shows that there is some optimism and positivity. I’m hoping that the weather is nice, but even if it isn’t we are still going to have a great time. It’s the beginning of a new chapter. 

Q:  Is there anything else that you would like to say to the local readers?

I would say that Huntington is a wonderful place. We should sit back and remind ourselves about how fortunate we all are. We live in the United States, we live in a beautiful place: Huntington and its surrounding areas. We are able to assemble freely and be together for some time. 

This is an opportunity to celebrate the United States, to celebrate how fortunate we all are, to celebrate the liberties and the freedoms that we hold, especially given what we see happening around the world right now. 

It’s a celebration of immigration, a celebration of immigrants, a celebration of our diversity and, of course, it’s a celebration of our Irish heritage, our history and the contributions that the Irish and so many others have made in the building of the United States. 

It’s an opportunity to be thankful. This is a celebratory, joyous occasion and I look forward to it.

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John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson. File photo from Mather Hospital

Update: The virtual public hearing has been postponed to Thursday March 3, 6:30 p.m.

A public hearing for the Mather/Northwell Hospital Master Plan will be held by the Port Jefferson Village Planning Board on Thursday, Feb. 10 at 6:30 p.m.

Major aspects of the proposed master plan will include expansion of parking; updates to the emergency and surgical departments; modification of traffic patterns, and more.

The plan would be completed in three or four phases: In phase one, Mather/Northwell looks to: expand its northern parking area; expand and fit-out its emergency department; begin expansion of its surgical department; relocate and build-out its heliport; construct an exterior storage building; and complete North Country Road improvements.

As the result of traffic studies, a new traffic signal is proposed for North Country Road. In phase two, Mather/Northwell would complete the interior of their newly expanded surgical department. 

In phase three, Mather/Northwell proposes to expand their main lobby on the south face of the building. If there is an increased need for parking in the future, Mather would build a parking deck over a portion of the existing south-east parking lot as the plan’s phase four.

Phase one’s northern parking expansion is proposed for the northeast corner of the property, where there are currently multiple acres of woodland and walking trails. 

In comments requested by the Planning Board, the Port Jefferson Village Architectural Review Committee suggested that the parking structure — not the expansion of the northern parking lot — should be the first form of parking expansion.

The comments read, “These issues do concern the fabric, both built and natural, which make up the architectural character of a neighborhood. We also wish to state that we do not object, and in fact strongly encourage, the building of a parking structure of the type shown. We suggest that it should be a first strategy, and therefore in lieu of the additional clearing/removal of natural habitat and walking trails which is proposed.” 

In Planning Board work sessions, Mather/Northwell has expressed that they hope not to build the parking structure because of the expense it would add to the project.

At Thursday’s virtual public hearing, viewers will be given a presentation about Mather/Northwell’s master plan and then be able to give comments via Zoom. 

The Zoom meeting link, project map, and more can be found at portjeff.com/virtualmeetings in the Planning Board Materials section. Anyone wishing to submit comments about this project may do so by emailing or sending a letter with comments to Cindy Suarez at the Planning Department, [email protected]

Comments may be received prior to or within 10 days of the Feb. 10 public hearing. The meeting will be recorded and posted to The Village of Port Jefferson’s YouTube channel.

Towards the conclusion of the Feb. 3 Planning Board work session, board Chair Ray DiBiase said, “Let’s see what the public has to say.”

Photo from Northwell Health

Northwell Health announced Jan. 31 that it has begun listing patients who need a lung transplant through the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the final steps toward opening the first lung transplant program serving Long Island and Queens residents.

As the number of New Yorkers requiring a lung transplant have tripled over the last decade, the Northwell Health Transplant Center at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH) launched its program to fill an urgent need. With the addition of lung, NSUH now offers world-class solid organ transplantation services for adult heart, kidney liver and lung. Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park also performs pediatric kidney transplants. There are currently just 73 lung transplant centers in the United States.

Lung transplantation was already expected to grow before the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic left in its wake an entire cohort of survivors whose lungs have been permanently scarred, damaged or otherwise compromised. About 7 percent of lung transplants performed in 2021 were COVID-related. That’s in addition to the fact that Northwell physicians saw a 23 percent increase in patients experiencing lung failure between 2017-19.

“Half of all lung transplant recipients at New York City hospitals traveled from Long Island, Queens, Brooklyn or Staten Island,” said Zachary Kon, MD, surgical director of advanced lung failure and lung transplantation services at Northwell. “It’s important for patients to receive care in the communities where they live. That’s why Northwell being able to offer lung transplantation opens up options for the region and improves quality of life for their entire network of supporters on this life-saving health journey. One expedition is enough.”

The lung transplant program, which has received all necessary regulatory approvals, is the latest addition to an ongoing clinical and capital investment into North Shore University Hospital. The Petrocelli Advanced Surgical Pavilion, a seven-story, 280,000-square-foot building meant to transform the capabilities of the Level I trauma center and teaching hospital, is expected to open in 2023. NSUH is also home to the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital, the Katz Women’s Hospital, neurosurgery, multi-organ transplant services and one of the busiest emergency departments in the New York Metropolitan area.

“Lung transplant is the latest life-changing specialty we’re proud to offer to the communities we serve, and like everything we do at North Shore University Hospital, it will be performed with sophistication and best-in-class care,” said Jon Sendach, executive director of NSUH. “Our reputation already makes us a destination for complex medical procedures and that coordination of care as part of an integrated health system sets us apart.”

NSUH performed Long Island’s first heart transplant in February 2018 and followed up by completing Long Island’s first liver transplant in December 2019.

UNOS is a nonprofit which serves as the nation’s transplant system, overseeing the network of transplant hospitals, organ procurement organizations and thousands of volunteers who are dedicated to honoring the gifts of life entrusted to us and to making lifesaving transplants possible for patients in need.

From left: Dave Bush; trustees Elizabeth Cambria and James Kelly; Christine Berardi of National Grid Foundation; trustees Laura Gerde, Gretchen Oldrin Mones, and Jack DeMasi; and Elizabeth-Wayland Morgan. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum
Century-old estate trail reclaimed, enhanced

William K. Vanderbilt II built a hiking trail in the 1920s on his Eagle’s Nest waterfront estate in Centerport that became overgrown and disappeared into the forest. The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, located at Eagle’s Nest, has reclaimed the trail, and held a grand opening in November. Major project donors and museum trustees attended the event in the Rose Garden, which is also the trailhead.

Now called the Solar System Hiking Trail, the course includes a scale model of the Solar System, which complements STEM and astronomy-education programs offered by the Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium.

“This is a long-awaited day. We are grateful to Christine Berardi and the National Grid Foundation for 10 years of outstanding, unwavering support and to Vanderbilt trustee Laura Gerde and her husband, Eric Gerde. Their ongoing contributions to our STEM programming include the exhibits in the Planetarium lobby. Their steadfast support makes it possible for the Museum to expand its work as a leader in astronomy and science education,” said Elizabeth Wayland-Morgan, executive director of the Vanderbilt Museum.

Other project donors are Marilyn and Russell Albanese, BAE Systems, Farrell Fritz Attorneys, Northwell Health, People’s United Bank, and PFM Asset Management.

Wayland-Morgan said Dave Bush, the director of the Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium, “single-handedly created the Solar System trail — I don’t think there’s a program like this anywhere else.” She also thanked Jim Munson, the museum’s operations supervisor. “Jim noticed portions of the original trail and saw its potential. He said let’s do this.” 

Bush said that scale models of the solar system have been created before at museums, science centers, and universities. “But the Vanderbilt’s trail is likely the only one that traverses a one-mile hiking trail with hundreds of feet in elevation changes,” he said. “It is an opportunity for visitors to learn about the bodies in our solar system and its vast scale, and to see and experience parts of the museum property that have never been seen before by the public.”

Photo from Northwell Health
Workers come in two-hour shifts to provide gifts of joy

With holiday music blasting overhead, dozens of Northwell Health employees gathered together for a marathon gift-wrapping session to ensure that school-age children enjoy a happy holiday season.

“I am so proud of each Northwell employee and all of our community partners who made this joyful event possible,” said Edward Fraser, vice president of Community Relations at Northwell. “Today, literally hundreds of our team members joined together to wrap thousands of gifts for children in the communities we serve. It is our belief that no child should be denied the gift of joy at the holidays.”

Through an on-line platform operated by Northwell’s nonprofit project partner, Supplies for Success, employee donations were used to provide art supplies and other gifts for different age categories. No contribution was too great or too small. And, the results are impressive: more than $40,000 was collected for this worthy cause.

All the wrapped gifts will be distributed to families who cannot afford them in in four Long Island communities (Brentwood, Bay Shore, Freeport, Hempstead) as well as locales in Manhattan, Westchester and Staten Island.

Along with the gift, the final item placed in each bag was a hand-written, holiday message by the staff member who packed it. At the bottom of their bags, students will find such joyful messages as, “Happy holidays,” or simply, “Enjoy!”

The Northwell “elves” who participated in the gift-wrapping marathon, along with Mindy Richenstein, founder and president of Supplies for Success, said that the motto of the day was, “All children deserve the gift of joy at the holidays!”

RN Sandra Lindsay (center) with staff members. Photo from Northwell Health

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine booster shot available to frontline health care workers

More than nine months after she became the first American to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Sandra Lindsay, RN, director of nursing critical care at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center (LIJ), today received a booster shot to increase her immunity against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

RN Sandra Lindsay gets her booster shot. Photo from Northwell Health

Ms. Lindsay enthusiastically held high three fingers moments after Michelle Chester, DNP, director of Northwell Health Employee Health Services, administered the booster shot in front of reporters. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an additional shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on September 22 for those 65 and older, individuals at high risk of severe disease and those whose work may lead to frequent exposure to the virus.

“I am delighted to receive the booster today as yet another chapter in the fight against COVID-19,” said Ms. Lindsay, who was honored by President Joe Biden in a White House ceremony and served as grand marshal of NYC’s Hometown Heroes Parade, both in July. “For me, personally, it’s been an incredible journey and a privilege. It’s my belief that if I can change one person’s mind who is hesitating to become vaccinated and help encourage them to follow the science, it’s been a good day.”

Ms. Lindsay became a household name on December 14, 2020, when she was shown receiving the first Pfizer dose in the United States as part of a video conference call with then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Items used as part of her vaccination were donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

On Wednesday, Ms. Lindsay was back in front of cameras, one of five frontline health care workers who publicly received their booster shot. The others were: Yves Duroseau, MD, chief of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan and the second American vaccinated; Elyse Isopo, NP, North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset; Richard Schwarz, MD, medical director at LIJ; and Andrew Adesman, MD, chief of behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park.

“We are all so proud of each member of our Northwell family who agreed to participate in getting vaccinated to help us fight the battle of this pandemic,” said David Battinelli, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer. “During this year, we saw the true heroism of each member of our staff – doctors, nurses, therapists, dietary, environmental services – all doing their best to fight this unknown disease, at their own risk. During this last year-and-a-half, we truly saw fear morph into courage. And now, after this most difficult year, we are delighted to be able to offer our team members a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine. We urge everyone to follow the science and get their booster shot when they become eligible.”

Northwell Health, the largest health system and private employer in New York State, announced on Monday that its staff is now 100 percent vaccinated, in compliance with New York State Governor Kathy Hochul’s mandate that all health care workers be vaccinated.