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When New York City Mayor Eric Adams replaced the city’s battle-tested COVID-19 defender, Dr. Dave Chokshi, with then-Fountain House president and Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health professor Dr. Ashwin Vasan in March as the city’s health commissioner, it signaled the administration wanted to put the pandemic in the rearview and prioritize other aspects of public health. The coronavirus had other plans. As the “tripledemic” circulated in December, Vasan advised New Yorkers to wear masks on transit and indoors. The mental health leader, who previously served on City & State’s advisory board, will also help carry out the mayor’s hospitalization directive for some homeless New Yorkers, which is facing legal challenges.
With the unexpected resignation of state Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett this month, Angela Profeta and Jihoon Kim are crafting the state’s public health policies while Gov. Kathy Hochul searches for a permanent replacement. Profeta, a Columbia Mailman School of Public Health professor, managed an urgent care network before joining the Executive Chamber in March 2021. Kim worked in the state attorney general and governor’s offices as a key mental health adviser before becoming deputy secretary in November 2021. He currently co-chairs an advisory council which aims to cut child poverty in half over the next decade.
Last December, Anne Williams-Isom joined an exalted sisterhood of public sector executives when New York City Mayor Eric Adams named her a deputy mayor. Tasked with guiding the city’s pandemic response, the Queens native encouraged New Yorkers to vaccinate and test frequently as flu, respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, and COVID-19 struck over the holidays. Williams-Isom has been responsible for providing resources for asylum-seekers, including a child care subsidy for migrant families, and overhauling the city’s child welfare system. But her toughest challenge may be crafting the city’s involuntary hospitalization order – and selling it to a skeptical public.
Gustavo Rivera, the independent-minded Bronx senator, found himself gerrymandered out of his district in February. When the lines were finalized in May, he was forced to move and still faced a primary opponent backed by Bronx Democratic Party leaders. But Rivera counted support from unions and eked out a win by a few hundred votes. The progressive lawmaker has continued to fight for universal health care via the pending New York Health Act, his top legislative priority. Assembly Member Amy Paulin, a Westchester lawmaker who’s one of the most prolific legislators in Albany, is succeeding the retired Richard Gottfried as chair of the Assembly Health Committee.
Private hospitals have struggled with staffing shortages and rising debts since the start of the pandemic, and Kenneth Raske is making sure policymakers deal with the crisis. The hospital lobbyist worked with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to get the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse medical centers $250 million for emergency expenses and is pushing the Hochul administration to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates. Raske has also had to fend off a 32BJ SEIU campaign for New York City to rein in hospital prices after the union found private hospitals charged double what public hospitals charged for multiple procedures.
New York City’s massive public hospital system NYC Health + Hospitals, which discharged 116,000 patients and managed 273,000 emergency room visits since March 2020, marked its two-year pandemic anniversary by opening its third clinic for long-term COVID-19 patients. The health systems’ board also reconfirmed Dr. Mitchell Katz, who closed a $2 billion deficit and kept its hospitals afloat, as president and CEO. Now Katz and José Pagán, who was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in October, are focused on COVID-19 testing and bivalent vaccinations as hospitals are swarmed with “tripledemic” patients. Katz is also working closely with the city to treat homeless patients.
Unlike other hospital executives, Michael Dowling was unafraid of letting a documentary film crew witness Northwell Health’s pandemic response. The result enhanced the public’s understanding of COVID-19’s dangers, the heroism of its front-line workers and trust in the hospital’s ability to handle a crisis. Dowling has also been at the forefront of maximizing technology to reduce documentation time and framing gun violence as a public health issue by launching an advocacy campaign and hosting a forum on the topic in December. Last year, Modern Healthcare named Dowling the nation’s most influential health care leader.
The end of the year marked Dr. Mary Bassett’s return to academia, with the state Department of Health launching a national search to fill the commissioner vacancy. In the interim, James McDonald has come on as the agency’s acting commissioner and will oversee efforts to protect the health and wellbeing of New York’s 19 million residents. McDonald arrived from the Rhode Island Department of Health, where he oversaw the exit of its COVID-19 state of emergency and a successful litigation against parties that played a role in the opioid epidemic.
The coronavirus pandemic may have receded as a disruptive force in society, but its impact is still reverberating across the medical field – and not just the hundreds of deaths tallied each day and thousands of hospitalizations, but also an ongoing revolt among rank-and-file staffers demanding better working conditions.
In New York, the dynamic has given a boost to labor leaders seeking policy changes, including some that their unions have wanted for years.
George Gresham, the influential leader of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, was a strong supporter of the state’s Health Care and Mental Hygiene Worker Bonus program that was launched last summer, providing recruitment and retention bonuses to qualifying staffers in a bid to boost a medical workforce plagued by burnout. Gresham, who was reelected president in June, also teamed up with state Attorney General Letitia James in a push for stronger protections for nursing home workers. His union has also urged the New York City Council to amend a bill banning 24-hour home care worker shifts, arguing that language in the measure capping hours at 50 per week would limit overtime earnings.
Meanwhile, nursing unions have been taking their battles directly to the state’s big hospital systems by going on strike and are finding considerable success. The New York State Nurses Association, led by President Nancy Hagans and Executive Director Pat Kane, has been sounding the alarm over staffing shortages and poor working conditions that were exacerbated during the pandemic. Although Gov. Kathy Hochul is taking steps to increase the state’s workforce, nursing union leaders have blamed hospitals for burning out its workforce and failing to hire enough nurses. Earlier this month, thousands of New York City nurses went on strike for three days – and reached tentative agreements with Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. NYSNA also has called on Hochul to sign mandatory overtime legislation.
The Communications Workers of America, led in New York by Dennis Trainor, also notched key victories for nurses in western New York in late 2021, following a monthlong strike at Catholic Health’s Mercy, St. Joseph’s and Kenmore Mercy hospitals. This past fall, CWA Local 1168 and 1199SEIU reached another agreement with Kaleida Health, another major health care provider in western New York.
Another powerful union, 32BJ SEIU, which now has Manny Pastreich at the helm following the retirement of Kyle Bragg, is also taking New York’s powerful hospital systems. Pastreich is part of a campaign to require hospitals to be more transparent about their pricing, and he has teamed up with New York City Council Member Julie Menin on pending legislation that would increase oversight of the sector.
Dr. Frank Proscia, president of Doctors Council, has stood up for physicians as the pandemic overwhelmed hospitals and created extremely stressful conditions. The psychiatrist-trained SEIU leader has found success mobilizing a younger generation of physicians, who are more sympathetic to unions and are paid less than their older peers. This winter, Proscia has been supporting hospital nurses who have been striking for improved wages, safe staffing ratios and maintaining health benefits.
Medical residents in training have also experienced some recent success. The Committee of Interns and Residents, led by Dr. Lorenzo González, saw its members were initially left out of the New York State Health Care and Mental Hygiene Worker Bonus program, but lobbied successfully for them to be included.
At the height of the pandemic, NewYork-Presbyterian had 2,600 patients and went through 100,000 masks a day. Dr. Steven J. Corwin helped the hospital system withstand multiple COVID-19 surges by increasing its intensive care unit capacity, paying for 3,000 hotel rooms and food for workers’ extended families, and stockpiling protective equipment. As the crisis eased, the hospital expanded its heart transplant program and embarked on a collaboration with Cornell University to use artificial intelligence technology. Corwin earned $10.7 million in 2020 and $12.4 million last year, making him New York City’s highest-paid hospital executive.
Under Dr. Kenneth Davis and Margaret Pastuszko’s leadership, Mount Sinai Health System has been recognized as among the world’s best hospitals for geriatrics, cardiology, neurology and several other specialties. Davis, whose term as CEO has been extended through 2024, is in the middle of a $2 billion capital campaign enhancing Mount Sinai’s facilities, research and patient care. Pastuszko, who was appointed president in 2021, led new partnerships last summer to offer home health and palliative care services as well as children’s health services in New Jersey and emergency care in Staten Island.
The Brooklyn health care leader ensured her patients maintained a healthy lifestyle beyond her hospitals’ walls thanks to several partnerships. Through the state’s Vital Brooklyn Initiative, LaRay Brown helped complete an $82 million supportive housing complex in Brownsville while starting another $50 million development at a former Brookdale Hospital site. She also opened a Flatbush Avenue medical facility and later supported the mayor’s $44 million lifestyle medicine campaign. In addition to the “tripledemic,” One Brooklyn Health grappled with a cyberattack that forced three hospitals to revert to paper charts.
The current New York City Council class has now been in place for a year, and key members who took office in 2022 are starting to make their mark. Queens Council Member Lynn Schulman, who chairs the Health Committee, built on her LGBTQ activism by pushing last summer for an improved response to monkeypox, which disproportionately infected men who have sex with men. She also championed a maternal bill of rights law and the QueensWay park that won a first round of funding. Manhattan Council Member Julie Menin has teamed up with labor unions on a high-profile push to require hospitals to be more transparent about medical costs and increase governmental oversight. The chair of the Hospitals Committee is Mercedes Narcisse, a Brookyn lawmaker and registered nurse who has drawn attention to nurse staffing shortages – and has backed nurses who are on strike largely over current staffing levels. Queens Council Member Linda Lee helped create the first state-licensed mental health clinic for the Korean American community through her work at Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York before joining the council, where she now chairs the Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction Committee.
The state’s official health plan marketplace is New York State of Health, which was launched in 2012 under the federal Affordable Care Act and coordinates health coverage for over 6 million New Yorkers – a dramatic increase over the decade it’s been in existence. Serving as executive director since the fall of 2021, when she took over for Donna Frescatore, Danielle Holahan continues the mission to expand the organization’s footprint and increase access to coverage. Holahan has spent over a decade at the marketplace, coming aboard during its early planning stages.
The Rensselaer-based lobbyist has been drawing attention to hospitals’ financial woes as they grapple with the pandemic’s prolonged effects. Bea Grause pushed lawmakers to invest in new health care workers in the state budget. But by the end of the year, Grause warned that 3 in 5 hospitals had a negative operating margin due to workforce shortages and delivery costs while 49% cut services, according to a Health Care Association of New York State report. Some hospitals have also faced low patient safety grades, although Grause said they were working under federal and state oversight.
As the state’s Medicaid director, Amir Bassiri runs a joint federal-state program that serves some 7.7 million low-income New Yorkers, more than half of them in New York City. Bassiri, who works under the state health commissioner, is overseeing efforts to expand and ensure everyone who’s eligible retains their coverage. Bassiri recently announced a new plan to address systemic inequities in health care that include statewide telehealth infrastructure and intermediate housing services for people at risk of being institutionalized, which would require a Medicaid waiver.
The pandemic overshadowed a silent epidemic of substance abuse and mental illness that afflicted communities across the state. Office of Mental Health Commissioner Ann Marie Sullivan has sought to expand mental health services for college students by using community providers and working with New York City as it shapes its involuntary hospitalization policy. Office of Addiction Services and Supports Commissioner Chinazo Cunningham is requiring colleges to supply naloxone, opened a new treatment center in Brentwood and is managing the disbursement of harm reduction funds from the state’s landmark opioid settlement, which should be out in the coming weeks.
New York has emerged as a leader in tackling mental health, thanks in part to the chairs of the mental health committees in both houses of the state Legislature. State Sen. Samra Brouk and Assembly Member Aileen Gunther saw significant increases in mental health spending in last year’s budget. Brouk was a driving force behind New York’s 988 mental health support line, along with a $35 million package to fund and staff the service. Gunther is a leading advocate for equipping public education systems with resources to address students’ mental health needs.
The New York Health Plan Association, which represents managed health care plans in the state, has fended off repeated efforts to pass the New York Health Act, a single-payer measure that it argues would raise taxes and reduce the quality of care. The organization’s leadership, including Eric Linzer and Leslie Moran, are also grappling with COVID-19, rising medical costs and soaring inflation, which have resulted in insurers seeking rate increases. The organization also got lawmakers to expand coverage for undocumented individuals last year, but resolving a pay dispute with home health aides, reckoning with a therapist shortage and taming long COVID-19 costs remain ongoing challenges.
Wendy Stark, a longtime champion of bodily autonomy and health care, is determined to expand equitable access to sexual and reproductive health services and abortion care as president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York. The former Callen-Lorde leader joined the health care provider and educator following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last summer. Under Stark’s leadership, PPGNY has brought fully integrated HIV health care and preventative services to the South Bronx and won against anti-abortion extremists in defense of safe abortion access to Planned Parenthood health centers in New York and across the country.
When Kerri Neifeld came aboard as acting commissioner of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities a year ago, she vowed to focus on stabilizing the disabled community’s support workforce with more resources. After she was officially confirmed in March, Neifeld joined the governor’s office on an $82 million supportive housing development in Brownsville and a $1.2 billion project in East New York and helped make Willowbrook, Staten Island, more accessible with a new sidewalk.
Dr. Robert Grossman’s decision five years ago to offer free tuition for the NYU School of Medicine’s students sent shockwaves through higher education and changed priorities for future doctors. In order to afford the tuition relief, Grossman, who is also dean of the school, had to grow the medical school’s endowment from $10 million to half a billion dollars. The school has since been renamed in Grossman’s honor. In 2022, NYU Langone ranked tops for patient care out of 100 academic medical centers, although some doctors complain that its emergency department gives special treatment to VIPs.
After a three-year stint as MetroPlusHealth’s chief medical officer, Dr. Talya Schwartz became CEO of the official insurance plan of NYC Health + Hospitals in 2019. Schwartz focused on providing holistic care and accounting for social determinants of health, which helped expand its membership by 35% to 675,000 New Yorkers. MetroPlusHealth achieved a five-star rating from the state Department of Health and a four-star rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for providing comprehensive coverage during the pandemic. Last fall, Schwartz led a rebrand reflecting MetroPlusHealth’s mission to provide affordable care.
Laura Kavanagh in October was appointed commissioner of the New York City Fire Department, becoming the first woman named to the post after spending months leading the department in an interim capacity. As FDNY commissioner, she oversees a $2 billion budget and 17,000 employees – including thousands of EMTs and paramedics who are dedicated to protecting the lives and health of New Yorkers. Kavanagh’s appointment was applauded by the union representing EMTs, although she’s facing a nationwide EMT shortage and a pay equity lawsuit filed by FDNY emergency medical services workers.
With one-fifth of New Yorkers, including a third of New York City’s Medicaid patients, under Healthfirst, Patricia Wang understands the enormous responsibility of maintaining a strong safety net for the city’s most vulnerable residents. In 2021, Healthfirst released a roadmap designed to close gaps in care and led to a new initiative for moms at risk for postpartum complications. Wang was appointed in May to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Community Advisory Group, and she was recognized by Modern Healthcare as a top industry diversity leader five months later.
When Dr. Philip Ozuah joined Montefiore three years ago, he set out to provide excellent coverage for an historically underserved population. That takes resources, so Ozuah hauled in $3.35 million in federal funding for a school health program, $11 million to develop an Alzheimer’s screening tool and a $5.2 million grant to study heart failure. He has worked with City Hall too, partnering on a lifestyle medicine training program, although staff shortages and an overburdened psych unit could make it difficult to enforce the New York City mayor’s involuntary hospitalization order. Ozuah is currently grappling with a nursing strike affecting seven hospitals.
After a decade in the southeastern U.S., the Long Island native returned home in November to lead UnitedHealthcare of New York in the place where he started his career. Junior Harewood succeeded longtime CEO Michael McGuire, who retired, and is embracing 21st century technology like smartphones, telehealth and virtual care to lower out-of-pocket costs and make access to care easier. Minnesota-based UnitedHealth Group is sitting on a trove of claims data too after acquiring Change Healthcare, helping it gain an edge over its rivals by improving its benefit design.
Known for helping to pass Obamacare, the former health insurance lobbyist has been running one of the country’s largest nonprofit insurers since 2015. Karen Ignagni sought partnerships with HealthReveal, a startup that aggregates medical research and best practices for doctors, and Cityblock Health, which supports healthy lifestyles in low-income communities. The pandemic convinced Ignagni to embrace telehealth medicine and a value-based model of care instead of its current fee-for-service. But keeping an exhausted public engaged with preventative public health practices will be an ongoing challenge, according to an EmblemHealth survey.
When the state passed minimum staffing requirements for nursing homes in 2021, James Clyne Jr. scrambled to ensure facilities were ready for the new law. But many nursing homes could not provide 3 1/2 hours of care per resident because of staffing shortages, and 80 nursing homes sued in May. Clyne, who represents over 600 nursing home operators and other members, noted that 6,700 beds remained empty statewide and nursing homes could not lure workers despite offering sign-on bonuses. By December, the state approved new regulations allowing nursing homes to apply for waivers if they couldn’t add enough workers.
David Sandman wants to see the state achieve better health care outcomes by spending more in preventative care. At a budget hearing last February, the foundation leader told legislators the state should look at other Northeast states’ investments as models, and lawmakers voted to establish a primary care reform commission as a result – although the governor vetoed the measure. Sandman’s foundation also helped New York City launch a Food for Health produce prescription pilot program for Queens families in June and funded a shared decision-making initiative for patients of color in December.
The pandemic prompted Karen Lynch to reevaluate CVS Health’s role within the health care industry. She moved to remodel 10% of the company’s 9,000 stores as hubs offering disease management and in some, mental health counseling. In 2021, Lynch unveiled a strategy to shift into the primary care business by purchasing physician practices and utilizing its existing network of pharmacies and Aetna health insurance. In September, CVS purchased Signify Health, a home health care company, for $8 billion as Lynch vowed to acquire a stake in a primary care company by the end of 2022.
Kenneth Gibbs guided Brooklyn’s largest hospital through the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, and is continuing to manage the fallout. Among the challenges are the financial struggles many safety-net hospitals are facing and a “Save Maimonides” campaign that has called for reforms and leadership changes – although the group behind it has also come under scrutiny. Yet the hospital just recently averted a strike by reaching an agreement with its nurses, and it touts the development of several significant capital and strategic initiatives, opening a new Multispecialty Pavilion
In September, Dr. Selwyn Vickers left the University of Alabama at Birmingham to lead the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The institution, based in Manhattan with outposts elsewhere in the borough and in Long Island, Westchester County and New Jersey, is ranked among the top cancer hospitals in the nation. Vickers, who helped develop an injectable cancer drug, has also weighed in on local issues, such as backing the Adams administration’s embrace of lifestyle medicine, and national matters, including offering support for the Biden administration’s “cancer moonshot” initiative.
Gov. Kathy Hochul delayed a law ordering nursing homes to spend 70% of their revenue on direct care and care for residents 3 1/2 hours each day after Stephen Hanse and 250 operators sued to block it. Hanse argued that the law violated the state constitution while noting there weren’t enough health care workers to meet the requirements. He was more complimentary of a new law requiring nursing homes to inform residents when an infection is detected and a state initiative awarding $3,000 bonuses to health care workers.
Urban Health Plan’s Paloma Izquierdo-Hernandez has steadily grown the organization from a one-site community health center to one of the largest community health center systems in New York state. It serves residents of Central Harlem, Corona, Queens and the Bronx, where it has its roots, and is an economic engine that has contributed to the resurgence of growth and development in the community. Izquierdo-Hernandez was an honorary king in El Museo Del Barrio’s Three Kings Day Parade and sits on numerous boards, including as board chair-elect of the National Association of Community Health Centers.
Community health centers, which provide 1 in 9 New Yorkers with medical care, lost millions of dollars during the pandemic as visits declined. Rose Duhan, who represents 70 clinics, said the centers couldn’t manage patients’ care on-site and that telehealth doesn’t work for some specialists. The centers have since tapped into a federal drug pricing program to offset costs but could lose $100 million after the state eliminated a Medicaid pharmacy carve-out. Duhan wants the governor to delay the policy for two years and figure out a solution so clinics won’t have to close.
When the New York Blood Center wanted to demolish its three-story building and build a 16-story research tower on East 67th Street, residents and a New York City Council member objected. But Dr. Christopher D. Hillyer outmaneuvered his opponents, with help from key allies, to convince other New York City Council members to make the rare move to buck member deference. The City Council approved the new tower in November 2021, and a judge dismissed a neighborhood group’s lawsuit against the rezoning in August.
After lobbying the state for years to legalize recreational marijuana, Kassandra Frederique achieved a breakthrough when lawmakers and the governor approved the use and sale of cannabis in March 2021. Now the drug reform advocate has focused on decriminalizing drugs while also expanding access to health services and calling for the legal regulation of illicit substances to reduce drug overdoses and deaths. In October, Frederique cheered President Joe Biden’s federal pardons for marijuana possession, calling the move “long overdue.”
Despite a national search for a new leader for the United Hospital Fund, the New York City-based organization didn’t have to look far. Dr. Oxiris Barbot, who in September became the first woman to lead the fund since its founding in 1879, previously served as New York City health commissioner. Barbot, who succeeded Dr. Anthony Shih, remains outspoken on behalf of vulnerable New Yorkers: She clashed with her boss, then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, over his approach to the coronavirus pandemic and recently scrutinized Mayor Eric Adams’ involuntary hospitalization plan for homeless New Yorkers.
Darsana Srinivasan joined the state attorney general’s office less than two years ago, and she has already obtained refunds for pharmacy customers wrongfully charged for COVID-19 vaccines, urged Google to revise its search results concerning abortion providers and reached a $13 million agreement with UnitedHealthcare to pay consumers illegally denied mental health coverage. James Sheehan, as head of the office’s Charities Bureau, secured the conviction of a Syracuse-based nonprofit leader for embezzling $650,000 in Medicaid funds and reached a settlement with the Diocese of Buffalo for mishandling child sexual abuse cases.
When the state budget passed last spring, Kathy Febraio was concerned that a modest bump in pay for home care workers ($3 per hour above the minimum wage) would not be enough and that there was no Medicaid reimbursement rate link. Febraio also denounced the Hochul administration’s exclusion of home care workers from its $1.2 billion bonus program for health care workers. And she noted that workers haven’t been receiving the wage boosts they were promised because insurance companies aren’t abiding by the updated reimbursement rate.
Office workers have vacated midtown Manhattan during the pandemic, but Alan Murray helped buck that trend when he opened Empire BlueCross’s new headquarters at PENN 1 in May. Murray announced the availability of virtual primary care services giving customers who may be working from home more flexibility for medical care. In June, Murray began leading a team focused on improving the health outcomes of students and labor groups by designing specialized health plans for them. Empire BlueCross BlueShield is part of Elevance Health, which changes its name from Anthem last summer.
The Medical Society of the State of New York is a professional organization representing over 30,000 licensed physicians, medical residents and students. Dr. Parag Mehta, who succeeded Dr. Joseph R. Sellers as president after his election in May, is the chief medical information officer at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital and previously served as president of the Kings County Medical Society. His current organization has been contending with physician burnout and federal Medicare cuts.
Three years after breaking ground, Michael Israel celebrated the opening of Kingston’s HealthAlliance Hospital in December. The 79,000-square-foot facility, which cost $113 million to renovate, features a 25,000-square-foot emergency center, intensive care unit, and family birthing center that has already welcomed two babies since it opened. Israel also formed a partnership with Royal Philips to provide new imaging and telehealth technologies, expediting a $135 million project to shift surgical and imaging care to the new Kingston campus while turning the older Broadway hospital into a “walkable medical village.”
In September, Dr. Dennis P. McKenna announced Albany Med Health System – the largest and busiest hospital system in the Albany area, with over 100 locations in 25 counties – would launch a new logo for its hospitals and medical college and implement an electronic health record system for its health system. The rebranding occurred as Albany Med laid off 37 workers and restructured its leadership amid $66 million in operating losses. McKenna is also contending with a lawsuit claiming racial and political bias after a community activist was fired in March.
When Catholic Health CEO Alan Guerci retired in April 2021, Patrick O’Shaughnessy was a shoo-in to replace him. The longtime executive vice president, who was unanimously chosen by his board, helped the Catholic institution break ground on a $17 million, 63,000 square-foot urgent and primary care center in Centereach, New York, in June and led a rebranding of Good Samaritan Hospital in October, reaffirming its commitment to residency programs. O’Shaughnessy was also appointed to an economic development panel that will determine where state business aid will be disbursed on Long Island.
Under Candace Johnson’s leadership, Roswell Park has added beds after its patient population grew 46% while revenues rose to more than $1 billion. Last year, she led construction on its $23 million campus in Amherst and then broke ground on a new community engagement center in October. Roswell reported progress in reducing cancer’s impact thanks to its outreach and access to screenings. It’s also rated as one of the best places to work in the state.
Tom Halloran leads Fidelis Care, a health insurance company providing coverage to over 2.5 million New Yorkers with offices in New York City, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo. Fidelis works with local partners to reach residents across the state, covering 1 in 9 New York residents. It also has one of the biggest state contracts, a $7 billion, five-year contract with the state Department of Health to provide coverage through the state’s Essential Plan marketplace. Fidelis Care, which is part of Centene Corporation, rebranded its Medicare Advantage and Dual Advantage plans as Wellcare By Fidelis Care last year.
Michael Balboni brings 25 years of experience in government to leading the Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association, from political and government relations to labor negotiations to daily operations. Balboni, who represents nursing home operators in the New York City area, was named to Mayor Eric Adams’ COVID-19 Recovery Roundtable and Health Equity Task Force in February. That same month, he applauded the Hochul administration for reversing a COVID-19 booster shot requirement for health care workers, a move he said would ease the staffing crisis.
The community development leader has argued that governments must invest more in primary care to close the racial health equity gap as the pandemic revealed long-standing disparities in health coverage. Louise Cohen helped secure a $40 million commitment in June from Bank of America to finance the development and growth of community health centers across the country. But she was dismayed that Gov. Kathy Hochul vetoed legislation that would have created a primary care commission and helped the state determine a baseline for preventative care funding.
Albany’s most prominent government and health care lobbyist will have a busy agenda this year as the health sector seeks to boost spending at the state level while grappling with issues like drug pricing and other health care policies. Harold Iselin has been prepared for the extra work, adding 14 people to his government law and policy practice since 2020, not including former state Sen. Todd Kaminsky and former state health department executive Randi Imbriaco. Among his firm’s clients are NYU Langone, Centene Corporation and the Community Health Care Association of New York State.
The Delmar-based lobbyist once wrote many of the state’s most impactful and complex health care laws, including hospital reimbursement methodology, the Health Care Reform Act, the Early Intervention program, and the Medicaid budget when he was a top aide to the Assembly speaker. Tom Connoly had stints with the influential Greater New York Hospital Association and the Healthcare Association for New York State and led Connolly Government Relations before joining the firm Bolton-St. Johns, where he’s the team’s top health care lobbyist.
Lisa David has been relentless in ensuring vulnerable New Yorkers have the resources they need to live healthy lives. During the pandemic, she helped clients enroll in insurance programs virtually and kept WIC centers open so women could access critical services. David saved two reproductive health clinics from closure when a state budget proposal slashed $1.8 million in funding in 2021, and she celebrated the opening of a new WIC center in the Bronx. But she warned blue states must increase funding for reproductive services if they want to become abortion safe havens.
At the Community Service Society, Elisabeth Ryder Benjamin oversees programs that help over 100,000 New Yorkers enroll in health insurance plans or access low-cost coverage. The health policy advocate has also authored several publications, including a report on how nonprofit hospitals sued 53,000 patients over outstanding medical bills between 2015 and 2020, and a brief that profiled Upstate University Hospital’s debt collection efforts against 1,500 patients, more than any other hospital in the state. Benjamin’s work inspired a new state rule that protected consumers from surprise medical bills.
The New York eHealth Collaborative partners with the state Department of Health to run the Statewide Health Information Network for New York, or SHIN-NY (and pronounced “shiny”), a data-sharing health information exchange that’s linked up with every single hospital in the state. Last year, David Horrocks was named CEO of the nonprofit collaborative, which has been credited with reducing hospital readmissions, avoiding duplicative imaging and saving millions of dollars. Horrocks, who succeeded Valerie Grey, previously ran Maryland’s health information exchange.
The New York Academy of Medicine ushered in the new year by welcoming Ann Kurth as its president, who is continuing the institution’s efforts to challenge health inequities and craft policy initiatives to improve public health. Kurth, who succeeds Dr. Judith Salerno, was previously dean at the Yale School of Nursing and a professor of epidemiology of microbial diseases at the Yale School of Public Health. Her prior experience includes research on health areas that affect disadvantaged communities, such as reproductive health and climate change, receiving funds from the likes of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Known for its battle against HIV/AIDS, its thrift stores and a SoHo bookstore, Housing Works can now add New York’s first legal weed store to its list. Charles King was awarded a recreational marijuana license in November with a plan to turn a former Gap into a 4,400-square-foot dispensary that sells products from LGBTQ- and women-led cannabis brands and hire formerly incarcerated individuals. When the store opened on December 29, the line wrapped around the block. King is aiming for $1 million in sales in 2023.
Even though new HIV cases have declined 76% since 2001, Guillermo Chacón has continued to promote AIDS education and safe sex among the Latino community, which is still grappling with high infection rates. His nonprofit has partnered with Morgan Stanley to study how to offer primary care services through its community center. Chacón’s AIDS work was recognized by President Joe Biden, who appointed him to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, and by New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who added him to the city’s Procurement Policy Board in December.
In the fall of 2021, veteran health care executive Jack Stephenson was named plan president of Molina Healthcare of New York. The California-based company, which has 5.1 million members nationwide, has a growing footprint in New York, with acquisitions of YourCare, Senior Whole Health, and Affinity in recent years. It also has a $900 million state Department of Health contract to provide insurance with New York’s Essential Health Plan. In February, Stephenson was named to New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ COVID-19 Recovery Roundtable and Health Equity Task Force.
Celebrities, NFL players and patients from across the United States and more than 80 other countries have sought care at the Hospital for Special Surgery – and for good reason. Louis Shapiro has piloted the Upper East Side medical center to become the top-ranked hospital for orthopedics and third-ranked hospital for rheumatology, according to U.S. News & World Report. In October, HSS raised $21 million to launch a new company offering virtual musculoskeletal physical therapy to all Americans. The following month, Shapiro expanded the hospital’s reach into South Florida with a collaboration with Naples’ NCH Healthcare System.
Not long after he was promoted to become CEO of Healthix in 2019, Todd Rogow orchestrated a merger with the New York Care Information Gateway that established the combined company as the largest health information exchange network in the nation. In April, Rogow collaborated with Hixny, another New York-based health exchange, to release a new app that quickly shows doctors a snapshot of patient vital records without having to log into their health exchange portals. Healthix now works with about 8,000 health care facilities across New York and Long Island – and manages records for more than 20 million people.
Stephen Ferrara is a leading proponent of expanding the responsibilities of nurse practitioners, which have additional training and are allowed to provide more specialized care. Ferrara, a nurse practitioner himself, led the Nurse Practitioner Association New York State in its successful campaign to secure permanent full practice authority in primary care for nurse practitioners. Ferrara has since left the NPA and is now president-elect of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
The State University of New York public health leader has been a persistent public voice about the effects of racial disparities in health care that the pandemic starkly revealed. Dr. Kitaw Demissie warned that new COVID-19 variants would spread more quickly in Black neighborhoods because vaccination rates remained stubbornly low there. And he observed that household crowding likely contributed to high infection rates in Latino communities. Last fall, Demissie recommended public schools test students frequently and stagger class changes and for nursing homes to prioritize vaccinating their residents.
As the largest nonprofit physician-led network in the city, Somos Community Care administered over 1.5 million vaccines and food for close to 2 million patients throughout the pandemic. Leading the helm is board chair and founder Dr. Ramon Tallaj, who has served as co-chair on New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ COVID-19 Recovery Roundtable and Health Equity Task Force. Somos’ president, Dr. Henry Chen, has also founded various health care and physician organizations dedicated to bringing together Chinese American physicians.
Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of New York State represents the beneficiaries of the services provided by home health aides, with Bryan O’Malley at the organization’s helm. O’Malley’s has overseen the expansion and protection of the rights of those using Medicaid’s Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program. The organization also advocates for home health care providers, drafting a 2021 statewide report about the detrimental impact of low wages they receive through the program.
C. Virginia Fields took the reins of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS in 2008, after a remarkable career in New York City politics. The former Manhattan borough president’s health organization rebranded as the National Black Leadership Commission on Health in 2019 – and is now also known simply as Black Health – to target broader health issues that plague Black communities. In December, she applauded the Adams administration for its partnership with the American College of Lifestyle Medicine to provide health care practitioners with nutrition and lifestyle medicine training.
As president and CEO of the Home Care Association of New York State, Al Cardillo is calling for a reevaluation of the New York Independent Assessor Medicaid program, citing disparities between patients and independent assessors, and the program’s outdated projections, which predate the pandemic. Cardillo, who was appointed president and CEO in 2018, brings experience in the home care field spanning four decades. The home care association is focused on strengthening its workforce, investing in home care organizations and improving patient care.
Dan Savitt heads up VNS Health, formerly the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, which is one of the country’s biggest nonprofit home and community-based health care providers. Last year, Savitt directed a rebranding of the 130-year old company as part of plans for an out-of-state expansion. The health care CEO, who previously served as executive vice president and chief financial officer of the company, was among those who pushed successfully for the federal government and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to reverse cuts to Medicare pay supporting home health care in 2023.
Thomas Quatroche’s extensive experience in management, strategic planning and marketing in higher education and health care have prepared him to manage nearly 4,000 staff members at Erie County Medical Center, where he’s spent almost two decades leading the hospital that serves eight counties of Western New York. Under his leadership the hospital, which led vaccination efforts across the region, recently saw its medical rehab unit rank above the top 20 national trauma programs for case complexity and patient outcomes.
When the pandemic exposed the dire need for mental health services, Matt Kudish stepped up. Kudish, who has served as executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City since 2017, expanded resources at his NAMI chapter in the face of growing mental health challenges. Kudish also crafted culturally responsive support programs for marginalized groups and shifted to a virtual platform during the COVID-19 lockdown. More recently, he has applauded the Adams administration for tackling mental health, but questioned the city’s involuntary hospitalization plan.
When the Mental Health Association in New York State was founded in 1960, it was a response to cruel practices by asylums on mentally ill patients. Today, it counts 26 affiliates across the state and advocates for legislation and mental health training in education. The organization, an affiliate of Mental Health America, is led by Glenn Liebman and Melissa Ramirez. In June, the association received $1 million from the state Office of Mental Health to run Youth Mental Health First Aid training to adults who hold occupations working with young people.
When Eleonora Tornatore-Mikesh trained as an aging and dementia specialist at the start of her career, she didn’t know she would be back, nearly 25 years later, to head the same organization. Prior to her return, Tornatore-Mikesh implemented statewide dementia training in over 140 facilities as CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association Connecticut chapter and is working toward reducing the disease’s stigma. She’s also currently working with development initiative Latina Empire to help educate Hispanic families whose loved ones are more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease.
Michael Rosenblut has run a tight ship for the past 20 years as leader of the Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation, which has undergone myriad updates and upgrades during his tenure. The health care and rehabilitation center rolled out a robust vaccination program in partnership with Walgreens and weathered the worst days of the pandemic while keeping the Parker community updated on COVID-19 protocols. Rosenblut also serves as founder and board chair of AgeWell New York and as president and CEO of the Queens-Long Island Renal Institute.
Lauren Tobias and Neil Benjamin are advocating for health care clients at the highest-grossing lobbying firm in Albany, Brown & Weinraub. Benjamin brings experience dealing with health care crises, having spent over 30 years at the state Department of Health, where he most recently served as director of the Division of Health Facility Planning. Tobias navigated pandemic relief efforts as the director of the Division of Family Health at the state agency and recently helped develop a model law addressing the opioid overdose crisis.
Ostroff Associates is a Top 10 lobbying firm in New York state, thanks in large part to the expertise and experience of staffers like Elizabeth Misa and Jessica Morelli, who counsel clients in the health care sphere. Misa deals with legislative and regulatory matters on behalf of hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and other clients, and is poised to tackle reimbursement reform and the 1115 Medicaid waiver this session. Morelli handles health policy and funding all across the state and is helping to develop regional policies and financing mechanisms for rural and safety net hospitals, among other clients.
The Iroquois Healthcare Association represents more than 50 health systems spread across 32 counties in New York, with a name that reflects both the tribes that lived in the upstate region and the effective alliance they formed centuries ago. At the helm of the association since 1996, Gary Fitzgerald has fought to keep health care institutions afloat, pressing politicians to invest in the sector as hospital systems and workforces are strained by the triple disease threat seen this winter.
Sarah Ravenhall runs the New York State Association of County Health Officials and is its point person on all advocacy issues with the state Legislature and governor’s office. As head lobbyist for the organization, her efforts to distribute COVID-19 vaccines have shifted to the push for polio and flu vaccinations that the group is co-sponsoring a campaign on. Ravenhall also serves on the state Cannabis Advisory Board assisting marijuana regulators and helping communities that faced heavy enforcement of marijuana charges.
As president and CEO of Amida Care since 2006, Doug Wirth heads the leading HIV/AIDS prevention and care organization in New York. The nonprofit serves 8,500 people, including many relying on Medicaid and people experiencing homelessness. Wirth – a longtime policy adviser for the state, has advocated for people living with HIV, spearheading efforts to increase outpatient care, reduce hospital admissions and readmissions and push for the use of more PrEP, or preexposure prophylaxis, to largely decrease HIV transmission risk.
Kimberly Williams has served in various roles, including mental health advocate, administrator, educator, and consultant, in her climb from intern to president and CEO of Vibrant Emotional Health. She recently advocated for policy changes to improve mental health services for older adults and oversees major programs including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s mental health hotline. Williams serves on the New York State Health Foundation’s Community Advisory Committee and the National Coalition on Mental Health and Aging.
As president and CEO since 2018, Mark A. Sullivan has expanded the reach of Catholic Health, both through construction projects and new partnerships. Despite financial hardships that many hospital systems are grappling with, the Buffalo-based health system is opening a new Lockport Memorial Hospital that Sullivan expects to be a fruitful endeavor. Sullivan recently reached a three-year contractual partnership with Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York that makes Catholic Health in-network providers for its members.
With recreational marijuana now being sold legally in New York, the industry is changing for the state’s well-established medical marijuana companies. The New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association, led by Ngiste Abebe, is representing players such as Cresco Labs, Curaleaf and Acreage as they navigate the new landscape. Abebe is also the vice president of public policy at Manhattan-based Columbia Care, a leading medical cannabis business and another member of the association she leads. Abebe also pushed for decriminalizing marijuana use at the state level.
The New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services supports over 20,000 New Yorkers. Harvey Rosenthal applauded last year’s state budget for boosting mental health investments but criticized the extension of Kendra’s Law, which allows for court-enforced hospitalization for mental health treatment. Rosenthal also questioned New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ plans to use Kendra’s Law to take more homeless New Yorkers off the streets. In September, Rosenthal secured $6.5 million in funds in partnership with the state Office of Mental Health to train rehabilitation service staff.
With over 50 years in health care law, Phillips Lytle handles everything from regulatory and compliance issues to corporate transactional and tax issues for an array of physicians, hospitals, health systems, pharmaceutical manufacturers and more. As leader of the Buffalo firm’s health care law practice team, William P. Keefer counsels clients on issues including fraud and abuse, corporate compliance, transactional arrangements, payer audits, agency actions and federal and state court litigation.
Rosa M. Gil in 1989 founded what is now Comunilife, which has grown from a training program for Latino and Asian nurses into a major organization providing health care and housing services for New York City’s most vulnerable residents. Gil has also had career stops at NYC Health + Hospitals, the City University of New York and at City Hall, where she was a health policy adviser to the mayor. Last year in January, Gil was appointed chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s board of directors.
Emma DeVito’s interest in health care began amid the HIV/AIDS epidemic and led to work aiding elderly and chronically ill New Yorkers. DeVito, who has spent over a decade at VillageCare, has helped grow its VillageCareMAX managed care plan, which served around 16,000 members in 2020. She serves on the boards of directors for the Greater New York Hospital Association and Amida Care and was recently appointed by the governor to a committee tasked with developing the state’s first-ever master plan for aging.
Providing health care services for almost 50,000 patients every year, Ryan Health comprises seven neighborhood-based primary care centers across Manhattan. At the helm of the organization is Brian McIndoe, who oversaw its expansion with the addition of the Wadsworth Avenue center in 2020 for Washington Heights and Inwood residents. Under McIndoe’s leadership, Ryan Health provided over 39,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses across the city in 2021 and is undergoing various upgrades to each of its locations.
As the founding executive director of the New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers, John Coppola has advocated for alcoholism and substance abuse treatment and prevention providers for over a quarter century. Coppola last year backed the Hochul administration’s creation of supportive crisis stabilization centers, with $71 million in state funding, and also applauded a 2021 state legislative package tackling the opioid epidemic.
Growing up on the Lower East Side, Sam Rivera witnessed his mom, a nurse, providing care for drug users. Today, he is following in her footsteps – and making history as the executive director of OnPoint NYC, which operates the first two overdose prevention centers in the country. Rivera’s safe injection site in Harlem, which recently marked its first year in operation, has been praised for saving lives and criticized for harming the neighborhood. The centers, which were backed by the de Blasio administration, may soon run out of private funding, and it’s unclear where the Biden administration will come down on such efforts.
For over four decades, Anne Kauffman Nolon has worked to transform what is now Sun River Health from a single site in Peekskill to over 40 health centers throughout the Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island. Nolon’s leadership over Hudson River HealthCare and Brightpoint Health’s merger resulted in today’s combined organization with a staff of over 2,000 and 250,000 patients. Sun River Health was one of the first to receive and administer COVID-19 vaccines to patients following major hospital systems.
Last year, Karl Williams wrapped his one-year term as president of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York. But in a new role as board chair, he remains a spokesperson for the organization, which represents over 25,000 pharmacists in the state. In testimony before the state Legislature, he applauded efforts to increase oversight of pharmacy benefit managers and other reforms that benefit community pharmacies, but called for a pending measure that would make Medicaid reimbursement rates more fair.
Luis Scaccabarrozzi last summer took on a new role as executive director of the Hispanic Health Network, which was founded in 2015 with a mission to forge partnerships to promote health equity in the Latino community. Scaccabarozzi previously was a vice president at the Latino Commission on AIDS, where he played a key role in its growth. The Hispanic Health Network, which is loosely affiliated with the Latino Commission on AIDS, has initiatives targeting COVID-19, HIV, hepatitis and other public health issues.
Creating diversity in the medical workforce has remained a top priority for Jo Wiederhorn in her two decades as head of the Associated Medical Schools of New York. The organization represents 17 medical schools in New York, and one shared objective is to create pathways for underrepresented students to become doctors. The state recently committed over $2.4 million, doubling its investment, in diversity programs managed by the AMSNY. Wiederhorn also sought to bolster biomedical and life sciences research to improve the health of all New Yorkers. In 2023, she handed the reins to Jonathan Teyan.
Providing legal and consulting services for a variety of health care clients, Manatt Health is led by Bill Bernstein, whose focus on providing strategic, business and legal advice is challenging the organization to support new business models and care delivery systems. Bernstein is also board chair at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. Using her experience as the former CEO of New York City Health + Hospitals/Harlem and lead on New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ health transition team, Eboné Carrington is dedicated to developing new strategic initiatives and advising health care organizations.
Representing myriad health care providers across the country, including academic medical centers, nursing homes and life science companies, Mark Ustin has been guiding clients on regulatory and legal issues in the sector for the past five years as a partner at Farrell Fritz. Ustin penned a recent op-ed on the health equity gap highlighted by the pandemic, including potential solutions for policymakers and providers. He has been vocal about the responsibility institutional long-term care providers have to reevaluate their services. Ustin, who manages the firm’s Albany office, is also board president of St. Catherine’s Center for Children.
One of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s top policy initiatives was addressing mental health, with a new initiative led by his wife. Mayor Eric Adams has taken a personal approach to health care as well, informed by his battle against diabetes – and he’s made that clear with two recent appointments. In December, City Hall announced that the newly established Mayor’s Office of Sports, Wellness, and Recreation would be led by Jasmine Ray, a Staten Islander who founded the U.S. Wallball Association Inc. to keep youth engaged and occupied. In October, Kate MacKenzie was reappointed to the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy, where she’ll carry out the city’s first-ever 10-year food plan.
Advancing Health Equity was born out of Dr. Uché Blackstock’s mission to tackle racism in health care by forging effective partnerships with health organizations. In 2019, the career physician departed NYU Grossman School of Medicine to focus on addressing systemic issues in the industry, many of which she witnessed from her late mother’s experiences in health care – and which garnered greater attention during the coronavirus pandemic. Blackstock trains and conducts workshops with health care companies to analyze their operations and identify strengths and weaknesses in addressing racial inequity.
Many Americans first heard of Dr. Celine Gounder when she spoke out about the tragic death of her husband, Grant Wahl, at the 2022 World Cup. Yet within the medical world, she was already widely known, having been named to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 task force. A clinical professor at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and an infectious disease specialist at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue, Gounder also is the founder of the nonprofit multimedia organization Just Human Productions, a prolific podcaster and an adviser to local politicians.
Jeanne Chirico in 2020 was named president of the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York State, an Albany-based organization that represents mostly nonprofit hospice and palliative care programs across the state and seeks to improve and expand access to care for individuals with advanced illnesses. Chirico, who previously was a vice president at Rochester Regional Health’s Lifetime Care, backed state legislation last year that targeted for-profit hospice providers whose practices have come under scrutiny, although Gov. Kathy Hochul vetoed the bill.
Based in Dobbs Ferry, The Children’s Village provides a plethora of programs for disadvantaged children to develop into healthy and productive adults. A key staffer at Children’s Village is Dr. Traci Gardner, who works with 31 medical staff at the nonprofit organization’s three health clinics. She has emphasized educating the public about COVID-19 vaccines and tackling vaccine hesitancy among fellow Black Americans, and is combating racism and addressing mental health challenges faced by many young patients.
Becca Telzak, a deputy director at Make the Road New York, and Seongeun Chun, who recently left the New York Immigration Coalition to join the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, have been committed to ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to health care, regardless of immigration status – although the legislation that would do that is still in committee. Telzak has been at Make the Road New York, an advocacy group for immigrants and working-class New Yorkers, since 2009, playing a key role in the growth of its health department.