Columns

Guest Column: Reflecting on nearly 20 years at helm of Peconic Bay Medical Center

I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was a brisk afternoon in mid-March 2001, nearly 20 years ago. I had completed two interviews with the hospital board and now was attending a final session with the hospital leadership team and board at a social event at Paumanok Vineyards. As the sun set over the vines, a light snow began to fall. It was one of those beautiful scenes that are so common to the North Fork. Talk about incredible moments, between the scenery and camaraderie that day, I knew I wanted to become part of this amazing organization.

I officially started the first week of May 2001. In my first seven days, I received repossession letters for the CT scanner, the MRI, the oxygen tank and numerous other vital pieces of equipment. Our operating room was devoid of basic items and office supplies had not been delivered in months.  To put it bluntly, the hospital was weeks away from bankruptcy confirmed by the issuance of a “going concern” opinion from our independent auditors a week later.

While many organizations would throw in the towel, Central Suffolk Hospital (to be renamed Peconic Bay Medical Center five years later) was different. Harnessing the incredible staff and community spirit, we came together to accomplish the impossible. In the month that followed 9/11, our staff and community completed a home-grown, Habitat-For-Humanity-like complete renovation of the old emergency room. The project was so successful that it received a formal write up in the American Hospital Association magazine. That same team set out to install an entirely new IT system to stabilize the finances in what was one of the fastest, most successful implementation in Siemens’ history. After I purchased 25 burgers so I could take 25 crowns from the Burger King next door, we anointed the “Knights of the Roundtable” to discuss staff needs and formerly established a truly participatory management culture. Along with many other initiatives, we collectively lifted the hospital from the depths of pending doom and failure to chart a solid and robust future.  

We would go on to establish the Peconic Bay Medical Center Foundation and build the Kanas Center for Advanced Surgery, the Corey Critical Care Pavilion, The Feil Campus for Ambulatory Care, the Pegasus House Palliative Care Center, the Kanas Regional Heart Center, the North Fork’s only trauma and stroke centers, Long Island’s first hospital-based caregivers support center and eastern Suffolk County’s premier orthopedic program. We would grow the Peconic Bay Medical Group into the largest, highest quality, multispecialty physician group in the region. And we would become a teaching hospital with graduate medical education programs in surgery and family practice along with our radiology school. 

We would heroically treat hundreds of critically ill patients during the Covid-19 pandemic and receive acknowledgement of our tremendous efforts when the Town of Riverhead changed the formal address of the hospital to 1 Heroes Way. Personally, I cannot recognize and thank our healthcare heroes enough.

I am deeply proud of our collective accomplishments and the service we have provided to the 250,000 men, women and children who rely on us for care. I am hugely grateful to our incredible clinicians and support staff.  I truly thank our very special leadership team (present and retired) for putting up with the “Mitchell-isms” and quirks and for their unparalleled efforts transforming a little community hospital into a regional medical center. I especially thank Michael Dowling, Mark Solazzo, Steve Bello, Kevin Beiner, Winnie Mack and our many Northwell colleagues for believing in our vision and tremendously investing in our medical center. I warmly recognize the late Ted Jospe, the late Jack Gallagher, the late Stephen Patterson, Leon Cohen, Mike Nolan, Robert Wild, and Barry Shapiro for their guidance over the years.

I am humbled by our community support. I am deeply thankful for the total dedication of our Board of Directors, including the three chairs I had the privilege of working with – Jospeh Van de Wetering, the late Jesse R. Goodale III, and Sherry Patterson, and vice chairs, Andrew Mendelson and J. Gordon Huszagh. I am so grateful to our Foundation Board led first by J. Gordon Huszagh and now Emilie Roy Corey whose leadership and commitment are immeasurable. And last, but certainly not least, I applaud our wonderful community and staff donors who have made such a difference by supporting our growth and advancement.

As of Feb. 1, I have transitioned my role to focus on development and major real estate projects. I am handing the torch to Dr. Amy Loeb, a true leader and visionary in our field. I sincerely congratulate Amy on becoming the executive director of PBMC. If you know Amy, you are probably as awed by her accomplishments and capabilities as I am. But if you know Amy, you also know she is someone you can trust as a friend, as a confidant, and as someone who sees herself as a willing servant to our remarkable staff and the community we care for.

With Amy’s leadership, Peconic Bay Medical Center is in great hands. She is assuming the role at a time when the organization is poised for growth in bringing a wider range of vitally needed services to the community, and she is the perfect person at the perfect time to lead this effort. I am sure she will be gratified by the enthusiasm with which you join in the effort.

I know she can count on your support. And I want you to know she will have my support, too. But please know I’m not going far. I will continue to lead the Peconic Bay Medical Center Foundation located at our Entenmann Campus. Together with Emilie Roy Corey, Chair, the Foundation Board and the Foundation team, we will continue to raise the critical funds necessary to support the Medical Center in its next phases of development.

So, this is not goodbye by any means. I look forward to maintaining the lifelong friendships I have developed with each of you. Finally, I look forward to enjoying many more wonderful moments with Mary, our children, and grandkids on our most amazing North Fork — just like on that special day in March 20 years ago.

This column was first published in a newsletter sent by Peconic Bay Medical Center, Northwell Health.