By Stephanie Meditz
Last Thursday, NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst brought community members together to celebrate its 190th anniversary.
The celebration reflected on the hospital’s long history of serving all people regardless of class, race and immigration status, especially during times of citywide need.
Even before COVID-19 took the world by storm, NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst has helped the community fight numerous pandemics, including cholera, dengue fever, yellow fever, Spanish flu, polio and smallpox.
“It was very clear from our birth that Elmhurst was ready to fight every pandemic that hit our beloved New York City,” CEO Helen Arteaga said. “There was always a sense of responsibility in being determined and defenders of our communities, especially communities of color…Communities and groups that were told they were not good enough, that were told they’re not welcome, that were told they’re not American enough.”
NYC Health + Hospitals president Dr. Mitchell Katz ascribes his current position to his passion for giving all patients the highest quality of care in the simplest way possible.
“The single most important thing will always be the doctor, the nurse, the social worker, the tech, the person cleaning the room, the dietary person and the interaction with the patient,” he said. “I think Elmhurst really demonstrates that, that Elmhurst really is about providing the very best care for the individual.”
Dr. Jasmin Moshirpur, CMO, has 52 years of experience working at Elmhurst Hospital.
In 1964, she was the second resident in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine when she was assigned to Elmhurst.
Although the hospital was practically empty after her initial assignment, the hospital now hosts 785 workers with diverse skills, such as psychologists and nurse practitioners, and between 350 and 400 residents and fellows.
“I’m so proud and happy to say who we are here and how much we are able to provide our services to the community,” she said. “We are really and truly excited to use the best care of medicine in this borough.”
Joann Gull, CNO, also noted Elmhurst Hospital’s significant growth during her 51 years of working there.
“When I originally came, I had the normal plan of staying a year or two and then moving on. But what I found was something that was amazing. It was the culture of the institution, the mission, the people who we got to work with, having the experience of taking care of patients who were really in need…that, I think, was the secret sauce of Elmhurst that so many of us stayed all these years,” she said.
Moshirpur also noted the immense support given to the hospital by senators, borough presidents and other elected officials.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards donated $7.5 million to Elmhurst Hospital during his first 19 months in office.
“This is a hospital made up of immigrants and working class staff who serve the predominantly immigrant and working class residents of Elmhurst and our neighboring communities,” he said. “No matter what your socioeconomic status is, no matter what your zip code is, no matter if you’re documented or undocumented, if you’re a United States citizen or not, you get quality service here at Elmhurst Hospital.”
Judith Berdy, president of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, presented on Elmhurst Hospital’s long journey from its founding to the present day, with special attention to the several pandemics that the hospital has fought.
“These patients have nothing. They have very few visitors and, trust me, Dr. Katz will attest to how many lockdowns and quarantines we have,” she said, “Mentally, it really has been exhausting. We provide what we can for our residents. Health + Hospitals does a great job.”
Despite NYC Health + Hospitals.Elmhurst’s advancements in technology and the copious New Yorkers it has helped, its 190th anniversary is only the beginning.
“Let us imagine that new AI technology is accessible for all, that we have a state of the art emergency room, that we have a beautiful building full of light for our behavioral health towers…let us imagine Elmhurst speaking more languages than Google…let us be unstoppable in removing social and racial barriers for healthcare,” Arteaga said. “Our big dreams are just like New Yorkers’, and we are New Yorkers. So New York, we either go big or we go home, and I don’t think we’re going home.”