An Appointment With: Jonathan Sobel, Senior Administrative Director for PA Services
Physician Assistants (PAs) are playing a larger role in defining and delivering outstanding patient care., and Northwell Health is helping to drive some of these changes. At Northwell, advanced clinical providers (ACPs) are greatly valued and given a tremendous amount of autonomy, support and professional respect. Whether PAs are assisting complex hand surgeries on professional athletes or working on cutting-edge bypass procedures to restore cerebral blood flow, their expertise and insight are highly sought after. As a leader within Northwell as well as the overall PA community, Jonathan Sobel is playing a leading role in these exciting developments. He is not only the Senior Administrative Director for PA Services, he is also President Elect at the American Academy of PAs. Get to know Jonathan.
Tell us about your career at Northwell Health.
After graduation, I joined Cohen Children’s Medical Center, caring for pediatric open-heart surgery patients alongside a world-class team of surgeons, cardiologists, and nurses. I then joined the CT Surgery team at LIJ Medical Center and later became the Supervising PA, leading innovations in care, quality improvement, and patient experience. I received leadership training and resources at Northwell’s Center for Learning and Innovation and went on to complete my MBA through the Northwell-Hofstra University partnership. Thanks to Northwell Health, my career has continued to progress. I am currently the Senior Administrative Director for PA Services for our Manhattan campuses.
How are PAs being innovatively utilized at Northwell Health?
At Northwell, we realize the tremendous role that PAs bring to the changing healthcare landscape as we move toward value-based care. We’re integrating PAs into roles where they can increase access to quality, cost-effective care in a highly autonomous way. Our PAs serve in every clinical area and medical specialty. They are a big part of our new cardiac transplant team at North Shore University Hospital and are key members of the robotic surgery program. As we increase our focus on our outpatient facilities, our PAs are right there to be an integral part of caring for these patients and in responding to gaps in the healthcare workforce.
Why is being a PA at Northwell unique?
We recognize the value that PAs bring to the new arena of health care. Our supportive environment includes a dedicated PA Leadership structure with direct linkage to medical leadership. Our PAs participate on medical staff committees and are actively involved in quality improvement initiatives. Their clinical expertise and leadership are highly sought after, creating pathways for advancement into senior leadership. Our neurosurgery PAs are learning cutting-edge bypass procedures to restore cerebral blood flow. In orthopedics, they’re reducing fractures and dislocations in the ED and assisting complex hand surgeries on professional athletes. Our Urology PAs are helping with robotic prostatectomies. PAs in our Vascular Birthmark Institute provide total care for these complex cases.
How does being President-Elect of the AAPA help you shape patient care at Northwell?
I’m involved in national conferences focused on advancing the PA profession, the scope of practice, reimbursement, and much more. I’m helping define where health care and the PA practice is heading in the next five to ten years. I can then apply these strategies to our PA practice here at Northwell.
What career paths are available to a PA at Northwell Health?
There’s no limit to what a PA can do here. They can advance their clinical career from PA to Senior PA and Supervising PA. A Senior PA mentors new PAs and students, participates in quality improvement and helps develop educational programs. A Supervising PA takes on the role of team leader, managing administrative functions. There are opportunities to become an educator, with roles for PA Fellowship Directors and Coordinators. We have PAs who run service lines, hospitals and clinics, PAs working in clinical informatics, and serving on our Joint Ventures team. Our Chief People (HR) Officer is a PA!
What training and development opportunities are available to PAs?
Our orientation programs are robust, tailored to individual PA needs and include the use of state-of-the-art simulators. For ongoing education, our academic medical centers offer directed didactic and clinical skills training. PAs can enhance their surgical skills at our Bioskills lab, or on simulators at our Patient Safety Institute. We also have a vast catalog of courses available both online and in person through The Center for Learning and Innovation. We encourage our PAs to attend national meetings and participate in the governance of their PA societies. Through our partnership with Hofstra, we offer generous support toward advanced academic degrees.
Think you’re Made for this challenge, advancement, and enrichment Jonathan is talking about? Start here.
Photo: Mary Comerford-Hewitt, pictured right, with colleagues.
An Appointment With: Mary Comerford-Hewitt, VP, Human Capital Business and Program Development
Written by: Amelia Zito
At Northwell Health, we’re proud of the vast knowledge, skills and insight our people bring to our team. People like Mary Comerford-Hewitt. As our Vice President for Human Capital Business and Program Development, Mary is just one of our innovative people driving our change and success!
Throughout her career, Mary has never been satisfied with the status quo. She has consistently been a pioneer in the healthcare field, always seeking new opportunities and bringing new approaches to improving the health of the community – one person at a time. Mary is an amazing example of how careers at Northwell Health have endless roadmaps, and all along the way, she has helped those around her learn, grow and advance in their careers as well. Meet Mary and gain valuable insight you can use in your career!
Why did you come to Northwell Health and what is your role today?
When I first heard of Northwell Health in 2011, I had no idea of the size and scope of the health system. Once I investigated the opportunity, I saw all the good work being done as well as how innovation was part of its core. These both spoke to who I am as a nurse and an entrepreneur. That was five years ago. Where has the time gone!
Today, I am the VP of Human Capital Programs and Business Development. When I first came here, I led the Talent Acquisition team. I helped re-engineer this very busy department, responsible for over 10,000 hires per year, and helped create the Workforce Readiness Department. I also pioneered the creation of FlexStaff. Today, my role is focused on creating pipelines, internships, career ladders, school programs, diversity with our Workforce Readiness team and the development of new programs and businesses that will benefit both the community and the health system.
What is FlexStaff all about?
FlexStaff, which just celebrated its 3rd birthday, was created to help meet the temporary staffing needs of health systems. As a stand-alone company, FlexStaff has partnered with Northwell to help meet their contingent staffing needs. Additionally, we deliver our contingent staff to other healthcare organizations. As millennials enter the workforce and baby boomers work less, a flexible working arrangement becomes vital to an organization. FlexStaff is the connection they need to make that happen, and we’re looking forward to sharing their brand new website in the coming weeks!
How are you leading change in health care?
One area that I am focused on is neurodiversity. We created the first ever Bridges internship in partnership with Adelphi and helped give five students on the spectrum an internship last summer. I am happy to report we hired two of those interns! Another area that we are focused on is creating career ladders for students who are looking to enter the health system in an entry-level position, but are focused on career growth. For example, we may hire an individual as a medical assistant and they can have a career path to RN or NP through Northwell Health’s opportunity for tuition reimbursement and commitment to continuing education.
Another area that we are leading the way in is as co stewards of the Long Island STEM Hub. We are partnering with schools and industry and challenging them to look at talent differently. Because of our STEM partnerships and awareness efforts, Northwell is an approved STEMJOBS employer.
What makes someone Made for this™ at Northwell Health?
They must realize that Northwell isn’t a normal 9-5 and they must be flexible. They should also live by our new refreshed values – Truly Compassionate, Truly Ambitious, Truly Together, Truly Ourselves and Truly Innovative. Michael Dowling, Northwell’s President and CEO, has told us that we are transitioning health care – it’s up to us to define the future. If you’re someone who wants to help us do that – you’re Made for this!
What makes a great Northwell Health leader?
Someone who is engaged, passionate, loves to learn and can see the big picture. Health care is moving fast. You need to embrace change, be a good communicator, be humble and kind. You need to invest time in learning about the company – and this is a big company. I’ve been here nearly five years and I still learn something new every week. The ability to create followership is key. It enables everyone to blaze new trails together.
If you’d like to make an impact on the future of health care as Mary has, you’re Made for a career at Northwell Health.
An Appointment With: Northwell Health President and CEO, Michael J. Dowling
1. Growth has been a big part of Northwell Health’s success over the past years. How do we plan to continue to grow in 2018?
Everybody wants a piece of the health care space, from Google and Amazon to IBM Watson and other tech companies looking to disrupt the status quo. More recent examples include the purchase by Optum of the DaVita Medical Group, and CVS’ proposed acquisition of Aetna.
As New York’s largest health care provider, we’re not going to stand still. There are ongoing opportunities for Northwell to pursue new, innovative partnerships. Most of the traditional consumer transaction companies trying to gain a foothold in our industry are not providers of care, so they will need to be connected to hospitals and health systems that are firmly established in major metropolitan areas. Their goal, like ours, is to improve the continuum of care and make the delivery system as seamless as possible, so there could be synergies and opportunities in the year ahead to pursue ventures that will enable us to compete more effectively in this rapidly changing environment.
2. How will we push the boundaries and be Truly Innovative in 2018?
This era of consumerism forces everybody – including traditional providers – to think about doing things differently. I’m a big believer that competition is good. It’s disrupting. It can give you headaches and lead to sleepless nights, but it’s good because it forces you to work harder and get better. It forces organizations to be more efficient, more productive and more creative. These types of disruptions are occurring in all industries, not just health care. To that end, we continue to look to our employees for innovative ideas on how to do their jobs better, invest in startups that are trying to bring exciting new technologies to market and partner with other organizations to enhance what we’re already doing well.
3. What is your top goal this year for Northwell Health?
Northwell Health will continue to expand its ambulatory network, and focus on ways to further enhance the patient experience. As noted earlier, we will continue to pursue innovative partnerships with other companies within and outside of health care. In keeping with our mission to improve the health of the communities we serve, we will also enhance our efforts in the disease prevention arena by strengthening our focus on promoting health and wellness. We’ll also continue to leverage new technologies that help improve access to care and our ability to monitor patients’ progress by maximizing our use of artificial or automated intelligence and telemedicine. Another important focus will be on strengthening customer loyalty by connecting with people early in their lives, and then meeting or exceeding their expectations during every encounter we have with them thereafter.
As many of you already know, I was at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson last month when they signed an agreement to join Northwell. It was a happy moment for everyone involved. They represent the 23rd hospital in our health system. Mather has a history and tradition of excellence that we’re proud to be associated with. And we bring to them an array of services and expertise they can leverage to help complement their offerings to Suffolk County residents. We are stronger together. We’ll work hard in 2018 to continue to strengthen that value proposition for our customers.
4. If you could give advice to someone interested in joining the Northwell Health family as an employee, what would it be?
Have a curious mind and a belief in the concept of lifelong learning. Your education doesn’t end when you get a degree. Continue to educate yourself on a daily basis. Next, work hard and always try to do the right thing. Always have a sense of humility about your contributions to the organization. Having a positive attitude is one of most important attributes of any employee, as is perseverance. All of us are going to have bad days from time to time. Never give up when times are tough. And lastly, don’t be afraid to fail. As Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
5. What inspired you to get into health care?
Long before I joined the health system in 1995, I spent more than 20 years working in many different jobs within health and human services, so transitioning into a health care organization seemed like a natural transition. While quite a few people are aware of my background working as director of health, education and human services for former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and as a professor of social policy at Fordham University, I previously worked as an administrator in the Rockland County (NY) Department of Social Services, as a social policy consultant and analyst for the Columbia University School of Social Work, the New York State Communities Aid Association, the National Urban League and the United Church of Christ, and earlier as a caseworker in New York City schools.
In terms of inspiration, certainly my upbringing in a poor, rural area of Ireland was a major factor in why I decided to pursue a career in health and human services. I’ve always been driven by a desire to do the right thing and by the benefits I thought I could deliver to the community-at-large. For me, it has never been about personal benefits, but the whole idea of purpose: do well and do good for others.
6. How do you stay focused and motivated year after year?
By continually pursuing new ideas that help me become a better leader and help the organization become more successful. While a lot of people think stress is bad, it pushes you to be more innovative. To be successful in any leadership position, you have to be a little bit unhappy and always searching for ways of doing your job better. As a former athlete, I always draw a parallel to sports. The only way to become good at any sport is to push yourself to the limit. There’s a big gap between our capabilities and our current level of performance. No matter how good you think you are, you can always get better. Having that personal drive and never being satisfied helps you grow, develop and exceed expectations.
An Appointment With: Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Ramon Soto
Welcome to “An Appointment With,” where we sit down one on one with leadership, doctors, nurses and more to bring you their stories. Today we’re meeting SVP, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Ramon Soto, who was the most recent winner of the AHHE Hospital Executive of the Year Award.
How did you know that coming to Northwell Health was the right career move for you?
I didn’t at first. I was born in Brooklyn and raised in Patchogue. When I heard about the Chief Marketing Officer position at Northwell Health, then known as North Shore-LIJ Health System, I just remembered the small health care company from my childhood. After doing my research, hearing Michael Dowling speak, and learning about the advancements at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and the Hofstra School of Medicine, I fell in love. I saw the power of this organization and I knew there were stories waiting to be told. This is the best job I’ve ever had.
How has the rebranding process at Northwell Health impacted the organization?
Fundamentally, our hospitals used to run regionally and people associated themselves with the single hospital they worked for. Now people feel like they are all together, and there is a sense of community. This has helped improve our engagement scores. As separate entities, people didn’t know who we were and how we were all connected and now they see all of our locations as one. There has been an undeniable unifying effect on the inside, and ability to shine as a destination health care system.
What is your perspective on leadership?
90% of leadership traits are trainable and there are things you can do throughout your career to be a good leader. My philosophy is: don’t just “dabble” in anything, take it on with all you’ve got. You should know your stuff and strive to be the subject matter experts. When making a decision, you should bring everyone together to help. Leverage diversity of thought and unity in action. If you give people a voice, the execution is always better. If you can adapt your leadership style to fit the needs of your audience as well as the organization, you will be able to grow and flourish.
You recently earned the AHHE Hospital Executive of the Year Award. What have you learned from that experience and what did that mean to you?
The most important part of the awards evening was that my family was there and I was able to reflect on my heritage. This award made me think of my father. He came from Puerto Rico when he was 12 and he didn’t speak a word of English. He pulled himself up from poverty by going to school at night and working hard. He believed you always had a choice: work a job you enjoy or work a job as a chore. He also said to always stretch yourself, whenever you think you can’t do more, you can. His wisdom helped shape who I am today. I went back to get my MBA at 40 even though I had a successful career because of the drive he instilled in me.
Many people of diverse backgrounds have stories like this, and that’s why in terms of diversity in the workplace, it’s important to include individuals from all backgrounds based on their experience and what they’ve done. We need qualified candidates and we need to choose the best of the best. If we don’t include everyone in that pool of candidates, we’re missing out.
However, no institution should ever settle for people who aren’t the top or relax their standards to bring on talent that isn’t qualified.
What is an interesting fact that people should know about you?
I had a perm in high school!
We invite you to come back for the next moment in our Appointment With… blog!
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