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Person of the Year: Wendy Z. Goldstein

With a commitment to community health care and an eye on the future of innovative hospital systems, President and Chief Executive Officer of NYU Lutheran Wendy Z. Goldstein, has used her more than 30 years of experience in health care management to steer an ailing southwest Brooklyn hospital to groundbreaking success.

Appointed president and CEO of Lutheran Health Care in 2001, Goldstein came at a time that was crucial for the hospital.

“Wendy brought a new vision and energy to what was a dying hospital,” said Emma Graeber Porter, chair of the NYU Lutheran Advisory Board. “We had been in a sort of state of limbo trying to decide our next steps and she became that force that led us into the future. It was an amazing connection with her.

“She immediately came and was able to pull [everything] together,” Porter continued. “It gave us stability to have the different parts work cohesively but, more importantly, the quality of care we were able to give the patients was enhanced astronomically.”

Goldstein has been instrumental in changing and adding several facets of health care, patient comfort and overall community interest and morale within the hospital throughout her time at its helm.

Under Goldstein’s leadership, the hospital’s trauma center grew into the busiest Level I trauma center in the borough, 28 school-based clinics were added, a comprehensive neuroscience center was created, a designated STEMI and interventional cardiology center was launched and a comprehensive stroke center—Brooklyn’s first—was created.

“When Wendy came, I think she looked at the hospital and looked at who we were and recognized that we sit in a very diverse community,” said Virginia Tong, vice president of cultural competence at NYU Lutheran. “[She saw that] what makes us work is that community, and how the hospital and the center respond to that community, and she embraced that.”

Under Goldstein’s direction, the cultural diversity at the hospital took on a life of its own. The hospital staff was required to attend a full day of cultural competency training, according to Tong, and the hospital now celebrates more than 30 different holidays.

“There are signs in six languages throughout the hospital,” added Tong. “We have a chapel, we have a mosque, we have Sabbath elevators, we have modesty gowns; in terms of the comfort of the patients, we make sure we have everything.”

Goldstein also took great care in making sure her staff was comfortable, partnering with the union that represents many members of NYU Lutheran’s staff, 1199/SEIU, for the past 11 years.

According to 1199 representative Gladys Bruno, if there is an issue, it is resolved immediately. The partnership employs a “preventative” style of problem-solving—tackling problems head on before they escalate.

“The partnership [has] been great,” said Bruno. “It’s been the best 11 years working together and collaborating with management. Things run a lot smoother than what used to be and we’ve been able to do a lot of good things.

“Before, when there was an issue, we had a lot of grievances and arbitrations,” Bruno continued. “We don’t even have those cases anymore. We try to deal with issues within the departments, with management. [We employ] ‘scale of interest’ problem-solving and we focus on patient care and the staff. We don’t vote—it’s done through consensus — and that’s how we’ve been able to tackle a lot of issues.”

One of the largest changes that has taken place at the hospital was its transformation into NYU Lutheran.

News of Lutheran’s partnership with NYU Langone broke in November 2014—a partnership that would turn into a full-asset merger within the next year and bring with it an extensive upgrade of Lutheran’s information systems, as well as cohesiveness across hospitals in terms of accessing patient information.

“Wendy had a vision that people had a right to good care in Brooklyn and they had a right to a strong hospital, financially, in Brooklyn,” said NYU Lutheran Medical Center President Claudia Caine, who has worked with Goldstein for 30 years. “She began the search for a new partner which took a tremendous amount of courage, a partner that would understand Lutheran’s mission and not take us over and ignore that mission – that mission being: we’re here for the community.”

The hospital finalized the affiliation with NYU Langone in April, 2015 and completed the full-asset merger on January 1, 2016.

“Wendy had the vision and the courage to say we can’t just dance [around] with some of these partners, we’ve got to pick one that’s going to marry us forever,” added Caine. “I really think if you look around at the whole borough, she was the only one with the courage of conviction to do that. I truly believe that she was the only one with the strength and courage, and because of that, we are now NYU Lutheran.”

Under Goldstein’s supervision, the hospital also acquired dozens of new service sites and centers, including a new neonatal intensive care unit, new oncology radiation equipment and a new outpatient observation unit.

“Lutheran was really the first community hospital that I ran. I’ve been part of large academic medical centers, but it was a learning curve for me to understand what it meant to be part of the community,” said Goldstein when asked about the hurdles of the position. “The community has always been our touchstone. We’re there to serve the community and the thing I’m most proud of, [was being] able to solidify a future because NYU has the resources to continue the charity care policies.

“I am so honored and delighted,” she said about being named Person of the Year. “It really is the cherry on the top of the cake. My career at Lutheran really was a culmination of everything I wanted to do professionally. I went into health care with this concept of making things better and with this concept of ‘leaving the world better than when you came into it’ and Lutheran was my opportunity. I fell in love with Lutheran, I fell in love with Brooklyn and I am very, very grateful.”

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