Written by Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, firstname.lastname@example.org Thursday, 23 January 2014 00:00
As executive director of Long Island Wins, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting immigrants from all backgrounds, each with a personal immigration story. One of our goals is to use those stories to highlight the contributions that immigrants make to our Long Island communities.
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Michael Dowling, an Irish immigrant and the president and chief executive officer of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, the largest system in New York State and one of the largest in the country.
North Shore-LIJ has a service area that includes over seven million residents in downstate New York, and it’s the largest employer of immigrants on Long Island, from entry-level workers all the way up to the highest reaches of leadership.
Like all immigrants, including those he employs, Dowling has a very personal story of why he chose to come to the United States, and he agreed to share many details of his story for the first time with us.
Dowling first came to the U.S. in the 1960s, which was a time of great poverty in Ireland. He came from a very modest home, describing it as an “old-fashioned thatched house with mud floors and mud walls, no running water, no heat, no anything.”
His father suffered from arthritis, and by his early 40s, he was nearly incapacitated. As the oldest of his siblings, Dowling took on the responsibility of taking care of his family. But to find work, he knew that he would need to leave Ireland.
“Family circumstance determines an awful lot of what you do,” said Dowling. “It was very common back in the 1960s for a lot of people to emigrate from Ireland. The economy was poor.”
After a short time in England working in steel factories, he made the life-changing decision to cross the Atlantic. “New York was probably a better place if you wanted to get a job and make some money,” Dowling told me.
Upon arriving, he took on any job that needed doing. Whether it was in the docks, in construction, plumbing or as a janitor, he did what he needed to do to take care of his family.
“I worked all the time; I worked seven days a week,” Dowling said. “I had no social life. I didn’t know much about New York, other than how to go to work and come home seven days a week. And I was very happy then. I made enough money here to help out at home, and I made enough money to pay my tuition.”
For several years, he would work in New York and then return to Ireland to attend school at University College Cork. When he received his undergraduate degree, he came back to New York, where he stayed for good.
“It wasn’t planned,” he said. “It wasn’t like I said to myself I’m going to stay in America. For many, many years I thought I was going to go back. But you know what happens: You start here, you meet people, you begin to get different kinds of jobs, your life takes on a new meaning. I was still able to contribute and send money home. So, being able to help out at home was a major motivation.”
Dowling eventually saved up enough to attend Fordham for his master’s degree, and then Columbia for his doctorate. In the early ‘80s, he became a U.S. citizen. “It was about that time that I decided, ‘Well, this is where I’m going to be.’”
From Fordham, where he was teaching, he was recruited to serve under Gov. Mario M. Cuomo. That seemed at the time like a temporary, tentative choice. But it lasted for 12 years, including service as state director of health, education and human services, as deputy secretary to the governor, and as commissioner of the Department of Social Services. He was later a senior vice president at Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
In the mid-’90s, Dowling joined North Shore-LIJ, at a time of transition, overseeing development, planning and operations, following the merger that created the health system. North Shore-LIJ has seen an unprecedented level of success during his tenure.
“I refuse to accept that there is a limit to what you can get done, and I fail to accept the fact that you can’t do something,” Dowling told me. “The word ‘can’t’ shouldn’t be in the vocabulary.”
That determination and work ethic is how an immigrant from a poor village in Ireland became head of the largest employer of immigrants on Long Island.
Next month I’ll share more of Dowling’s thoughts on immigration issues.
Friday, 11 July 2014 08:29
If you stopped by the Farmingdale Public Library this past week, perhaps you noticed all of the paintings and art pieces currently on display. For the entire month of July, the library will feature the many styles of artist/poet Ruth Lawrence.
“I’ve been exhibiting for quite a few years,” said Lawrence, “I am always happy to show my work.”
Lawrence, 87, of East Meadow, said she first began painting at just 12 years old. She recalls, at the time her sister had been dating someone who worked at an art supply store, and had gotten her some oil-based paints as a present.
Friday, 11 July 2014 08:28
Two inventors, one local and one international, have come together to launch an online fundraising campaign for a product they hope to bring to the market by the end of the year.
Farmingdale resident Rafael Avila is one half of the duo behind the Chocolazer, which is a hot glue gun used to melt chocolate for culinary purposes.
The Chocolazer is branded as a no-mess product that is meant to inspire people to be creative with chocolate. The gadget features a removable heating barrel, wherein special chocolate sticks are melted down into a manageable liquid form.
Thursday, 17 July 2014 00:00
Throughout the summer, the Farmingdale Observer will feature the box scores from the Farmingdale Baseball League Inc.’s 9/11 Baseball Tournament.
Farmingdale Greendogs 7 - Seaford Vikings 6 (8U)
Syosset Cubs 18 - Plainview Hawks 1 (12U)
Thursday, 17 July 2014 00:00
Runners and walkers from Farmingdale and all over Long Island and beyond are invited to join in the fun on one of the most unusual 5 Kilometer courses on Long Island at the Saturday, August 9th Lynn, Gartner, Dunne & Covello Sands Point Sprint.
The Run presents the Long Island running community with an opportunity to traverse a unique combination of paved paths and runner-friendly woodland trails at the Sands Point Preserve.
The leading Nassau County law firm of Lynn, Gartner, Dunne & Covello has signed on to be the new lead sponsor of the event, with partner John Dunne and his wife planning on running the 5K distance. The Lynbrook Runner’s Stop will be back as the presenting sponsor.