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From Long Island Wins: January 23, 2014

From Mud Floors To CEO  Of North Shore-LIJ

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.

 

Maryann Sinclair Slutsky is the executive director of Long Island Wins, a communications organization promoting commonsense immigration policy solutions that work for all Long Islanders. Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


News

Jaclynn Demas always loved film and television. She dreamed of having a hand in its creative process. and wanted to shape the moving image. The East Williston resident’s obsession paid off after taking home a Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Animated Program last month as producer of PBS KIDS’ Peg + Cat.

“I’ve loved TV and was a movie buff since I was a little kid,” she said. “All I’ve ever wanted to do was make films. I was just upset at how things were made. When I got older, I took a lot of courses in TV and video production.”

Get out your needle and thread, glue gun, beads, and paint. Creative Cups, the popular, life-affirming fund raising event of the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program, is back. This is the fourth time that Creative Cups has happened on Long Island and allows artists, breast cancer survivors, their friends, family members and others to use originality and creativity to transform ordinary bras into works of art. Creative Cups celebrates the lives of those living with breast cancer and those we have lost to this terrible disease. All are invited to participate by creating an “art bra” or becoming a sponsor.

Fran Mulholland from Hicksville along with her friend Emilia Goncalves decorated a bra for last year’s Creative Cups. Their bra was themed “Celebrating Another Birthday.”


Sports

Hicksville High School senior Kyle Carroll recently participated in the prestigious Blue Grey Super Combine in Canton OH. Over 7,000 high school football players are invited to combines sponsored by Blue Grey Football throughout the country. Carroll was recognized for his overall scores and abilities during the one on one drills and was honored to have been chosen as one of 140 athletes invited to the Super Combine at the Football Hall of Fame. From there, a select few will be invited to play in the Blue Grey All-America Bowls in December in Texas and in January in Florida.  

The Super Combine in Canton took place on Fawcett Field at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The combine featured some of the top football prospects from around the country. Carroll fit seamlessly into the drills as he displayed impressive work with fast feet and hip turns as well as skilled ball handling ability.

Madeline Huffman, a fourth grade student at Our Lady of Mercy School in Hicksville, recently became the New York State Free Throw Champion in the Knights of Columbus Free Throw Competition, 9 Year Old Girls Division at the United States Military Academy, West Point.

Huffman’s journey to the state championship began at her home parish, Our Lady of Mercy Roman Catholic Church in January. The local qualifier was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus Joseph F. Lamb Council #5723. Boys and girls ages 9 through 14 competed, each receiving three warm up shots and 15 free throw attempts.


Calendar

Soccer For A Cause

August 2

Blood Drive

August 2

Holy Family Church Fair

August 13-16



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