The 2021 Health Power 100
The 2021 Health Power 100
Year after year, health care is one of the biggest policy issues in New York, whether it’s Medicaid spending, access to abortion or the opioid epidemic. Over the past year, however, health care became the single biggest issue as COVID-19 tore through the state. Since the first New York case was documented in early March and the state became an epicenter of the pandemic, COVID-19 has killed more than 32,000 New Yorkers and disrupted everyday life in countless ways. The state’s vaunted health care institutions struggled to respond, and medical professionals and policymakers of all types have joined forces to confront the public health crisis. This year, City & State’s Health Power 100 highlights the individuals – public officials, health care executives, advocates and activists, academics and labor leaders – who are navigating the crisis and finding a path forward.
1. Howard Zucker
Commissioner, State Department of Health
Dr. Howard Zucker, a Bronx native, is New York state’s top doctor leading efforts to fight a number of health crises, including tackling the deadly opioid epidemic and now the coronavirus pandemic. Like a wartime general, Zucker warned hospitals that the new year would bring an increase in coronavirus cases, but also reminded administrators that lessons learned from earlier in the pandemic would help in dealing with the expected demand for medical care.
2. Michael Dowling
President and CEO, Northwell Health
As the coronavirus pandemic tested the viability of New York’s health care system, Gov. Andrew Cuomo turned again and again to Michael Dowling. The governor has worked closely with the leader of Northwell Health, New York’s biggest employer, relying on him as his chief intermediary with New York’s hospitals, naming his longtime ally to a panel to “reimagine” New York in the wake of COVID-19 and even making a Northwell nurse the first American to receive a coronavirus vaccine.
3. Cuomo’s COVID-19 Task Force
Gov. Andrew Cuomo wasn’t the only state government official to build his celebrity thanks to his daily COVID-19 briefings that captivated the nation. Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa was at his side – socially distanced of course – along the way, while also heading up a coronavirus maternity task force. Also along for the ride were another former Cuomo secretary, Larry Schwartz, who resumed his role as behind-the-scenes enforcer, and Jim Malatras, a former state director of state operations who was appointed SUNY chancellor in August. Making it a bipartisan bunch, two former state Senate Republican staffers – Budget Director Robert Mujica and Special Counsel to the Governor Beth Garvey – were also present during many of the briefings, while longtime Cuomo loyalist and former congressional hopeful Gareth Rhodes – whose day job is technically as deputy superintendent and special counsel at the state Department of Financial Services – kept things running on time.
4. Mitchell Katz
President and CEO, New York City Health + Hospitals
Dr. Mitchell Katz leads the largest public health system in the nation, calling his staff “heroes” as they have been on the front lines of the coronavirus fight – in treating patients and in leading the city’s contact tracing efforts. A man of science and optimism, Katz expressed confidence that New Yorkers would embrace the COVID-19 vaccine when given “enough time,” after an estimate of 30% of hospital and nursing home employees was expected to decline the vaccine.
5. Dave Chokshi
Commissioner, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
After his appointment in August, New Yorkers got to know Dr. Dave Chokshi from his frequent television appearances as the city’s top doctor, offering advice on how to take precautions against the spread of COVID-19. The Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native is no stranger to medical crises, having already worked for the Louisiana Department of Health during Hurricane Katrina. During his medical training, Chokshi also did clinical work in Guatemala, Peru, Botswana, Ghana and India.
6. Richard Gottfried
Chair, Assembly Health Committee
First elected in 1970, Richard Gottfried is the Assembly’s longest-serving member, and he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. As chair of the influential Health Committee, he has vowed to prioritize increasing funding for nursing homes and Medicaid program providers as the state continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic. With Democratic supermajorities in both state legislative chambers, he’ll try to pass his single-payer health care bill once again.
7. Gustavo Rivera
Chair, State Senate Health Committee
Gustavo Rivera has served in the state Senate since 2011 and has come to be known by his peers as a leading progressive voice. Named chair of the state Senate Health Committee in 2018, Rivera has advocated for single-payer health care alongside Assembly Member Richard Gottfried. Amid an unprecedented pandemic and widespread job losses that demonstrated the fragility of health care being tied to employment, Rivera is working on ways to remedy the situation.
8. Donna Frescatore
State Medicaid Director; Executive Director, New York State of Health
Donna Frescatore is one of few officials who does two jobs at once. As the state’s Medicaid director, she oversees a program reaching more than 6 million New Yorkers. And as the head of New York State of Health, she runs the state’s insurance exchange. “As the pandemic continues, it is especially important for New Yorkers to have access to high-quality, affordable health insurance,” Frescatore noted last month while urging people to apply for coverage.
9. Kenneth Raske
President and CEO, Greater New York Hospital Association
As the leader of New York’s hospital association, Kenneth Raske has influenced health care policy in the state since Mario Cuomo was governor. In the past year, as New York hospitals were swamped by coronavirus cases and now face a resurgence, Raske has been at the center of the hospital response, pushing successfully for more financial help and working with the governor to try to coordinate care across disconnected systems and institutions.
10. George Gresham
Perhaps New York’s most powerful labor leader, George Gresham has often teamed up with the Greater New York Hospital Association to fight budget cuts and boost health care spending. His union, billed as the largest union in New York and the largest health care union in the country, has stood up for its workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, demanding better protections in nursing homes and urging members to get vaccinated.
11. Albert Bourla
Chair and CEO, Pfizer
Pfizer was the first pharmaceutical company to get a coronavirus vaccine approved in the U.S., a major achievement for CEO Albert Bourla. The company’s corporate headquarters are in Manhattan – although its biggest manufacturing site is in Michigan – and the first dose went to a nurse in Queens. Bourla himself opted to wait to receive the vaccine, developed in partnership with BioNTech, not wanting to “cut the line.”
12. Leonard Schleifer
President and CEO, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals
Dr. Leonard Schleifer leads Regeneron, the largest biotech company in New York that made headlines last year for helping treat President Donald Trump when he contracted the coronavirus. A certified neurologist, Schleifer started Regeneron in Tarrytown 30 years ago and turned it from a tiny business into one of the fastest-growing in Westchester County. More than 7,000 people work for the company, and it has a major expansion planned near its local headquarters.
13. Melanie Hartzog
New York City Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services
Melanie Hartzog has been a fighter for the city’s children, from advocating for the rights of low-income children during her tenure as executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund to later helping to fund universal pre-K as the city’s budget director. In October, Mayor Bill de Blasio made her deputy mayor for health and human services to help oversee the city’s response to COVID-19, specifically with social services and outreach to homeless people.
14. Mark Levine
Chair, New York City Council Health Committee
A math and science teacher by training, Mark Levine – tabbed by some as “the Anthony Fauci of the New York City Council” – was thrust into the spotlight early last year after contracting the coronavirus, and since has become one of the city’s most outspoken health care figures. He proposed creating a $1 billion public works administration for public health, and has supported suspending elective surgeries when COVID-19 infection rates rise as well as restricting indoor dining and other nonessential activities.
15. Carlina Rivera
Chair, New York City Council Committee on Hospitals
Carlina Rivera chairs the Committee on Hospitals, a key post as COVID-19 has threatened to overrun city hospital systems. “This pandemic proves that our health care system is too disparate, not just in times of crisis but year round,” Rivera said during a hearing last fall. “We are committed to ensuring that the path we build forward out of this pandemic is more equitable for all.” Rivera has also pushed to create an Office of the Patient Advocate.
16. Steven Corwin
President and CEO, NewYork-Presbyterian
Dr. Steven Corwin’s medical career has put him on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic and now the daunting task of leading patient care against the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. Corwin, who oversees NewYork-Presbyterian’s extensive network of 10 hospitals and dozens of clinics, ramped up the institution’s ICU units to meet the coronavirus challenge head on as New York City became the country’s first hot zone.
17. Arlene González-Sánchez
Commissioner, State Office of Addiction Services and Supports
Appointed commissioner by Gov. Andrew Cuomo a decade ago, Arlene González-Sánchez oversees a network of addiction service systems, with more than 1,600 programs that serve hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. She also served on New York’s Statewide Task Force to Combat Heroin, which saw opioid cases drop 16% in 2018 – the first decline in a decade – although the coronavirus pandemic has spurred an uptick in overdose deaths.
18. Ann Marie Sullivan
Commissioner, State Office of Mental Health
As New York’s top public official on mental health since 2013, Commissioner Dr. Ann Marie Sullivan runs a system serving more than 700,000 individuals annually through its psychiatric centers and its oversight of more than 4,500 local government and nonprofit programs. Sullivan, who continued a transition toward emphasizing community-based mental health services statewide, has touted the state’s text-based mental health helpline, which has been in greater demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.
19. Bea Grause
President, Healthcare Association of New York State
Bea Grause began her tenure as president of the Healthcare Association of New York State nearly five years ago, and most recently was tapped by state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to help enforce an initiative to increase hospital capacities amid a resurgence of the coronavirus. A registered nurse, she worked in the emergency department for years while studying for her law degree, and previously led the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.
20. Robert Grossman
CEO, NYU Langone Health
Since Dr. Robert Grossman became CEO of NYU Langone Health in 2007, he oversaw an expansion of NYU School of Medicine, where he also took on the role of dean, adding 8 million square feet for clinical, educational and research services. Plus, he increased the health system’s revenue by nearly $8 billion, all while offering free tuition to medical students. In 2019, NYU honored him by renaming its medical school the Robert I. Grossman School of Medicine.
21. Kenneth Davis
President and CEO, Mount Sinai Health System
Dr. Kenneth Davis turned around a struggling Mount Sinai Health System when he took over in 2003. Within a decade, the renowned psychiatrist also oversaw a merger with Continuum Health Partners. Davis recently won a waiver allowing Mount Sinai to enroll a broader group of Medicare patients into its “Hospitalization at Home” program, which helped to increase capacity in anticipation of another COVID-19 surge. Davis previously pushed to use artificial intelligence to improve patient care.
22. LaRay Brown
CEO, One Brooklyn Health System
This titan of the Brooklyn Medical community is charged with keeping her finger on the pulse on health care in Kings County. LaRay Brown recently reassured the community that Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center is not closing and that the trio of hospitals under her watch will stand ready to serve COVID-19 patients. Besides Kingsbrook, Brown directs the strategic efforts of Interfaith Medical Center and Brookdale Hospital.
23. Eric Linzer & Leslie Moran
President and CEO; Senior Vice President, New York Health Plan Association
Eric Linzer and Leslie Moran together advocate for dozens of health insurance companies, managing a multitude of health care plans that provide coverage to more than 8 million New Yorkers. They oppose single-payer health care – specifically the New York Health Act, which the association argues would remove health coverage options now available to millions of New Yorkers and require tax increases. Linzer, the organization’s face, recently vowed COVID-19 vaccines would be administered at no cost, in compliance with the state’s directive.
24. Joy Calloway & Robin Chappelle Golston
Interim CEO, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York; President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts
Planned Parenthood has gone through several major changes in New York in the past year. In January 2020, five regional affiliates joined forces as Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, an attempt to boost reach and influence. Then following the tumultuous exit of Laura McQuade, Joy Calloway was named interim chief late last year. Along with the organization’s advocacy arm, led by Robin Chappelle Golston, Planned Parenthood is on the front lines of a growing fight over access to birth control and abortion.
25. Chirlane McCray & Susan Herman
New York City First Lady, Director, Mayor’s Office of ThriveNYC
Often described as one of her husband's closest advisers, first lady Chirlane McCray chairs the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City while her pet project is ThriveNYC – an effort to overhaul New York City's mental health and substance abuse services. The program, which has come under scrutiny from the New York City Council amid questions about its budget and effectiveness, is now led by Susan Herman, a former NYPD deputy commissioner.
26. Talya Schwartz
President and CEO, MetroPlus Health Plan
As COVID-19 swept across New York City, Dr. Talya Schwartz has kept her eye on the most vulnerable, including the homeless. Schwartz, who is a key part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s effort to deliver health care to every New Yorker, spearheaded MetroPlus’ new outreach program with an emphasis on providing housing, food, social services and medical care. “We plan on conducting this critical member outreach throughout the COVID-19 crisis – and beyond,” Schwartz said last summer.
27. My Chi To
Executive Deputy Superintendent of Insurance, State Department of Financial Services
Department of Financial Services Superintendent Linda Lacewell is the public face of New York’s regulatory changes for insurers in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but behind the scenes top deputy My Chi To is playing a critical role in shaping and implementing them. Among the steps DFS has taken to help New Yorkers are expediting claims, suspending preauthorization requirements and mandating insurers waive copayments and telehealth charges and offer relief for overburdened hospitals.
28. Philip Ozuah
President and CEO, Montefiore Medicine
Dr. Philip Ozuah faced his biggest challenge just a few months into his tenure as he directed the response to a public health crisis that brought thousands of coronavirus patients to Montefiore. Ozuah succeeded Steven Safyer, who retired after 40 years of service in November 2019. He oversees both Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System, which has 13 hospitals and 300 clinical locations.
29. Pat Kane & Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez
Executive Director; President, New York State Nurses Association
Pat Kane and Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez have adopted progressive stances while leading the New York State Nurses Association, a 43,000-member union representing registered nurses throughout the state. Under their watch, the union pushed for more personal protective equipment for nurses out on the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic, while continuing to call for higher minimum staffing levels. Both have worked as nurses for more than three decades in New York City.
30. Karen Ignagni
President and CEO, EmblemHealth
The nonprofit health insurer EmblemHealth provides coverage to more than 3 million people in New York City and the broader tristate area, making it one of the biggest companies of its kind not just in New York but nationally. Karen Ignagni, who led the industry association America’s Health Insurance Plans during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, counts government entities and labor unions among her larger customers.
31. Pat Wang
President and CEO, Healthfirst
At the start of 2020, Pat Wang was named to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team II and tasked with finding $2.5 billion in Medicaid savings. At the end of the year, the governor appointed her to his Vaccine Equity Task Force to help ensure low-income New Yorkers and people of color aren’t left behind. Wang’s nonprofit insurance company, Healthfirst, is known for its early emphasis on incentivizing patient outcomes.
32. James Clyne Jr.
President, LeadingAge New York
With nursing homes hammered by COVID-19, James Clyne has taken the lead in defending the industry. Clyne, whose group represents more than 400 long-term care and senior housing providers, had been bracing for massive growth in New York’s elderly population. In response to the immediate crisis, he has kept busy defending nursing homes on everything from PPE supplies to emergency legal protections for operators to the state’s coronavirus death statistics.
33. John O’Connor
Deputy Vice President for Advocacy in New York, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America is one of the country’s most influential trade groups, known for spending millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions to benefit the drug industry. In New York, PhRMA’s point person is the Albany-based operative John O’Connor. In recent years, he has battled efforts by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others to lower prescription drug prices, arguing they would reduce funding for research and development of new medications.
34. Larry Merlo & Karen Lynch
President and CEO; Executive Vice President, CVS Health
Next month CVS CEO Larry Merlo will hand the reins to Karen Lynch, the company announced in November. The move comes two years after the pharmacy chain acquired the health insurance company Aetna, where Lynch was a top executive and remains president. That acquisition was finalized after a key approval by New York’s Department of Financial Services in 2018, although the Rhode Island company had to wait another year for an antitrust ruling.
35. Michael McGuire
CEO, UnitedHealthcare of New York
UnitedHealthcare is a widely utilized health insurance company in New York, and for the past seven years the executive overseeing its business in the state has been Michael McGuire. The company, whose plans include its Oxford brand, has provided aid in response to the coronavirus pandemic, with half a million dollars donated to both the Food Bank for New York City and Care For the Homeless through the company’s foundation.
36. David Sandman
President and CEO, New York State Health Foundation
David Sandman has a big dream: make New York a healthier place to live. David Sandman’s New York State Health Foundation has shelled out millions of dollars for coronavirus relief throughout the state. Sandman also urged New Yorkers to get a flu shot after the foundation published a report raising concerns about the risks of a bad flu season. Sandman previously led the Berger Commission, which studied the state’s health care delivery system.
37. Rose Duhan
President and CEO, Community Health Care Association of New York State
Rose Duhan’s Community Health Care Association of New York State bills itself as the only statewide association for New York’s community health centers – and the COVID-19 crisis has made it harder for the providers she represents. “Community health centers are really struggling now,” Duhan warned last spring. “Without patients coming in, they’re unable to generate the revenue they need to pay staff.” She is also advocating for investments in telehealth.
38. Kenneth Gibbs
President and CEO, Maimonides Medical Center
Maimonides Medical Center was one of a number of New York City hospitals that contended with an influx of coronavirus patients last year, but it never stopped the Brooklyn institution from investing in the future. Kenneth Gibbs recently secured a $141 million bond to fund capital projects over the next three years at the hospital. Maimonides is also a partner on the new Health Enterprise Hub to utilize local vendors and train health care workers.
39. Craig Thompson
President and CEO, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
For more than a decade, Dr. Craig Thompson has run the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a renowned institution that lays claim to being the oldest and largest private center of its kind anywhere in the world. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Memorial Sloan Kettering and other hospitals have seen their finances suffer, while its researchers are applying their expertise in immunotherapy to help respond.
40. Frank Proscia
President, Doctors Council SEIU
A psychiatrist and former inpatient unit chief at the Mount Sinai medical school, Dr. Frank Proscia leads thousands of doctors and dentists that make up Doctors Council SEIU, part of the largest health care workers union in the country. Proscia has delved into broader policy issues as well, including advocating for paid sick leave legislation, ensuring that immigrants get care and, in response to the death of George Floyd, calling racial violence and unequal health care public health emergencies.
41. Stephen Hanse
President and CEO, New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living
Last month, Stephen Hanse praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to put nursing home employees and residents at the head of the line for COVID-19 vaccinations, given that they’ve borne the brunt of the coronavirus. Hanse joined the New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living in 2013 and became president four years later. He speaks for nearly 400 skilled nursing providers and adult care and assisted living communities.
42. Christopher Hillyer
President and CEO, New York Blood Center
The New York Blood Center collects blood and provides it for transfusions, but it also is known for its world-class hematology research and treatments. In the coronavirus era, it has responded proactively by ramping up blood donation efforts, joining vaccine clinical research trials, and collecting blood from those with COVID-19 antibodies for convalescent plasma treatments. NYBC’s leader, Dr. Christopher Hillyer, is a professor and expert on transfusion medicine.
43. Anthony Shih
President, United Hospital Fund
Dr. Anthony Shih has had a lifelong commitment to serving vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. During the pandemic, the United Hospital Fund rolled out several programs to help individuals who lost job-based health insurance find new coverage and tracked the number of children in the state who lost a parent or guardian to COVID-19. He came to the United Hospital Fund in 2017 after serving as executive vice president of the New York Academy of Medicine.
44. Candace Johnson
President and CEO, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
While COVID-19 pandemic has drawn most of the attention of medical professionals across the globe, other life-threatening illnesses remain as much of a threat as they were before. “If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that cancer doesn’t stop,” Roswell Park’s Candace Johnson noted last month. And her world-class cancer center has kept up the fight, treating patients and pioneering innovative treatments while adapting to the coronavirus threat.
45. Kathy Febraio
President and CEO, New York State Association of Health Care Providers
In 2019, Kathy Febraio became the leader of the New York State Association of Health Care Providers, a trade association that represents 350 home care and home health providers. In testimony before the state Legislature last summer, she warned that patients were afraid of home care workers due to the spread of COVID-19. Febraio previously was the executive director of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York and the New York State Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
46. Paloma Izquierdo-Hernandez
President and CEO, Urban Health Plan
Paloma Izquierdo-Hernandez is the daughter of the late Dr. Richard “Doc” Izquierdo, the founder of Urban Health Plan and a social justice leader who fought for Latino health care rights in the South Bronx during the ’60 and ’70s. She established her own name by battling health disparities in the Bronx, Harlem and Queens. She oversaw the organization’s expansion to become a network of 10 federally qualified health centers with 11 school health programs, among other facilities.
47. Alan Murray
President and CEO, Empire BlueCross BlueShield
Alan Murray didn’t follow a typical path to get into health insurance – when he was serving in the British Merchant Navy he met his future wife, moved with her to the United States, and then got his first job in the industry thanks to a distant connection. After working his way up the ladder, he’s now running Anthem’s Empire BlueCross Blueshield, the largest insurance provider in New York with more than 4 million members.
48. Louise Cohen
CEO, Primary Care Development Corp.
As the coronavirus has ravaged New York, Louise Cohen of the Primary Care Development Corp. has drawn attention to the gaps in the health care system and the prioritization of hospitals. “Primary care was really left out of the equation,” Cohen told Crain's New York Business last summer. “Primary care could have been an enormously strong point for communities responding to COVID.” Cohen’s community development nonprofit provides funding and technical support to providers of primary care.
49. Harold Iselin
Managing Shareholder, Albany Office, Greenberg Traurig
Harold Iselin isn’t just the leader of top-10 lobbying firm Greenberg Traurig’s Albany office – he’s also a deeply knowledgeable expert on health care policy in New York, with an impressive roster of clients in the medical field and other related sectors. A shareholder and co-chair of Greenberg Traurig’s Government Law and Policy Practice, Iselin previously served in the Governor’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice.
50. Lisa David
President and CEO, Public Health Solutions
Lisa David and her team of 650 employees at Public Health Solutions seek to improve health outcomes by assisting low-income families, people with HIV/AIDS, immigrants and other underserved populations – a mission whose critical importance has been underscored by the coronavirus pandemic. “The pandemic has made it abundantly and sometimes painfully clear that public health underpins nearly everything in New York City and across the country,” David wrote in the Queens Daily Eagle last summer.