After being born in Ireland and working early jobs at a steel factory and in a ship’s engine room, Michael Dowling has gone on to leave a lasting mark on the health of New Yorkers. Since 2002, he has led New York’s largest health care provider and employer – a system encompassing more than 68,000 employees and 23 hospitals. Dowling is regularly on Modern Healthcare’s 100 Most Powerful People in Healthcare list and was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame.
The Health Care Power 50; 6-50
The Health Care Power 50; 6-50
It’s that time of year when many New Yorkers start paying attention to their health – watching their weight, trying new diets and hitting the gym.
But for others, health care is a year-round profession and passion. Medical practitioners spend countless hours tending to their patients. Business and nonprofit executives grapple with rising costs and pursue innovative solutions as they seek to improve and expand care. And policymakers continually craft new strategies to combat epidemics and improve public health.
In this special list, we recognize the 50 most influential health care figures in the world of New York politics. Since we cover politicians on a day-to-day basis, we omitted all but a few officials who are in government, instead identifying those who influence it from the outside.
We reached out to insiders and experts to compile this list, ranking each person based on their accomplishments, economic clout, sway in political and policy matters, ties to powerful politicians and the constituencies they represent.
We’re pleased to present the inaugural Health Care Power 50.
Taking the helm of one of the country’s largest health care delivery systems is a daunting task, and Steven Corwin has aced it. Under his leadership, New York-Presbyterian has doubled in size – now serving nearly 3.6 million patients annually. The hospital’s ties to Columbia University’s medical school and Weill Cornell Medicine attract the brightest minds in medicine, and U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks it as the top system in New York, and among the best in the nation.
Expansion has been the name of the game during Robert Grossman’s tenure as head of New York’s second-ranked hospital system. Since 2007, he has led efforts to add 7 million square feet for clinical, educational and research services, and he’s increased the health system’s revenue by $7 billion. He made waves for announcing that NYU medical students will no longer pay tuition. Joe Lhota, the former Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman, serves on Grossman’s executive team and provides experience in navigating city and state governments.
New York City employees can look forward to an upgraded EmblemHealth plan in 2019 – but that’s just part of the strategic transformation that Karen Ignagni has led at the state’s largest nonprofit health plan. A former president and CEO of the powerful association America’s Health Insurance Plans – she worked with the White House and Congress on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act – Ignagni now oversees EmblemHealth’s expansion, partnerships and services for 3.1 million New Yorkers and counting.
Few health care entities draw as much of a visceral reaction as Planned Parenthood. Previously the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, Laura McQuade oversees New York City’s health centers and advocacy efforts.
Robin Chappelle Golston heads up Planned Parenthood’s state advocacy arm. While the health care center and advocacy organization is safe in New York – and may soon see new state-level abortion protections enacted – federal threats keep Planned Parenthood in the news.
The New York State Health Foundation, a private foundation that receives proceeds from Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield’s conversion from a nonprofit to a for-profit company, has doled out more than $130 million since 2006 to build healthy communities, improve transparency and serve the needs of veterans. Under David Sandman’s leadership, the organization commissioned the definitive report on single-payer health care in the state from Rand Corp., finding that the transition could work but would require “significant new tax revenue.”
His background is in public finance, but Kenneth Gibbs seemed like a natural fit to become president and CEO of Maimonides Medical Center in 2016, after a stint as chairman of the board. Most notably, he helped the Brooklyn-based center negotiate a complex partnership with what is now Northwell Health. One of only 26 hospitals in the country to receive “outstanding” marks from the federal government in heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia outcomes, Maimonides also delivers more babies than any other hospital in New York.
Bristol-Myers Squibb’s leading cancer drug, Opdivo, brought in $1.5 billion in revenue in a recent quarterly report while Giovanni Caforio’s compensation surged above $18 million in 2017. A physician by training, the company’s board chairman and CEO leads its research into cancer treatment and is credited with strengthening its patient-focused culture. Originally from Italy, Caforio joined Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Italian division in 2000 before working his way up to the top job at its New York City corporate headquarters.
Since 2017, Anthony Shih has led United Hospital Fund’s efforts to build a better health care system in New York with data and research. An independent nonprofit, the organization publishes extensive research on the state’s Medicaid program and recently collaborated with the Greater New York Hospital Association on patient safety initiatives. Shih began his medical career serving immigrant and refugee families in California before returning to New York and taking on leadership roles at The New York Academy of Medicine and the Commonwealth Fund.
A former civil rights activist who began his medical career at Montefiore’s Rikers Island Health Services – helping develop treatments for patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis – Steven Safyer now leads one of the top-ranked hospitals in New York. After being appointed as president and CEO in 2008, he expanded the Bronx-based hospital’s reach by strengthening its relationship with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Modern Healthcare recently recognized Safyer as one of the 50 Most Influential Physician Executives and Leaders in Healthcare.
Leonard Schleifer always dreamed of working in the medical industry – and now he’s trying to disrupt it. The Westchester County-based billionaire co-founder of Regeneron is pushing for responsibly priced drugs that don’t gouge patients while still pulling in a profit for benefit managers. Though Regeneron’s own drugs haven’t exactly come cheap – at $14,000 per year for a cholesterol-lowering drug and $11,000 a year per eye for a macular degeneration drug – Schleifer hopes a new deal with Express Scripts will lower prices.
A trained pharmacist who rose through the ranks of CVS Health, Larry Merlo says the company’s recent merger with Aetna – which recently cleared New York regulators – marks the beginning of “a new health care model.” During his tenure, the company began a push to rebrand as a health care company, ending tobacco sales and expanding its walk-in clinics. Merlo, who lives in Rhode Island, serves on the board of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.
It’s been a successful year for the insurance industry veteran, who moved to Cigna in 2017 as market president for the tri-state area after a decade leading the New York market for Aetna Inc. David Kobus has already expanded Cigna’s reach by partnering with the Westchester Medical Center Health Network to bring its 10 hospitals into the insurer’s network. And Cigna’s recent purchase of Express Scripts for $54 billion could disrupt the prescription drug market in 2019 and beyond.
Craig Thompson came to the world’s largest private cancer center in 2010 after multiple leadership roles within the University of Pennsylvania’s health facilities. Recently thrust into the controversy surrounding the cancer center’s relationship with pharmaceutical companies, Thompson resigned from the board of pharmaceutical giant Merck in October, saying that the decision will allow him to focus on “quality patient care, faculty, scientists and staff.” Thompson has published more than 430 peer-reviewed manuscripts and his laboratory researches cell biology and immunology.
Nothing says power quite like being a major part of the largest health insurer in the country. After serving in various roles at UnitedHealthcare for 11 years, Minnesota-based Steve Nelson – an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health – was promoted to CEO in 2017. UnitedHealthcare is not without controversy, as it challenges a state regulation that allows the state to collect money from insurers under an Affordable Care Act program.
During Arnold Saperstein’s tenure leading MetroPlus Health Plan, the plan has grown from 40,000 members to around 500,000. Saperstein has led the health insurer for more than a decade and first joined the organization as chief medical officer in 1995. Now owned by New York City Health + Hospitals, MetroPlus Health Plan was awarded top “quality measures” among Medicaid managed care plans by the state Department of Health. An endocrinologist by training, Saperstein still practices at Bellevue Hospital.
Kenneth Davis’ career is dotted with major accomplishments: his groundbreaking research on Alzheimer’s disease and a lifetime achievement award from Yale University. Credited with turning Mount Sinai Medical Center around during a turbulent period in 2003 – it was losing millions of dollars per year – Davis’ leadership helped the hospital earn a spot on U.S. News & World Report’s list of top hospitals. In 2018, Mount Sinai’s partnership with South Nassau Communities Hospital extended the system’s reach into Long Island.
As LaRay Brown settles into her role as CEO of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s nearly $700 million One Brooklyn Health System initiative – which is trying to help transform the health care system and increase access to quality care in Central Brooklyn – she is poised to make progress on health equity issues. She is also the president and CEO of Interfaith Medical Center. Previously, Brown held leadership roles at NYC Health + Hospitals, where she spearheaded strategic planning and advocacy strategies.
Shortly after becoming CEO in 2015 of the country’s first cancer center, Candace Johnson led a joint trip to Cuba with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to advance research on a promising lung cancer treatment developed on the island. No doubt the research partnership raised the profile of the Buffalo-based center, prompting Cuomo to observe: “New York is forging a path as a leader in modern medical research and advancement.” Johnson previously held a leadership role at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.
Hospitals are reliable regional economic drivers, and this is especially true for Albany Medical Center – the only academic health sciences center in northeastern New York and one of the region’s largest private employers. James Barba, who has led the center since 1995, is overseeing an ambitious expansion at the hospital’s Park South campus as well as plans for a new surgical center in nearby Niskayuna. He also serves on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Capital Region Regional Economic Development Council.
Jeffrey Sachs has been called an “Oz-like figure” in New York’s health care industry. He has participated in virtually every significant health policy overhaul in the state over the past three decades, sat on an advisory committee to then-President Barack Obama during the formation of the Affordable Care Act and was a key player in New York’s Medicaid Redesign Team. A longtime friend of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, his consulting firm advises health care leaders in hospitals, labor unions, tech companies and more.
When it comes to community-based health care in New York, industry veteran Louise Cohen is one of the go-to executives charged with putting plans in motion. As CEO of the Primary Care Development Corp., she is responsible for administering Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $19.5 million fund to give low-cost loans for health care providers to make capital improvements across the state. Cohen previously held several leadership roles at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
A longtime advocate for patients and physicians, Thomas Madejski is eager to lead the professional organization for physicians into what he calls the “golden age of medicine.” In recent years, the 20,000-member organization has lobbied on issues ranging from physician burnout to immunization. Madejski, a Buffalo native who specializes in geriatric and palliative care, previously served as a New York state delegate to the American Medical Association and as medical director of Medina Memorial Hospital’s Skilled Nursing Home.
A nationally recognized health care leader, Judith Salerno took the helm of The New York Academy of Medicine in 2017 determined to correct the issue of health inequity, which disproportionately affects women of color. Previously, Salerno served as president and CEO of Susan G. Komen and as executive director of what was then called the Institute of Medicine. In 2013, she partnered with HBO to create the documentary series “Weight of a Nation,” which proposed solutions to America’s obesity epidemic.
An advocate for all of the managed care plans in the state, Eric Linzer leads one of the most powerful health care lobbying interests in Albany, ensuring health care plans maintain quality of care even in uncertain times. But his tenure has not been without controversy. An expert on state and federal health legislation, Linzer has advocated against a single-payer health care system, ruffling the feathers of progressives. In 2018, he fought Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a proposed tax increase on health insurers.
As a lobbyist for Big Pharma, John O’Connor wields considerable power – along with some controversy. In 2017, John O’Connor led the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America’s campaign against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to control prescription drug prices, saying it “does nothing to improve patient access to medicines, bring life-saving drugs to the market or create jobs.” The group, which is among the nation’s top lobbying organizations by spending, is expected to unveil a mobile health screening program in New York City.
Growing up in an immigrant community in Flushing, Queens, Richard Park knew what it meant to be an outsider. After entering the medical profession, he made inclusive health care his mission. Since he opened the first CityMD clinic on the Upper East Side in 2010, the system has grown to 109 urgent care clinics throughout New York and New Jersey. What differentiates CityMD from other urgent care clinics is its emphasis on compassionate care, population health and coordinating data with other doctors.
Thomas Check oversees the nation’s largest public health information exchange, distributing the health records of more than 17 million patients to providers in New York City and Long Island. After linking with data-sharing systems at Mount Sinai Health System and Northwell Health in 2017, Healthix integrated with Medicaid’s data system last year. Check previously held leadership roles at Visiting Nurse Service of New York, NYU Medical Center and Mount Sinai Medical Center.
Charles King’s approach has been considered brash by some, from his fights with then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani over grant funding to interrupting a speech by then-President Barack Obama. But this take-no-prisoners attitude has served the ordained Baptist minister well. Housing Works, the organization he co-founded in 1990, has emerged as one of New York City’s most influential advocacy groups serving people with HIV/AIDS, and he has become an ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
As a child of immigrants, Pat Wang identifies with Healthfirst’s mission of serving diverse populations – about half of the insurer’s beneficiaries primarily speak a language that is not English and many of its patients use Medicare and Medicaid. Since 2008, Wang has steered the organization through the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the state’s expansion of Medicaid, in the process receiving nationwide recognition. She previously worked for 17 years at the Greater New York Hospital Association.
As the demand for home health care explodes in the U.S., Visiting Nurse Service of New York, which reaches more than 135,000 patients per year, stands out as one of the pre-eminent organizations serving elderly New Yorkers. Marki Flannery came on board in 1982, eventually leading its licensed home care agency, Partners in Care, to become the largest home care organization in New York City. She left in 2017 but came back within months as president and CEO.
New York is one of two states (along with Virginia) to require mental health education in schools, thanks to the lobbying efforts of Glenn Liebman and his team at the Mental Health Association in New York State – Albany’s pre-eminent lobby group for mental health. The organization is continuing to push for its policy proposals on other fronts in 2019, including cost-of-living increases for mental health care workers employed by nonprofits.
Matt Kudish leads the largest affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one of the nation’s largest mental health advocacy groups, and has been working since 2017 to expand the organization’s reach and broaden its partnerships. His efforts come as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration devotes more attention to mental health care needs through its Thrive NYC initiative, with Kudish applauding the mayor’s recent creation of a mental health crisis task force.
Lisa David’s resume reads like a checklist of some of the nation’s most influential women’s health organizations: She has held leadership roles at Planned Parenthood, Medicines360 and Columbia University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. As the head of New York City’s largest public health nonprofit – which offers grants and management assistance to more than 200 organizations in the city – she is responsible for building out programs to address issues as diverse as nutrition, tobacco and preventing the spread of HIV.
When Catholic Health Services of Long Island needed a new leader to oversee its network of hospitals – including St. Francis Hospital, the only specialty designated cardiac center in the state – the organization turned to renowned cardiologist Alan Guerci. Previously the president and CEO of St. Francis and two other hospitals within the system, Guerci oversaw a massive expansion project at the cardiac center. Earlier in his career, he held a leadership position at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
After a rocky 2017, Oscar Health emerged as the health care success story of 2018. The health insurer – which markets itself to millennials with an emphasis on telemedicine and more transparent pricing, raising a significant amount of money from Alphabet – has already enrolled more than 250,000 people in nine states. Mario Schlosser worked in tech and data analytics before co-founding Oscar with Kevin Nazemi and Josh Kushner – yes, Jared’s brother.
Jed Levine’s new role as president and CEO of CaringKind caps a long career spent working in elder care, from teaching at Columbia University and Hunter College to serving on U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s working group on aging to his recent appointment to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Age-friendly NYC Commission at the New York Academy of Medicine. Levine has been with CaringKind – formerly the Alzheimer’s Association’s New York City chapter – since 1990.
Marijuana is still considered a shadow industry, but Kevin Murphy and his team at Acreage Holdings are riding a wave of confidence as more states – including New York – eye the legalization of recreational marijuana. A former finance executive who started investing in medical marijuana in 2012, Murphy oversees one of the largest marijuana portfolios in the country – with a presence in 14 states and high-profile board members like former House Speaker John Boehner.
If there’s a health care award to be given in New York, chances are Elisabeth Ryden Benjamin has already been honored. Widely recognized for her work – and included on a list of Notable Women in Health Care last year – Benjamin currently supervises health policy and advocacy programs at the Community Service Society of New York. She is also a co-founder of the Health Care for All New York campaign, a statewide coalition of more than 170 organizations committed to affordable, quality health care.
Robin Vitale made a name for herself as a powerful voice championing the American Heart Association’s anti-tobacco campaign. Several years ago, New York City raised the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21. The vice president of health strategies has championed a successful initiative that made hands-only CPR training a high school graduation requirement in the city – as well as significant improvements to physical education in schools.
Even before Sharon Greenberger was tapped to lead the YMCA of Greater New York, her resume reflected her deep investment in New York City: a senior vice president at NewYork-Presbyterian, chief operating officer of the city’s education department and chief of staff to the city’s deputy mayor for economic development. Under her leadership, the YMCA launched Thriving New Yorkers, Stronger Communities, an initiative that aims to improve the health and well-being of 1.3 million residents.
New York City’s signature marathon is now the largest in the world – with nearly 53,000 finishers in 2018 – and every year the New York Road Runners drives momentum for the weekendlong event with hundreds of community runs throughout the city. Since taking the helm in 2015, Michael Capiraso has expanded the organization’s footprint, bringing exercise to more than 250,000 children nationwide and revamping the technology behind the marathon.
If the opioid epidemic made anything clear, it was the need for more robust care around substance abuse and mental health. John Coppola, who has led the New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers since its inception, has been beating that drum for decades. He has been vocal about the government’s responsibility to change the way mental health and substance abuse are treated, praising Gov. Andrew Cuomo about his actions to make treatment a priority.
One of the biggest safety net health care providers in Manhattan got a shiny new rebrand in 2018, thanks to Brian McIndoe. The industry veteran – who is responsible for the health care provider’s 19 sites that see about 50,000 patients per year – is credited with steering the health center through financial difficulties in recent years. The newly renamed Ryan Health recently transformed a Winnebago van into a mobile health unit designed to bring health care to underserved communities.
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo expanded New York’s legal defense program for immigrant families – adding more services to assist people targeted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – he partnered with Somos Community Care, a network of thousands of health care providers serving roughly 650,000 patients throughout New York City. Ramon Tallaj, a doctor who had an opportunity to become the Dominican Republic’s health minister, founded Somos Community Care in 2015 at the request of the cardinal of the Archdiocese of New York.
Denise Gonick’s career path wound through a few different sectors – from law school to politics to labor law – before she landed at MVP Health Plan. The first woman to lead the organization that insures more than 700,000 New York and Vermont residents, Gonick took the helm during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplace.“I had not set out to be a CEO, this is something that evolved naturally,” she told The Daily Gazette.