A battalion of special guests – including a shining example of med-tech innovation – helped Northwell Health salute the Memorial Day holiday this week.
Held Thursday at the system’s New Hyde Park headquarters, Northwell Health’s Fifth Annual Military Memorial Luncheon was designed to honor those who served and celebrate Armed Forces veterans who are back on the job – including one retired U.S. Marine who lost a leg in Afghanistan, but is back on his feet thanks to Northwell and its partners.
Among those helping Northwell Health recognize the service and sacrifice of U.S. troops was Dan Lasko, a former Marine whose vehicle was hit by two explosive devices less than a month after he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2004, resulting in a below-the-knee amputation of his left leg.
Conventional prosthetics helped the wounded warrior return to some of the sports he loved, a big part of his recovery process – but in order to swim, he needed something special. Enter Northwell Health, which worked with New York City-based Eschen Prosthetic and Orthotic Laboratory and the Composite Prototyping Center in Plainview to create the “Fin” prosthetic.
Lasko’s full story was the topic of Northwell Health’s first Health Story podcast, which debuted this month.
Joining Lasko at the Military Memorial Luncheon were Col. James McDonough, managing director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the U.S. Army deputy chief of staff.
Juan Serrano, director of Northwell Health’s Office of Military and Veterans’ Liaison Services and a fellow veteran, noted the importance of providing “tangible commitments” to those who serve.
“Northwell has made a pledge to veterans that we take very seriously,” Serrano said “Whether it’s helping them get back to work, learning important job-training skills or finding the right medical or behavioral health help, our message is clear – no veteran should ever be left behind.
“We take this very seriously, and we will continue to support our military heroes.”
Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling also presented two veterans with checks representing the difference between their military pay and the regular salaries they would have received had they not taken military leave from their jobs within the health system.
The recipients were Perry Alexander of the Bronx, a clinical lab technician at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park who served three years as a U.S. Marine Corps logistics specialist, and Jovani Vega of Queens Village, a patient care associate at Long Island Jewish who spent two years as an MP in the U.S. Army.
The awards marked the seventh consecutive year Northwell Health, previously the North Shore-LIJ Health System, presented checks to health system employees who took time to serve. Since the program’s inception, health system employees deployed to military service have received financial rewards totaling more than $1.6 million, according to Northwell.
While happy to present the financial awards – and sure to note that Northwell Health hired 417 Armed Forces veterans in 2016, up from 220 in 2015 – Dowling lamented that society still has far to go when it comes to honoring those who serve.
“I don’t think we do enough for veterans,” he said. “And, I don’t think we appreciate their sacrifices enough. They serve as an example to all of us, and that is to show the same level of compassion and teamwork as they do.”