Michael Dowling, President and CEO of Northwell Health, recently spoke with The Times of Huntington & Northport about his appointment as Grand Marshal of Huntington’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2022, which will take place on Sunday March 13.
Q: Before getting into the details of this year’s parade, could you tell us about your own background? How did you get where you are today?
I was born in Ireland, and left when I was young. Then I went to England to work in the steelworks. My dream has always been to go to college, but we couldn’t afford it, so I had to find a way to get the resources. When I arrived in the United States, I was 18 years old.
I came alone and worked on the West Side of Manhattan on the docks for several years. The first three years I spent half the year working in New York and in the second half of the year I returned to Ireland and went to university – I was lucky enough to enter at university in Ireland. Of course, I had no money, so I had to continue working.
After graduating from university in Ireland, I moved back to New York and continued working on the boats for a longer period. Then I worked in construction and in plumbing and other manual labor which I didn’t mind at all. Then I went to Fordham University to get my master’s degree.
I went there, obviously, part-time because I was working all the time. I graduated from Fordham University and after I graduated I was lucky that they asked me to come back and teach a class. I gave several courses at Fordham. Eventually, they asked me to become a full-time faculty member at Fordham University, in the Graduate School of Social Service at Lincoln Center. I finally became the assistant dean of the doctoral school, having an administrative role and a teaching role.
I was in Fordham when Governor Mario Cuomo was elected. His administration contacted me to ask if I was interested in accepting a government job. I hadn’t been in politics, I didn’t know the governor, but I’m a risk taker and I like new challenges, so I said yes.
I ended up taking a job in Albany and working my way up the ranks pretty quickly. I eventually became the health director, [Education] and New York State Social Services. I also served as Assistant Secretary to the Governor and his Senior Advisor for Health and Human Services. I did this for 12 years.
I left Albany and got lucky again. North Shore University Hospital contacted me and asked if I was willing to participate. North Shore, at the time, was in the early stages of building a health care system. After I arrived, we grew through mergers with other hospitals. A few years later, we merged with LIJ. Five years after joining North Shore, I became President and CEO. I was president and CEO for 20 years.
I did manual labor; I’ve been in academia; I have been in government; I’ve been in the insurance industry; and I was on the supplier’s side. This is a very quick overview of my career.
Q: When did you first become involved with the Ancient Order of Hibernians? When were you selected as this year’s parade grand marshal in Huntington?
I have been involved on and off over the years with the Hibernians in New York. Three years ago, the Huntington Hibernians contacted me to ask if I wanted to participate in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. I agreed.
Then, of course, COVID hit and it changed everything, and it delayed everything. Fortunately, now that the elements of COVID are diminishing considerably, we hope we have a good day this Sunday.
The Hibernians do a great job – a long history, a great heritage, a great humanitarian organization and good people. They do an amazing job in the Huntington area, so I’m very, very proud to be part of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and working with the Hibernians.
Q: Given that you were on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic, what does this year’s event mean to you?
Well, we are moving towards some normality now. You are going through an issue like COVID and it is a learning experience. From time to time, for various periods of time, you go through a difficulty like this. When you go through them, you just deal with them. Now it looks like he’s backing up a lot, but we have to be careful.
This doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be a rise or some other type of variation, but it is an opportunity for people to get back to normal. We can meet in person, socialize and communicate together in person, which is very important.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade next week in Huntington is their first parade since COVID began. The COVID outbreak in the Long Island area happened right after the Hibernians’ last parade in Huntington. We haven’t had in-person shows since 2020 and now, two years later, it’s a wonderful awakening.
Maybe it’s a party that we’re on the COVID exit ramps, and we can come together. It is a positive sign. It shows that there is optimism and positivity. I hope the weather will be nice, but even if it’s not, we’re still going to have a great time. It’s the start of a new chapter.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to say to local readers?
I would say Huntington is a wonderful place. We should sit down and remember how lucky we are. We live in the United States, we live in a beautiful place: Huntington and surrounding areas. We can come together freely and be together for a while.
This is a time to celebrate the United States, to celebrate how lucky we all are, to celebrate the liberties and liberties we hold, especially given what we are seeing happening in the world right now.
It’s a celebration of immigration, a celebration of immigrants, a celebration of our diversity and, of course, it’s a celebration of our Irish heritage, our history and the contributions that Irish people and so many others have made to the building of the United States. .
This is an opportunity to be grateful. It is a festive and joyful occasion and I look forward to it.