BY TRONE DOWD
As premier child-care facility in New York City, St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children has changed the lives of countless families through its dedication to what the hospital does best.
An organization could only earn the type of reputation that St. Mary’s has through exemplary leadership. St. Mary’s is led by Dr. Edwin Simpser, who has been with St. Mary’s since 1999. Simpser, who started out as chief medical officer, said that he has long called himself a proud member of the St. Mary’s family.
Over the past 18 years, Simpser has seen it all. During his tenure, he played a crucial role in St. Mary’s evolution and rise to prominence.
According to St. Mary’s website, Simpser “shaped the organization’s strategic direction,” playing a “pivotal role leading the construction” of numerous facilities on the hospital’s Bayside campus. Simpser also pioneered several programs on behalf of children with special needs, including St. Mary’s Center for Pediatric Feeding Disorders and St. Mary’s Home Care, a special-needs Certified Home Health Agency for children and young adults. Promoted to CEO in April 2014, Simpser has only seen the organization grow since taking over the post.
In an interview with the Queens Tribune, Simpser explained what he believed makes St. Mary’s such a special place:
“We are what I like to call the ‘rest of the story.’ We are an organization that takes children who have been in the hospital and who need ongoing care once they leave the hospital….When you hear about the miracle babies, the babies who are born weighing one pound—when they leave the hospital, they are not perfect. Someone has to help them out. And we are the ones helping them out.”
Simpser said that St. Mary’s is in the unique position to provide services that other places cannot due to dedicated spaces at the hospital:
“For example, we have an inpatient facility in Bayside with 103 beds and growing. It provides post-acute rehabilitations and medical care for those kids. We also have other unique programs like the medical daycare program, a preschool program, a home care program and more….Our focus is to provide care to the child and the entire family—to optimize that child’s life and to improve their quality of life.”
When asked about St. Mary’s culture, Simpser said that the staff aims to make it a place of comfort.
“Part of the beauty of St. Mary’s is the people who work there,” he said. “Everybody’s here to take care of kids and their families. We’re all in it together. That is the focus of all the discussions and the decision-making here.”
That mindset extends to partnerships the hospital has established with organizations around the city, such as Northwell, New York Hospital of Queens, New York Presbyterian and New York University.
“We have close working relationships with all of the major academic medical centers throughout the metropolitan area,” Simpser said.
“We also maintain relationships with the leading physicians at all of these places. We also have relationships with a whole variety of social service agencies and other healthcare organizations that provide services to children in their homes and communities.”
These programs include social work, counseling services, parent navigation programs, cognitive-care programs for families dealing with a loss in the family, and bereavement services.
With families and children being the main priority at St. Mary’s, Simpser said that the social aspect of what the hospital provides is key.
He specified that St. Mary’s helps parents “navigate through the vast healthcare arena so they can get the best services for their child.”
“We want to educate parents on what’s going on with their child and help them become our parents in this process,” he said. “Our goal is to work with these families until the child is in their home, which is the least restrictive and the most comfortable for everyone involved.”
His role in St. Mary’s mission stems from his experience as a doctor. Simpser told the Queens Tribune that his experience in medicine helped provide the unique perspective he has in his leadership role.
“It has brought about an evolution in pediatric care here at St. Mary’s,” he said. “One of the tasks that we’ve tackled over the years has been increasing our capability of caring for very sick children. The programs that we have based around that have evolved over the last 18 years. We now have children on ventilators, which we didn’t have 15 years ago. We now have the staff and a building that can handle any sort of child coming out of a hospital, which we couldn’t do before. We are learning to take care of medically complex young adults because medicine and organizations like ours are getting better at helping kids with medical issues stay alive longer. So, we’re not providing that service. We are using an evolution in technology to improve homecare and our in-patient programs. That’s the beauty of what we’re doing here. We are always evolving and changing.”
And St. Mary’s has no intention of slowing down. Simpser said that adding 21 news beds to the hospital’s in-patient facility is slated for 2018. St. Mary’s is also investing in new medical avenues, such as remote patient monitoring and other forms of telemedicine technology, that would give children the ability to stay at home while they are being treated.
“It will allow us to make the parents more comfortable, make the pediatricians more comfortable and the children to be safely taken care of at home” he said.
Lastly, Simpser said he takes tremendous pride in what he does and is thankful so many people believe in the hospital’s mission.
“This is a population of children who need people who are interested in them to give their time and energy,” he said. “I find it rewarding to become a leader, both locally and nationally, in the care for this unique group. The array of services that we provide is focused on the kids and the families. Organizations like ours would not survive if it were not for the philanthropic support we get from the community.
We are very much appreciative of that kind of support and are always looking to create more partners.”