LHC president and CEO, Wendy Z. Goldstein, is being recognized by the Community Newspaper Group as one of Brooklyn’s Women of Distinction. Wendy is one of 25 women who will be honored at a special event on May 21. This annual award highlights women who have shaped the borough.
Wendy Z. Goldstein and her fellow honorees were featured in a special edition newspaper from the Community Newspaper Group. Her interview, titled, “Hospital Boss Heals Ailing Institution,” is reprinted below. Click here to see the original version of the interview and click here to meet the other honorees. Special thanks to CNG!
Wendy Z. Goldstein
Hospital boss heals ailing institution
By Shavana Abruzzo
Wendy Z. Goldstein had the odds stacked against her when she was appointed president and C.E.O. in 2001 of Lutheran Medical Center — a community teaching hospital in Sunset Park, and the heart of the Lutheran HealthCare system.
The staff was leaving. The board was aging. The quality was slipping. The finances were crashing. And she was a practicing Jew tasked with reviving a Christian-based health facility languishing on the site of a former abandoned factory that trustees had bought for a buck from Mayor John Lindsay in the 1970s.
“It was an institution that had largely lost its way,” says Goldstein, the former director of Mount Sinai Hospital with more than 30 years experience at some of the country’s finest academic medical establishments, including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and New York University Medical Center. “It had all the elements of success, but there was no vision for how to bring them together.”
One hurdle was restoring Lutheran’s relationship with the church. The sole corporate member was distanced from the hospital due to the borough’s dwindling Lutheran community — a far cry from 1883 when Sister Elizabeth Fedde of Norway founded the facility to serve Scandinavian Lutherans who dominated Sunset Park and christened its areas “Little Norway” and “Finntown.”
Goldstein wanted to make Lutheran more than a word on the awning.
She began visiting church officials at the presiding synod in Chicago, instituted a community service awards program commemorating the foundress, and participated in local events such as the Norwegian Day Parade in Bay Ridge, waving to crowds from atop a decorated Lutheran float.
Her unprecedented creation of the position of senior vice president for mission and spiritual care helped to launch a faith-health coalition of more than 50 congregations, a counseling center and a parish nurse program, in addition to annual Mission Week celebrations.
The new office is a major artery in the neighborhood, claims Bishop Robert Rimbo, head of the Metropolitan New York Synod and a Lutheran board member.
“It really is the life of the community,” says the clergyman, who credits Goldstein with working steadfastly to unify the church and Lutheran HealthCare.
He recalls being pleasantly surprised at how many of the workers she knew by name when they walked along the hospital corridor last year.
“That demonstrated to me Wendy’s ability to connect with the people, as well as her amazing ability to know what is going on in the institution,” he says.
The Woman of Distinction’s other goal has been to make Lutheran the provider of choice.
“I had to find a niche,” says Goldstein, 62, a resident of Scarsdale, N.Y. “Why come to Lutheran, what will Lutheran do better than anybody else in Brooklyn?”
Her “aha” moment came during a lecture she attended on using cultural competence as a business method.
“I realized the way to distinguish yourself is not to appeal to one ethnic group, but to create an environment that all ethnic groups can feel good in,” says the honoree, who oversaw Lutheran’s complete transformation, securing more than $200 million in state, federal, and other funds, while appointing a vice president for cultural competence to serve the area’s Orthodox
Jews, Latinos, Arabs, and Chinese populations.
The results were astounding: Lutheran’s multi-lingual medical staff increased by 125 percent, and its hospital discharges by more than 30 percent. Dozens of ambulatory sites were added. The Chinese inpatient health care units are Brooklyn’s first, offering round-the clock care by staff trained in the beliefs and customs of their patients, with authentic Chinese meals prepared by a Chinese cook. A $93-million makeover overhauled the hospital, the core of Lutheran’s network of family health centers, a nursing home, a community care organization, and senior housing. And Albany decided to keep Lutheran open, while closing 107-year-old Victory Memorial Hospital in Bay Ridge.
The recovery was divinely inspired, according to Wendy Z. Goldstein.
“Everyone is put on the earth to make it better,” she says. “My faith’s tradition of ‘Tikun Olam’ — ‘to heal the world’ — enabled me to steer a course back toward the church.”
Today, thanks to her determined efforts, the once-flatlining Christian hospital is alive and well, with a thriving corporate strategy and a core mission rededicated to its inclusivity.