Lynda D. Curtis
Senior Vice President, Executive Director, North Brooklyn Health Network/Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
It is not often that one gets to be a player in life’s grand design. Lynda D. Curtis was a senior in high school in 1968 when she had a chance to work with the late Whitney Young Jr., who at the time was executive director of the National Urban League in New York. “The League was given money to train young African-Americans for entry level jobs at Fortune 500 companies,” says Curtis. The teachers at her all-girls high school, who specialized in training their students for jobs as secretaries, thought Curtis would be up to the challenge.
She went on four interviews for a clerical position at American Airlines, a company that was particularly unyielding in its lack of inclusion. When she was asked to go on yet a fifth interview, “I drew the line saying, ‘Absolutely no!’” recalls Curtis. “But Whitney Young said, ‘Absolutely yes. Too many people are counting on you and we are going to win.’ He was right. I got the job.” She stayed on that job for two years before deciding to pursue a college degree in teaching.
Today Curtis is the senior vice president and executive director of North Brooklyn Health Network/Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The network, with more than 3,000 full-time staffers and an annual budget of nearly $300 million, consists of an acute care facility, diagnostic and treatment centers, community health centers, seven child health clinics and three school-based health initiatives. “Something I say to my staff often is: ‘Everyone can make a contribution. Do
the best you can with what you have right now,’ “
Curtis looks forward to traveling and writing a book “down the road.” In the meantime, she enjoys relaxing with her husband of 36 years, their son, daughter-in-law, two granddaughters and her large extended family. “I thank God for this very good life he has given us, and I hope I have not let him down,” she says.