When Antonio Martin joined New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., he thought it would be a six-month stint. He had been bitten by the acting bug while at Boston University and aspired to become an actor and director. He moved back to New York to study under Tony Award–winning director Lloyd Richards. But as the life of the would-be actor became one of “feast or famine,” he took the six-month temporary job to supplement his income. Now, almost 20 years later, Martin is still with the H.H.C., only now he is executive director of Queens Hospital Center, a position he has held since 2002.
Under Martin’s leadership, Queens Hospital Center has been transformed into a formidable force in the Queens health community. There are now three “centers of excellence” at the hospital: cancer care, women’s health and diabetes management. Martin credits the community with determining what these areas of excellence should be. “The Centers of Excellence reflect needs that were identified as we assessed the patients we serve. For example, 70 percent of our patients are women, so we decided to have all our women’s services [from mammograms to nutritional advice] in one place,” he says.
Most impressive is the Center of Excellence for Cancer Care, which contains millions of dollars worth of state of the art equipment, including a linear accelerator for radiation oncology. Martin has aggressively promoted the center’s technological advancement in his drive to make it the premier cancer care facility in Queens.
The hospital’s transformation is still in progress. “We are constructing an ambulatory care pavilion on this campus and we are hoping to have it completed by March 2006,” Martin says proudly. In addition, four family health centers affiliated with the hospital offer comprehensive primary care services in neighboring communities.
Martin already is looking forward to the next project, possibly one or two more centers of excellence. “We are looking at psychiatry, as well as senior care, to develop in the future,” he says, adding that patient assessment also pointed to these two areas. “Demographics are showing that [the number of] seniors in Queens [is] growing at twice the rate of [those in] the other boroughs,” he says. At the same time, many patients enter the hospital with dual problems, usually substance abuse and mental health issues. Martin contends that Queens Hospital Center should be able to treat both problems to promote a total healing process.
Martin’s competitiveness and pride in his health facility are reflected in his vision for the hospital. “Our goal is to become a hospital of choice. There is this perception about public hospitals that because we accept everyone who comes through our doors regardless of their ability to pay, we don’t match up. Our goal is to not only be the hospital that takes care of poor people or people who don’t have the ability to pay, but to be a hospital of choice for everybody regardless of economic status,” he says.
Public opinion is beginning to swing in the hospital’s favor.
How does an executive director change the outlook of his staff? By communicating effectively—articulating a vision and having people buy into and support that vision, Martin says. “I am truly of the belief that the more decisions I make as an executive director, the less effective I am. A good administrator empowers staff and gives people the freedom to be part of the solution process of the organization,” he says.
Martin is quick to point out that he is happy at Queens Hospital Center and proud of all that has been accomplished. He insists, however, that his work is not yet done. He is determined to see Queens Hospital Center become a truly respected health care facility that is accessible to everyone and which continues to meet the needs of the community it serves.