It was a night of record-setting success for South Nassau Communities Hospital at its 2018 Soirée Under the Stars fundraiser, benefitting the center’s $60 million Emergency Department expansion project.
Held at the Seawane Golf Club in Hewlett Harbor on Sept. 29, the black-tie event drew more than 600 people — the most of any non-golf related gathering held there — and raised a record $800,000, according to the hospital board vice chairman and soirée co-chairman, Tony Cancellieri.
“This is our 34th annual event, and we’ve broken all records,” Cancellieri said. “ … And we’re so grateful for our sponsors, and people that support this event. We have close to 600 people coming for the show tonight and cocktails — our biggest ever — that’s a testament that people want to come back.”
While the event brought South Nassau closer to its fundraising goal of $10 million to more than double the capacity of the Emergency Department at the medical center’s Oceanside campus, this year it also celebrated South Nassau’s imminent partnership with the Mount Sinai Health Network, which was demonstrated by the evening’s co-honorees: Hospital Board Chairman Joseph Fennessy and Dr. Arthur Klein, president of the Mount Sinai Health Network.
The two are credited with bringing the partnership between the health-care providers to fruition, which hospital officials said is expected to be finalized this October.
“About a year ago, we embarked on a journey of trying to figure out if we can continue to stand alone,” Cancellieri said. “We’ve been standing alone as a hospital since 1928, and it became almost impossible for a whole bunch of different reasons … mostly financial.”
Fennessy, who spearheaded the effort, said the partnership served two purposes — convenience and expansion of care. He described the effort that many patients must undergo to seek more advanced treatment than South Nassau is currently able to provide as “debilitating,” including for family, often requiring a trip to New York City where Mount Sinai’s nearest hospitals are located.
“You spend an hour and a half to two hours driving, another two to three hours in the city, you gotta find parking, and you come home.” Fennessy said. “I mean it’s a seven-hour day to get treated.”
Additionally, Fennessy touted the more advanced procedures that will be made possible at South Nassau through the partnership, with Mount Sinai’s resources as a medical teaching and research and development network.
“What we’re really moving toward is a tertiary hospital where we do more complex types of procedures,” Fennessy added, “and that’s what Mount Sinai really helps us get to much quicker.”
Regarding being honored, he joked, “When Tony Cancellieri asked me to be the honoree, my first question to him was who turned you down?”
“Being involved at the hospital is a labor of love,” Fennessy continued, “and for me to be honored for that, it’s just icing on the cake.”
Cancellieri described Klein — who has worked closely with Fennessy — as a liaison between the two medical networks. “He knows Long Island, he knows the place and the players, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without Arthur Klein,” he said.
“I consider it that they’re not honoring me personally. They’re honoring this new partnership, and I’m so delighted about that,” Klein said. “Our vision is to create the foremost tertiary medical center on Long Island under the Mount Sinai-South Nassau banner, and it’s that vision that has captivated all of us.”
In addition to celebrating the partnership, the event also recognized two South Nassau employees who hospital officials said have enriched South Nassau through their presence and hard work.
Dr. Jason Freeman, director of interventional cardiology at South Nassau, was given the Mary Pearson Award for employees who significantly advance the hospital’s mission. Additionally, senior hospital transporter William Wright, a 30-year employee, was honored with the Cupola Award for those who have gone above and beyond in their duties.
Freeman has been with the hospital since 2006, and is responsible for leading the team of heart specialists tasked with clearing a heart-attack patient’s arteries when they come through the hospital doors, a process in which seconds can mean the difference between life and death.
To illustrate Freeman’s success in the field, Dr. Adhi Sharma, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said Freeman had brought South Nassau’s “door to balloon time” — or the time between when patients enter the hospital to when a stint is placed in their arteries to clear blockages — down to 60 minutes. The national average is 90, Sharma noted.
“The vision of this hospital has always been the same since I’ve been here,” Freeman said, “and that’s providing the best, most advanced cardiac care for patients on the South Shore of Nassau County, and we’ve been very successful in doing so.”
He said he looked forward to the Mount Sinai partnership and the more complex procedures that it will bring to the hospital.
“I feel very honored that they would consider me for this award,” Freeman said. “I’m just really flattered by the whole thing … You couldn’t ask for more than this.”
William Wright, a senior transporter at the hospital, who said he “wears many hats,” received a standing ovation from his coworkers during the evening’s award ceremony, proving his popularity throughout the hospital, where he is known by his lighthearted introductory tagline to patients, “Hello, my name’s Willy, but people call me trouble.”
“I’m more of a behind-the-scenes person that makes sure everything works great,” Wright said. “ I don’t work for recognition or anything. I just come in and make sure the patients are happy. That’s what I do.”
In addition to a two-hour buffet-style cocktail segment, the night featured a Broadway revue performed by award-winning stars Debbie Gravitte, Brent Barrett, Byronha Marie Parham and Scott Coulter, followed by a dessert hour.
Bridget Downes contributed to this story.