The incoming executive director of Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital, David Seligman, said he made a point of not wearing his ID badge when he entered the building for the first time recently.
“From the second I walked into the building until the second I walked into administration, everybody I walked past gave me a smile and a hello,” he said, “and I think that says a lot about the culture of the building.”
Seligman, 36, received a warm welcome after introducing himself. Now he has many employees’ names to memorize. LIJ Valley Stream’s Emergency Department alone serves 40,000 people a year.
“You know, we have about 1,200 employees here,” he said, “but it feels like a family.”
Managing the day-to-day operations of the 284-bed facility is a complex managerial task, involving daily rounds to its various departments and round-the-clock meetings covering topics from doctor training regimens to patient release dates. But for Seligman, it’s all part of a team effort.
“I’m a big believer,” he said, “that any effective leader has to spend most of their time listening.”
“He’s a quality-first guy,” said Stephen Bello, who served as LIJ’s executive director for three years before handing the reins to Seligman. “There’s always a short list of people we want in roles like this, and we went through an intensive interview process, but David was on that short list.”
Described as a “rising star” in the Northwell Health system, Seligman will draw on his past health care administration experience in his new role. He earned a degree in economics and business administration from Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania in 2005, and then joined the staff of Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. There, he was initially the coordinator of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, and after about a year in the role, he was promoted to Human Resources. In HR he learned about the many moving parts of hospital operations.
“It gave me a much more global perspective,” he said. “It gave me a better lens of what goes on across the enterprise, including in non-clinical areas, such as building engineering and food services.”
Seligman earned an MBA in 2009 from Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business, and in 2010 Northwell acquired Lenox Hill in a merger. Later, Seligman’s role at the hospital expanded, as he managed the urology, ophthalmology and orthopedics departments. He also worked closely with the facility’s chief operating officer, Phil Rosenthal.
“I learned a ton from him about not just internal strategy,” Seligman said, “but the dynamics of keeping the peace in a fast-paced and comprehensive facility when there are different clinical needs minute to minute.”
After his time at Lenox Hill, Seligman temporarily left the Northwell Health System, working at New York University Langone Medical Center in 2011 as senior manager of strategy, planning and business development. It was a stark contrast to working on the clinical operations side, and he took a step back from the fast-paced environment that he had become accustomed to in his prior role, and was able to more closely examine a hospital’s functions and needs.
He returned to the Northwell network in 2013, serving as director of its newly formed System Project Management Office and helping to spearhead its development. He worked closely with a number of executive officers who provided him with insight into the corporate side of the industry. As a team, they worked on programming at different hospitals, and how each one establishes its own identity.
In 2014, Seligman served as senior director of health systems operations, supporting Northwell President and CEO Michael Dowling in managing organizational goals for the system.
Before stepping into the executive director’s role at LIJ, Seligman was vice president of Northwell’s imaging services, overseeing some 225 radiologists at more than 30 hospitals and ambulatory sites. In that role, he met Bello, then the executive director.
“Anytime I needed a strategy or opinion related to imaging, I’d reach out to David,” Bello recalled, “whether it was to hire a new radiologist or buy a new imaging machine.”
Now, as executive director, Seligman faces tasks both similar to and different from any that he has previously taken on, with major infrastructure projects on the horizon at LIJ, such as its Emergency Department expansion, which is expected to increase capacity to 55,000 patients a year.
It’s all part of a renaissance for LIJ, which began in 2016 with a name change from Franklin General Valley Stream, according to Bello. “The thought behind it was that it was going to indicate more than just a name change,” he said, with a stated goal to make the facility a trusted community resource for residents in Valley Stream, Elmont and Franklin Square when they need medical help.
Now it’s up to Seligman to carry on that effort.
Peter Belfiore contributed to this story.