Former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman was remembered as a trailblazing advocate for the borough and a champion of affordable, high-quality healthcare for its residents during a tribute to her legacy by NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens. Shulman, 94, died last month after battling lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.
“Claire was the epitome of a community activist in the purest sense of the word, building her entire career around contributing to the betterment of her community, and specifically to the borough of Queens for the past half-century,” NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens CEO Israel Rocha said. “She began her career as a nurse right here in what was formerly known as Queens General Hospital, entered politics as chair of the local community board, worked her way to becoming deputy borough president and eventually landed the job of first female Queens borough president by default. Yet she was so good at her job she essentially redefined it, remaining in the position for the next 16 years, and paving the way for the two dynamic borough presidents, Helen Marshall and Melinda Katz, who succeeded her.”
Shulman guided the borough through turbulent times and fought to save public hospitals in Queens.
“Claire’s dedication to quality healthcare and love of nursing led her to fight to preserve our public hospitals from the threat of privatization in the mid-nineties,” said NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst and Queens Dean/Medical Director Jasmin Moshipur, MD. “Her rugged determination and staunch perseverance resulted in securing more than $150 million in capital funding for a major modernization project and upgrading of both Queens and Elmhurst Hospitals. A personal friend and colleague, a longtime ally and ceaseless champion of our borough’s public hospitals, she enabled the fulfillment of a dream: two newly modernized public facilities fully equipped to meet the increasing demands of the 21st century.”
In 1997, Shulman fought off the city’s plan to sell off Queens Hospital in Hillcrest, the same place where she started her nursing career.
“Queens Hospital had a special place in Claire Shulman’s heart. One could feel the genuine affection she had for Queens Hospital when she spoke of her days as a student at the Queens Hospital School of Nursing, her first professional job in Queens, where she met her husband, Dr. Melvin Shulman,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Queens Deputy Medical Officer Jean-Bernard Poulard, MD. “She was grateful for the role Queens Hospital played in her life, but she gave back to the people of Queens much more than she received. She was larger than life: a hero, a fighter for so many underdogs, and always for the just cause. I will be forever proud and appreciative to have known her and to have witnessed her in action. She made it possible for us to pursue our mission-driven approach to healthcare with dignity and respect for all those we serve.”
Throughout her half-century of public service, Shulman remained dedicated to her mission to provide Queens residents with excellent healthcare so they would not have to take the tunnel or bridges into Manhattan for proper medical care.
“Claire was instrumental in the establishment of the Queens Cancer Center in 2001, the year the newly modernized facility was introduced to the public,” said Queens Cancer Center of Queens Hospital Director Margaret Kemeny, MD. “She personally recruited me to lead this state-of-the-art center of excellence, so crucial to meeting the needs of the southeast Queens community. I am forever thankful that she enabled me to lend my skills to a community of need. Her role in introducing the Queens Cancer Center helped transform Queens Hospital into a thriving mecca for so many e immigrant families seeking quality, comprehensive healthcare right in their neighborhood.”