Elmhurst Hospital celebrated its 190th year of care during a benefit gala at the Museum of Natural History on Wednesday, Oct. 25, raising more than $1 million from more than 400 guests who gathered beneath the iconic 94-foot-long blue whale model. The tone of the hospital’s first in-person gala was a retrospective of the COVID-19 pandemic and the role played by Elmhurst Hospital that was overwhelmed by the first wave in March 2020.
“In a time when the world was terrorized by fear and the unknown, these frontline workers showed up day in and day out,” said Master of Ceremonies Jeff Glor, co-host of CBS Saturday Morning. “In real time we saw these frontline professionals joining forces to pioneer life-saving procedures that set treatment standards for hospitals across the country.”
Elmhurst Hospital became the epicenter of the public health crisis, at one point losing 13 patients in a 24-hour period that garnered national media attention while refrigerator trucks parked outside the hospital were transformed into makeshift morgues.
“While the media spotlight at Elmhurst faded, their struggle did not,” Glor said. “The hospital operated at a staggering 230% of their capacity for a full 18 months. It would take three years in total before patient levels returned to normal. Through all of this, Elmhurst Hospital workers answered the call.”
Dr. Helen Arteaga Landaverde, NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst CEO, found herself in the emergency room battling COVID among her Corona neighbors during the first wave of the pandemic.
“When the world was dark for me and my family, the amazing team of Elmhurst-strong individuals, sparked life back into my soul,” she told the crowd. “And then, when I think I couldn’t be any happier, the opportunity to become the CEO of the hospital, the epicenter of the epicenter, came.”
Landaverde shared how difficult it was for her in 2021 to see herself in the role as a woman who emigrated with her family from Ecuador. After 21 individuals interviewed her for many hours during the selection process, Dr. Mitchell Katz, the president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals called Landaverde and asked her to join them as the next CEO at Elmhurst Hospital.
“It took 190 years to get a woman and a Latina in that chair,” she said. “Dr. Katz, gracias por todo.”
The gala honored Elmhurst Hospital’s chief medical officer Dr. Jasmin Moshipur for her 50 years of service at the institution. Dr. Katz recalled rushing to Elmhurst Hospital on the first night of the crisis as the Emergency Department intubated 16 patients in two hours, an unheard-of amount he said.
“Jasmin was there at the hospital, she stayed late the night before, was there early in the morning and she greeted me by saying, ‘I was praying all night for the patients and for Elmhurst,’ and that’s what I think of in Jasmin,” Katz said. “Just an incredibly competent, capable woman also with a huge heart and faith who believes in us, who believes in the patients.”
He introduced Dr. Moshipur who spoke of the challenges faced by the institution in its first 190 years.
“Elmhurst dealt with Yellow Fever, with Tuberculosis, with AIDS, with every possible event in the city and we did manage it very carefully and efficiently,” she said. “But within a week of COVID, I realized that this is nothing that I experienced in my long life in medicine.”
Landaverde looked to the future with the $1 million raised at the gala going to the Elmhurst 2.0 capital plan — to modernize the emergency department, build a new neonatal intensive care unit and an LGBTQ Center — a project that will ideally be completed in time for the 200th anniversary.
“As we move toward the future, all I can say is, world, get ready. Elmhurst Hospital 2.0 is a hospital that will meet the unique needs of our growing community,” Landaverde said. “Let us start today by believing that nothing can hold us back. Mil gracias for tonight.”
Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.