INTERVIEW: Donna Moravick, 2023 Bay Shore-Brightwaters St. Patrick’s Day Parade Grand Marshal

For over a decade Donna Moravick has been executive director of Northwell Health’s South Shore University Hospital (formerly known as Southside Hospital) in Bay Shore. Under her leadership, South Shore University Hospital has become a destination hospital within Northwell Health’s eastern region, permanently transitioning the health care landscape of Suffolk County. Her appointment as the 2023 grand marshal for the Bay Shore-Brightwaters St. Patrick’s Day Parade is well earned. Donna recently took time out of her busy schedule to speak with us at Fire Island News and share her insights about healthcare, life and Long Island.

Fire Island News (FIN): Are you a Bay Shore or Long Island native, and if not, where were you born and raised?

Donna Moravick (DM): I am a Suffolk County, Babylon native and still live in the Town of Babylon. I consider myself a family member of Bay Shore, simply because I have been with South Shore University Hospital since 2012.

FIN: I see from your Northwell bio that you got your nursing degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, received your (nurse practitioner) masters from Stony Brook and your MBA from Hofstra. Tell me a how your education impressed your career?

DM: Having a bachelor’s degree as a nurse in 1981 from Fairleigh Dickinson was kind of cutting-edge. Nurses at that time were graduating from programs with diploma and associate’s degrees. I worked for a nurse as a baby sitter believe it or not, and she told me, ‘Get your bachelor’s degree, it will give you a better foundation and understanding.’ She was a good mentor and I received a scholarship to Fairleigh Dickinson.

I began as a surgical nurse at the intensive care unit at North Shore University Hospital dealing with trauma, cardiac and all of the high-end procedures. After a few years, I realized that I really should have my master’s degree. First, I went to Hofstra, but soon realized that it really wasn’t for me; the cardiac surgeons I worked with recommended me to become the NP that helps get patients through the hospital. I went over to Stony Brook to get my nurse practitioner master’s degree. I took a lot of my courses with physician’s assistants and there were some med students in my classes. That was in 1995. I graduated, becoming one of the first NPs – there was a group of us – maybe six or seven – that became nurse practitioners. We managed pre-, post- and even in the office open-heart surgery patients. A few years later, I became the director of cardiac surgery.  Soon I realized that I needed to know more about business and finance, so I applied for the first cohort of Hofstra MBA programs that really focused on quality and outcomes as well as cueing theory. I absolutely love having my MBA! It was a part of my brain that I really could use.

Through my course at Northwell Health, then it was Northwell LIJ [Long Island Jewish Hospital], I became vice president of cardiac, so I had my first real look inside Southside Hospital in 2006 when in that roll. By 2011, I was part of the team that brought the cardiac program here in five months, which is really unheard of. In 2012 I then became executive director of Southside.

A few years back, I wrote an article that was picked up by Politico, “Why Should a Nurse Run a Hospital.” What I find with that is those skills are the norm for me as I manage the hospital. I identified five points in that article: First, treat the hospital like a patient – begin with triage, then I manage, you can talk the talk, think from the bedside, and then master communication – these nursing skills helped me to continue to manage the hospital. I’ve known the community of Bay Shore. My dad would send me to Mars Auto Parts store to pick up parts, so I’ve been from Babylon to Bay Shore my whole life.

FIN: How does it feel to be this year’s Grand Marshal at Bay Shore’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade?

DM: You know, it’s almost iconic if you will. Every year since I’ve been here, that parade has been such a joy to watch and be a part of. We are always involved in that parade. That parade passes right by our front door. What I love about that is every year you can see the progression of the hospital as it grows and you can see the parade get larger and larger. It is almost symbolic that we are two “families” of people coming together every single year and I am absolutely honored to be the grand marshal this year.

People ask me if I am Irish, and what I say is my husband’s name is Patrick and he is my Saint Patrick. He is someone who has kept me in check my whole life. We met each other when I was very young and when I took this position as executive director of South Shore, I told him that this is not Donna Moravick, this is Pat and Donna, who happen to be a part of this community. So, he’s been my partner in this. You know, when you go home a nine o’clock at night and there’s something to eat on the table, you know you have a good partner and I’ve invested my time, blood, sweat and tears into this hospital and I am so proud!

FIN: You may recall we spoke at length around this time of year back in 2021, when I was covering an event at your hospital. What impressed me most about our conversation is that you are a female RN, who is also executive director of a major Long Island hospital, a key position that is still often MD and male dominated. Can you tell me a little bit about that journey?

DM: I believe our health system has true visionaries at the helm. Michael Dowling and Mark Solazzo are our leaders. What I can tell you is being both a petite female and one that is very clinical, I have credibility amongst all the physicians in the health system. I have been here since 1981. Our cardiologists and our leadership seek people for their ability, not their gender. I truly believe as the vice president of cardiovascular and thoracic, I was in every hospital and office-based practices – I led the team that managed EKG., echocardiogram, stress-nuclear, cardiac catheterization, cardiac surgery, thoracic surgery, etc.  – and what I learned from that is when you arrive in any organization – to be friendly, care and think from the bedside – those are the qualities that everybody looks for. We have a lot of females running institutions at Northwell Health and being a nurse at that position, you work along with a lot of people as we grow. I learned to always treat people with respect. My mother always said ‘as you grow up, you should be nice to everyone. You may need their help one day.’ That day came when I was a nurse practitioner of cardiac surgery at Manhasset and my husband needed open heart surgery at the age of 39.

My husband later asked me what I did to win over the environmental service workers and the dietitians, because they were just so gracious. I told him I just treat everyone with respect because that is beyond important. EVERYONE who works in a hospital at all levels impacts patients every day! I have carried that through this building. We have changed the culture at South Shore. And that doesn’t just happen by chance.

FIN: Let’s talk about some challenges. Three years ago this month, your hospital was on the cusp of becoming one of the COVID-19 epicenters on Long Island. Can you reflect on how that experience shaped you and the hospital?

DM: Sure. You know, I think, first of all I think that it was very apparent that our entire leadership team was there every day. We were everywhere. I remember being in ICU on an iPad with a family, it was a grueling time. We had 140 patients on ventilators at a time when we only had the capacity for 36. What we’ve learned at South Shore University Hospital is that we can do anything. Not only can we do anything, we are the team that does it right. Northwell as a health system offered tremendous support. We care about our staff. The Islip community donated food regularly and on Mother’s Day, flowers were brought in for the employees to bring home to their families. Honestly, it was one of the hardest things we had to do. When someone came in with that diagnosis of positive COVID it was ‘Oh my goodness, are they going make it out of here?’ It was very tough, and a lot of people, when they walked out of this building, it was because of the caliber and quality of care they received here. What I have also learned is we have doctors that are not itinerant, our doctors own this facility. We have full-time physicians and specialists. You know after this happened, is when we changed our name to South Shore University Hospital. I did not want to see it renamed to Southside University, I wanted to change the entire name. The hospital deserved to have a new “persona”- it was and is not the “old Southside.” I am beyond proud of that. We had to treat the entire hospital like it was a patient. It was a very tough time, and our doctors and staff are committed to this hospital for sure.


FIN: If I may reflect on a more recent challenge, can you talk to me about last month’s threatened nursing strike and the tentative agreement the hospital and nurses’ union reached?

DM: Sure, what I would say about that is that we have always respected our nurses – always – and we have absolutely changed the culture in this building. We have labor relations on a regular basis so we don’t get to this point. I can say that we are grateful that it was ratified and that we came to an agreement.

FIN: Finally, as you lead the parade on March 11, it will not only be a celebration of St. Patrick’s Day but also Women’s History Month. What message do you hope to send to the little girls who will be out there watching you at the parade?

DM: I would say no dream is too big! You should try to do anything in your power to be who you want to be. I’m a five-foot-three female and I tell everyone don’t let the size fool you. About five years ago, I was at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and I had on my Northwell T-shirt, waiting online at the Veteran’s Hall to get some corned beef. Then somebody tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Hey, do you work in that hospital across the street?” and I said I did. Then he said, “Can you do me a favor and tell the man who runs the hospital that he is doing an amazing job?” So, I extended my hand to him and said, ‘I am that man.’

The Bay Shore-Brightwaters St. Patrick’s Day Parade will take place on Saturday, March 11, beginning at 2 p.m.