Sarah Joseph Kurien,
Deputy chief operating officer for ambulatory care operations, NYC Health + Hospitals
Sarah Joseph Kurien recently took up strength training—she jokes that it helps with the heavy lifting her job requires.
Since last September, Kurien has led the nation’s largest municipal health system’s humanitarian effort to provide medical care, behavioral healthcare, housing and other wrap-around services to approximately 30,000 new asylum seekers in New York City.
“We are learning a lot about how to do that thoughtfully and kindly because these people have experienced a lot of trauma on their way to get here,” Kurien said.
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NYC Health + Hospitals provides about 6 million outpatient visits annually. Most patients lack health insurance.
Kurien joined the health system in 2018. In 2020, she was tapped to build and scale its COVID-19 testing and vaccination program. She was responsible for opening up testing sites, launching telehealth services and building partnerships across New York City, including a community advisory board to help coordinate testing and vaccination efforts.
Kurien supervised the health system’s COVID-19 strategy with help from about 2,000 staff. And she estimates that up to 800 staff work with the asylum seekers program. Kurien said she stressed to those working with both programs that even the most marginalized patients are entitled to healthcare.
“I want folks to feel like they have a right to be there and have a right to be treated just as anybody else would,” she said.