Northwell Health’s Center for Global Health was founded in July 2019 to build on international programs and initiatives already underway at the New Hyde Park, New York-based health system. The center coordinates programs with partner organizations around the globe, focused on improving healthcare delivery and medical education. Founding Director Dr. Eric Cioè-Peña discusses some of the center’s most recent efforts and how its teams are getting it done.
Northwell was already involved in international work well before the Center for Global Health was established. What was the main objective behind its creation?
The Center for Global Health’s primary aim was to provide structure and organize Northwell’s global health efforts so we could provide better service to our partners abroad. When a large system like Northwell wants to develop global programs, it’s essential to have a coordinating body or mechanism like CGH ensuring communication and development between departments.
Since March, the center has been a partner in a telemedicine program assisting medical providers in Ukraine. How did that get started, and what kind of work is involved?
The Ukraine program is something we are very proud of. It was an imperative set by our president and CEO, Michael Dowling, at the start of the conflict. In discussing the situation with him, it became clear that the targeting of healthcare infrastructure and healthcare workers by another country’s military as a weapon of war really bothered us. We looked at multiple ways that we could get involved and help. The telemedicine program had the most potential overall impact and has far exceeded our expectations. We’ve done over 100 consultations so far for second opinions or discussions of complex cases. This is very useful in terms of what we are calling “guided philanthropy.” We partner with large organizations that are donating equipment to help the medical effort. Northwell team members are providing training on equipment the Ukrainian physicians have never used before. It’s one of the ways that a health system thousands of miles away can aid colleagues under fire in Ukraine, providing some of the training and advice that normally would be available in their own network, but is now disrupted due to the war.
Where else do you have ongoing programs?
I think that our work in Ecuador and Guyana is exciting. We are partnered with large academic institutions, each country’s Ministry of Health and front-line doctors and nurses to try to revolutionize healthcare delivery. One program certainly worth highlighting is the primary care-based mental healthcare model that we are working on in both countries. In Ecuador, we were just given permission from the minister of health to revolutionize mental healthcare in a district in Quito with 10 clinics and a basic hospital. We are partnering with the ministry to prove the concept of several community-based health initiatives. A telepsychiatry program is one of the most exciting of those programs. The potential impact could be groundbreaking, and some of the models we are developing have the potential to impact mental healthcare delivery back in New York.