By Lorna Luniewski
A Long Island native and summer resident in Cherry Grove, Edward Fraser, Vice President of Community Relations at Northwell Health, was instrumental in bringing Northwell Health clinics to both Ocean Beach and Cherry Grove. He discusses how that came to be and hints that more clinics may be coming to Fire Island in the future.
Fire Island News (FIN): Can you share with us your career background?
Edward Fraser (EF): I have always enjoyed working in an environment that is fast paced, surrounded by a lot of energetic and passionate people doing whatever we can to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations! I started my career in the food service industry as a regional manager working for McDonald’s in Florida. After several years in Florida, I returned to Long Island where I became a parttime employee at Southside Hospital. It was very exciting for me to be working in healthcare and serving a new type of customer than before, patients and their families. My career evolved from a role within Human Resources into Nursing Education, and then to where I have been for the past 10 years, Community Relations. I have a dedicated team that connects with the local communities surrounding our hospitals to bring education and build partnerships with local businesses, faith-based organizations, school districts and charitable organizations.
FIN: Are you a Long Island native?
EF: Yes, I was born and raised in Islip. I attended Islip High School and was involved in the student council.
FIN: I see from your LinkedIn profile that you worked for McDonald’s Corporation for almost 20 years. What brought you to what was then North Shore-LIJ?
EF: I left New York and moved to Florida to try something new with my career. As a regional manager with three franchised stores and over 800 employees, I had an extremely rewarding experience with great opportunities for professional growth. When my franchised owner sold, I was given an opportunity to continue my career with McDonald’s or to change my career path and move back to my native Long Island roots. I chose to come back to New York, and landed a job at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore. I took a part-time position on a project within the employee benefits department as a pension coordinator and shortly became the manager of my team. One year later, Southside Hospital had completed its acquisition into the former North Shore-LIJ Health System and when that project came to an end, I was offered a full-time position.
FIN: As Vice President of Community Relations at Northwell Health, what does your job entail?
EF: My primary role as Vice President is to improve the health and well being of the communities we serve by providing access to the highest quality healthcare, health literacy and wellness to improve the quality of life in all the communities we serve. Another important component of my day-to-day operations is to collaborate with various internal departments to inspire our workforce to bring our mission to life! We are 61,000 sets of eyes looking at healthcare differently. As Vice President of Community Relations at Northwell Health, I am also responsible for overseeing the development and integration of various programs throughout the organization. Community Relations impacts our organization’s commitment to our community. Our purpose is to be recognized as a trusted community partner to support programs that improve the health and wellness of the people we serve.
FIN: Explain how Northwell Health came to have clinics on Ocean Beach and Cherry Grove.
EF: Southside Hospital had a great relationship with the Ocean Beach community, as they would send residents, employee workers, and vacation goers to Southside Hospital to receive care for several years. At that time, the former Executive Director at Southside Hospital, Winifred Mack, and the Ocean Beach Community recognized the need to provide immediate healthcare for the entire community. The Immediate Care Center was established to provide health care services, and opened in May 2013. Prior to Northwell Health assuming full responsibility and purchasing the Doctor’s House in Cherry Grove, New York City’s Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, dedicated to the health needs of the LGBT community, ran the Cherry Grove Doctor’s House for several seasons. Before that, medical professionals were engaged by the Cherry Grove Doctor’s Fund, which raised money for what was then known as the Elmer A. Lindsay Memorial Center. The money was raised through the popular annual Doctor’s Fund Benefit Show, which originated at Cherry’s on the Bay and then moved to the Community House. In 2014, the President of the Doctor’s Fund approached my husband, Thomas Anderson, knowing that I was project manager of the Ocean Beach Immediate Care Center. The President was committed to improving the existing Doctor’s House and to providing more comprehensive services to the Cherry Grove community during the summer months. At that time, North Shore-LIJ Health System rented the Doctor’s House for two consecutive years. Pleased with the changes and improvements to the care provided, the Cherry Grove Community Association wanted to expand their relationship with the now Northwell Health, and the decision was made in 2017 to purchase the Doctor’s House and continue to provide immediate care during the summer months.
FIN: I understand from residents in Ocean Beach and Cherry Grove that the care at Northwell clinics is far better than previous care. What are you doing differently?
EF: We are dedicated to providing world-class service and compassionate care that is focused on the patient and customer. We’re here to serve our communities by improving health and quality of life — all with a simple, continuous goal: To be better tomorrow than we are today. Northwell also organizes free community health talks on various topics, such as cancer services, emergencies in paradise, Narcan training and tickborne illnesses in addition to free skin cancer screenings and free flu shots among other services.
FIN: Do you have a connection to Fire Island?
EF: Yes, I have been a summer resident in Cherry Grove for eight years and I am a member of the LGBTQ community. Many people don’t know that Cherry Grove is one of the most popular and first LGBT friendly resort communities in the United States. For this reason, I started coming to Cherry Grove years ago and quickly fell in love with everything about it. Even though Fire Island is a short boat ride from the mainland, there is something about being there that makes me feel like I am in another world! The culture is very uplifting in a laid back, beach setting with no cars, great restaurants, incredible night life, performances, theater events, the famous and extremely popular annual Invasion and several drag and cross-dressing pageants throughout the season.
FIN: Can you explain how Northwell Health is looking at health care across Long Island?
EF: Northwell is investing in communities across Long Island, especially Suffolk County. With more than 10,000 employees working in our Suffolk County facilities, Northwell also plays a big role in the county’s economy. That’s 17 percent of the health system’s workforce coming here, working and spending time in Suffolk.
FIN: Health care has changed over the past few years, and it looks like it may be changing again under the Trump administration. Will this change how Northwell provides care in the future?
EF: Northwell Health will remain flexible and adapt to any changes in our nation’s healthcare delivery system. Our patient’s will always come first!
FIN: Is there anything else you would like to add?
EF: I am very thankful to have formed these amazing and long-term community partnerships/relationships in both Ocean Beach and Cherry Grove. Because of this experience, Northwell Health was asked to continue to grow and expand immediate care services to additional Fire Island communities in the near future. Stay tuned!