Amidst the pomp and circumstance of a full color guard, Northwell Health’s leadership gathered with veterans, health system leadership and high-ranking military officials to honor members of the military, recognize their sacrifice and hear from a retired Marine who lost a leg while serving in Afghanistan.
Dan Lasko, a US Marine veteran who worked with Northwell innovators and scientists to create “The Fin” prosthetic, shared his personal story of loss and triumph. Cpl. Lasko, who “raised his right hand to serve” on September 10, 2001, was deployed to Afghanistan in 2004. Less than one month after arriving in country, Cpl. Lasko’s vehicle was hit by two improvised explosive devices. Cpl. Lasko survived the attack, but the resulting wounds meant a below-the-knee amputation of his left leg.
“Back in 2005, I discovered that sports played a huge part in my recovery,” said Cpl. Lasko. “I was able to run and play sports, but I realized that I needed an aqua prosthetic. It’s difficult to have one leg for walking and then have to change legs to enter the water. I wanted one leg that would allow me to walk, enter the water smoothly, and then propel myself forward.”
When he learned that Northwell was looking for a veteran who would help with the design of a prosthetic device to meet these requirements, Cpl. Lasko volunteered for service. Working with Northwell Ventures, 3D printing researcher Todd Goldstein, PhD, and two Long Island companies, Eschen Prosthetic and Orthotic Laboratories and CPC (Composite Protyping Center), “The Fin” was developed – and Cpl. Lasko is delighted. His greatest pleasure, he said, is teaching his two young sons how to swim and to play with them in the water.
“I don’t want my disabilities to hold my kids back from enjoying their lives,” he said.
Northwell Health has worked tirelessly to address the issues facing returning veterans and their families for more than a decade, serving as both a treatment provider for veterans and their families, and as a major employer of veterans that recognizes the value they bring to their jobs.
Juan Serrano, director of Northwell’s Office of Military and Veterans’ Liaison Services and a fellow veteran of foreign conflict, spoke to the importance of providing tangible commitments to those who serve. “Northwell has made a pledge to veterans that we take very seriously,” said Mr. Serrano. “Whether it’s helping them get back to work, learning important job training skills, or finding the right medical or behavioral health help, our message is clear – no veteran should ever be left behind. We take this very seriously, and we will continue to support our military heroes.”
As part of that ongoing pledge, for the seventh consecutive year, Northwell President and CEO Michael J. Dowling presented two veterans with checks representing the difference between their military pay and the regular salaries they would have received had they not taken military leave from their jobs at Northwell Health. Recipients were: Perry Alexander, of the Bronx, a clinical lab technician at Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center in New Hyde Park who was a logistic specialist in the Marines for three years, and Jovani Vega, of Queens Village, a patient care associate at LIJ who spent two years as an MP in the US Army.
The initiative recognizes the financial sacrifice veterans and their families make and helps returning veterans reintegrate to civilian life. Since the program’s inception, Northwell employees deployed to military service have received financial rewards totaling more than $1.6 million.
Also on hand to recognize Northwell’s commitment to the health and welfare of returning veterans were: Col. James McDonough, managing director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families; and Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, deputy chief of staff, US Army.
Mr. Dowling acknowledged the hard work and sacrifices made by our military personnel and their loved ones. “I don’t think we do enough for veterans,” he said. “And, I don’t think we appreciate their sacrifices enough. They serve as an example to all of us, and that is to show the same level of compassion and teamwork as they do.”
By way of illustrating Northwell’s commitment to veterans, Mr. Dowling pointed out that the health system hired 220 veterans in 2015; that number increased to 417 in 2016. “We hope to have that number jump to 1,000 very soon,” he added.
To learn more about Northwell Health’s Military and Veterans’ Liaison Services, call: 516-719-3125 or go to: www.northwell.edu/veterans
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About Northwell Health
Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 22 hospitals and over 550 outpatient facilities. We care for more than two million people annually in the metro New York area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 62,000 employees – 15,000+ nurses and about 3,900 physicians, including more than 2,800 members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institute. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine and the School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. And we offer health insurance through CareConnect. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit Northwell.edu.