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Michael is one in 61,000

By Julie Shapiro, Writer

Growing up in an Irish cottage might sound quaint, but for Michael Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health, the reality was not the fairy tale one might expect.

“Our house was essentially a three-room hut made of mud and stone with a thatched roof. The fireplace was our only source of heat and my mother used it to cook our food. There was no electricity and no bathroom. I didn’t know anything different at the time,” he confesses. “We were a happy family with no money but lots of love. And books. There were always lots of books around.”

Michael’s mother was a voracious reader, so she supplied her children with all the books she could find and impressed upon them the importance of a good education. “I knew I wanted to go to college, to leave County Limerick, and to see all the parts of the world and do all the things I had read about. The challenge was figuring out how to make it happen,” he explains. And he doesn’t just mean the usual logistics of how to apply to college and how to pay for it, though these were obstacles he indeed had to overcome. But even a physical trip out of town was a challenge that took great effort, as there was no transportation in their tiny village aside from bicycles and one’s own feet.

But Michael’s mother had taught her children to “never let your circumstances limit your potential.”

So he didn’t.

At the age of 17, with nothing but a few dollars in his pocket and some clothes in a suitcase, Michael made his way to America, land of opportunity. His mission - to make as much money as possible, as quickly as possible. He got a summer job hauling vessels on the docks in New York. By the end of the summer, Michael was able to return home with enough savings to live out his dream of getting what most kids his age took for granted - an education.

“My past gives me perspective,” he reflects often. It’s what drives him to both work hard and create a culture of compassion within an enormous health system of more than 61,000 employees.

Michael was humbled by the invitation to be Grand Marshal at this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and is honored to be able to celebrate Irish history and culture. “I am looking forward to representing one of the hundreds of groups that, together, make this city so special."

Michael is president and chief executive officer of Northwell Health. When Michael isn’t busy running the largest integrated healthcare system in New York State, he can probably be found on his couch, quietly reading a book.

Interested in joining the 61,000? Learn more about careers at Northwell Health.