Lincoln Medical Center
Milton Nuñez vividly remembers the day he left the Dominican Republic at age seven. With his father, older brother and sister, he boarded the Pan Am jumbo jet and felt it move. But having no experience with planes, and lacking a window seat, he didn’t realize the plane was flying through the air – and that he was leaving home.
“My first hint was when I saw a sea of yellow cars outside JFK -- New York City taxis! That’s when it sunk in: we were no longer in the Dominican Republic,” said Nuñez, the new Executive Director of Lincoln Medical Center in the South Bronx.
Nuñez quickly settled into his new home in Washington Heights – “a little Dominican Republic” – where he lived in a two bedroom, third floor walkup with his parents and four siblings. Today, memories of his childhood in that community give him a deep feeling of empathy for Lincoln Medical Center’s ethnically diverse patient population, which includes a significant number of immigrants.
“As a 7- and 8-year-old, I went to the local emergency room. So when a child shows up here at 2 in the morning, I know from personal experience what that mother is going through. When a patient can’t make an appointment because they have to go to work, I understand. My background gives me a real deep insight into what this community is dealing with as I run the organization.”
Throughout his career, Nuñez has put that empathy into action – using his strong aptitude for math and computing to help doctors and nurses serve patients even better.
A B.S. degree in Theoretical Mathematics from SUNY Stony Brook and work toward a Ph.D. in Economics and Statistics led to actuarial jobs in health care. In the late 1990s, Nuñez joined the HHC Central Office to work in the area of finance and reimbursement. Later, as director of finance and information systems for Mount Sinai Hospital’s Independent Practice Association, he helped secure managed care and insurance contracts.
In 2003, Nuñez returned to HHC as Chief Financial Officer at Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn. He is especially proud of improving health care there by helping to forge the hospital’s affiliation with NYU Medical School, which provides top physicians and gives patients access to world-class research. He created a “data-driven culture” in which problems are analyzed in order to find efficient solutions, including demand driven staffing, flow and cost analysis, and Emergency Department queues; and partnered with nursing to reduce costs while maintaining appropriate patient care hours.
“Mr. Nuñez’ finger is on the fiscal pulse, yet he doesn’t lose sight of caring, and strongly supports doctors and nurses,” says Dr. Edward Fishkin, Woodhull’s medical director.
At 46, Nuñez’ goals for Lincoln reflect his passion for crunching the numbers in order to serve patients with even greater skill and compassion. “The smarter we are about managing the fiscal pressures and maximizing the use of our resources, the easier it will be to get great outcomes for our patients. That journey? It’s what every day is about!”
Nuñez shares a home in New Jersey with his wife, Rosalyn -- who works in the HHC Central Office -- and his 12-year-old son, Carter, for whom Nuñez jokes that he’s a “full-time golf caddy.” A literature and history buff, he has “stacks of books” to read during his rare moments of downtime. His current favorite historical figure is Alexander Hamilton, an unheralded, self-made man who came here from the Caribbean.
The new chief’s responsive leadership style is already evident. “I walk through the halls and the Emergency Department because my face needs to be seen in the community. So in times of bounty and famine, I can rely on that connection with our patients and staff. I’ve got to tell you, I’m having a great time!”