|Dr. Walid Michelen|
Starting with his first position in the New York City public hospitals as an intern at North Central Bronx Hospital 36 years ago, Dr. Walid Michelen considers that his lifework as a primary care physician and health care executive primarily in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx is also an act of community activism, providing high quality health care to New Yorkers who otherwise might not have access to care.
He actually first came to the public hospitals as a child whose family had left Palestine, then the Dominican Republic, and come to New York City, where they lived in houses on the campuses of Kings County Hospital and Jacobi Hospital – a benefit available to them because his father, a physician, was a senior administrator for the public hospital system.
With Dr. Michelen’s recent appointment as Chief Executive Officer /Chief Medical Officer for Gotham Health FQHC, Inc., HHC’s newly formed Federally Qualified Health Center, his efforts to bring quality healthcare to underserved communities continues.
“I’m mission driven, not only to maintain the corporation financially so it can continue its mission to provide healthcare to all New Yorkers, which is vitally important, but to improve the level of healthcare we provide to our communities,” he said.
HHC's six large community health centers have been reorganized in accordance with federal guidelines into federally qualified health centers to ensure that they continue to provide a broad scope of services, ensure access to uninsured low-income patients and provide higher reimbursement rates for HHC. The new group is the largest such health center in the country, with 140, 000 patients and 703,000 patient visits a year, and is expected to generate $25 million to $30 million annually in new revenue because of higher payment rates.
The six Diagnostic and Treatment Centers that form Gotham Health FQHC are: Gouverneur Health and Renaissance Health Care in Manhattan, Segundo Ruiz Belvis and Morrisania in the Bronx, Cumberland and East New York in Brooklyn. The organization has an 11-member board of directors, and 51 percent receive their care from HHC and less than 10 percent work in healthcare, as required by federal guidelines. For the next phase of approval, the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will visit in the fall and review the health centers for indicators including: capable and seasoned leadership, culturally appropriate services, productivity, quality of care and cost efficiency.
Since 2004 Dr. Michelen has been at the Generations Plus/Northern Manhattan Network in capacities including Chief of Staff and Medical Director of the health centers for the Generations Plus/Northern Manhattan Network, which includes three of the centers: Renaissance, Belvis and Morrisania. Despite his administrative duties, he still sees walk-ins, which he believes gives him special insight into the patients and a better understanding and rapport with the other clinicians.
“I enjoy seeing patients,” Dr. Michelen said. “I have always practiced and kept up to date with primary care, not just the clinical aspects but whether there is adequate access for patients, continuity of care and culturally appropriate services.
“Often our patient is someone with two or three chronic illnesses, and hypertension or diabetes is one of them. They’re having issues adhering to treatment and may not be taking their medication. Our job is to get their chronic condition under control and help them manage it going forward,” he said.
The new system will also involve standardizing care across all six health centers to ensure all patients are receiving the same level of high quality care.
“He is the right person for the job because he’s an excellent clinician, very knowledgeable about the nature of primary care services and how to improve them, and has had significant administrative experience at all levels at HHC,” said Dr. William Bateman, Medical Director of Gouverneur Health. Dr. Bateman was Director of the Residency Program in Social Medicine at Montefiore Hospital when Dr. Michelen was an intern there more than 30 years ago. “He has a remarkable talent of working with people and motivating them.”
Dr. Michelen identifies as Dominican and proudly displays symbols of his identity in his office, including the Dominican crest hanging on the wall. He was 11 when he immigrated with his parents and two younger brothers to the U.S. His father, Dr. Nasry Michelen, was an administrator at Elmhurst Hospital and Executive Director of Lincoln Medical Center.
He is former chair of Alianza Dominicana in Washington Heights, one of the largest organizations in the country serving Dominicans, and chair of the Nasry Michelen Daycare Center, named for his father, one of Alianza’s founders. He was the coordinator of a Clinton Foundation Project to plan and establish HIV clinics throughout the Dominican Republic. He is married and has two grown sons and two granddaughters.
“I have always felt you have to give back to society and to your community, and working with Gotham, making sure that people in the community continue to have a place they can go to take care of themselves and take care of their health, I’ll be doing just that,” Dr. Michelen said.