Ten Minutes With: Lizanne Fontaine, Chairperson, The Brooklyn Hospital Center Board of TrusteesJuly 18, 2018
Congratulations on your appointment as Board Chair for The Brooklyn Hospital Center.
Thank you! I am delighted to have this opportunity. Since I joined the Board in 2002, I had a front row seat to see what good board leadership looks like. I learned a lot from previous Chairs, Carlos Naudon and Jonathan Weld. I am also looking forward to working closely with our President, Gary Terrinoni, and his team to help move the hospital’s mission forward.
What drew you to service on The Brooklyn Hospital Center’s Board of Trustees?
I am committed to Brooklyn after years of living, working and raising a family here. I have served on the Board of Trustees since I finished my nursing degree. A neighbor of mine was the Chair of The Brooklyn Hospital Center Board and invited me to join to share my perspective as a resident and a nurse. I learned that I am the first nurse to serve on The Brooklyn Hospital’s Board and I am proud to represent that profession as we work to shape an optimal patient experience.
What’s kept you connected to this hospital for so many years?
It is a privilege to help our hospital provide that most universal of needs, good health. I have seen firsthand how a strong hospital makes a stronger community. Hospitals are employers and community partners, offering prevention and screening outreaches, as well as ambulatory care through our network of family health centers.
The doctors, nurses and staff share a special camaraderie and I am honored to work alongside them. Perhaps that spirit is reflective of a community hospital – the closer we are to that community, the better we can take care of our patients.
In addition to knowledge and expertise, what qualities do providers need to have to provide the best patient care?
Studies have shown that treating the whole patient speeds healing and recovery, so listening and compassion are paramount. And as a practicing nurse, I saw that time and again. Here at The Brooklyn Hospital Center, we have so many examples of excellent patient-centered care.
To ensure that every front line caretaker embodies this care model, we have adopted a new training philosophy called The Patient Experience/The Heart of Connection. This initiative works with staff at every level of the hospital, from front-line, hands-on employees to senior executives. It seeks to deliver patient care that goes beyond service satisfaction and becomes a memorable, positive experience.
Have you seen changes in TBHC and in the community over the years?
I absolutely have. Since 1984, I have seen many new people moving into the neighborhood, lured by all that Brooklyn offers. And we are eager to become their hospital of choice. We are convenient, located right in the heart of Downtown and there is no need for them to cross a bridge, for instance, to have their baby or get a joint replaced. We have excellent OB/GYN and orthopaedics, among many other comprehensive services.
But this hospital has been here nearly 175 years and we have proudly served — and continue to serve — the neighbors that have lived and worked in Brooklyn their whole lives. All the improvements we seek, all the time we spend getting to and staying on the top of our game is for them, as well--our most loyal patients.
The Brooklyn Hospital Center is the borough’s oldest hospital. What do you think would surprise Brooklynites most to learn today?
I think that many people assume a long-standing institution is not focused on innovation. But the opposite is true here.
We have state-of-the-art technology — from robotic surgery to cardiac catheterization, advanced joint replacement and excellent bariatric surgery to virtual reality goggles for our pediatric patients.
We attract clinicians from the country’s major medical centers and they bring innovative ideas, such as our new model of critical care that provides the most experienced care for our sickest patients. At the same time, we are also small enough that the clinicians know their patients and these communities intimately.
How do you describe our role in the community?
Our role is best summed up in our tagline: “Keeping Brooklyn Healthy.” We listen to the needs of the neighborhood and have our finger on the pulse of its needs. For instance, we realized that there were no percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) services in North Central Brooklyn for patients with serious heart attacks. PCI is a non-surgical intervention to treat the narrowing of arteries in the heart for which minutes count. We worked with New York State and forged a collaboration with Mount Sinai Heart to be able to provide those services, which literally saves lives.
What do you hope to accomplish as Board Chair of the Hospital’s Trustees?
I want to build on the fine work done by our Board and staff to help TBHC continue its focus on quality improvements. We’ve made tremendous progress in the past two years. This spring we earned the best Leapfrog Grade for patient safety in all of Brooklyn and second best in all of New York City. That’s not just boasting rights–that translates to improved quality and safety for each and every one of our patients.
We also have plans to modernize the Emergency Department. For many patients, this is the front door they use for treatment and we want to create a better experience for them and their families.
Together with our staff, we will help the Hospital broaden its constituency and encourage those who live, work and play here to see The Brooklyn Hospital Center in its current innovative light and to give us a chance if they haven’t already. And for patients who have been coming here for years, we want them to feel confident and take pride in this hospital and how we are growing and changing. I believe we will be a model for quality care that will guide other hospitals.
I look forward to what we will all accomplish as we work together in “Keeping Brooklyn Healthy.”