My life literally changed when I met the founding Dean at SUNY Downstate School of Public Health Dr. Pascal Imperato affectionately known as “Pat”. In 2004 I had just completed a Masters degree in rehabilitation counseling from New York University. Needless to say, I thought I had arrived in my career and my educational accomplishments. I entered a new program due to its convenience and location (it was on the floor as my office) in addition it was being financed through several parties. So I entered into this new educational pursuit with undeserved swagger, only to be met with an army of his lieutenants. Great leaders have a great team, who believes in their philosophy and leadership. The team assembled by Pat made sure that the graduates would be prepared to be the best public health practitioners. It was important that graduates of the program represent the school in a positive light.
Dr. Pascal Imperato is a titan when it comes to the science of medicine. I’ve seen his influence on the international stage and on the SUNY Downstate campus and while he never held a presidential post he has impacted many lives. I can go on all day and talk about his accomplishments (http://www.downstate.edu/publichealth/faculty/imperato.html).
|School of Public Health – Pascal James Imperato, MD, MPH
SUNY Downstate Medical Center is one of the nation’s leading urban medical centers, serving the people of Brooklyn since 1860.
What I was attracted to the most is that he was a team doctor for the Brooklyn Dodgers, I’m a big baseball fan and despite the Brooklyn Dodgers now belonging to Los Angeles I somewhat have a secret love affair with them (you gotta love those red numbers), so when I inquired about his experience he began to talk about it. All the history such as the stadium where they played, Ebbets Field on Bedford avenue, the left handed sensation Sandy Koufax, fan favorites like Duke Snider, Gil Hodges and the impact of Jackie Robinson. I was enamored and started taking it in, and all the while I was becoming programmed to the science public health.
Our conversations started to evolve from Brooklyn Dodgers baseball to general leadership lessons; we spoke about integrity, family, respect and friendship. I grew up 0.6 miles away from SUNY Downstate, despite all the resources that were supposed to be at my finger tips seemed a world away. Dr. Imperato was responsible for connecting me to those resources. He taught me to pay attention to details and the simple tasks, like writing, connecting with your patients, and integrity among the individuals that you meet. He validated my work at church, and encouraged me to present it at conferences and sharing the outcomes with my colleagues.
My involvement with the immigrant population increased, and my passion was stoked with his observation and guidance. When my career came to a complete stop, he was instrumental in jump starting it. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat your family. He was gracious when he met my wife and tender to my son who was young at the time. I remember him referring to my son’s jeans as dungarees. I could not tell when it was last that I heard that term.
Delta Omega (ΔΩ) is the honorary society for graduate studies in public health. It was Dr. Imperato who nominated me to the honor society, early in my career – I simply look at it as being in the Hall of Fame for public health. During the ceremony I cried my eyes out. When the state of New York recognized the program as a School of public health I was chosen to be the first speaker for the inaugural graduation in 2008. Guess who had a hand in that – you guessed it Dr. Imperato. His advice was not to cry – I didn’t – he also emphasized that I keep it at three minutes and make sure I involved the history of the school. Not only gave me the directive for the speech but he helped with it. It was a speech for the ages, it not only was a good start for the “NEW” school of public health, but the event raised my profile, and it propelled me into opportunities, that I never thought would ever come to pass.
When I decided to go to Accra, Ghana he was genuinely excited, but he was adamant about me taking care of myself during the flight. He told me that I should make sure I get up every hour and walk around the plane. He even went as far as saying not to worry about where my seat is or if a fellow passenger gets upset. It was my understanding that this preventive measure reduces the risk of blood clots in your leg, that can lead to embolisms. Years later it was revealed that two public figures sustained this condition by flying on an aircraft for long periods of time without moving around, unfortunately it lead to both death and extended hospitalizations.
Finally, I would like to leave you with three pieces of advice that was left to me by Dr. Imperato. First the most important thing is family. Despite all the work you have to do we must take time out for the family. Time missed is time you never get back. The work will always be there. Second, when in being a boss it never helps to please individuals, you are not there to make friends, don’t be afraid to make hard decisions. The objective is to earn respect.
I’m from the school of thought that you give people flowers while they are alive. The best boss I never had is what some may call a mentor. The biggest thanks I can give is the opportunity to teach the next generation about public health, leadership, and integrity. When leadership becomes generational your impact becomes universal.
Guest post contributed by Garry Graham