NewYork-Presbyterian recently adopted the most comprehensive parental leave policy among hospitals and healthcare systems in New York City. What does it mean to you?
I have three children, and my twin daughters were born 26 years ago, when maternity leave was not formalized. I was an orthopedic surgery resident at the time, and my program had never had any mothers. Fortunately, when I told my chairman I was pregnant, he said, “OK, we’ll figure it out.”
Now, NewYork-Presbyterian provides six weeks of paid time off for primary caregivers and two weeks for secondary caregivers, along with six months of extended leave and continuation of benefits. I’m glad that our employees, including our trainees, will have peace of mind and the resources to truly enjoy this time. We want to help them have a work-life balance that works for them.
How have you achieved your own work-life balance?
Two words: great help. I have an incredibly supportive husband, who is also a surgeon. We’ve been together 30 years. And when our kids were little, we moved to be near family. I’ve never been afraid to ask for help. That’s what allowed me, when I was away from my kids, to focus on work — and when I was with them, to really focus on them.
When you were in your 30s, you underwent treatment for breast cancer. How did that experience change your perspective on your work?
It was a tough time for us. Our kids were little, and I was reasonably sick for a year — lots of surgeries and chemotherapy and radiation. I would never wish a significant illness on anyone, but there was no question that, for me, a lot of positive things came out of that experience.
It was a challenging and all-consuming time, and I would say, “Gosh, I’m a doctor and a doctor’s spouse, and I find this hard and confusing. What does the average person go through, and how much harder would it be to navigate the healthcare system?” I think having that appreciation has been good for me, in terms of doing the right thing in our work.
What advice do you give to colleagues?
Take the long view about a career and all the different skills and experiences you can get. Each step of the journey brings something and adds to lifelong learning.
And the best advice you’ve gotten?
It came from my parents, who raised us with this notion of, “Always try to do the right thing.” Now I realize, many years later, that’s been a guidepost.
What about NewYork-Presbyterian makes you proud?
I really feel good about our culture of respect. For our patients, it’s about the care we’re giving them. For our team members, our employees, the doctors we work with, it’s about the care we demonstrate for them, which allows them to be incredible caregivers.
I’m driven to make sure we’re doing everything we can for our patients and staff. That’s because I really believe we can and should be the best hospital in the country.
Dr. Laura Forese is executive vice president and chief operating officer of NewYork-Presbyterian. She has overseen NewYork-Presbyterian’s growth into a $7.8 billion, 10-hospital system with 39,000 employees. A pediatric orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Forese has been a Columbia University Medical Center faculty member since 1993. She also serves as chairperson for the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center Research Hospital Board.