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LI hospital's COVID-19 'quarterback' gets top job

Dr. Adhi Sharma will be the first physician

Dr. Adhi Sharma will be the first physician to serve as president of Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital. Credit: Chris Ware

The doctor who served as Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital’s "clinical quarterback" during the COVID-19 outbreak last spring, providing what was hailed as cool and calm leadership, has been promoted to its top executive position — the first physician in that role.

Dr. Adhi Sharma will become president of the Oceanside hospital on Sept. 1, the hospital announced Monday. He will take over from Richard J. Murphy, who will retire at the end of this year after a more than 40-year career in health care, including nine years as president and CEO of South Nassau.

In an interview with Newsday, Sharma called it a "great honor" to take over leadership of the hospital, where he has worked since 2014.

Now South Nassau’s chief medical officer and executive vice president for clinical and professional affairs, he also has served as chair of emergency medicine at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip. In addition to his medical degree from New York Medical College in Valhalla, he holds a master’s in health care administration from George Washington University. He has co-authored articles in the Journal of Emergency Medicine and other publications, and he has contributed chapters to books including Rosen’s Textbook of Emergency Medicine.

The hospital launched an "extensive" search for a new leader throughout the Northeast region early this year, giving serious consideration to 25 qualified candidates before determining that Sharma, who has served as chief medical officer since 2015, was the best person for the job, said Anthony Cancellieri, co-chair of the hospital’s board.

"We kept a very open mind in the process in going through all the candidates, but he clearly checked all of the boxes," Cancellieri said.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, he said, "We were like a M*A*S*H unit, when you think of a hospital during wartime." Sharma "was cool, he was calm, he understood how to handle such a surge," Cancellieri said. "He was very nimble and able to make decisions on the run …. That leadership ability really helped keep our staff going in the right direction."

The 53-year-old physician has longtime ties to Long Island. Born in India and raised in Brooklyn as the middle of three sons, his mother worked as a teacher and his father owned three clothing boutiques, one in Cedarhurst and two in Manhattan. Sharma did his first year of training as a doctor at the Mineola hospital now known as NYU Langone Hospital-Long Island, formerly Winthrop-University Hospital, where he met his wife Emily, who is also a physician. He and his wife live in Muttontown with their two sons, ages 15 and 17.

In the interview, he said the surge of COVID-19 cases last spring showed the benefits of the hospital’s ties to the Manhattan-based Mount Sinai Health System as well as the strength of its local staff.

The 455-bed hospital treated more than 500 COVID-19 patients at a time during the height of the pandemic last spring, Sharma said.

"We were able to get through what we were challenged with because of our support" from the Mount Sinai system, which helped with everything from supplies to medical services, he said. "We really were able to manage the surge at a time that New York state, and especially downstate, was really tested."

In addition, he said of the facility’s 3,700 employees, "not one said, ‘Can I be excused?’ They all said, ‘What can I do, how can I help?’ … The people who work here are so dedicated, so committed to our patients and to each other."

Sharma said he will spend the next few months working alongside Murphy, who helped launch the hospital’s $400 million capital construction program for its Oceanside and Long Beach campuses. Murphy also helped spearhead the hospital’s 2019 affiliation with Mount Sinai Health System.

"He trusts his team members to lead," Sharma said of Murphy. "He’s been a great resource and a great mentor."

Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital at a glance

  • 455 beds
  • 3,700 staff members
  • $400 million capital construction program will include a new four-story patient wing with an expanded emergency department, nine new operating rooms and 40 critical care beds in Oceanside, as well as a $40 million Medical Arts Pavilion at its Long Beach campus and a health care center in Wantagh.
  • The acute-care, not-for-profit teaching hospital is affiliated with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Its services include cardiac, oncologic, orthopedic, bariatric, pain management, mental health and emergency care.

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