Michael Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health, topped Modern Healthcare magazine's...

Michael Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health, topped Modern Healthcare magazine's list of the “100 Most Influential People in Healthcare.” Credit: Chris Ware

Northwell Heath chief executive Michael J. Dowling, this week named the most influential person in American health care by an industry publication, said his top priorities for 2023 include expanding mental health care, addressing the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 and combating climate change.

The publication Modern Healthcare placed Dowling at the top of its 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare list in its Dec. 5 issue. Also in the top 10 are the chief executives of CVS Health and United Healthcare, as well as President Joe Biden, who ranked ninth. Mark Cuban, a billionaire and founder of the discount online pharmacy Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Co., placed 13th.

This year, “disrupters turned into major players and industry leaders raised their voices to effect change within their organizations and the broader community,” Mary Ellen Podmolik, editor of Modern Healthcare, said in a statement. Those on the list were voted on by the publication’s readers and selected by its senior editors, Modern Healthcare said.

Dowling, 73, has played an unusually outspoken role in the nation’s political discourse for a chief executive. Dowling has described gun violence as a public health threat crisis  — it is now the leading cause of death among children and teens — and Northwell has launched a national campaign that seeks to reduce firearm injuries and deaths.

In the coming year, Dowling said, Northwell will continue to “adapt to the new reality” of supply chain disruptions, inflation and workforce challenges. “The world has changed,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “It's not the same as it was before COVID.”

The New Hyde Park-based nonprofit health care system’s goals for next year also include “continuing the commitment” to providing mental health care in spite of low reimbursements to providers, as well as working with about a dozen communities in the region that have been especially hard-hit by the pandemic and reducing the system’s impact on the environment, Dowling said.

Northwell, which owns and operates 19 hospitals on Long Island and in New York City and Westchester, is the state's largest provider of health care and its biggest private employer, with 80,000 workers. It is the 35th largest health care system in the country, according to an analysis by Becker's Hospital Review and the data company MDClone. 

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