A New York hospital system run by a Fordham alumnus, Michael Dowling, GSS ’74, made history on Monday by administering America’s first vaccination against COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, stood by on Monday as an intensive care nurse at Northwell’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, N.Y., received the vaccine granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday, December 11. The vaccination, televised widely, kicked off Northwell’s effort to inoculate the staff at its hospitals.

“Today is V-Day in our fight against COVID-19,” Dowling said, calling it a long-awaited “historic day for science and humanity.”

On Monday, December 21, Dowling will join a virtual panel discussion about vaccination and the coronavirus. Organized by the Fordham University Alumni Association, the event is open to Fordham alumni, parents, and students.

The intensive care nurse who received the dose, Sandra Lindsay, said she felt “great” afterward. “It didn’t feel different from taking any other vaccine,” she said.

“I want to instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe,” she said. “We’re in a pandemic, and so we all need to do our part to put an end to the pandemic.

“As a nurse, my practice is guided by science, and so I trust science.”

The vaccine, developed by Pfizer, was found to be 95% effective in preventing COVID-19. It requires two doses three weeks apart. Northwell is seeking to vaccinate all of its essential frontline hospital staff as well as any physicians, nurses, or other staffers who work in direct contact with COVID-19 patients. Lindsay’s vaccination was the first to take place outside clinical trials.

Another Fordham graduate, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, FCRH ’79, took part in the event virtually, via video link, asking questions of Lindsay and the doctor administering the dose.

Pandemic Leadership

Last spring, soon after the pandemic began, Cuomo named Dowling co-leader of a statewide council on expanding the state’s hospital capacity to cope with the pandemic. A Fordham trustee, Dowling has served as a professor of social policy at Fordham, assistant dean of the Graduate School of Social Service, and director of the Westchester campus. Since 2002, he has been at the helm of Northwell, the largest hospital system in New York state.

COVID-19 has killed more than 300,000 Americans, and New York was widely considered an epicenter of the pandemic last spring.

“COVID-19 took our loved ones, disrupted our lives, and forced us to deal with unthinkable circumstances,” Dowling said. “But hope brings prosperity, and we never ended our fight. We never did wave the white flag.”

Lindsay spoke hopefully about the vaccination effort after receiving the dose. “I hope this marks the beginning to the end of a very painful time in our history,” she said.


Chris Gosier is research news director for Fordham Now. He can be reached at (646) 312-8267 or [email protected].