With all the political rhetoric and confusion over today’s health care, it’s easy to forget that there are people out there who still work day after day to maintain the highest quality of patient care—regardless of ideology or political affiliation. And one of those detail-oriented people is none other than Rehoboth Beach resident Lenny Parisi. This president-elect of the prestigious National Association for Healthcare Quality, and author of over 45 publications and presentations, has spent his life making hospitals and allied healthcare facilities safer and more patient-friendly.
Lenny was born in the same Brooklyn, New York hospital where he would eventually land his first job. At 18, he began working at what is now the Maimonides Medical Center, where he observed, much to his surprise, that men did indeed pursue successful careers in the nursing profession. So he did just that; graduating in 1980 as a Registered Nurse; earning his BS in nursing at Long Island University and his masters in community health from Brooklyn College. He worked in general surgery, quickly progressing to senior staff nurse in the emergency room. It wasn’t long before he accepted the nursing supervisor position for the entire 700-bed facility. “I grew up there,” he smiles.
But Parisi had set even higher goals for himself, and in 1985 he became head nurse and patient care coordinator at Long Island College Hospital. In ’88 he took the assistant director of nursing position at The New York Hospital (now the New York-Presbyterian/Weill-Cornell Medical Center) where his duties centered on administration for medical/surgical nursing. Within a year, he found his home in quality management; spending the next six years overseeing the entire hospital as the assistant director of nursing practices and quality management.
As Lenny’s professional life flourished, 1986 was to bring joy to his personal life as well, where a vacation trip to Acapulco would change his life forever. While relaxing over a cocktail (or two), he ran into Michael O’Connor. A native of Canada, O’Connor is best known for his work as the style/diamond host for QVC Television. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight, but Lenny knew there was a spark and was nothing if not persistent. After several weeks of long conversations on the phone, he informed Michael that there was a ticket to La Guardia waiting for him at the Toronto airport. “You don’t have to give me an answer now,” said Lenny, “but I will be meeting that flight, and I sure hope you’re on it.”
After O’Connor made sure it was a round-trip ticket (those of us who know him would expect nothing less), he went—and had a wonderful time. One thing led to another, and after endless weekend flights he quit his job to take up residence in New York. The move turned out to be fortuitous for O’Connor’s career, as he quickly found work designing jewelry for such clients as Mary Tyler Moore, Nell Carter, Jackie Kennedy, and the Queen of Thailand. His talents led him to corporate marketing and eventually television sales of custom diamond lines. Michael continues to consult for high-profile clients, routinely making bi-coastal appearances in the world of jewelry and style.
Lenny Parisi was also making a name for himself in the health care arena, and in ’95 he became the assistant director of clinical affairs and quality management for Health Insurance Plan (HIP) of Greater New York. This was his first exposure to managed care, and shortly thereafter he was recruited by Mount Sinai Hospital to become the director of quality management. His focus was now shifted to home health and community health nursing, and that experience resulted in his recruitment to be the director of nursing, professional practice and quality management at the iconic Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Lenny settled down for a while, at least until 2005, where he moved to his present position at Metropolitan Jewish Health System (MJHS), as vice president of quality management and performance improvement. This was a big change for him, as MJHS is not a hospital. The organization manages many types of healthcare facilities, providing home health care, hospice/palliative care, rehab and nursing services to the New York City metropolitan area.
Since that time, Parisi’s service as adjunct faculty at Adelphi University and Binghamton University, not to mention his extensive volunteer work, led to his election to the presidency of the National Association of Healthcare Quality. He assumes that respected position in 2014.
When Lenny and Michael talked about getting away from it all, O’Connor insisted on The Hamptons. But Parisi’s long-time affection for Rehoboth Beach eventually won out. They bought a condo, and shortly thereafter, a beautiful home just outside downtown Rehoboth.
Both men do extensive business travel and divide their time among their homes in New York City, Ft. Lauderdale and Rehoboth Beach. But when it comes time to kick back and pour a martini or two by the pool with dear friends, Rehoboth Beach is their home base.
Bob Yesbek is a Rehoboth Beach resident. Email Bob Yesbek