A long-time educator brings expertise and vision to The Floating Hospital’s board

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Board member Madeline Naegle shares her experience as a nurse psychotherapist, global consultant, researcher and teacher.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” That ancient proverb, attributed to Xun Kuang, a Chinese Confucian philosopher, could well serve as the motto for Floating Hospital board of trustees member Madeline Naegle PhD, and professor emerita of New York University Meyers College of Nursing.

Dr. Naegle joined The Floating Hospital’s board after many years of service with other professional health organizations, both on committees and in leadership positions. Her distinguished career spans multiple degrees and honors, and work as a nurse psychotherapist, in global consulting, research and advocacy. But it is in her many years of teaching that she has found the greatest satisfaction.

“Education is the pathway to development and change, a life enriched by knowing the world,” she said.

The Floating Hospital attracted Dr. Naegle because of its service mission, its credential as a Federally Qualified Health Center, and its robust health-education program, anchored by its integrated-care model and practical community-based teachings. The latter has been at the heart of her own career as an educator.

“One of the reasons I was drawn to The Floating Hospital is the fact that it’s a Federally Qualified Health Center … a model that allows a progressive agenda in terms of integrated healthcare services,” she said. She calls the FQHC model a “wrap-around approach” that parallels the integrated community-healthcare models for which she has advocated. Community-based teaching is also anchored in the integrated-care model and has long been at the heart of Dr. Naegle’s career as a nurse educator.

“The [FQHC] model comes close because it includes preventive care, but it also means being able to access family planning, resources and guidance; it means being able to go there for primary care. It means being able to go there when you’re symptomatic and you need to be diagnosed. It means you go there for your follow-up visits, behavioral health support and as you’re being treated.”

“I think the FQHCs and The Floating Hospital provide comprehensive care in a model that largely doesn’t exist in many private practices,” she said.

Dr. Naegle has experienced such prototypes here and in Latin America and Malta under Fulbright scholarships. Her interest in integrated care stems from expertise in the intersection of substance-use disorder (alcohol and drug use) and mental health with primary healthcare, which she says, historically, have been sectioned off and not considered part of a broad approach to comprehensive healthcare.

“I got very interested in the pieces that were left out of a mainstream approach to health,” she said.

Reframing conversations about these disorders, she says, helps remove the stigma associated with them. “These are chronic illnesses like other illness. Substance use may be considered part of lifestyle, but it has a lot of implications for health, and when you put it in the framework of a health behavior instead of negative behavior or moral failing, people respond much better.”

Dr. Naegle praises The Floating Hospital’s health-education department for holistic programming that considers patients’ past and current social and health conditions and challenges and encourages multigenerational learning and behavior change—from healthier lifestyles, self-care and nutrition to sexual and mental health, and substance use.

“That [programming] in and of itself is unique because our health system as it stands now lacks that. Our health system is about episodic medical care, and we are sorely lacking a public health approach in this country,” she said. “We have a wealth of information on all these topics now and because we don’t have a federal public health emphasis, we aren’t rolling it out in language that the public can understand.”

To that end, she lauded The Floating Hospital not only for its approachable programming, but for its specific attention to the individuals it serves and “modifying it for the circumstances of their lives in the moment.”

Another draw to the The Floating Hospital board, Dr. Naegle said, was the opportunity to be “actively involved in social justice,” which she says traditionally is a pillar of social policy, but which she believes has a place in healthcare. “It’s my opportunity to do something for an agency that promotes equity in healthcare access and justice.”

With nearly a year of board service under her belt, Dr. Naegle says, “I’m still learning how to be a board member, learning about my fellow board members and their ways of working. We are all participating in fiduciary responsibility and sharing that responsibility in equal ways so we draw on one another’s expertise.”

In the new year, new beginnings are top of mind for Dr. Naegle. Fresh from watching President Biden’s inauguration, she said, “I am looking forward to this new era and new leadership with great expectations.”

Since 1866, The Floating Hospital has been the largest provider of healthcare and education to families living with homelessness. Based in Long Island City, it provides comprehensive primary, dental and behavioral-health services, and health-education to patients living in more than 300 shelters and domestic violence safe houses throughout New York City.

In 2021, The Floating Hospital moved into a new modern main clinic in Long Island City, and continue to support patients in satellite clinics at family homeless shelters and public housing complexes in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.


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