Long-time staffers help keep The Floating Hospital anchored

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Behind the compassionate healthcare The Floating Hospital delivers to New York City’s most vulnerable families is a dedicated staff. One member of that staff, Phil Mejia, a Good Health Shuttle bus driver, is retiring after 15 years of service. “Phil is kind, gracious and the consummate gentleman,” said The Floating Hospital president Sean T. Granahan, himself with the hospital since 2003. “Every year, ‘Mr. Phil,’ as our elderly board members call him, escorts our members to our annual gala, in his best fedora. Seeing him there was always a proud reminder of the quality of our staff. I will miss that fedora terribly.”

In celebration of Mejia and other long-time members of our staff, here’s a tip of the hat to them.

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compose graphic of a quote with a photo of phil

Phil Mejia, Community Driver

A retired army veteran who served in Desert Storm, Mejia has started with the hospital when there were only four vans to help shuttle patients to and from their shelters to the hospital’s clinic. Now there’s a fleet of 14. Mejia estimates he clocks up to 70 miles daily in his trips throughout the five boroughs.

“I’ve developed some close relationships with our patients through the years. I’ve watched kids become parents and I can tear up thinking about the elderly patients who have passed,” he said. “I always treat them the way I want to be treated and show them I care.”

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composed graphic of a quote with a photo of ernie

Ernesto Hart, Manager, dental clinic

“The Floating Hospital attracts amazing people who want to give back and exemplify the true meaning of help,” said Ernesto Hart, manager of the dental clinic, who celebrates 31 years with The Floating Hospital this month.

Hart arrived in the days when the hospital was on the water and recalls, “The ship was magical. Parents would tell their kids we’re going on a boat, they never knew they were also going to the doctor.” Hart offers a fun fact: the ship never had an engine and was pulled along the Hudson by a tug boat all those years. The ship was forced to become land based after 9/11.

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composed graphic of a quote with a photo of cynthia

Cynthia Davis, Director of Community Outreach

Cynthia Davis, director of community outreach, said her first day on the job was seeing how Hart coached a scared child into the dental chair. “Something about the way everyone handled the children, I felt I was going to be around nice people and that is what has kept me here.” But, she says, “Our patients teach me what heroism is about. So many are living without a home yet when they walk through our door, they do so with a smile on their face.”

Throughout Davis’s 21 years with the hospital, she said one of the biggest milestones she saw was the privilege of being the first Federally Qualified Health Center sited on New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) property, with the 2012 opening of a clinic in Queensbridge Houses, the largest public-housing complex in North America. It is now one of three NYCHA-located satellite clinics.

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composed graphic of a quote with a photo of ivan

Iván Romero, Director for Families in Temporary Housing

When Iván Romero joined The Floating Hospital in 1992 as a health advocate for underperforming high schools, he saw how teenagers needed to open up to about their health concerns without fear of judgment. “It was rewarding to engage with them and help guide them to live more empowered, productive lives.” That experience grew to include parents and families experiencing homelessness and domestic violence. In 2011, he became director of shelter outreach. Since then he’s built relationships from 10 shelters in Queens to 300 shelters throughout the five boroughs today. Romero said his reward is hearing patients tell him, “I know you can’t give me an apartment, but the care and compassion you show me and my children is as good as getting my own place.”

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composed graphic of a quote with a photo of belita

Belita Brown, Accounts Payable Administrator

Belita Brown, known to the younger patients as the “chicken nugget lady,” is a 22-year employee, working in accounts payable. She fondly recalls the hospital’s Friday Summer Sails, when children would sail up the Hudson, entertained with talent shows, games, food tastings, (including chicken nuggets) during their doctor visits. Now that the clinic is on land, she looks forward to seeing families at the annual holiday toy and gift event. “There’s smiles and joy. You hear moms with tears saying ‘you don’t know how much this means. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to afford to get my kids anything for Christmas.’ ”

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composed graphic of a quote with a photo of reggie

Reggie Thompson, Director of Finance-Special Projects

Reggie Thompson, director of finance-special projects, for 14 years, says his job is about more than just “making a dollar.” Working here, I always feel I’m making a difference. Comprehensive quality healthcare is a human right that should be available to all people regardless of their socioeconomic status It’s important to let the community at large know who we are and are providing a much-needed service to underserved populations.” He adds that “Working for The Floating Hospital keeps me humble and deepens my empathy for the frailty of the human experience.”

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 continues to support patients in satellite clinics at family homeless shelters and public housing complexes in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

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