Relying on his experiences

BY Christopher Lang, Northern Valley Suburbanite, Published 12:00 a.m. ET Nov. 14, 2013

A lifelong curiosity. An impulse to learn and know. And now, after the success brought on by those traits, a desire to tap them in others.

Jay Nadel wants you to know everything you can about Englewood Hospital and Medical Center’s ability to safeguard the community’s health. And while he may be in the lofty position of chairman of its foundation, he’s intent on delivering the message right down to the street level.

“Once you educate them, once you speak to them and they get their concerns out, they get it. The community owns this hospital. The quality of having a jewel in your neighborhood that you have access to, I think is invaluable,” he said. “Those who can give, must give to the hospital. It’s in our best interest, their best interest and the communities’ best interests.”

As the foundation’s chair Nadel serves as the figurehead for attracting donors to continue to support the hospital’s efforts to provide quality care and services in an environment that is quickly changing.

“I think we have a lot of work to do in support of the hospital. There are two types of hospitals in New Jersey,” said Nadel. “The first type has a culture of philanthropy and the second type is closed. We need to be in the first category.”

But attracting those supporters largely comes from keeping the community educated about the hospital.

“Educating is a huge piece of it,” he said.

In facing this task, Nadel brings a vital combination of business smarts learned in the warfare of Wall Street, administrative experience on many non-profit boards and the practical experience of managing all things medicine as a veteran member of the hospital’s board of trustees.

But what he really credits for his confidence and ability traces back to his childhood roots, a love of learning and appreciation for people and experiences that have shaped him today.

“I’d like to believe that when I was 5-years-old I wanted to learn more. I wanted to do more. I wanted to have a good time,” said the 55-year-old Demarest resident.

And he has done more. But where he ended up currently was not something he expected while growing up in Jersey City.

Nadel, in September, was named chairman of the board for the Englewood Hospital and Medical Center Foundation — the fundraising arm of the facility.

“I remember in Jersey City were I was born, most Jersey City kids were born in Margaret Hague Medical Center,” he said. “Going there was a scary experience. Going up in the elevators, looking at the doctors in their white coats wondering who they are and what they do, it was all a mystery to me, which got me very, very interested.”

But the medical industry was not in the cards for Nadel — at least not yet. “I pursued a business career. Started out at what was called one of the Big 8 firms, [KPMG]” he said. “A Wall Street firm hired me from there and we sold the firm and I retired. It was a different task, but it was all fun and it was all good.”

In 2004, Nadel retired from the full-time professional world, but would continue to work as a consultant. While still working at Weiss, Peck & Greer, chairing the operations committee, he was appointed to the hospital’s board of trustees in 2000.

In 2004, he was elected to serve as the board’s treasurer. His elevation would culminate with serving two terms as the hospital’s chairman of the board from 2006 to 2012.

Nadel serves on three nonprofit boards, including as vice chairman of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. He also serves on three for-profit boards.

“I worked on Wall Street for 25 years as a CPA [certified public accountant]. I retired and got involved in a whole bunch of different stuff,” he said. “I wanted to get involved in some other things.”

A ‘turnaround situation’

With his position on the hospital’s board cemented, Nadel was staring at one of the biggest challenges in his life: Englewood Hospital and Medical Center.

The 123-year-old hospital was facing financial turmoil. It had lost $24 million in a five-year period.

“We needed, together, to turn it around,” Nadel said. “I love turnaround situations. To go from worst to first is something that interest me tremendously.”

But turning around an economically struggling medical center was not an easy task. For Nadel, his boyhood curiosity would play a vital role in improving the hospital.

“I had a huge advantage because I didn’t know about the health care system,” he said. “I was like everybody else who picked up the newspaper and saw we’ve got some real problems here.”

For the first six months as chairman of the board, Nadel did not enact new policies. Instead, he spent that time meeting with key figures of the hospital’s leadership and many of the physicians and employees.

“I just listened,” he said. “I viewed it as an opportunity to really learn what is going on in medicine, what’s going on in health care delivery, why are there problems and what are the answers.”

During his six-month listening tour, Nadel met with the heads of the physicians practicing at the hospital, community members and his fellow trustees.

“Not only did I have no preconceived notions, I was not versed in any of this stuff,” said Nadel. “I could ask the questions that maybe other people who were too immersed in the system either couldn’t ask, or wouldn’t ask or felt funny asking. I didn’t feel funny asking any questions.”

What Nadel discovered was that part of the hospital’s problem was self-inflected. There was a “significant disconnect between the hierarchy and the people making the decisions. Tough decisions were being delayed,” he said. “There was a certain amount of kick the can down the road.”

Working with others, Nadel would craft a plan that would help to reshape the struggling facility. Knowing the success of the plan required support from the hospital on all levels, Nadel presented it to the staff and leadership before having it approved.

“I wanted to make sure people really liked this plan and brought into it,” he said. “At the end of the day, it became the institution’s plan, it wasn’t my plan.”

Under Nadel, the hospital would begin its transformation, providing better care for its patients, and putting the hospital on a strong financial foundation.

They also started a long-range plan to improve the hospital heading into the future, which ultimately put it in line with new requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“I had to do the best I could to get everybody on the same page” he said.

A new chapter

In 2012, Nadel’s tenure at the hospital came to an end. The board chair is restricted to two terms.

Between his tenure as the hospital’s and foundation’s chairman, Nadel took time off.

“I felt I wanted to take a one year break and let the new group settle in,” he said. “You’ve got to give people a chance and you’ve got to let go.”

But there was temptation to not let go.

“Working on Wall Street all those years, I was use to working with these old guys who would never give up anything,” he said.

“And I said to myself, ‘If I ever get in that potion for anything I do, I’m not going to be that way.’ So, the first temptation I had is to be that way, and then once I got over it with my wife’s help, I let it go.”

It would not be long before the offer came in to be the chairman of the foundation, a role Nadel embraced. “I’m proud to do it, especially with the state the hospital is in.”

Always wanting to learn more, Nadel has found himself becoming the teacher, educating the community about the hospital as the foundation’s chairman.

Recently, the foundation raised $30 million to build The Kaplen Pavilion. The site is home to the hospital’s new state-of-the-art emergency department. Nadel, the hospital said, played a role in obtaining the funds for the new facility.

“We built that with 100 percent of donations from the community,” Nadel said.

And Nadel is looking to keep the momentum from raising $30 million going forward as he chairs the foundation. Nadel attended his first board meeting and has been on the job, so to speak, for 30 days.

His focus thus far, with the board, is on events done to find ways to improve or expand them, and also developing new events to attract donations. And the more donations the foundation can attract, the more opportunities the hospital has to improve services, leading to more funding. It’s a circle, in a way.

“In philanthropy, people want to give to successes, not distresses. The more clinical success we had, the more [donations] we were able to achieve,” he said.

The foundation’s mission remains a crucial one as the industry continues a transformation under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Nadel, the man who once admittedly knew nothing about health care, understands that for the hospital to continue to serving the community, it must also adapt. And that will require funding.

“Health care has changed and it continues to change,” he said. “And I see it changing more rapidly going forward. I think we’re in the first inning of a nine inning ball game.”