ISLIP TOWN—On Saturday, Nov. 14, the YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts in Bay Shore will host the 12th annual gala that celebrates their many partnerships within the community. Each year, they honor one or more individuals who have worked to strengthen that bond. This year, they will honor recently elected Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter—whose relationship with the Boulton Center extends back to when she had been a Suffolk County Legislator—and also a lesser known individual in the community, Edward Fraser, Eastern Regional Director of Community Relations for North Shore-LIJ Health System.
Fraser, who resides in Bay Shore with his husband, Thomas, doesn’t have very far to travel to work. However, one morning last week, he was in his office in Southside Hospital when he could have stayed home. As he sat behind his desk receiving phone calls, checking emails, and answering questions posed by the frequent office visitors, he cradled his right arm, bandaged and swollen from surgery only the day before.
When asked by his interviewer if he was in pain, he responded, “Yes, but it’s okay,” and smiled. Fraser was exactly where he wanted to be, doing his job in a position that usually affords little distinction—at least, until he received word he was being honored.
“I’m excited about [the recognition]. It’s such a wonderful feeling,” he said, adding that he is especially thrilled that the award reflects his work at the hospital, a place with which he has had a long relationship.
Fraser was actually born at Southside Hospital and grew up in Islip, where he graduated from Islip High School in 1980. He soon headed south to Florida, where he worked as regional manager for the McDonald’s corporation. After moving back to Long Island, in 2006, he was hired by NS-LIJ, which had recently acquired Southside Hospital, on a project to calculate employee pensions. When that project was over, he moved within the organization to become a coordinator of nursing education. In fact, he had planned to attend college for a degree in nursing, but upon receiving advice from his mentor, Winifred “Winnie” Mack, now the Eastern Regional executive director of North Shore-LIJ Health System, opted instead for a baccalaureate degree and subsequently a master’s degree in health care administration. After Fraser took over the hospital’s public relations department, he became a lot more active in the local community. He attributes much of his success to Mack. “Winnie definitely guided me in the right direction. And I followed her lead about the importance of community [involvement],” he said.
On behalf of the hospital, Fraser currently belongs to 46 chambers of commerce and serves on many of those boards as well. He noted that being a part of community-based organizations provides a grassroots approach to learning about the healthcare needs in those areas. And that, he said, would hopefully lead to better serving the hospital’s patrons.
“There were always underserved [people] in the area, but we want to take care of everybody and be a part of their community,” he said.
One of the ways Fraser and the Southside staff have been able to accomplish those goals was through the Community Outreach Health Education Council (COHEC) that works with local outreach agencies such as Mercy Haven, Pronto and local churches to bring preventative care by giving flu shots, and to also investigate which of those residents—many of them non-English speaking—are actually eligible for health insurance. “You have to be able to do that for your community,” he said.
Fraser has assisted with many other causes. He has been a strong supporter of local LGBT youth as well as veteran issues; he remains very involved in the Wounded Warrior Project. He also created the Health for Hollywood talent competition, which is held at the Boulton Center to benefit the Office of Military and Veteran Liaison Services.
On a more personal level, the honoree is often seen as a liaison to hospital services and physicians. He said he still receives many text messages and between 15-20 calls a week for doctor referrals from people he has met over the years—even from his former high school principal.
“You learn as you go through the health care system, and I love sharing that information with people,” he said, noting that he is proud of how far the hospital has come in recent years. He lists a first-rate brain injury unit and rehab center, an award-winning trauma center and an open-heart surgical unit, where more than 1,600 surgeries were completed over the past five years, as the highlights of those many changes.
“You used to have to go to Manhattan to get [that level of treatment]. Now, you don’t.”
The honoree’s many supporters say he was a perfect candidate for this type of recognition. Mack calls him the “backbone and driving force” for the hospital’s close relationship with other agencies. “We attribute much of our success in community partnerships to Eddie and his team,” she said.
The hospital’s partnership with the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Bay Shore has been an important one for the rebuilding of that downtown area. Chamber president Donna Periconi referred to Fraser as an “extraordinary advocate for Bay Shore. His capabilities are remarkable. His never-ending service, his spirit of generosity and his devotion to our community is surpassed by no one,” she added
“He is always there at all times for everybody,” said Bob Pettersen, executive director of the Great South Bay YMCA. “He’s no nonsense, no drama; he’s a doer and just does things for the greater good, a remarkable individual. Eddie fits the bill [for this award], a quintessential community partner.”
Fraser said he is grateful for a dedicated, hardworking staff and happy to be recognized for his work. And his work is something for which he is very thankful for as well. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to love what you do, and I do love working here,” he said.
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