Port nurse Sandra Lindsay to receive nation’s highest civilian honor

Port nurse Sandra Lindsay to receive nation’s highest civilian honor
Northwell Health nurse and Port Washington resident Sandra Lindsay will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom on July 7. (Photo courtesy of Northwell Health)

Northwell Health nurse and Port Washington resident Sandra Lindsay, the first U.S. citizen to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, will be a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom next week, White House officials announced on Friday.

Lindsay, who works in the intensive care unit at New Hyde Park’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center, received the first Pfizer vaccination in December 2020.

She will be presented with the nation’s highest civilian honor as part of a group that includes gymnast Simone Biles, actor Denzel Washington, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, among others. 

Lindsay expressed her gratitude for being recognized by President Joe Biden.

“I am truly honored to be receiving this prestigious civilian recognition among some of the greats in our nation,” Lindsay tweeted.

“Sandra is the embodiment of courage and selflessness,” Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling said in a statement. “That small brave act of getting the vaccine has rippled across the world and continues to leave a lasting impact. We are proud of Sandra and what she represents to our Northwell family and beyond.” 

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is presented to individuals whose contributions to the nation reflect its’ values and prosperity. The awards will be presented at the White House on July 7.

Lindsay’s journey to becoming the first person in the nation to receive the coronavirus vaccine began nearly three decades ago outside of the United States. When she was 18 years old, Lindsay immigrated from Jamaica to the United States.

She took classes to achieve her first nursing degree from Manhattan Community College while working at a grocery store and babysitting to pay bills. Lindsay ended up earning her nursing degree in 1994 and became a U.S. citizen three years later.

The Medal of Freedom is not the only national recognition Lindsay has received, being awarded the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Outstanding Americans by Choice recognition by Biden last year.

“During the height of the pandemic, Sandra poured her heart and soul, working with patients and keeping her fellow nurses safe,” Biden said. “When the time came she became the first person in America to get fully vaccinated outside the trials.”

Biden said Lindsay’s vaccination card, identification badge, and hospital scrubs will be on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in a COVID-19 exhibit.

Lindsay also served as grand marshal for a parade in New York City honoring local healthcare workers who served on the frontlines during the coronavirus pandemic last summer.

Leading the parade and waving to everyone who came out to honor and cheer on all of New York’s frontline workers in attendance, she said, was an experience she will never forget.

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