LIJ nurse who got first U.S. Covid shot now a health advocate

LIJ nurse who got first U.S. Covid shot now a health advocate
Sandra Lindsay is now Northwell Health’s vice president of public health advocacy. (Photo courtesy of Northwell Health)

Sandra Lindsay, a Northwell Health nurse and Port Washington resident who was the first American to receive the coronavirus vaccine, has been appointed to serve as Northwell’s vice president of public health advocacy, officials announced on Monday.

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 said that one of her main goals in her new position is to advance Northwell’s mission of promoting “compassionate and equitable care.”

“I plan to work collaboratively with my colleagues to positively influence social and health issues that are priorities for our communities in New York throughout the U.S. and globally,” Lindsay said. “I chose a career in health care because I believe in raising the health of everyone.” 

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 emigrated 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.

After serving as grand marshal for a parade in New York City honoring local healthcare workers who served on the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic last year, Lindsay received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

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

Northwell President and CEO Michael Dowling lauded Lindsay for her leadership and compassion during her tenure at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, saying she is well-deserving of the promotion.

“I’m grateful for Sandra’s willingness to serve as an example for her own team members as the first person at Northwell to get vaccinated and then to continue to advocate for vaccines – and vaccine equity – at every turn, including at the United Nations and the White House,” Dowling said in a statement. “It’s clear Sandra is destined to serve as a public health advocate and excited to elevate her to this role.”

“Sandra Lindsay is one of the remarkable stories of this pandemic,” Northwell’s Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Ramon Soto said. “She’s given voice to health care workers around the world and served as an inspiration to so many others who share her hardscrabble and humble roots. Her impact is just beginning.”

Lindsay was also awarded the 2021 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Outstanding Americans by Choice recognition by President Biden, the 2021 Robert Nesta Marley Humanitarian Award, the American Nurses Association’s 2021 President Award and named USA Today Woman of the Year in March.

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