You might not think of any chief executive officer of any company as someone you would feel completely comfortable stopping in the hallway to chat with or asking if he’d like to grab a cup of coffee to discuss some of your concerns.
But you’ve probably never met Paul Connor, the CEO ofin Greenport.
For 12 years, Connor, 60, has not only helped renovate and update the historic hospital, located on the banks of Stirling Harbor, he’s helped boost services such as physical therapy, behavioral health and pain management into highly successful programs — and you’ve probably run into this involved, friendly and connected community advocate at least once.
“It’s just wonderful to work and live here,” Connor said. “We’ve become a lot more sophisticated over the years without losing our charm and our high level of caring we started out with in 1905. We’re the smallest hospital on Long Island and we’re just as contemporary as any hospital on Long Island.”
Eastern Long Island Hospital employs 300 people, from medical professionals to support staff. It has 90 beds and serves the communities of North Fork and Shelter Island. The hospital specializes in general surgery, pain management, psychiatry, radiology, women's health, men's health, geriatrics, and drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Established in 1905, the hospital was Suffolk County's first voluntary hospital — run out of a Victorian mansion.
When he first started the job in 1999, Connor said that members of the hospital's board of trustees described Eastern Long Island Hospital as “a little gem.” He says he works hard every day to protect that little gem. And that work has resulted in consistent high scores from medical ratings companies and rave reviews from patients and the media.
Connor said that he is particularly proud of helping to develop the hospital’s physical therapy services — which has sprouted from the hospital’s campus into different locations such as nursing home and assisted living facility, both in Greenport. Other physical therapy centers are located on Route 48 in Southold and on Shelter Island.
Nancy Williams, director of physical therapy for the hospital, has also been instrumental in developing services that are much needed in the area, given the elderly demographic, he added.
“Before Nancy and I worked on it, we were losing money on physical therapy,” he said. “Now we’ve got several high-caliber programs at a reasonable price.”
Connor said he is also proud how the hospital has transformed physically, with renovated lobbies and a much lighter interior look than it had previously.
“We rebuilt this place inside and out, and it was a total team effort,” he said.
Connor says that his work as CEO at Eastern Long Island Hospital involves more hands-on work than delegation, simply because of the hospital’s smaller scale.
“Everyone around here has many jobs to do — it’s the only way we can be effective at this scale,” he said. “All employees have become very effective at wearing many hats and getting the work done.”
A native of Garden City, Connor earned his undergraduate degree at Long Island University in marine biology and graduate degree from C.W. Post in health care administration. He said his father was a big influence in his career choice, as “Jacques Cousteau's boat was full by then,” he said.
Professionally, he spent his early years in hospital administration in Brooklyn and Queens hospitals.
“But I always loved it out here, and I wondered how we could live out here,” Conner said.
In 1999, an executive recruiting professional friend of Conner’s, who lived in Southold, told him about an opening to run Eastern Long Island Hospital. He interviewed and got the job.
Connor has been a Mattituck resident for 12 years. His mother, Barbara Wilson, also lives on the North Fork at Peconic Landing. He’s been married for 30 years to his wife, Connie — the head of the , and has two grown children, Mason, 22, and Margot, 26. Over the years, Connor has served on boards of several local organizations, including the , the parent organization of the three East End hospitals.
But as CEO of Eastern Long Island Hospital, Conner said that he is living his longtime dream — living and working in the same community. But moreover, he said that the most rewarding thing about his unique job and position in the community is knowing that he is helping people feel better.
“I’m not a doctor, so I don’t help people directly,” he said. “But every time I go out to dinner, I see someone I know because of the hospital, and it’s a very good feeling knowing that I’m helping to make people better.”