- News & Events
- About Us
- Find a Physician
- Make a Gift
In 208 seconds, he navigated a life-saving landing of his crippled passenger jet onto New York City’s icy Hudson River in January 2009. Whether he’s striding into a room packed with 2,000 health executives or calmly sitting behind a table signing “Sully” into one of his books, Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger is spare in his choice of words, relentless in delineating what’s important and self-effacing in using the headlines he’s earned to reach audiences worldwide.
When I mentioned to him that what he accomplished in saving 155 lives was incredibly healing to New Yorkers after the trauma of 9/11, in which 23 alumni of my Brooklyn high school died in the World Trade Centers, he paused for a moment and said, “Yes, I guess they’ve become kind of book-end events.”
I recently heard him speak for the second time in three years at the San Diego health summit of the American Hospital Association. I wondered how his message might have changed. The pivot point continues to be the “Miracle of the Hudson,” in which he and his crew safely landed US Airways Flight 1549 after a bird strike had crippled both of the plane’s jet engines. He has mastered the art, the drama of retelling the event, without notes and without any trace of self-glorification.
A former Air Force pilot and retired commercial airline pilot, Sully is now a celebrated author, aviation safety expert and founder and chief executive officer of Safety Reliability Methods, Inc., a consulting company.
He challenges people using paradigms we don’t hear much anymore: Service above self … Sharing in our society’s sacrifices … Keeping civic virtues from becoming lost in the noise …. We must tear ourselves away from the comfortable to find the inner reserves of strength we didn’t know we had … We must keep reinventing ourselves …
To be sure, he is keenly sensitive to the place that safety – whether in a plane or in a hospital -- has in our lives. Ground Zero in healthcare, he said, is now in the board room not the bedside. Patient safety must be driven from the top, ingrained as an organization’s core value. Worry about your patients, not your job.
As to the tumult of healthcare reform, he put it simply: Profit centers are becoming cost centers, and cost centers becoming profit centers ... We have reached the New World. We’re burning the boats. We’re not going back.
At the end of life, he said, the key question will be, did we do our best to make a difference.? You cannot outsource core values, empathy, compassion, to vendors. We must master our craft, and then master ourselves.
I’m reading his books. I hope I get to hear him a third time. He's kind of a North Star.