Limerick native Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, which with 73,000 employees is one of the largest healthcare corporations in the country, has been named grand marshal of the 2017 New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade.

The parade’s board of directors met on Thursday evening in New York and voted to elect Dowling, a native of Knocaderry, Co. Limerick who has been with Northwell, formerly known as North Shore-LIJ, since 1995.

“As a native son of a small country village in western Limerick, I am greatly privileged and humbled by this extraordinary honor and recognition,” Dowling said.  “I am proud to follow in the footsteps of so many remarkable luminaries as we again celebrate the very best of Irish and Irish American history, culture and heritage.”

John Lahey, chairman of the parade’s board, praised the selection of Dowling. “Michael Dowling is the true embodiment of the values we celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day, a leader in a noble healing profession, an educator, a public servant, an Irish American who has made enormous contributions to his adopted country and who has made us all proud to be Irish,” Lahey said.

Prior to joining Northwell, Dowling was senior vice president at Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield.  He also spent 12 years working for New York State, including seven as director of Health, Education and Human Services, and deputy secretary to the late Governor Mario Cuomo.

Dowling’s career also includes time in academia. He was a professor of social policy and assistant dean at the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Services, and director of the Fordham campus in Westchester County.

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A press release from the St. Patrick’s Day parade praised Dowling’s tenure at Northwell.  “Since becoming president & CEO in 2002, Mr. Dowling has built Northwell Health into a regional clinical, academic and research enterprise that now has a presence throughout the metropolitan area.  Northwell is the largest integrated healthcare system in New York State with a total workforce of more than 61,000 employees -- the state’s largest private employer.”

Dowling spoke to Irish America magazine in 2013 about his childhood in Limerick, and his determination from a young age to educate himself.  He recalled a story of going to a local farmer for milk for his family, and the farmer’s words. “When I got there, his son was getting ready to go off to college, which was a dream of mine. And the father looks at me and he says, ‘Isn’t it too bad somebody like you will never be able to get to college?’ I walked home that night, and – it’s like it happened yesterday – every step I took, I said, ‘I’m going to college. I’m going to college. I’m going to college.’ I was determined.

“Negative things can be the greatest positive motivators,” Dowling added.  “Because if you tell me I can’t do something, that’s when I become determined to get it done.”

Dowling resides on Long Island with his wife Kathleen. They have two children, a son, Brian, who is an administrator with Northwell, and a daughter, Elizabeth, an oncology nurse with Northwell.
The parade will take place onFriday, March 17.