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Leonard Achan ’99: Changing the Future of Healthcare

News, Alumni, Feature

Leonard Achan, Hospital for Special Surgery


September 25, 2017

Leonard Achan ’99: Changing the Future of Healthcare

by Charity Shumway

Leonard Achan ’99, now the chief innovation officer for the Hospital for Special Surgery, didn’t plan a career as a healthcare executive; he set out to become a clinician.

The child of Guyanese immigrants of Indian descent and raised in Queens, Achan was the first in his family to go to college. He knew he loved people and the concepts around health and science, so nursing seemed like a perfect fit. He found his way to Adelphi because, he said, “I wanted to be challenged, and I knew Adelphi was tough.”

He commuted to Garden City from Queens, working in Manhattan as a doorman nights and summers throughout college. “I bought an extra set of nursing books and left them in my locker at work,” Achan said. “Many, many years later I was in boardrooms with some of the people I used to take down in the elevator every morning.”

Achan appreciated Adelphi for its accessibility and rigor, but also for its diversity. “I was with a melting pot of people from different cultures,” he said. “It was almost a feeling of being in some international realm.”

When it came time for his senior practicum, Achan aimed high. “Everyone was scared to write down the city hospitals because they thought there was no chance of getting in,” Achan said. But he boldly picked Mt. Sinai in Manhattan for his first choice and was delighted to land it.

He went above and beyond, exceeding the hours of clinical work required, and at the completion of his practicum his supervisor offered him a position in Mt. Sinai’s adult acute care unit.

Only a year and a half later, Achan received a prestigious award for clinical excellence, which brought him to the attention of hospital administrators. Shortly thereafter, he took his first leadership position as an off-shift administrator.

“You have hundreds of leaders at a hospital, but at 5:00 p.m. it goes to four people,” Achan said. “I credit a lot of my managerial ability and crisis management thinking to having been in that role in the off-shift. You have to be innovative and roll up your sleeves.”

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