February marks Black History Month, a time to pay tribute to those Black and Afro-Latinx who broke boundaries and continue to make history.
Long Island critical care nurse Sandra Lindsay became a national name when she received the first official dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. in December 2020. Three years later, she returned to her homeland in Jamaica to continue her mission work.
Since the first jab, Lindsay has been engaged in her new leadership role as Vice President of Public Health Advocacy at Northwell Health, monitoring the spread of coronavirus and ensuring high-risk localities are getting the proper healthcare, including those abroad.
In partnership with medical supply nonprofit MedShare, Northwell donated over $800,000 worth of medical equipment to Jamaica in 2021, which Lindsay facilitated in the handover. This January, Lindsay traveled to Kingston to be hands-on with surgeries.
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"Jamaica also reached out needing help for a backlog of surgeries related to COVID. People couldn't get their care and schedule surgeries because of the pandemic," Lindsay told NBC New York, who assisted on upwards of a dozen gynecologic cases postponed for two years.
Besides working at the University Hospital of the West Indies, Lindsay contributed to educational events and community screenings in rural surrounding areas. She even donated a vital piece of equipment courtesy of Northwell to the Noel Holmes Hospital in the western part of the island.
Lindsay was honored to give back to her native land and looks back fondly at her time there, especially with her grandmother who served as a big inspiration. Lindsay moved to New York in 1986 at the age of 18 with her mother and siblings, never losing sight of her dream of becoming a nurse.
"It wasn't easy. Culture shock, coming from Jamaica to the Bronx, apartment-style buildings. In winter, coming from a tropical country in the cold, I had to work to send myself to school," Lindsay said.
At the time, she worked odds-and-end jobs at supermarkets and convenience stores for minimum wage, which was less than $4.00. Lindsay received her nursing degree at the Borough of Manhattan Community College as a single mom and a nursing attendant.
This nurse has risen up the ranks since then, awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Biden last year for her work serving on the front lines of the pandemic.
"At that moment, I felt very proud and grateful. I also thought about what this would and will mean for groups that I identify with. What this will mean for women, Black women, immigrants, Jamaicans, West Indians, healthcare workers, nurses," Lindsay recalled, stating that the honor is shared with all groups named.