When president and CEO of LifeBridge Health Neil Meltzer, moved to Baltimore, he initially intended to move back to his hometown of Boston after five years; 31 years later, Mr. Meltzer has committed to the Baltimore community through his public health and community initiatives in the health care industry.
His love for community stems back to his childhood. “I grew up in a family that always taught me to believe that if you were fortunate enough to have, that you should be giving back. It’s your obligation,” said Mr. Meltzer. His Jewish faith’s tzedakah, or charitable giving, dictated that he, his parents and his three brothers would often participate through volunteering and raising funds for places like UNICEF and the American Heart Association.
By the time he reached high school, he was working at the local hospital in his hometown outside of Boston. After befriending the president of that hospital, he did everything there from cleaning research mice cages to working in the pharmacy. At the time, his primary focus was on environmental health and the impact of the environment on health care, so he earned his bachelor’s in public health from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
After watching where the world was heading in terms of public health, he decided he wanted to combine his original interest, which was the impact of nuclear power, with his cultivated love for community and community health.
“I realized I couldn’t necessarily throw my arms around the planet, but I could throw my arms around the community and work in more of a health care system and begin to impact the health of the local community,” he said.
So he went on to earn a Master of Public Health and Health Administration from Tulane University. A decade after he joined Sinai Hospital as the vice president of operations in 1988, Mr. Meltzer became Sinai’s president and the chief operating officer and CEO of LifeBridge Health in 2013. LifeBridge Health is made up of Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, Northwest Hospital, Carroll Hospital, Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, Grace Medical Center and other affiliated subsidiaries.
Greater Baltimore Committee CEO Donald Fry met Mr. Meltzer while he was president of Sinai Hospital. The two have since worked together in several capacities including in Mr. Meltzer’s role as a board member of the Greater Baltimore Committee.
Mr. Meltzer “is someone who looks at intended and unintended consequences that may come of any particular action and is very well-grounded in his thinking and analysis,” said Mr. Fry.
Early on in his career, Mr. Meltzer focused on diversity, something that his colleague, chief of the Department of Ophthalmology at Sinai Hospital, Donald Abrams noticed right away. “Neil has been a champion of diversity since Day One. I can tell you from personal experience because I believe I was the first department chair that he appointed that was gay. He was 100% supportive,” said Dr. Abrams.
Mr. Meltzer began diversity initiatives early on including forming a Diversity Council, appointing an LGBTQ liaison to work with patients and offering partner benefits before they were mandated. He has marched in the Pride Parade for the past five years with his wife and kids.
During the pandemic, Mr. Meltzer’s role as a health care leader became all the more important, and Mr. Meltzer has taken those challenges head-on. LifeBridge Health announced the launch of two new community mobile health clinics to bring more widespread COVID-19 testing and health care services to those at higher risk for contracting the disease or those who weren’t able to get to testing centers.
Mr. Meltzer spearheaded an effort to conduct “hot-spotting,” directing his team to identify 100 patients who had been in the hospital three or more days and where they live, and determine if there is commonality in their experiences. They found one woman who was hospitalized 100 times in a year. After visiting her home at their own expense, they found out she was diabetic and didn’t know the basics of cooking.
“So we bought her a stove. We filled her refrigerator with healthy food and we gave her nutrition lessons. And we now do weekly home visits to her to make sure that things are continuing to go well,” said Mr. Meltzer.
Mr. Meltzer has also joined with the American Heart Association on healthy food initiatives and chairs the National Board of Directors for the American Heart Association. He met market vice president and executive director of the American Heart Association, Tracy Brazelton eight years ago.
“I often hear him speak about the things that concern him [and what is] affecting the community, people’s access to healthy food or social determinants of health that are impacting people’s abilities to live their best lives,” Ms. Brazelton said.
It all comes down to community for Mr. Meltzer, and living up to the mission statement of LifeBridge Health: “to improve the health of the individuals and communities we serve through compassionate, high quality care.”
“What I love is the fact that I know we’re making a difference in the communities we serve every day,” said Mr. Meltzer. “The comments we get from the patients, particularly some of the most vulnerable patients are just absolutely heartwarming. We look at every life as special [and] precious, regardless of your income, regardless of your socio-economic status.”
Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts
Current residence: Lutherville
Education: University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Bachelor of Science in public health (1978); Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana, Master of Public Health and Master of Health Administration (1981); University of Maryland, Honorary Doctor of Science Degree (2009)
Career highlights: LifeBridge Health, president and CEO; Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, president and CEO; Emerson Hospital vice president of clinical and administrative services (Concord, Massachusetts)
Civic and charitable activities: Board memberships: Greater Baltimore Committee and Hippodrome Foundation; serves as an adviser at University of Maryland School of Public Health and on the host committee of Baltimore Homecoming