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Citizen Soldier Marshals Troops to Restore NYC Hospitals’ IT Infrastructure in Hurricane Sandy Af
Hurricane Sandy's impact on New York City hospitals' IT infrastructure was significant but advance planning minimized the damage and restored services quickly.
Photos of his family are spread across the bookshelves above his desk, allowing him an easy glimpse of their loving faces whenever he might need to remind himself why he works 12 – 16-hour days even under normal circumstances.
A large New York Giants flag, hanging behind his desk, doubles as a sunscreen for his office which overlooks the campus of Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. From here, Cush oversees 141 employees spread throughout the five boroughs of New York. He and his team are charged with keeping critical computer and telecommunications systems up and running for 20 hospitals and over 70 community based clinics.
Pictures of Cush with former President Bill Clinton, retired four-star General and Secretary of State Colin Powell, and one of the most notorious con men ever gone straight, Frank Abagnale, the subject of the book, movie and Broadway musical, “Catch Me If You Can”, line up on a credenza. Stacked atop a mini-fridge is a neat mound of books, most in the genre of inspiration and self-help, from “Living the Wealthy Life: 18 Principles to Achieving Success, Prosperity and Happiness” to the Holy Bible.
Cush believes that he and his staff were as prepared for Sandy as possible. “In 2007, we began consolidating all of our hospitals’ data centers into 2 enterprise geographical separated data centers. We are 90% finished with the job. Had we not done this, applications like EMR (Electronic Medical Records) would have been in a world of hurt,” noted Cush.
He said no one could prepare for the damage Sandy caused in lower Manhattan where 7,000 HHC employees (clinicians, IT and administrative personnel) were displaced. Saltwater killed the electrical systems of all of the buildings that border South Street Seaport,” noted Cush. Displaced HHC employees were issued laptops and cell phones so that they could continue working either from their homes or temporary office space but which also required the installation of traditional landline telephones, wiring for Voice over IP Internet Protocol, and various networks for data services. “We had about ten days to do this.”
A talented basketball player at Mt. Vernon High School, Cush won a partial scholarship to Farmingdale State College. “I was all set to go until an Army recruiter persuaded me to enlist with the promise of a great career in computers. But once I signed up, I didn’t see a computer for two years,” said Cush. Twenty-
After his discharge from the full-time military in 1990, Cush cast about in various jobs before fulfilling his mission for enlisting in the first place: the G.I. Bill of Rights and its educational benefits. He enrolled in Monroe College in New Rochelle, NY while also working full-time for Prodigy Services in White Plains, NY, one of the first Internet Service Providers. He graduated in 1993 with an associate degree in Computer Science. “I wanted to continue on to get a bachelor’s degree but Monroe wasn’t offering one, at the time, and I just couldn’t imagine attending a different college.”
Cliff Brozo, deputy chair of Monroe’s School of Information Technology, recalled a student project of Cush’s. “Corey was faced with an unusual situation. He was in a group of five people who were assigned a major project to do. One by one, the group members either dropped the class or stopped working and Corey was left to complete the project by himself. He showed a level of determination that allowed him not only to succeed, but to excel.”
In 1997, when Monroe began offering bachelor degree programs, Cush resumed his studies while still working full-time and now also married and the father of two children. That year he also switched jobs to General Reinsurance in Connecticut where he was using his classroom experience to help build LANs. The long commute prompted him to update his resume which led to a job in network engineering at Montefiore Medical Center, close to his home in the Bronx. Three years later he was recommended to HHC. After just three months into the job, he assumed the management responsibilities of the IT department.
As much as technology has changed since Cush was a college student, the same core IT courses that he took are still relevant, albeit 21st Century versions of them. Reviewing a short list of “hot technology” job trends, Nilesh Shah, dean of Monroe’s School of Information Technology, noted that, “We are keeping up with the latest trends in technology, including front end developer jobs in Web designing. We are also planning to offer a course on mobile apps development next fall.”
A wall in Cush’s office is decorated with academic diploma and certificates of appreciation from his college alma mater. “I thoroughly enjoyed the College. What’s special about it is its family-type atmosphere. Even the college administrators know the students by their first name. I liked the added extras that they did for the students.” He retains close ties to his alma mater and in 2012 he was honored for his commitment to hiring its graduates. “I have hired seven people, so far, and they’re all doing great.”
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