OSSINING, N.Y. -- Lindsay Farrell moved to Ossining 33 years ago not knowing a soul, a baby in tow and limited business experience. There was little to portend at the time that she would advance to a long-held leadership position with one of the community’s most treasured health resources.
“I left my life in the city, was freezing cold in a drafty old home and needed to get out of the house,’’ said Farrell, the President and CEO of Open Door Family Medical Centers since 1999. “Open Door needed volunteers, so I drove patients to medical appointments with my baby in the back of the car. It was a great way to get out and meet people.”
The volunteer experience opened doors at Open Door for Farrell, who joined the organization in 1986 and worked in fundraising and development, later in operations before taking over as the President. Under her leadership, Open Door, a federally qualified health center, has more than quadrupled in size to include five community health centers and five school-based health centers. Open Door provides prevention and wellness programs and medical and dental services to more than 50,000 people each year.
“Every year we see more people,’’ said Farrell, who expects Open Door will serve nearly 55,000 people by 2020. “That’s kind of what’s happening in primary care. A lot of it is because of the changes in healthcare. Primary care is exploding at Open Door and elsewhere.”
As a non-profit, physicians at Open Door work exclusively at its offices in Ossining, Port Chester, Sleepy Hollow, Mount Kisco and Brewster. It also has school-based health centers in Ossining and Port Chester and two mobile dental vans. “We are owned by the community, not by the doctors,’’ Farrell said.
Open Door’s physicians and dentists treat common maladies such as sore throats, stomach distress, headaches and cavities that need immediate attention. Physicians also treat more serious concerns, such as diabetes, asthma, depression and anxiety.
Like healthcare in general, Open Door has also focused more in recent years on wellness and prevention. “As healthcare has become more expensive and beyond the reach of many people, an effective way to manage spending is to focus on prevention,’’ Farrell said.
Open Door has focused on well-child and women’s wellness care in the past, but today encourages more people to take a pro-active approach to health.
“So much of chronic disease is the result of genetics and lifestyle,’’ Farrell said. “We realize we have a significant role to play in encouraging people to adopt healthy lifestyles.”
Farrell has earned recognition from political leaders, healthcare organizations and media outlets for her leadership at Open Door. She was honored by former State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer in 2011, by Congresswoman Nita Lowey at a celebration for her 25 years of service in 2011 and was named by Westchester Magazine as one of the county’s most influential residents.
“She’s incredibly inspiring,’’ said Laura Mogil, who has known Farrell for 15 years and is the Chair of Open Door’s Foundation Board of Directors. “She’s a great leader and motivator. She’s a warm outgoing person, but is extremely committed and won’t stop till she gets what she thinks is most important. She has an unwavering dedication to the cause.”
When Farrell took over as President, her immediate goals were to modernize and the organization and expand its reach. She also sought to enhance its internal management structure and find new funding streams. “There was,’’ she said, “a lot of work to be done.”
Open Door was founded in the basement of First Baptist Church in Ossining in 1972, and first operated as a free clinic staffed by nearly 100 volunteers. The organization continued to develop, especially under Farrell’s leadership. Open Door purchased a facility in Port Chester in 2006, and has continued to add locations in the past decade.
Oddly, finding her way to a leadership position at a healthcare facility was about the furthest thing from Farrell’s mind in college. “I thought I was going to live in Paris after college,’’ said Farrell, who earned a bachelor’s degree in French from St. Lawrence University.
Instead, she moved to New York, opened an interior design business and then moved to Ossining.
Through an unusual marriage of opportunity, fate, business acumen and determination, Farrell has dramatically changed the healthcare landscape in Westchester County.
“The most rewarding part of the job is that I live here, and I’ve raised my children here,’’ she said. “I had a vested interest in making sure this community would thrive because it’s where I was going to raise my children. It’s an extremely creative job, which what makes it so much fun. I get to do a little bit of everything because we don’t have the depth and capacity of a for-profit business. There is so much to do, but it’s something I love.”
Know a Neighbor with an unusual story? Send their contact information to Tom Renner at firstname.lastname@example.org