There are people who enter your life that you don’t anticipate — people who end up teaching you the richest lessons.
Paul Kaminsky entered mine two years ago. He supervised the public defenders who help patients at Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital, where I had recently become CEO. In other cities, that relationship can be antagonistic: defense lawyers fight for patients’ liberty as doctors often push for inpatient care.
Paul was different. Lawyers and psychologists, he believed, used jargon to unwittingly dehumanize the very people we’re sworn to serve. If we had to question that, I realized, we had to question everything about our mission.
I wanted him to sit with hospital staff and share his insights and compassion. We planned to meet a week later with two leaders on our teams. Paul’s vision could shift their focus to the fragile and precarious patients who needed them both.
A few days before our meeting, Paul called to cancel: “I just found out I have lung cancer. It’s all over my body, Nicki.” I started to cry. For him, of course, but also for this movement that had not yet moved.
Sadly, Paul Kaminsky died on Jan. 20.
My wish is to work with the colleagues he trusted most to build a legacy worthy of his vision. People like Judge Nushin Sayfie share this wish for our community.
Together we can ensure that our policies, programs, and procedures are focusing us on our patients. Together we are pursuing an initiative called Kaminsky Informed Care, starting at Jackson with Sayfie’s leadership.
I cannot regret that my friendship with Paul was so brief; that would seem ungrateful that I was blessed by it at all.
I only hope that we have the strength, wisdom and endurance to make this new initiative worthy of his name.
Nicoletta B. Tessler, vice president and chief executive officer, Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital, Miami