Meet Dr. David Jacobson, New Benefit Funds CEO

November 5, 2019 11:33 AM

(Editor’s note: Meet Dr. David Jacobson, the new CEO of our union’s Benefit Funds. Here he is, in his own words, in an introduction he provided to Hotel Voice.)

 I’d like to thank the Board of Trustees for giving me the privilege of serving hotel industry employees and their families in the capacity of Chief Executive Officer of the Benefit Funds. For the benefit of those who don’t know me, I’d like to tell you a little about myself.

I grew up in an apartment in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn. The neighborhood was ethnically diverse and mostly occupied by blue collar residents. Both space and finances were tight, but it was a good place to grow up. My father was employed as a manual laborer. He would get up very early, put on his work clothes and pick up a heavy tool box before saying goodbye to us. He always came home tired and worn from the daily toil of his job. Often as a child, I would ask my father if I could go to work with him. His answer was always the same — my job was to go to school and get good grades. He worked a physically demanding job six days a week so that his children could have more opportunities than he had been given. I have often heard the same sentiments echoed by our members.

I remained in New York throughout my college years, only leaving after that to attend Tufts University, School of Dental Medicine in Boston, MA.

Dentistry was especially appealing to me because it is the perfect combination of clinical science, hands-on dexterity and helping people in an immediate and meaningful way. Upon returning to New York, I encountered the HTC Employee Benefits Fund and have remained affiliated in various capacities ever since — it has been nearly 30 years!

I was initially hired as a staff dentist in 1991, when Dr. Greenspan was running the Dental Centers, but it’s an interesting story because we almost never met. We were working in different office locations, and after some period of time, I was planning to leave in order to pursue another opportunity. Along with a letter thanking him, I submitted several suggestions for change, for his consideration going forward. To my surprise, I received a phone call from Dr. Greenspan with an invitation to discuss my ideas. He proposed that I stay on in a new role with additional responsibilities, where I could implement the ideas for change myself. I accepted, and that was the beginning of our professional and personal relationship. There is a valuable life lesson in that story: I always encourage employees to be innovative problem-solvers and to communicate their ideas with openness and sincerity.

In 1998 I became the senior dental administrator at the Funds. I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to contribute to the growth and modernization of the centers over the years. Entrepreneurial drive eventually led me to establish Fifth Avenue Dental & Associates, which has been a valued partner of the Funds for nearly 15 years now. The office has a team of 10 clinicians who provide Oral Surgery and Dental Implant services. The specialists in that facility have tremendous knowledge, talent and many years of experience. One of the reasons that the team at Fifth Avenue has enjoyed success and longevity as a partner of the Funds is respect for a fundamental truth: that the Health Centers and affiliates exist to serve the needs of members and their families. The office has always operated with that in mind and strives to provide members and their families with the best care available.

We’ve all heard the horror stories regarding healthcare in this country, of people being denied coverage, being unable to afford insurance or literally going bankrupt because of an illness. But our health care system at the Funds is truly unique and exceptional; it allows the focus to be completely on care without the financial burden.

Mr. Peter Ward, the Trustees and the executive team led by Dr. Greenspan have created a very unique and special environment that facilitates best health care practices. We have an unparalleled range and scope of benefits — a system with none of the traditional limitations. We are the standard of excellence, and our centers are a model for the city and the entire country. I believe that more and more we will see organizations trying to emulate our model of care.

I have been given a great honor in returning to the Funds as incoming CEO. It’s an opportunity to contribute to the well-being and happiness of members and their families on a large scale. There is an exceptional executive team in place and I look forward to working with veterans like Harry Veras and Andrew Windsor, as well as newer members of the team, including our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Lana Vardanian.

My goal as CEO is to make sure this amazing system that Dr. Greenspan has brilliantly led continues to get better. I’m going to continue in the tradition that he has set, whether it’s planning a new center, modernizing an existing center, making sure every patient is seen in a timely manner, introducing new medicines to the pharmacies, or just continuing to evolve and innovate in a way that sets the bar higher than ever before.

Leading this healthcare organization is much more than just a job for me. It is an honor. It’s a chance to genuinely make a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of people, and I look forward to working with everyone to accomplish this.