JAMAICAN-BORN nurse Dr Sandra Lindsay has been recognised by United States President Joe Biden for being the first American to get the COVID-19 vaccine and for her dedication to her work, at a naturalisation ceremony Friday at the White House.
President Biden presented Dr Lindsay with the award of Outstanding American by Choice, which is given to naturalised Americans by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services for significant contribution to both their community and adopted country.
“She's pursued her dream of becoming a nurse to allow her to do what she wanted to do most — give back to her new country,” Biden said of Lindsay. “During the height of the pandemic she poured her heart and soul into the work to help patients fight for their lives, to keep her fellow nurses safe.”
He added: “With a grandson at home, prematurely, she did what she had to do. She kept her distance and kept him safe. He is safe, but she lost an aunt and an uncle to the virus. But in her pain she didn't lose hope.
“When the time came, she was the first person in America to get fully vaccinated outside of clinical trials. She can now hug her grandson; she's out there making sure her patients, folks in her community are getting vaccinated so they could get back to their lives and their loved ones.”
Lindsay, who emigrated from Jamaica 30 years ago to Queens, New York — and became a US citizen in 1997 — is the first American to be vaccinated against COVID-19 outside of a clinical trial. She is currently director of nursing for critical care at Northwell Health's Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, New York.
On the same day, Dr Lindsay received further honour when New York Mayor Bill de Blasio disclosed that she would be serving as the grand marshal of New York City's 'Hometown Heroes' ticker tape parade to be held next week.
The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History previously announced that Lindsay's vaccination card, hospital scrubs, and badge will be included in its hallowed halls as part of its Exhibit on COVID-19.
“Thank you for representing the best in America,” Biden told her, before presenting her with a certification of honour at the Washington ceremony.
Responding to the accolades, Dr Lindsay said: “I came to this country for the opportunities — not only for myself but to be able to help others. As a nurse, I do everything to care for the sickest patients and lead by example.
“More than 24 years after becoming a naturalised citizen, I could never have imagined where I am today — at the White House receiving high honours from the president. It's truly a privilege to be a part of this great nation and I will continue to lead and help those in need.”
Lindsay's employers at Northwell Health, in expressing pride at her achievements, said that Dr Lindsay on December 14, 2020 “stepped off the front lines, rolled up her sleeve and received the first Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved Pfizer vaccine”, making history in the process.
“Since then, she has been a vocal advocate on the need for vaccinations, swaying those who might be hesitant to take the shot and help end the pandemic.
“At just 18, Dr Lindsay immigrated to the US from Jamaica. Paying her bills by babysitting and working at a local grocery store, she began to take college classes to get her first nursing degree from the Borough of Manhattan Community College, which she earned in 1994. She became a citizen in 1997.
“Sandra came to this country to make a difference, and on that December day she courageously decided to get that shot and help lead this country out of the pandemic,” said Northwell's President and CEO Michael Dowling.
“As an immigrant myself, Sandra is the epitome of the power immigrants hold in writing this great nation's history and on behalf of the entire Northwell Health family, we are proud to support her,” said Dowling.
Dr Lindsay, a critical care nurse, was responsible for leading a team of nurses in some of the sickest COVID-19 wards at Northwell Health, the largest health-care provider in New York and one of the nation's first epicentres of the pandemic in March 2020.
Since then, across Northwell's 23 hospitals, more than 200,000 patients have been treated.
Lindsay was featured last week in the Jamaica Observer's Jamaica in the World columns after receiving her PhD in Health Sciences at the century-old AT Still University in Arizona. She had the pleasure of cheering on her brother, Garfield Lindsay, who received his PhD at the same ceremony.