Megan Ryan isn’t afraid of hard work. As executive vice president, general counsel, chief legal officer, and chief compliance officer at Nassau Health Care Corporation (NHCC), Ryan works tirelessly to not only lead the thousands of people under her management but also to support and empower the thousands of medically underserved individuals living in Nassau County.
A graduate of St. John’s University School of Law, Ryan spent nearly seven years as a law clerk and attorney at private practice firm O’Reilly, Marsh, and Corteselli before transitioning to an in-house counsel role at Liberty Mutual Insurance. “I worked for a lot of smart, driven attorneys,” Ryan says of her early career. “But those attorneys never asked us to do anything that they wouldn’t do.”
Ryan follows the same ethos: of all the people that she currently manages at NHCC, she wouldn’t ask a single one to work on weekends or nights if she wasn’t willing to do that herself, she says. “I keep myself in the midst of things. When I first started running the legal department, I was just trying to streamline different processes, run different contracts, and stay mindful of corporate governance. And especially now that I have 3,300 employees, it’s critical that the legal department flows and stays responsive to questions from both employees and patients.”
However, Ryan’s mission to improve the legal department’s efficiency is complicated by the fact that Nassau’s primary hospital, the Nassau University Medical Center, is the only public hospital in a county where approximately sixty thousand people live in poverty.
“It obviously means we have a very high patient population,” Ryan says of Nassau’s status as a public benefit corporation. “But because it’s a government hospital, it also means that we have to navigate a lot of different regulations. Every day we get new questions and issues that we didn’t have the day before.
“But that’s what keeps it exciting,” she adds. “Whether the patients are requesting access to records or their family members have questions or they’re trying to get into a certain program, I just try to do the right thing and be helpful to the community. I think that drives what we’re all doing, and certainly what I’m doing.”
“You just have to really let your work ethic be known and, little by little, build up your reputation so that people are aware of the kind of work you do.”
That sense of drive has come in handy in more ways than one, Ryan notes. Despite the fact that three different hospital systems—not to mention a twenty-person corporate board—had to unanimously approve her hiring when she first came on board at Nassau, Ryan has still had to work hard to prove her expertise to those around her.
“The hospital is a male-dominated field, just like the legal department. If I’m at the hospital, people will assume I’m a nurse. I’ve gone into meetings and have been asked to take notes or to get coffee,” explains the two-time recipient of the Long Island Power Woman award.
Over the years, Ryan has been successful in altering that dynamic. “Things have changed since I started here,” she says. “People leading all sorts of different departments come to me with their questions, to ask for help, or just to seek out advice. I think you just have to really let your work ethic be known and, little by little, build up your reputation so that people are aware of the kind of work you do.”
To Ryan, the idea of “really working for what you want” holds true no matter what circumstances you find yourself in—and is something that she tries to model on a daily basis for her young children. “I always try to do the right thing for them,” Ryan says of her kids. And often, the attorney points out, doing the right thing means “showing my daughter that she can be anything she wants to be. My own mother taught me that, and I’m very proud to have gotten to where I am now.”
So just keep plugging away, Ryan advises, even when you think you might not succeed. “Because eventually,” she says, “I think you will succeed.”
Putting the “Service” in Board Service
Outside of Nassau Health Care Corporation, Megan Ryan puts her expertise in board compliance, corporate governance, and strategy to good use as the president and a trustee of the North Merrick Board of Education.
“I’ve been a lifelong resident of this district,” Ryan remarks. “I think it’s important as a community member to know what’s going on—and to help shape what’s going on.”
“Meg Ryan brings intelligence, passion, commitment, and a tremendous work ethic, to her position as general counsel of NUMC.”
–Howard Fensterman, Managing Partner