Elmhurst Hospital saved her life during COVID; now she's its CEO

Helen Arteaga Landaverde is the new CEO of Elmhurst Hospital in Queens. Her new title comes with many firsts. She is the hospital's first woman and the first Latina to be the CEO.

"It feels really, really good. I think that is why I wanted it so much because I wanted to show our Latinas and women of color that it is possible," Arteaga Landaverde said.

It took a lot of hard work to get to where she is today. Her parents emigrated from Ecuador to the United States in search of the American dream.

"My dad's main focus was always education — give his kids the best education that he could," she said.

Arteaga was born in the U.S. but shortly after moved to Ecuador. When she was 12, she came back to live in Corona, Queens.

In 1998, her father Luis was diagnosed with leukemia.

"When he got really sick and we came to the hospital, to this hospital, and they asked for our insurance card we were like, 'What insurance card?' We didn't know we needed to get one," Arteaga Landaverde said. "We also didn't realize we were poor because we were in the U.S. — we made the American dream."

Her father lost his battle to cancer soon after the diagnosis. That's when she realized there was a huge health disparity in the Hispanic community and was determined to change it.

"My dad was always like, 'You can't change the world, Helen, but you can change this block,'" Arteaga Landaverde said. 

She went off to college on a full ride to NYU.

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In 2009, after 11 years of trying to make a difference in the community, she co-founded Plaza Del Sol, a health center in Corona, which serves 30,000 families.

In May 2020, she came down with COVID and was admitted to Elmhurst.

"The team downstairs saved my life," she said. "I was so sick, I shouldn't even be here today."  At that moment, she realized she had stopped dreaming and wanted to do more. So she went for it and applied to lead the medical team that saved her life. Out of 310 applicants and 21 interviews later, in February 2021 she was named CEO of the hospital.

Arteaga Landaverde is not done making a difference. She has big plans for the hospital.

"I want to create a mental health center, I want centers of excellence, and I want Elmhurst to be the best-kept secret of Queens," Arteaga Landaverde said.