Sunday, September 9, 2007

Christopher J. Norman

Christopher J. Norman:

“The Norman Brothers’ Equalizer”

As told to Joseph W. Norman

Christopher Norman is my brother and dear friend. He is an individual I have the utmost respect for both as a Health Care Professional and as a human being. Growing up with Chris and observing him pursue his passions – singing and acting especially – inspired some of my own pursuits in these fields at an early age. In turn, I found much fulfillment and learned much about myself through these endeavors.

Chris is considered the equalizer in the Norman household because he can always ground our oldest brother Jack and me in some harsh, cold reality with his sarcastic wit. You will see evidence of such flare in the following question and answer session. His wonderful sense of humor always makes him a pleasure to be around.

Chris possesses a patience that some may say is Job-like. This has served him extremely well in his capacity as Associate Director of the Children’s Unit (soon to be AD of the Geriatrics’ Unit) at the New York Presbyterian Hospital. In fact, on September 11, 2007, I will be traveling with my mother to Westchester, New York to see Chris be recognized at an awards ceremony for his exemplary service at the NYPH. He is already being nationally recognized for his work just three years into his tenure at the hospital.

It is my pleasure to feature Chris in the Notable and Newsworthy: VIP Profiles this week because his unique skill set, tremendous character, and passion for life have been both educational and inspirational for me. I’m sure I speak for my oldest brother Jack as well when I say Chris is one of the most honorable individuals I know. Please, enjoy reading his story and his thoughts on life. ~JWN

VIP: Give us the short story. (Briefly explain your family, education, work experience, etcetera).

Chris: Born in Pennsylvania, I was raised in what I now consider “upstate” New York, in the small town of Kirkwood. I have two brothers - one older, one younger. (Go ahead, insert the “middle-kid insecurity” joke of your choice.) During the formative years, I attended school in the Windsor Central School District. Upon graduation, I was ranked fifth in my class and had maintained the position of Class President three years running. I had also been involved in everything from Spring Musicals (which I enjoyed and was good at) to Cross Country (which I enjoyed but was never good at). I left home for college at SUNY Geneseo, knowing I wanted to pursue a career in healthcare; whether as a veterinarian or doctor, I wasn’t sure. Initially I pursued a Biology major (Pre-Med) but eventually converted to Psychology (while continuing Pre-Med), a decision I have never regretted. My medical school aspirations wavered over my years at Geneseo, and upon graduation it was a conscious decision to not jump right into graduate study, but rather gain some work experience. In addition to several resumes all over the state, I also applied (on a long-shot) for a very competitive Volunteer Summer Internship at the Westchester Division of New York-Presbyterian Hospital (an acute care psychiatric facility). I was selected for it – working as a Nurse’s Aide on the elderly patient unit – I loved it, and thus have made a life for myself in the “downstate” New York area for the past three years. I presently serve as the Associate Director of the Children’s Unit at NYPH – Payne Whitney Westchester, with transfer pending back to the Geriatric Unit. I am also a full-time student (again!) at Dominican College, currently enrolled in the Weekend Accelerated Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing Program, with aspirations to higher education in Nursing. Between work and school, the annotated version of my life is that I have none.

Chris at home in Kirkwood, NY, celebrating Christmas in one of his favorite outfits, sweatpants and a sweatshirt

VIP: What are some interesting things you have ever received or given as gifts?

Chris: I took great pride in the chintzy necklaces I used to buy my Mom from neighborhood garage sales…and because she was the amazing woman she was in the capacity of Mom, she accepted them, thanked me graciously, and even ventured to wear them on occasion. Looking back, I have to believe her excitement upon receiving these gifts was a total illusion because these baubles truly were tacky, but she made sure that I knew she loved them, and I’ll never forget that feeling of appreciation and pride for doing something nice for her.

VIP: With your current efforts, personal and professional, what is the impact you try to have on people on a daily basis? (Or, when you leave a room, what is it you want people to be saying or feeling because of Christopher Norman?)

Chris: Growing up, my Dad always told us: “Love what you do and everything else will fall into place.” I enjoy a great deal of passion and pride in what I do at NYPH – from the administrative work to the direct patient care – and perhaps subsequently, there have only been a few days where I’ve felt like I have a “job”. Especially in my professional life, I choose to live by example. Change starts with feeling good about yourself and how you decide to interact with the world. With my coworkers and my patients, I try to maintain a positive outlook, serve as a source of empathy, give importance to everyone, and just be available to help out however I can to facilitate success – whether that is making it through the day or through the next half hour.

VIP: What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?

Chris: My patience, empathy, and open-mindedness are the qualities on which I pride myself the most. I am also my own worst critic, sometimes bite off more than I can chew, and have difficulty not “taking my work home with me” if I’ve had a rough day.

VIP: What are some of your pet peeves?

Chris: People’s use of the word “tolerance” in reference to things that are different from what they are accustomed to. To me, tolerance implies a kind of obligation to “put up” with change, or a different perspective, or whatever, and does not connote an actual acceptance of difference.

VIP: What are some of your hobbies?

Chris: I love to sing, whether it be in the car, the shower, or on stage. At Geneseo, I had the honor of performing with the Geneseo Chamber Singers, and recently (following an audition) I have been invited to join a local community choir – the Greenwich Choral Society – which I’m looking forward to immensely. Otherwise, I’m an avid reader - mostly of textbooks, but also of philosophy, fantasy, and self-help - movie-goer, and beach bum. I also love to travel, whether by car, train, bus, or flight; I take just as much enjoyment in my destination as I do in getting there. I also enjoy going to Broadway shows, art exhibits, and local plays.

VIP: Who are three people, from any time period, that you would like to meet?

Chris: I’d like to have known my maternal and paternal grandfathers: Louis Jack Norman (The Original) and Ralph Stickle. Grandpa Norman passed away before I was born, and my recollections of Grandpa Stickle are only vague and mostly from old photographs. From my parent’s recounts, they would have been interesting gentlemen to know better. Otherwise, it would be a true honor to meet Florence Nightingale (“Flo”, as Professor Stanley refers to her) – considered to be the Founder of Nursing. Her compassion and perseverance to affect so much change for the better in the lives of her patients…I feel like it would be incredible not only to speak with her but to just watch her practice.

VIP: What is some advice you would give a student in college or one that just graduated from college?

Chris: Don’t feel like you need to have everything figured out when you graduate. You will get SO many ideas thrown at you during college, it’s a great opportunity for self-evaluation - to get a better idea of who you are and what might make you happy. Don’t be afraid to look at yourself and ask the hard questions: “What am I doing in this major? What am I getting out of this experience?” I think too many people get locked into a major and then a consequent job and then end up unhappy because they were afraid to change their minds somewhere along the way. More often than not, life happens…just go with it, and keep your eyes open.

VIP: What are some attributes of a good leader?

Chris: In my opinion, open-mindedness, acceptance, charisma, flexibility, optimism, and passion all make for a good leader.

VIP: Some quick ones; favorite candy bar, food, movies, books, sports, quotes?

Chris: I love a good Nutrageous bar and consider myself a connoisseur of the cheeseburger. I love romantic comedies and often cry like a prepubescent girl during them…though conversely, I love action movies with fast cars and well-done fight scenes; cold, cheap beer, and a Sunday afternoon football game when the leaves are starting to turn. Lots of quotes have made me stop and think, but the one that has always stuck with me is the Golden Rule: Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You. Good words to live by, in my opinion.

Christopher J. Norman

Associate Director of Children’s Unit

New York Presbyterian Hospital – Payne Whitney Westchester

Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing Candidate

Dominican College

Work Email:

Personal Email:

Cell: 607.743.8570