On December 14, 2020, Sandra Lindsay, RN, director of nursing for critical care at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, New York, became the first person in the United States to receive the FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine. Following this event, Northwell Health donated material to the Smithsonian connected to the initial vaccination and vaccine roll-out. Sandra Lindsay’s vaccination record card, ID badge (see 2021.0008.03), and scrubs (see 2021.0008.05) were included in this donation.
Sandra Lindsay grew up in Jamaica and emigrated to the United States when she was 18. Living and working in New York City, she soon began training for a career in nursing and earned her associate degree from the Borough of Manhattan Community College in 1994. This training led to her first job as a clinical nurse at the Lenox Hill Hospital in the Upper East Side. Over the next six years, Lindsay continued her education, completing her bachelor’s degree (St. Joseph’s College, Brooklyn) and master’s degree (Herbert H. Lehman College, Bronx). Her interest in a leadership role, inspired in part by nurse executives at Northwell Health, led her to pursue an MBA degree from Hofstra University. By the time she completed this program, Lindsay had been promoted to the position of director of critical care nursing at Northwell’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center. In 2020 she led her nursing team through the emerging COVID-19 crisis, and in December she was selected by Northwell management to be the first to receive the Pfizer vaccine at their health care facilities. Her unexpected role as the first in the United States to receive the vaccine launched Lindsay into the national spotlight. She used that spotlight to advocate for vaccination, and to help counteract doubt and hesitancy especially among people of color. In March 2021 she also completed her work toward her doctorate in health sciences, focused on global health, leadership and organizational behavior (A. T. Still University).