Darrell K. Terry Sr.

At Home in Newark and at The Beth

By R.L. Witter

President and Chief Executive Officer of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (The Beth) and Children’s Hospital of New Jersey Darrell K. Terry is nothing if not humble. Rather than brag about what he has done and can do, he’s quick to tell you what he can’t do. “I can’t cook. I don’t own a lawnmower. I don’t fix anything,” he chuckled. “I can barely change a light bulb. I can’t change a battery in a smoke detector, I am really useless around the house. I have no interest and I don’t feel bad about it.” And why should he? What he lacks in domestic know-how, he more than compensates for with his leadership skills and dedication to excellence, family, and community.

Terry’s ties to Newark and The Beth are deep, long, and personal. “I met my wife here at Newark Beth Israel,” he explained. “My two youngest kids were born here. My two oldest kids’ kids were born there— and make sure when you do this article, you don’t put that ‘G’ word (grandchildren) in there because I don’t use that. I’m still in denial.” He lit up with a broad and easy smile.

Growing up in both Newark and East Orange gave him a bird’s-eye view of the local community and the lay of the land, and helped him hone his leadership skills. “I had worked all through high school at a convenience store near my house. No one ever had to tell me what to do. So, when I wasn’t ringing up a customer I was sweeping or cleaning or stocking or just doing something because I felt like it was my store. I think the overall theme of my career has always been ownership.”

While Terry wasn’t necessarily looking for a career in health care, a career in health care seemingly found him. “When I was an undergraduate at Rutgers, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I completed my bachelor’s. I had a bachelor in business management and English… and at the time, I had 10 family members who were working at University Hospital in Newark. I went there as a summer job in my junior year, and I stayed through my senior year of college, and then even after graduating, I stayed for an additional three years.” While he enjoyed the work, it wasn’t financially appealing so he ventured out to California for a job in retail, but something brought him back to New Jersey, and back to health care.

“My mom was a patient at Orange Memorial Hospital andthe way the nurses treated her and how special they made her feel—it reminded me of why health care was important to me,” he recalled. “So, I actually started volunteering at Orange Memorial Hospital as a result of the care they provided to my mom. From there, I volunteered… before coming to Newark Beth Israel. But it was actually my mom’s healthcare experience that got me back into healthcare and committed to health care.”

Now at the helm of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of New Jersey, Terry is working to improve care, experiences, and even the view. One issue currently in the news is maternal health care, and statistics have proven disparities in maternal health care for Black women and other women of color. Terry and his team are committed to providing excellent care. “Because of the health care disparities and Black maternal mortality in particular, we have teams that are focused on making sure those disparities are reduced or eliminated here specifically at The Beth. We have a navigator for our maternal health,” he explained. “We want to make sure once a woman is pregnant, that she has all of her appointments lined up, that we have transportation to and from the medical center to make sure she meets her appointments. We have community health workers who will address her social determinants of health. Whether it’s healthy eating or food insecurity, housing—we baddress all of the social determinants of health that will impact a successful healthy pregnancy.”

Newark Beth Israel is also one of the few hospitals that have a chief equity officer working with their maternal health department to make sure they are providing equitable care and to reduce and eliminate those disparities. “As a matter of fact, next week, I will receive an excellence award from Maternal, Child and Health Consortium which I’m really proud of,” Terry added. “We’ve worked really hard to make sure we eliminate those disparities.”

Going back to his bird’s-eye view of the community, Terry was excited to unveil The Beth’s recent Newark Strong project. “When you looked at the architecture of Newark Beth Israel, it was not very welcoming to the community. When it was built, it was post riots and it has this sort of fortress like look to it,” he said. “I wanted something light and airy and welcoming—glass, natural lighting—which supports transparency. People in our community didn’t feel connected to The Beth in a way I thought they needed to, so we’ve put this project together and it exceeded my expectations by a lot. It’s spectacular!”

Doing more than making The Beth a pretty face, the Newark Strong project gave back to the Newark community in other ways, including financial. “We wanted to make sure everybody in our community benefited from this significant spend. The project came in close to $200 million, with 30% of it being women-, minority-, local-, and veteran-owned business,” Terry explained. “All of the glass came from a local, Newark-based, woman-owned business. We had more than 200 construction workers on site on any given day, so we made sure they got their meals from the local businesses to participate in the local economy in a meaningful way. Most of the spend benefited this community in a great way, so I’m really proud of how we spent the money.”

When he’s not putting in long hours, Terry remains just as busy. “I love to work out; it’s a great stress release for me. And as a matter of fact, we built a gym here at Newark Beth Israel, so you might find me here in this gym, even when I’m off. You might find me at Weequahic park, walking—which is something I love to do.” He also enjoys getting out of Newark and out of the country, too. “I have committed to taking at least one ‘grown’ trip every year.2022 was Cape Town, 2023 was Dubai, this year I’m going to Kenya—I need to see the world.” Terry calls his five children “his world” and you can hear the pride in his voice when he discusses them. Rounding out the family is his beloved cockapoo, Allie, who “greets me every day, and is always happy to see me no matter what. No matter how late I come home, no matter how hard I’m working, Allie’s always happy to see me. I love my dog.”

Looking toward the future of Beth Israel, Terry aims to continue leading The Beth in serving the community. “We have the largest heart transplant program in the state of New Jersey, and the only lung transplant program in New Jersey. So, I see the future being a mixture of quaternary care—taking care of the sickest of the sick. In addition, I see a lot preventative care, keeping people out of hospitals with our community health workers, making sure people have access to healthy foods—we have a greenhouse here at The Beth. We are trying to take care of people in a meaningful way. We want to keep people out of the hospital, keep them healthy, and if and when a situation occurs, we want to be able to provide them the best health care possible.”

On a personal note, Terry shared a heartwarming story with me about an employee’s son’s recent visit to The Beth. “I had the opportunity to teach him how to tie a tie. It was the highlight of my day.” He ended our time together with, “When my useful career at The Beth is over with and I drive down Lyons Avenue and see this big, beautiful hospital I will have a sense of pride. But I will have more pride in the great care we have provided to our community. This job allows me my personal values and my professional aspirations. They cross every day.”