Nappi Wellness Institute: Improving Healthcare Outcomes for Vulnerable Populations in an Accessible, Supportive Environment

By Daniel K. Brantley

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Upstate University Hospital’s soon-to-open Nappi Wellness Institute introduces a new era of health care with a suite of patient-centered ambulatory services and provider benefits in one location.

The area shown under construction will transform into a light and bright reception area.

An increasing amount of data indicates an imperative need to improve healthcare equity for vulnerable patient populations — an issue that’s been evident for years — and hospital systems across the country are attempting to level the field. With a $70 million grant from the New York Department of Health, a $75 million bonding opportunity to match funds, and an $8 million naming gift, Upstate University Hospital has been working on a solution, and that work is about to come to fruition.

Scheduled to open in early 2023, the Upstate Nappi Wellness Institute is a five-story, 200,000-square-foot outpatient facility that will integrate multiple primary and specialty health services and a bevy of unique amenities under one roof. The new Institute is expected to remove many of the barriers that send patients to the hospital instead of getting timely, appropriate care in the lowest acuity setting.

As the new Institute gets underway, Upstate University Hospital anticipates fewer unnecessary emergency visits and inpatient stays, ultimately leading to more cost-effective healthcare delivery and improved quality of life for vulnerable community residents. Combined, the benefits offered meet the qualifications of the state’s Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) program, an initiative aimed at restructuring Medicaid’s healthcare delivery system and reducing unnecessary hospital use by 25% over five years.

“The COVID-19 pandemic catalyzed a transformation in health care that was talked about for a long time but only dabbled in,” says Amy Tucker, MD, MHCM, Chief Medical Officer at Upstate University Hospital. “Fortunately, we’re ahead of the curve with the Institute, which introduces a new model of care focused on wellness.”

Left to right: Amy Tucker, MD, MHCM, Marylin Galimi, Chief Operations Officer, Marisa Desimone, MD, Nancy Daoust, EdD, FACHE, LNHA

“The remodeling of care to focus on wellness is not just promoted at the Institute — it’s embraced. Everything about the building and the services offered centers around helping people stay well, vibrant and functional.”
— Amy Tucker, MD, MHCM, Chief Medical Officer, Upstate University Hospital

Built for Optimal Health

An integrated model of care guided the design and construction of the Nappi Wellness Institute. And following the WELL Building Standard, the Institute’s design and layout will promote the good health of patients, visitors, clinicians and staff alike.

“We wanted to change what people perceive as health care to be proactive and focused on wellness,” says Marylin Galimi, Chief Operations Officer at Upstate University Hospital. “We didn’t want another facility with clinics where you simply come in and wait for an appointment. We wanted to build something that represented the idea of caring for your body and your family.”

WELL Building Standards include the following:

  • Air: The Institute features filters that circulate 100% of outside air throughout the building.
  • Comfort: Convenient break and lactation rooms allow providers to decompress or tend to personal matters in spaces designed with an intentional lack of work-related furniture or equipment.
  • Fitness: The interior of the building has a walking loop that includes stairs, so team members can get some exercise without leaving the grounds.
  • Light: Large windows bring ample natural lighting into waiting areas, which line the perimeter of the Institute. For patient privacy, patient rooms are inside the pathway, and staff members can control the light in these and other interior rooms.
  • Mind: Calming, digital art on walls and earth-tone colors serve to provide a calming environment for all patients. Outdoor seating surrounded by trees and lush gardens, and a meditation labyrinth provide additional on-site havens.
  • Nourishment: Family-style break rooms with large-capacity refrigerators and a café bathed in natural lighting offer patients and staff members wholesome meals featuring fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains.
  • Water: Hospital-quality water filtration ensures all water sources are properly filtrated. Handwashing stations throughout the Institute allow easy access within and outside of clinical spaces.

As a LEED-certified building, the planet’s health was also considered during its planning and construction. The energy-efficient space encourages recycling all eligible materials and appropriate disposal of debris. Supplies will be purchased locally or regionally when available and appropriate.

Upstate Nappi Longevity Institute Groundbreaking

Easier Access to Primary and Specialty Care Services

The Institute will be home to a variety of primary and specialty care experts that can reach further than any single clinician or specialty could. Before the Institute was established, Upstate University Hospital healthcare services were provided in numerous locations spread throughout the area, each with its own medical directors, nursing and business leadership in place. These healthcare professionals will still retain their governance while working at the Institute, though some will share clinical space. Everyone will work together to provide more efficient, comprehensive patient care.

Patients who visit the Nappi Wellness Institute will have access to:

  • Adult and pediatric medicine
  • Alzheimer’s disease care and research, which is a special focus of the facility (see sidebar)
  • Center for International Health
  • Connect Care/Upstate After Hours
  • Endocrinology
  • Family medicine
  • Geriatric medicine
  • Inclusive health services
  • Integrated care
  • Internal medicine
  • Joslin Diabetes Center
  • Laboratory
  • Osteoporosis care
  • Nutrition counseling
  • Outpatient pharmacy
  • Palliative care
  • Radiology
  • Social work

Should hospitalization or emergency services be necessary, a pedestrian bridge gives immediate access to Upstate University Hospital. The bridge also allows Institute clinicians to follow up with hospitalized patients in a timely manner.

“We want to be of service to the community and I think we can do that with this facility — not just with the building, which is special, but with all of our services coming together in a cohesive, comprehensive way.”
— Nancy Daoust, EdD, FACHE, LNHA, Chief Ambulatory Officer at Upstate University Hospital

Services for Behavioral and Social Well-Being

Behavioral health services will also be available on-site. In the event patients present with behavioral healthcare needs, they can visit each clinic’s on-site behavioral health professional — a valued and much needed development for clinicians. For example, the Joslin Diabetes Center, the largest clinic within the Nappi Wellness Institute, is housed on the fifth floor, and behavioral health is likely to be an important part of care.

“Diabetes is often a chronic, lifelong condition that carries a heavy mental health burden for many patients,” says Marisa Desimone, MD, Associate Medical Director of the Joslin Diabetes Center. “Beyond diabetes, lots of people are struggling after spending two and a half years facing the worldwide stressors of the pandemic and other issues.”

The Institute also will provide educational spaces for well-being classes, nutrition counseling, cooking lessons, community lectures and other health and wellness learning opportunities. As equity in health care takes center stage, social determinants of health have become a major focus. According to Dr. Tucker, population health factors guided the creation of the Institute and its services, including drop-off, valet parking and covered bus stops across the street. Upstate Ambassadors will personally greet patients at the door and arrange for an escort to take them to appointments if needed.

“Those touches are a big deal,” Dr. Tucker says. “For vulnerable patients, these can make the difference between coming to a healthcare appointment and not being able to do so.”

Sam and Carol Nappi are joined by family members as well as by Upstate University Hospital President Mantosh Dewan, MD; Eileen Pezzi, MPH, Upstate Foundation; and David Amberg, PhD, Upstate Research, as they paid a recent visit to tour the building while it’s under construction. The gift from Sam and Carol Nappi — the largest ever received by the Upstate Foundation and Upstate Medical University — will be used to expand the building’s services related to neurosciences, including a focus on Alzheimer’s disease. The Nappi Longevity Institute is named in recognition of the couple’s philanthropy.

Feedback Matters

Though population health inspired the Institute, those who will be working there played major roles in ensuring it also met provider needs. Hundreds of individuals assisted in the development of the Institute, including a physician advisory committee which worked alongside nurses, business and marketing executives, hospital administration, security personnel, and more.

The physician advisory committee’s influence is evident in the exam rooms. When physician leaders examined the desks designed for exam rooms, they agreed they were aesthetically pleasing but immediately recognized they weren’t functional. That physician feedback helped the architects create an updated plan featuring large, half-moon-shaped desks that allow clinicians to face patients while talking to them. Additionally, computer screens mounted on the desks move easily to meet the specific ergonomic needs of different providers.

In the geriatric clinic, physicians recommended table height adjustments to make it easy for wheelchairs to fit underneath. Plans to develop mobile workstations in the pediatric area changed when providers noted the potential risk for children climbing on and damaging them.

“Patient care comes first — 100% — always will. [You] can’t go into health care without that outlook. It has to come first.”
— Marisa Desimone, MD, Associate Medical Director, Joslin Diabetes Center at the Nappi Wellness Institute

Technology Upgrades

To ensure continuum of care between providers at the Nappi Wellness Institute and other Upstate locations, all services tie into the Epic electronic medical record system. In place for years, this connectivity allows providers to communicate seamlessly with one another and grants patients access to their health information and appointments via MyChart.

The Institute plans to leverage additional Epic functionality to benefit all users.

“The Institute represents the clinic of the future,” says Nancy Daoust, EdD, FACHE, LNHA, Chief Ambulatory Officer at Upstate University Hospital. “We’ve had great talks with Epic, and we hope to be a beta test site for them to test upcoming Epic functionalities.”

In addition to Epic, real-time location scheduling (RTLS) technology will remedy any scheduling and patient-flow issues. With RTLS, clinicians on one floor can identify available equipment and exam space on another to make use of them as needed. These and other high-tech functionalities will enhance the physical proximity providers experience at the Institute.

“Being in the same building will facilitate even closer collaboration when we pass one another in the hallway, garage or elevator,” Dr. Desimone says. This opens the door for clinicians to “strike up a conversation and brainstorm how to meet a patient’s needs.”

Prepared for Growth

The Nappi Wellness Institute is presently large enough to meet a variety of health needs in the community, but Upstate administrators also had the foresight to plan for growth. The Institute currently has five floors but can accommodate an additional three stories if clinicians, administrators and other team members see a need.

“We want to decant all ambulatory services out of the hospital, which is cramped for space,” Dr. Daoust says. “Doing this presents us the rare opportunity to scope out incoming practice needs and ensure they have more space that allows them to grow further in the future. Think about the impact we can have on a real-time basis instead of a patient having to wait in the ED.”

To ensure the appropriate allocation of areas within the hospital and stand-alone clinics, Dr. Daoust and others are closely monitoring department communications so they can successfully meet future requirements and build on their success.

“By making services accessible and convenient, co-located in a one-stop shop and affordable, we’re positioned to move the needle on our community’s health,” Dr. Tucker says. “The services we offer will be robust, in addition to a very nice experience for patients who go to the Institute, and for the clinicians and staff who practice there. We’ll have a model that is welcoming and easy for referring providers as well.”

A Naming Gift of Lasting Impact

The naming gift from Sam and Carol Nappi will be used to provide services related to the neurosciences inside the new Nappi Wellness Institute, including a special focus on Alzheimer’s disease. The Nappi Wellness Institute is named in recognition of the couple’s philanthropy.

“The Nappi’s support, with its focus on Alzheimer’s disease and brain health, is a down payment on creating healthy futures for all of us as we age,” says Sharon Brangman, MD, Distinguished Service Professor and Chair of Geriatric Medicine at Upstate University Hospital, and a former president of the American Geriatrics Society.

“Sam and I want to continue our commitment to Central New York in both deed and funding,” Carol Nappi says. “We will work with Upstate Medical University to build a world-class facility, assemble a renowned medical team and fund groundbreaking research.”

“We’re encouraged and excited about the 21st century vision the team at Upstate Medical University and the Upstate Foundation have shown in their commitment to medical research and proactive medical care,” Sam Nappi says. “Carol and I look forward to working with them.”

The Nappis have a long history of supporting local causes, focusing much of their philanthropic initiatives on medical research and community medical care. Sam Nappi is founder and chairman of Alliance Energy. Carol Nappi, a former psychiatric therapist at Community General Hospital, now Upstate Community Hospital, is active with numerous local and national charitable organizations. She is a 2000 Jefferson Award winner, a national recognition honoring community and public volunteerism.

Visit to learn more about the groundbreaking approach to care at the Nappi Wellness Institute.

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