Community//

Danielle Gustafson: “There is no time in the future, so get it done today”

My personal motto is “There is no time in the future, so get it done today.” What I mean by this is that the future is full of unanticipated opportunities, by prioritizing what needs to be done and accomplishing those things in the present, one is well prepared to optimize future opportunities as they become […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

My personal motto is “There is no time in the future, so get it done today.” What I mean by this is that the future is full of unanticipated opportunities, by prioritizing what needs to be done and accomplishing those things in the present, one is well prepared to optimize future opportunities as they become available.

Danielle Gustafson is the first Executive Director at the EMS FDNY Help Fund. Her prior work includes more than twenty years as a digital strategy executive in financial services. She is also a TED Resident, and serves on the board of several conservation organizations.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how and where you grew up?

I was raised by a single father who is an astrophysicist. So, I grew up at most of the major physics laboratories in the US. I have a deep respect for science, scientists and the scientific contributions that advance our society. I see the pursuit of Scientific knowledge as a public service.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The pandemic has changed my reading habits away from books….our nation is at a crossroads, I care deeply about news, journalists and the journalistic practices that share news and information in our society.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

My personal motto is “There is no time in the future, so get it done today.” What I mean by this is that the future is full of unanticipated opportunities, by prioritizing what needs to be done and accomplishing those things in the present, one is well prepared to optimize future opportunities as they become available.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?

At the EMS FDNY Help Fund, we work to support frontline workers who are fighting the COVID pandemic in New York City. The mission of the fund is to support the Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics that respond to NYC’s more than 4,000 daily 911 calls. Despite the fact that COVID-19 cases have begun decreasing in some areas, rates of anxiety and depression for EMTs and paramedics are continuing to rise and mental health experts predict the psychological pain of medical workers and emergency responders is likely to continue and even worsen as time goes on. In response, the EMS FDNY Help Fund has partnered with the NYC Trauma Recovery Network https://www.nyctrn.org/ and to provide immediate free counseling services to NYC EMTs and paramedics. And we are just onboarding an additional partner, National Institute for Psychotherapies — https://nipinst.org/. Myself, I support the Fund with more than twenty years of corporate experience. Increasing the resiliency of our frontline workers is a way of strengthening our own safety net.

In your opinion, what does it mean to be a hero?

A hero is someone who steps up when they see something important that needs to be done.

If heroism is rooted in doing something difficult, scary, or even self-sacrificing, what do you think drives some people — ordinary people — to become heroes?

Heroism does not have to be loud. In the case of our FDNY EMS heroes, every day they show up knowing that they are potentially putting their own health at risk — because they know there are others whose lives are depending on their skills and expertise. Showing up to the job is an act of quiet heroism.

What was the specific catalyst for you or your organization to take heroic action? At what point did you personally decide that heroic action needed to be taken?

My Board is entirely made up of FDNY EMS professionals. That’s very unusual. They came together to form the EMS FDNY Help Fund out of concern for the surviving family after one of their colleagues died in the line of duty.

Who are your heroes, or who do you see as heroes today?

The FDNY EMS are still my heroes. They continue to provide a critical service to the citizens of NYC with an unknown impact to their physical and mental health.

Let’s talk a bit about what is happening in the world today. What specifically frightened or frightens you most about the pandemic?

People’s complacency. The pandemic is not over yet.

Despite that, what gives you hope for the future? Can you explain?

What has inspired you the most about the behavior of people during the pandemic, and what behaviors do you find most disappointing?

I have been in awe of the partners and individuals who have found their way to support the EMS FDNY Help Fund. Expertise and Donations large and small all support the same NYC EMS Heroes. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need an EMS FDNY Help Fund…but the world is not perfect.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

If you see something in our society that needs to be accomplished, seek out those in our society who are trying to get it done…join them, support them, help find ways to help get it done. That is what opportunity looks like. Pursue it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My role as Executive Director of EMS FDNY Help Fund is to sustainably grow the capacity of the Fund to respond to the needs of the FDNY EMS. The needs of the EMS have changed and will change in response to this pandemic — from the scramble for PPE — Personal Protective Equipment to the search for confidential counseling services. We will need to find new partners and resources to expand our ability to support the EMS so they have the resiliency to meet our next NYC emergency, the future emergency that we can’t anticipate. They will be on the frontlines and they will continue to respond. A Resilient EMS = A Resilient City.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I am interested in meeting Paul Tudor Jones of the Robin Hood Foundation. Mr. Jones has accomplished so much! He gets the importance of reinforcing the safety nets of NYC. The FDNY EMS are critical to protecting NYC. Supporting the EMS FDNY Help Fund is a way that we can accomplish that goal.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can follow me on Twitter, add me on LinkedIn, but better than that follow the EMS FDNY Help Fund Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook for the latest updates as well!

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Danielle Reid: “Not Yourself or Your Team”

by Jerome Knyszewski, CEO of HeavyShift
Community//

Danielle Holly of Common Impact: 5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society

by Penny Bauder, Founder of Green Kid Crafts
Community//

Why I Sent a top Sabra Executive to the North Pole with Martha Stewart

by Shali Shalit-Shoval

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.