John Sztenerowicz, Director of Engineering and Maintenance at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia
Einstein Untold: Unsung Heroes and Unknown Stories

After 10 Years in the Navy, Maintenance Director Runs a Tight Ship

By on 02/25/2019

Einstein Untold series logoOne in an ongoing series

John Sztenderowicz’s job at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia couldn’t be more fitting. He’s a veteran of more than 10 years in the U.S. Navy – and he’s in charge of keeping everything at the hospital shipshape.

As Director of Engineering and Maintenance, Sztenderowicz is part of the team responsible for day-to-day operations and plant maintenance at Einstein Philadelphia. If it’s too dark to read or work because your light is broken, it’s his problem. If you’re too hot or too cold, it’s his problem. If you can’t use the bathroom because the toilet is stopped up or you can’t charge your phone because the outlet doesn’t work, it’s his problem.

And if those responsibilities seem somewhat daunting, consider that Sztenderowicz spent more than 10 years in an actual death-defying situation: he was in the Navy, deployed to the sites of global military conflict. He was stationed in the Persian Gulf when Iraq invaded Kuwait, close enough to hear the destruction around him. He was part of the U.S. Fleet Marine Forces that supported the Navy SEALS operation in Somalia. He served in Bosnia during the United Nations peacekeeping mission.

And speaking of survival skills, he is the second youngest of 10 children. He graduated ROTC and is an Eagle Scout.

Sztenderowicz deploys his staff to the seven buildings on campus to fix whatever breaks. His team also helps implement the master plans for crises – such as heavy snow or a power outage. On a recent afternoon, he was planning for a snowstorm that was in the forecast. He was keeping a close eye on meteorologists’ broadcasts – he has a cot and a sleeping bag in his closet so he can stay the night if necessary – and preparing to make sure that all the sidewalks were shoveled, the emergency room bay was cleared for ambulances and the emergency generators had fuel. This time, the snow never materialized.

Sztenderowicz’s office also helps plan and execute major renovations. You get a sense of the magnitude of the task when you consider that his department has replaced 316 light fixtures with LED lighting and still has more than 1,000 to go. Then there’s the painting, the routine maintenance, the upkeep.

Sztenderowicz said his military background helped prepare him in many ways for the job at Einstein. For one thing, his tours of duty exposed him to other cultures with different traditions and customs, creating a broadened worldview that embraces the diversity of Einstein’s patients and staff.

And, for another, he said, “You always had to be ready for anything.” That helps when an occasional inpatient has an unusual sense of what goes down a toilet – bedsheets, for instance.

It’s a long way from the shores of remote nations and tumultuous times, and a long way, too, from a ship’s cabin on the open sea to a small office in the second oldest building on Einstein’s campus. But John Sztenderowicz said he’s more than happy to be here.

“I like the hospital setting,” he said, “and I like the people.”

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