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NJHA Presents Annual ‘Healthcare Leader’ Awards

Marc E. Berson, RWJBH Chairman of the Board with the RWJBH Leadership Team
Marc E. Berson, RWJBH Chairman of the Board with the RWJBH Leadership Team

PRINCETON – The New Jersey Hospital Association, the state’s oldest and largest healthcare trade association, today held its annual awards program to honor several individuals and organizations for their commitment to the state’s healthcare system and the patients and communities they serve.

NJHA LogoThe awards were presented during NJHA’s 101st Annual Meeting at the Hyatt Regency Princeton. The program included the presentation of the Healthcare Leader awards, which recognize the distinguished service of healthcare executives, trustees and clinicians, along with the Excellence in Quality Improvement Awards and Community Outreach Awards.

NJHA Healthcare Leader Awards
NJHA’s 2020 Distinguished Service Award was presented to John DiAngelo, of Mullica Hill, president and CEO of Inspira Health. DiAngelo has dedicated more than three decades to the healthcare industry, including two of those at Inspira Health. He became president and CEO of Inspira in 2014, leading the organization with a commitment and passion for clinical excellence and service to the community.

As CEO, he has grown Inspira’s access points from 60 to more than 150 today, and spearheaded Inspira’s recently opened state-of-the-art medical center in Mullica Hill, as well as its adjacent leading-edge cancer center. DiAngelo has propelled the network forward with Inspira’s Innovation Center to accelerate the development and implementation of leading-edge, patient-focused technologies, as well as a $1 million Innovation Fund to assist in potential startup funding of new programs or scaling current innovations.

DiAngelo also led Inspira’s pursuit of becoming a high reliability organization; all Inspira staff are trained in the tools and behaviors of high reliability, and leaders at hospital and satellite locations across multiple departments participate in daily safety briefings.

In his tenure as CEO, Inspira has provided more than half of a billion dollars in community benefit in just the past five years. He has spearheaded multiple initiatives to combat opioid addiction in South Jersey and became a founding partner of the Cumberland County Housing First Collaborative, which housed 50 chronically homeless individuals in its first year.

The 2020 Healthcare Professional of the Year award was presented to Meena S. Murthy, MD, FACE, of Princeton, chief of the division of endocrinology, nutrition and metabolism; director of the Thyroid and Diabetes Center and director of the South Asian Institute at Saint Peter's University Hospital.

Dr. Murthy is dedicated to the causes of education and empowerment of individuals with diabetes and is a strong messenger and advocate for prevention of chronic disease and population health. Dr. Murthy took the lead in partnering with the Shri Krishna Nidhi Foundation in developing the South Asian Diabetes Education and Resource Center at the Saint Peter’s South Asian Institute, a comprehensive prevention program providing education, screening, referral and support.

The South Asian Diabetes Center also offers diabetes self-management education, nutritional guidance specific to the South Asian diet, South Asian support groups and research. Dr. Murthy also co-hosts the medical talk and call-in show Heartbeat on South Asian EBC Radio/WWTR 1170 AM, where she further generates awareness of early detection and prevention of diabetes and other chronic conditions among the South Asian community.

Marc E. Berson, RWJBH Chairman of the Board with NJHA Leadership
Photo left to right Kevin J. Slavin, Board Chair, NJHA, Marc E. Berson, RWJBH Chairman of the Board, and Cathleen D. Bennett, President and CEO, NJHA.

The NJHA Trustee of the Year award was presented to Marc E. Berson, of Millburn, Chairman of the Corporate Board of Trustees for RWJBarnabas Health. Berson is a longtime board member of facilities in the RWJBarnabas Health System, including more than 15 years spent as Chairman of the Board of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and The Children’s Hospital of New Jersey.

Berson is the founder and chair of The Fidelco Group, a private investment owner-developer of residential, commercial, retail and industrial properties. He has demonstrated unwavering commitment to RWJBarnabas Health and continued revitalization of the City of Newark. Born at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, his professional career and commitment to philanthropic impact in Newark have grown together.

Berson has taken his unique position as a business leader to create partnerships between healthcare, industry and the community, including founding Opportunity Project, Inc., a not-for-profit organization aiding in the rehabilitation and empowerment of people with brain injuries.

NJHA awarded two Special Recognition awards at the event, commemorating the work and achievements of two pillars of the New Jersey healthcare community: Richard D. Keenan, of Wyckoff, senior vice president of finance and chief financial officer for Valley Health System, and Gordon N. Litwin, Esq., of Little Silver, partner at Litwin & Provence, LLC, and chairman of the Hackensack Meridian Health Board of Trustees.

Keenan came to The Valley Hospital in 1973 as assistant controller and was made its CFO in 1974. Today, he also serves as the CFO for Valley Health System, which includes The Valley Hospital, Valley Home Care and Valley Medical Group.

Keenan is widely recognized for his financial acumen, knowledge and expertise. To add to his many accomplishments achieved during a long and distinguished career, he is currently leading the team charged with securing the financing for a brand new, state-of-the-art hospital in Paramus that will serve the residents of northern New Jersey for decades to come.

Beyond his role as chairman of the board, Litwin co-chairs the Executive and Physician Compensation and the Academic Committees, and serves as a key member on all other Hackensack Meridian Health boards and committees. Since 1992, he has at various times chaired the boards of Riverview Medical Center, Meridian Health and played a key role in the merger of Hackensack Meridian Health. Litwin also served as a member of the NJHA Board of Trustees.

During Litwin’s leadership tenure, Hackensack Meridian Health merged with behavioral health provider Carrier Clinic, and with JFK Health in 2018, which has provided the network with enhanced acute care, additional rehabilitation centers and neuroscience services. Litwin also was an active member in forming the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University and serves on its board as secretary.

NJHA Excellence in Quality Improvement Awards
NJHA, through its Institute for Quality and Patient Safety, also honored one acute care and one post-acute provider for Excellence in Quality Improvement, in recognition of the healthcare organization’s tremendous advances in quality improvement and patient safety.

St. Luke’s Warren Campus addressed its growing concerns about C. difficile, an antibiotic-resistant infection of the digestive system, with a unique series of staff education tools. The “Stomping out Spores” team addressed root causes of the spread of the infection, then implemented an interactive education experience called “Room of Horrors” that demonstrated the importance of hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, proper cleaning of equipment and cross-contamination prevention.

In addition to the novel interactive experience, the Stomping out Spores team created a specimen collection tool to help staff understand how to handle potentially contagious lab samples, as well as offered “wisdom walks” where the team provides education to staff that usually work during nights and weekends. The program has prevented an estimated 22 C. difficile infections and eliminated $500,000 in healthcare costs in two years.

Programs for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) are federal programs designed to provide medical and social care in community settings to individuals who would otherwise need to live in long-term care settings. As a PACE organization, Inspira LIFE utilized its ability to consistently interact with patients to implement a program improving medication compliance among the diabetic population.

Over the course of a two-year study, 37 patients who were identified as diabetic and not complying with their medication were enrolled in a program to be given dulaglutide by a medical professional for at least six months. The patients would receive the injection weekly at the Inspira LIFE Center, as well as quarterly lab monitoring. Not only did 91 percent of these patients achieve a blood glucose level within the desired range in 2019, by eliminating hospitalizations for diabetes-related issues Inspira LIFE saved an estimated $1.2 million in preventable healthcare costs.

HRET Community Outreach Awards
NJHA and its Health Research and Educational Trust of New Jersey recognize organizations that identify community needs and implement programs to serve those needs. These programs are just a few examples of the more than $3 billion in community benefits that New Jersey hospitals provide annually. The 2020 awards recognized achievements in the following categories: behavioral health resiliency; reducing disparities; and social determinants of health.

In the category of behavioral health resiliency, Hackensack Meridian Health Carrier Clinic was recognized for its work expanding access and innovating treatment options for people with mental illness and substance use disorders.

In the past year, the newly formed partnership opened the first urgent care center medically integrated with behavioral health in the country, offering people dealing with mental health issues an opportunity to walk-in for care at any time. The partnership also allowed Carrier Clinic to expand the number of patient beds on its Belle Mead campus, including state-of-the-art units for an addictions treatment program and for the most acute and chronic patients.

Combining patient-centered care in unison with community-based initiatives and integrated leadership has resulted in the construction of a system of compassionate care that is helping to break through the stigma associated with mental illness and is designing a continuum of accessible, compassionate care.

In the category of reducing disparities, the Virtua Health Foundation, Inc. was recognized for the Virtua Pediatric Mobile Service program, which provides free services to children in underserved and impoverished communities in South Jersey. Qualified practitioners provide services such as dental and developmental screenings, flu vaccinations and referrals to specialized services in settings where children ordinarily participate and are most convenient to families.

Since its June 2018 launch, Virtua Pediatric Mobile Service has reached more than 1,800 children in 50 community partner locations throughout Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties.

In the category of social determinants of health, Saint Peter’s University Hospital and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital were recognized for their combined efforts to improve living conditions in New Brunswick through the Healthy Homes Project. The Healthy Homes Project uses a cross-sector approach to ensure that all New Brunswick residents live in safe homes that facilitate healthy living.

Four local Community Health Ambassadors have visited 130 unique homes, encompassing 785 individuals, providing educational materials, workshops, home assessments and connecting residents to services to promote healthy living conditions.

NJHA, based in Princeton, is a not-for-profit trade association that helps hospitals and other healthcare providers deliver quality, accessible and affordable healthcare. Its affiliates the Health Research and Educational Trust of New Jersey and the NJHA Institute for Quality and Patients Safety, also nonprofit, engage in programming and partnerships to improve healthcare quality and access.

Contact: Kerry McKean Kelly