Jan. 20, 2017: NJHA Presents Annual ‘Healthcare Leader’ Awards

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.

The awards were presented during NJHA’s 98th 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 2017 Distinguished Service Awards were presented to Richard P. Miller, president and CEO of Virtua, and Elizabeth “Betsy” Ryan, Esq., president and CEO of NJHA.

Miller began as president of West Jersey Hospital shortly before it transformed to Virtua in the 1990s. Since his early days at the helm of Virtua, Miller has guided the system through expansion and improvement of access to care in South Jersey.

Under his leadership, Virtua has developed into a complex organization with the addition of a $700 million campus in Voorhees. He has implemented continual improvement throughout the system through the adoption of Six Sigma, and formed enterprise alliances with GE Healthcare, Penn Medicine and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to advance technology and improve access to healthcare in the region.

Miller, a resident of Philadelphia, has served as an appointee to the Leadership Advisory Council of the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare and the Governing Council of Healthcare Executives for the American Hospital Association. He has served NJHA as Chairman in 2008, as well as a member of the Board of Trustees for more than 15 years and in leadership roles on various committees and task forces.

NJHA’s Ryan, a resident of Florence, is the first woman to lead the 98-year-old healthcare organization, taking over as president and CEO in 2008. She announced last fall that she is leaving her post, effective in July.

As head of NJHA, Ryan has guided the state’s hospitals, health systems and other healthcare providers through one of the most dynamic periods in healthcare, with major policy changes under the Affordable Care Act. Her tenure coincided with a flurry of merger and acquisitions of hospitals, major changes in healthcare payment policy, a growing emphasis on healthcare quality and efficiency, the shift in focus from inpatient care to community-based population health programs and the dramatic influence of technology.

Key achievements under Ryan’s stewardship include:

  • Strengthening NJHA’s membership to include all of New Jersey’s acute care hospitals and a growing number of post-acute care providers representing the continuum of healthcare services.
  • Supporting healthcare providers with education, data, regulatory guidance and more as they adjust to the dynamic changes brought by the Affordable Care Act.
  • Providing statewide leadership and convening an array of partners in improving the quality of healthcare in New Jersey through the NJHA Institute for Quality and Patient Safety.
  • Positioning NJHA as a leader nationally in initiatives such as a national demonstration project that tested a new “gainsharing” policy to improve care while reducing costs, the establishment of the Healthcare Research and Educational Trust as a certified “patient safety organization” and the designation of NJHA as a federally designated “hospital improvement innovation network” to lead quality improvement activities in the state.
  • Establishing strong relationships in Trenton and Washington, D.C., with elected leaders on both sides of the political aisle.

The 2017 Healthcare Professional of the Year award was presented to Victor Parsonnet, MD, chair of the Institutional Review Board and medical director of the Pacemaker and Defibrillator Center at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, part of RWJBarnabas Health.

Dr. Parsonnet, a Whitehouse Station resident who is wrapping up his 61-year career in healthcare, is a pioneer in several areas of surgery. He performed the first pacemaker implant at Newark Beth Israel Hospital in 1961, and in 1971, he performed the first coronary bypass surgery in New Jersey. He also performed New Jersey’s first heart and kidney transplants, two of the more than 2,500 surgeries performed in his career.

Dr. Parsonnet completed his medical training after serving in the Navy during World War II, going on to become one of the most renowned cardiac surgeons, researchers and pioneers in the medical field.

The NJHA Hospital and Healthcare System Trustee of the Year awards were presented to John J. Dalton, of Edison, from Children’s Specialized Hospital and St. Joseph’s Healthcare System, and Joseph Simunovich, of Bergen County, from Hackensack Meridian Health.

Dalton has spent more than 45 years working in the field of healthcare finance and operations, and continues to be involved in the Boards of Trustees for two hospitals, Children’s Specialized Hospital and St. Joseph’s Healthcare System.

Founder of Healthcare Business Specialists, Inc., Dalton has specialized in providing revenue cycle consulting and accounts receivable management services to providers. In 1986, he joined the Children’s Specialized Board and eventually served a three-year term as chairman and multiple terms on the executive board. He became an honorary trustee in 2005. Beginning in 2003, Dalton has served on the Board for St. Joseph’s, including in the position of vice-chairman and currently as the chair of the Strategic Planning Committee.

Throughout the recent growth of Hackensack University Health Network, and the transition to Hackensack Meridian Health, Simunovich has played a role in organizing, fundraising and facilitating change.

Simunovich, a member of the Board of Directors for Suez North America, has served as a trustee leader of HackensackUMC for a quarter century, and has chaired at various times the Hackensack University Health Network board, the HackensackUMC Board of Governors and the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, as well as the HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley Joint Venture Board, which led to the reopening of the facility in Westwood. Recently, Simunovich was named Chairman of the Seton Hall – Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine’s Board of Governors.

He has led or played a major role in fundraising for projects including the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women’s and Children’s Pavilion, the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital, the Donna A. Sanzari Women’s Hospital, the Mark Messier Skyway for Tomorrow’s Children, the John Theurer Cancer Center and the Heart & Vascular Hospital at HackensackUMC.

NJHA Excellence in Quality Improvement Awards

NJHA, through its Institute for Quality and Patient Safety, also honored one system for Excellence in Quality Improvement, in recognition of the healthcare organization’s tremendous advances in quality improvement and patient safety:

Kennedy Health, based in Voorhees, implemented its Sepsis Program beginning in 2012 with the goal of reducing sepsis-related deaths from 21.5 percent to less than 10 percent by 2015. Through a series of successful initiatives, that goal was achieved and surpassed, with Kennedy Health now achieving some of the lowest sepsis mortality rates in the state and nation. Sepsis is a common and dangerous reaction by the body to infection, commonly referred to as blood poisoning, which can cause permanent damage to organs or cause death.

Multidisciplinary teams formed a Sepsis Committee and created a sepsis alert for the health system’s three Emergency Departments, which notifies other departments to prepare necessary testing, antibiotics and beds for septic patients. The Committee also created ways to more rapidly assess, diagnose and treat septic patients, as well as to communicate better between the ED and the intensive care unit when sepsis is suspected.

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 $2.5 billion in community benefits that New Jersey hospitals provide annually. The 2017 awards recognized achievements in the following categories: enhancing access and quality of care to reduce disparities; improving nutrition and wellbeing; and preventing disease and injury.

In the category of enhancing access and quality of care to reduce disparities, Saint Peter’s University Hospital and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital partnered to create the program Outside the Box: Partnering with Local Libraries to Increase Community Health Literacy.

Through Outside the Box and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, librarians at six Middlesex County libraries were trained in all areas of consumer health and given access to a professional certification called the Consumer Health Information Specialization. During this training, librarians are instructed on how to identify and select information that is uniquely tailored to a patron’s literacy level, native language and visual, mental or physical impairments.

In the category of improving nutrition and wellbeing, Atlantic Health System was recognized for its role in the New Jersey Healthy Communities Network, a grant funding collaborative that provides financial as well as technical assistance to communities looking to make their environments more conducive to – and advance policy that supports – better nutrition and active lifestyles.

As one of five funding agencies, and the only healthcare system involved, Atlantic Health has funded 22 community initiatives at a total of $405,000 in its first two years of participation. The system has also donated more than 1,000 hours of in-kind staff time, dedicated to providing direct technical assistance and support for the funding collaborative itself. For Atlantic Health, access to healthy food and opportunities for active living continue to emerge from its Community Health Needs Assessment, and its funded projects focus on this local need.

In the category of preventing disease and injury, Clara Maas Medical Center was recognized for developing two outreach programs to connect senior citizens to necessary care regardless of mobility issues, ability to pay or other barriers to care.

The Wellness Assessment Van for Elders (WAVE) and Clara Cares Program provide services at no cost to community seniors. These programs increase access to care and provide effective disease management resources to avoid unnecessary hospitalizations and acute illnesses by meeting senior citizens where they are: in homes, community centers, senior housing and exam rooms in the local Department of Health offices.