ROI-NJ Influencers: Health Care 2019 — A to L

Cathy Ainora
Chief integration officer
Hackensack Meridian Health
Talk about a busy role. Imagine being the person charged with integrating the continual drumbeat of mergers, acquisitions and partnerships that surround the ever-growing Hackensack Meridian Health. That jobs falls to the ever-capable Ainora. How well does she do it? When HMH needed an interim president for its central region, Ainora was tabbed.

Michael Azarian
Health Care Studio, Kimmerle Newman Architects
One of the top health care architects in the region, Azarian has managed projects in all phases of planning, designing and construction. He has worked on numerous health care facilities, with projects ranging from small-scale renovations to master plans to complex, multiphased new construction projects, including work for RWJBarnabas Health, Hackensack Meridian, CareOne, Trinitas and Rutgers University.

Mishael Azam
Vice president, external affairs
A fierce policy advocate in the health care world, Azam has made a name for herself in Trenton. Whether it’s guiding new staffers or testifying in front of legislators, Azam can explain the complexities of health care with ease, poise and accuracy. She has served as a staffer in the Legislature as well as been the lead lobbyist for physicians in the state. Her new role has expanded her reach to the Northeast region.

Rich Bagger
Executive vice president, corporate affairs and market access
Bagger has been able to successfully swivel between key executive, government official and back to key executive of one of the top companies in New Jersey with ease — for a number of reasons: He is universally loved and respected — and incredibly talented. All of those attributes will be needed as Celgene works to complete its announced merger with Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Mark Barnard
Interim CEO
Horizon BCBSNJ
This behind-the-scenes leader at Horizon was pushed to the forefront when he was announced as the interim CEO during Kevin Conlin’s medical leave of absence. The position is expected to be temporary, but the fact that the insurance giant selected Barnard — the company’s executive vice president of government affairs and operations — to serve in the top spot shows the depth of his ability and leadership.

Cathleen Bennett
New Jersey Hospital Association
When Bennett took over, the NJHA was a battle-ready-and-tested organization, ready to take on all things Trenton threw at it. Bennett is helping it reach the next level, while also focusing on ramping up its presence in the trendier areas of health information and population health. The NJHA has been pursuing greater partnership efforts to effect change in the highly underserved health care spaces.

Joel Cantor
Director, Center for State Health Policy
Rutgers University
Anyone who wants to get their finger on the pulse of health care need not look further than Rutgers’ Cantor. The longtime health expert has seen the changes over administrations and often has an authoritative voice on all things health care. In an industry that is changing shape — and scope — seemingly by the day, Cantor provides veteran analysis that is welcomed and coveted by many.

Ray Castro
Senior policy analyst
New Jersey Policy Perspective
Another longtime expert on all things health care, ranging from the effect of the ACA tumult on New Jersey to the ongoing strategy trends in the state. Castro can crunch the numbers, and loves doing so, to understand the minutia of the industry. Its why he’s consulted often and on panels regularly, allowing access to his expertise.

Kevin Conlin
Chair and CEO
Horizon BCBSNJ
As chair and CEO of the state’s largest insurer, Conlin holds an inordinate amount of power to shape the industry — especially in New Jersey, where Horizon’s outsized presence pushes its impact to the top of any potential business model. Conlin recently stepped away from Horizon for health reasons; he is expected back by the end of the year. But the fact that his leave resulted in phone calls to Gov. Phil Murphy, key legislative leaders and the heads of many health systems says it all.

Sara Cuccurullo
Medical director, vice president Johnson Rehabilitation Institute
The acquisition of JFK Medical Center allowed Hackensack to bring more leading physicians into the fold. One was Cuccurullo, who is leading a state-of-the-art program in stroke rehabilitation at the Johnson Rehabilitation Institute.


Michellene Davis
Executive vice president and chief public affairs officer
A gifted executive and orator, Davis is a champion of RWJBH’s efforts in social impact and community health initiatives and being a change agent in social determinate efforts, working and speaking on the subject both in the state and nationally — as well as being the author of a soon-to-be-released book. Her long history of public service also makes her a force in Trenton, where she represents the organization’s interests in policy-making discussions.

Uli Diaz
Vice president, government affairs
Horizon BCBSNJ
He’s the guy you want on your side. Not only because he knows how to network with politicians and executives, but also because his skills and experience allow him to quell a firestorm or two — often an underappreciated skill in Trenton. He has a long history of success in Trenton, where he is held in high regard. More impressively, he is known and liked in both north and south political camps — a big deal in the Garden State.

Shereef Elnahal
University Hospital
The former commissioner of health has taken a leap into the private world, taking on the top post at the state’s most troubled hospital. Elnahal achieved significant recognition for pursuing Murphy’s progressive agenda in the health care space, specifically through the expansion of medical marijuana. His high profile may dim a bit as he tackles the challenge of right-siding UH, but his influence and direct connection to the Murphy administration keep him in a position to wield influence. 

John Fanburg
Brach Eichler
Ahead of the curve. That’s one way to describe Fanburg, who chases the latest trends in health care with ease. Whether looking at private equity in health care ownership or focusing on medical and legalized marijuana, Fanburg is on top of it all. He is an authority on the subjects and understands the ecosystem of the industry.

Madeline Ferraro
Vice president, government and public affairs
Atlantic Health System
The long-running public affairs specialist — she has served in this role for Atlantic since 2002 — has earned her reputation among health care and legislative leaders in the state for her knowledge and insights. Her impact in the sector goes beyond Trenton. She is the architect and leader for Atlantic Health System’s corporate strategic giving program, directing more than $1 million of Atlantic’s funds to charities with aligned missions.

Ken Frazier
Chair and CEO
How influential is Frazier? The company reportedly is letting him stay on as CEO past his upcoming 65th birthday (in December), and he will be a key factor in choosing his successor. That person will have big shoes to fill. Frazier has served as model leader in both financial and social impact areas while leading one of state’s most important health care companies.

Bob Glenning
Chief financial officer
As chief financial officer of Hackensack Meridian Health, Glenning not only oversees the finances of one of the state’s largest organizations, but one that seemingly grows by the week with numerous mergers, acquisitions and partnership deals. He also oversaw the implementation and upgrade of a new clinical and financial information technology platform and provided financial leadership over the Hackensack Physician – Hospital Accountable Care Organization.

Debbie Hart
CEO and President
Hart has been at the helm of the largest pharma trade group in the state for several years, and her power and influence continues to grow. She is the go-to source for understanding the industry’s pressures, a role that has amplified her importance as the public outcry over drug prices increases. It’s also why she was chosen to be a part of the revived Committee on Science, Innovation and Technology under Murphy.

Gary Horan
Trinitas Regional Medical Center
That Trinitas came up short in its bid to be designated a Level II trauma center says more about the politics of the decision than Horan’s leadership. (So much for putting patients’ needs first.) Make no mistake, Horan is the key to making Trinitas a shining example of what an urban hospital should be in terms of quality and service to the community. It’s why many of the large systems would love to acquire the facility.

Heather Howard
Princeton University
A former health commissioner and highly sought-after voice on health care panels today, Howard continues to be an authority on all things health care policy. Her thoughtful and candid insights have earned her the trust and respect of her peers in the industry.

John Jacobi
Seton Hall University
He studied mental health needs in the state before it was a trend, and his work has been cited by many in the past few years as the state expands its awareness and coverage. A professor at Seton Hall University, Jacobi is a leader on health care policy and health care trends in the state.

Carole Johnson
Department of Human Services
As Medicaid and caring for the underserved continues to rise in importance in health care nationally, Johnson’s role only figures to become more prominent in the state. The state’s addiction agency resides in the department Johnson oversees, which is crucial as the state continues its battle against the opioid crisis. That includes progressive actions such as offering addiction treatment in jail, which Johnson will oversee.


Sarah Jones
Director, government affairs
Horizon BCBSNJ
A quiet behind-the-scenes worker, Jones is a recognizable powerhouse in Trenton’s halls — an important role for an insurer that has an oversized influence in the state due to its market share. Jones also is well connected at the federal level, having worked for U.S. Rep. Donald Payne. When it comes to health care, and the insurance business, Jones has a wealth of knowledge.

Allen Karp
Executive vice president
Horizon BCBSNJ
Karp, the EVP for health care management and transformation at Horizon, is a big reason why the state’s largest insurer always seems to be one step ahead in the game. That he’s charged with executing Horizon’s health care value strategy and clinical and network operations, as well as leading the pharmacy, behavioral health and health care analytics organizations, shows he is qualified to move into any position at the organization.

Patrick Kennedy
the Kennedy Forum
The last name alone wields influence, but the former Rhode Island congressman and current Brigantine resident is increasingly visible in New Jersey politics, and nationally, as he pushes for greater awareness and adoption of drug policy and calls for increased funding related to mental and behavioral health care. The time is right, as the topic has gained national attention as health providers struggle to meet needs amid the opioid crisis.

Scott Kobler
McCarter & English
One of the most quietly powerful health care lawyers in the state, Kobler has his ears to the ground on the goings-on of the industry. Widely respected for his knowledge of the industry as much as for his legal skills, Kobler always is on the short list of lawyers to consult. Whether to bounce around ideas, consult on an idea or broker a deal. Kobler is a treasure trove of insight and information. But you wouldn’t know it by his reserved nature.

Jeff LeBenger
Summit Health Group
If LeBenger was impressive in planting New Jersey-based Summit’s flag in the western half of the country last year, he has certainly multiplied his influence with his latest announcement of merging with prominent New York City-based urgent care chain CityMD. In this relationship, LeBenger will land at the top, taking the helm of the new joint organization, boosting his influence in health care in the region. The physician turned CEO has gained significant traction as he continues to grow.

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