ROI Influencers: Health Care 2020 (Hospital heroes, A to L)

Michele Acito
Chief nursing officer
Holy Name Medical Center 

Acito was a key player in the COVID-19 response at Holy Name, one of the hardest-hit hospitals in the state and country. She was director of nursing operations, and immediately elevated and expanded her role to simultaneously handle unprecedented patient surge and critical staffing shortages. As a result of her dedication and expertise, the medical center’s administration and board of trustees named her chief nursing officer — a fitting move, given her 30-year record of nursing excellence. 

Her personal connection to the pandemic should be noted, too. Acito endured personal tragedy when her 89-year-old mother-in-law passed away from COVID-19 in the hospital — and did so at a time when her brother-in-law and sister-in-law were being treated in a nearby inpatient unit. (Thankfully, they both recovered.)

“Michele’s unwavering commitment, compassion and strategic decision-making helped us stay one step ahead of the curve at the height of the pandemic,” said Michael Maron, Holy Name’s CEO and president.

John Bonamo
Chief medical and quality officer
RWJBarnabas Health

Bonamo is credited with leading a systemwide response — one that reinforced a culture of safety. When COVID-19 first hit, Bonamo immediately developed operational teams involving each hospital in the system and began leading daily, systemwide communication touchpoints, keeping the staff up to date on vastly changing news, regulations, procedures and learnings, which fostered a strong, cohesive team and consistent practice.

Bonamo ensured that each facility-based team, including members from the nursing and clinical staff, respiratory therapists and pharmacy, among others, operated in lockstep and interconnected with the other system teams. He synthesized the ocean of information coming in daily from health officials, clinical peers and news outlets to deliver needed knowledge to his teams so they could function best in their roles. 

Bonamo served as an expert voice in the storm to safeguard frontline workers and make sure all patients would be cared for with all available treatment options.

Ed Dix
Director of pharmacy
Inspira Medical Center Mullica Hill

Dix not only developed and maintained a COVID-19 Medication Dashboard to identify critical medications and real-time medication inventory, he led the production of the hospital’s own hand sanitizer, oversaw PPE distribution and created a way to extend the use of Remdesivir. And, when the state was thinking of reopening Inspira-Woodbury, he worked with the system’s drug wholesaler and hired and onboarded six temporary staff.

Shereef Elnahal
University Hospital

Elnahal, a respected thought leader throughout the state, has begun his efforts to reinvigorate the hospital’s connection to its community. And did so at the most important time. University, one of Newark’s busiest and most important hospitals, has been a leader in care and in testing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Kenny Esser
Hackensack Meridian Health

Esser was the quintessential man in the middle. He kept track of what was needed, then worked to ensure HMH got it from local, state and federal officials — all while answering the hourly barrage of questions and concerns from those same officials, eager to have information.

Bob Garrett
Hackensack Meridian Health

Garrett is the head of a system that was hit as hard by COVID-19 as any in the country. Garrett led a team that rose to the COVID challenge up and down the state, but no place greater than in Hackensack, which had the most cases in New Jersey. He also worked with HMH’s Center for Discovery and Innovation, which created one of the first COVID-19 tests outside of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Warren Geller
Englewood Health

Geller worked to empower his leaders to rapidly launch a telemedicine platform and open a drive-thru testing site. He also spearheaded an employee relief fund, himself making a significant contribution and inspiring other executives to contribute nearly a half-million dollars, which was then disbursed to team members whose families were experiencing financial challenges due to COVID-19.

Frank Ghinassi
SVP, behavioral health
RWJBarnabas Health

The impact of COVID-19 on behavioral health and addiction is just beginning to be realized. Ghinassi is one of the top executives setting procedures for helping the most vulnerable.

Brian Gragnolati
Atlantic Health System

A valued voice of leadership at the state and national level, Gragnolati had an invaluable impact on health care throughout the pandemic, sitting on Murphy’s Restart & Recovery Advisory Council and the Department of Health’s COVID-19 Professional Advisory Committee. These roles helped ensure that patients received the highest quality care during the most challenging period for health care in our lifetimes.

Gary Horan
Trinitas Regional Medical Center

Horan is perhaps the most experienced health care exec in the state — this is his 19th year as head of Trinitas, 30th as a CEO and 50th in administration. All of that experience helped Trinitas survive and thrive during its toughest COVID days. The hospital cared for more than 1,500 patients and as many as 195 on a particular day.

Cindy Hou
Infection control officer
Jefferson Health

Hou began doing research about a novel virus in China she had begun to hear rumblings about long before it came here. Those earlier insights helped her become a go-to source of information for doctors and made her the principal investigator on a research trial involving convalescent plasma. She is being honored with week as Researcher of the Year by the American College of Osteopathic Internists.

Adam Jarrett
Chief medical officer
Holy Name Medical Center

Holy Name was one of the hardest-hit hospitals in the country and one of the first, which meant Jarrett had to help lead treatment for COVID-19 patients at a time when so much about the virus — and treatment for it — was unknown. When Holy Name’s own CEO contracted the virus, Jarrett took his leadership to another level, ensuring a high level of care for all.

Kevin Lenahan
Chief financial officer
Atlantic Health

Lenahan had one of the most important — and certainly the most thankless — jobs of the pandemic. He was in charge of sourcing and obtaining PPE for the entire Atlantic Health System. The challenge grew more difficult by the day during the height of the pandemic, but Lenahan managed to find a way to keep Atlantic caregivers and their patients safe.

Janine Llamzon
Director of nursing, Emergency Department
St. Joseph’s Health

Llamzon set the tone at one of the busiest and hardest-hit ERs in the country, helping to care for its first COVID patient March 3. “If I was about to tell my team that they needed to take care of patients for an illness we hadn’t yet experienced, I had to be willing to do it first. I could not put my staff out there if I wasn’t out there.”

Indu Lew
Senior vice president and chief pharmacy officer
RWJBarnabas Health

When RWJBarnabas was flooded with patients this spring — the system treated more than 17,000 individuals for COVID-related illnesses at its peak April 13 — Lew’s expert management of the pharmaceutical supply chain ensured patients in 25 divisions and two service lines received the care they needed. She has since procured the needed medications for the expected “second wave.”

(Read the rest of the list.)