ROI Influencers: Health Care 2020 (Unsung heroes, A to M)

AtlantiCare – Atlantic City
Gemma Downham
Director of infection prevention

A natural leader, Gemma Downham has extensive expertise as an epidemiologist in evidence and best practices, leading the care team in use of personal protective equipment, safe workflow and other areas. Her ability to be a thorough mentor, delegate and teach others, engage new team members, and her triaging and prioritization skills were instrumental in our navigating the many complex issues we’ve faced throughout the pandemic.

AtlantiCare – Mainland
Tracy Gorman
Respiratory therapist

Tracy Gorman has steadfastly delivered exceptional patient care as a respiratory therapist throughout the COVID-19 pandemic — including by volunteering to be the primary “intubation therapist” for patients who tested positive for COVID. She has expertly helped our care team identify the most appropriate respiratory treatment plan as we have learned more about COVID and has dedicated herself to encouraging and supporting all staff and providers.

Bayshore Medical Center
Gary Sypniewski
Manager of plant operations 

At the onset of the pandemic, Gary Sypniewski and his team immediately began creating negative pressure rooms to help key everyone safe. The plant operations team, with includes 17 people, would end up converting 29 rooms to negative pressure, ensuring that both patients and hospital staff at Bayshore Medical Center were safe. Sypniewski has been with Bayshore Medical Center for just over two years.

Bergen New Bridge Medical Center
Yuna Maeda
Infection control practitioner

Yuna Maeda has worked tirelessly and with determination and accuracy to ensure all COVID-19 testing results are tracked and distributed. Her data collection and analysis assisted with the medical center’s cohort processes and other key decisions regarding care coordination of COVID-positive patients. There is no doubt her accuracy and expediency allowed Bergen New Bridge to pivot quickly, protecting those in our care.

CentraState Healthcare System
Allison Leonard
Registered nurse

Allison Leonard felt her colleagues and patients needed encouragement to hold onto hope during the height of the pandemic. She suggested having the sound of chimes play throughout CentraState each time a COVID-19 patient was discharged. The chimes rang several times a day. And, each time, everyone stopped and cheered, giving thanks for another saved life while being inspired to keep on fighting.

Chilton Medical Center
Wisdom Pierre
IT support technician

The pandemic brought many challenges, including finding new ways for COVID-positive patients to communicate with their family. Mobile devices were a key ingredient. But, when the supply of stands for iPads dwindled, Wisdom Pierre stepped up. He devised his own prototype stand, with materials purchased at a local store, saving time and money. Most importantly, they ended up performing better than similar, store-bought products.

Clara Maass Medical Center
Junior Martinez
Director of plant operations

Junior Martinez oversees the management of the hospital’s physical plant, the maintenance of its buildings and grounds, and the operation of equipment. At the onset of the pandemic, Martinez helped execute key portions of the Emergency Operations Plan, which included converting rooms to negative pressure rooms and assembling a tent outside of the Emergency Department for staging and triaging arriving patients.

Community Medical Center
Adam Tart
Director of plant operations

From collaborating with construction vendors on designs and fabricating changes to the air circulation system to drilling holes in ICU room walls so staff could monitor IVs and other equipment for COVID-positive patients with minimized exposure, Adam Tart and his team did whatever it took to ensure a safe environment for physicians, nurses and other clinical team members to treat their patients.

Cooper University Health Care
Mohammad “Mo” Addar
Section chief, Cooper High Consequence Infectious Disease Incident Management Team 

Mo Addar facilitated the twice-daily Cooper Infectious Disease Incident Management Team meetings, leading a group of more than 20 Cooper specialists, including physician, nursing, operations and administrative leadership. Addar kept this group on track with a neverending list of projects, priorities and deliverables. Addar successfully managed all of the meeting logistics, in addition to leading numerous process improvement sessions toward positive outcomes. 

Englewood Health
Matthew Greco
Purchasing system analyst

During the height of the pandemic, securing PPE and other essential items was paramount to hospital systems being able to deliver safe, uncompromising care. Matthew Greco worked tirelessly to ensure that patients and staff had the materials they needed. Still today, Greco is essential in the mission of creating the safest environment of care possible by ensuring that those needs are met.

Hackettstown Medical Center
Ann Tolerico
Lead patient experience liaison

An instrumental part of shaping the patient experience at Hackettstown Medical Center during the pandemic, no job was too small or outside Ann Tolerico’s scope. From creating color-coded charts to ensuring donations to the medical center were properly shared with team members, Tolerico served as an essential conduit between caregivers and family members of COVID-19 patients in isolation, with a commitment to compassionate caring.

Holy Name Medical Center
Ashley Blanchard
Manager of infection prevention

Working 16-hour shifts, seven days a week, Blanchard became instrumental in Holy Name’s immensely successful COVID-19 response — testing, evaluating and treating patients; protecting staff against transmission; and serving as a national model for innovations in facilities upgrades, treatment advances and teamwork. Even during emotionally and physically draining workdays, Blanchard calmly helped move Holy Name into its “new normal.”

Hackensack University Medical Center
Rafaelina Moran
Environmental services leader

Hackensack University Medical Center had more COVID-19 patients than any hospital in the state. It was up to employees such as Rafaelina Moran to keep things as clean as possible — for patients and staffers. Moran never thought twice about the work she was doing — or whether it put herself or her children at risk. “We are here to serve them,” she said. “We clean.”

Inspira Medical Center – Mullica Hill
Joseph Miller
Respiratory equipment technician

Joe Miller’s regular responsibilities include managing the needed ventilators and supplies. During the pandemic, he not only secured the ventilators, he secured the needed supplies and equipment to transition bi-pap ventilators to invasive ventilators. He also assisted in efficiently reconfiguring a single ventilator into a dual ventilator. An integral member of the frontline staff, he makes sure everyone has their needed supplies, including N-95 masks.

Inspira Medical Center Elmer
Sheryl Bosco
Support services aide

Quickly adapting to the new cleaning cycles and safety precautions, Sheryl Bosco came in on her days off to help to clean and disinfect. Her goal always was focused on the patients, making sure that they would be coming into a clean and sanitized environment. Said her supervisor: “She makes me proud of our department and keeps me focused on keeping everyone else accountable.”

Inspira Medical Center Vineland
Rob Elliott
Manager of facilities and engineering

Rob Elliott led the charge when more than 100 ICU, Step-down and ER rooms had to be converted to negative pressure rooms to help protect patients and staff during the pandemic. Elliott also oversaw the subsequent upgrade to the climate control system that was necessary to handle the increased demand of keeping negative pressure rooms cool during the hot summer months.

Jefferson Health – Cherry Hill
Belinda Myers
Adult behavioral health nurse

Belinda Myers is a nurse on the inpatient Behavioral Health Unit. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Myers enthusiastically volunteered to join the ICU team as a support RN, assisting with caring for the most vulnerable and sick patients. Not once did she hesitate or retract from her commitment as we all watched the mortality of virus spread among our communities, neighbors, families and colleagues.

Jefferson Stratford Hospital
Joseph Fratanduono
Registered nurse

Patients in isolation have only their nurses for human connection — and even that has to be limited. With that in mind, Joseph Fratanduono decided to take a unique approach to addressing their isolation and patients’ potential loneliness. To help lift their spirits, Fratanduono worked with a nurse who has since retired to create patient welcome bags, filled with games, snacks, picture frames, journals, handwritten personal notes and more. 

Jefferson Health – Washington Twp.
Roxanne Berle
Certified medical assistant

When there was much uncertainty at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis in early spring, Roxanne Berle volunteered to join the front lines. Berle trained to become an inpatient floor assistant. Among her new duties included routine patient care technician tasks, such as making beds, feeding and bathing patients, and making comfort rounds, as well as responding to call lights and patient requests.

Jersey City Medical Center
Josefina Vega
Environmental services worker

Josie Vega is described as a selfless employee who works in the Emergency Department and always puts others before herself. She arrives early for every shift, knowing there may be the need for additional staffing. She volunteered to be an HRO Safety Coach. And, when visitor restrictions were instituted, she went out of her way to interact with patients, treating all like they were family members.

Jersey Shore Medical Center
Joyce Kalloo
Environmental services, Emergency Department

Joyce Kalloo displays a tireless dedication to patients and team members, coming to the medical center each day to provide safety by diligently sanitizing and disinfecting patient rooms, common areas and nurses’ stations. Not only does Kalloo touch the lives of her patients, she also has touched the lives of her teammates by being their trainer — teaching them the importance of infection control and chemical safety.

JFK Medical Center
Jim Toner
Facilities manager

Hospitals were filled with folks who just showed up and got the work done. People like Jim Toner. As facilities manager, he worked nearly 60 days straight, helping his team complete the work of the entire Army Corps of Engineers to create negative pressure across the hospital as well as handling countless other facilities enhancements to keep safe all those caring for the enormous influx of patients.

Monmouth Medical Center
Phil Wheeler (1957-2020)
Director of security

Phil Wheeler, a 43-year employee of MMC, was on the frontline each and every day from the start of the pandemic. He passed away unexpectedly from a non-COVID-19 related cause Sept. 12, breaking the collective heart of the Monmouth Medical Center family. On his online obituary tribute wall, an employee left the message below — a note they felt the need to send in April, at the heart of the surge. It was left in hopes it will bring the Wheeler family comfort, knowing the impact Wheeler had on the hospital. 

The sentiment has been echoed by countless staff members, physicians, nurses, hospital leaders, community and board members, patients, visitors, paramedics and police officers regarding our unsung hero, Phil Wheeler:

From April:

“In our current situation of nothing usual or normal, I wanted to share what a bright spot Phil Wheeler has been and continues to be. He has greeted me and others each and every time he sees us, with the same calm, kindness and good energy as every other day long before the virus, as if nothing is going on here. 

“He makes it a point to ask how we are. And I have also seen him ensuring that whoever doesn’t belong in the building, doesn’t get in. In this world of complete uncertainty, I felt it worth sharing that the having that familiar face and kindness as we walk into the unknown here in the hospital, makes all the difference. Knowing he is there is a nice reassurance on many fronts. I don’t think I’ll ever look at him the same way again.”

Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus
Rahil Patel
Assistant director of quality and operations

Throughout the pandemic, Rahil Patel has overseen the operations of the MMCSC Command Center. This 24/7 operation was the main hub for information and tracking of all COVID-19 patients, ventilator counts, PPE supplies, morgue status and much more. Creating charts and tracking ever-changing information regarding policies and processes, was crucial during this crisis. Patel led the way.

Monica Lula

Monica Lula is not only an advocate for her patients, she is an advocate for her coworkers. She wore many hats during this time, taking care of patients, taking care of coworkers, making sure all her coworkers were safe and had the appropriate PPE. Even on her occasional day off, she would check in to see if her coworkers and patients had everything they needed.

Morristown Medical Center
Rosemary Stefiniw
Manager, oncology and COVID research, data and outcomes, and NCORP administrator 

During the peak of the pandemic, Rosemary Stefiniw worked tirelessly to help implement a brand-new COVID research program at Atlantic Health System. She supported her cancer care research team, frontline physicians, nurses and team members, along with patients and caregivers, to create access to brand new clinical trials initiated specifically for COVID patients.

(Read the rest of the list.)