From front line to first in line: Top docs eager to get vaccine, show public it is safe

Dr. Lisa Tank is the chief medical officer at Hackensack University Medical Center, the hospital that has treated the most COVID-19 patients in New Jersey.

Tank has seen the impact of COVID-19 firsthand, on both the patients and the staff that cares for them. When surveys came out suggesting many people — as many as 1 in 3 — had concerns about taking the vaccine, Tank volunteered to be one of the first to do so at Hackensack UMC.

“I’m getting vaccinated today for my colleagues who are on the frontlines of this pandemic, and everyone impacted by COVID-19,” she said. “This is the beginning of the end for COVID-19 and we’ll only be successful in eradicating the pandemic if citizens across New Jersey do their part. We owe it to the frontline teams who are risking their lives to treat the virus.”

Tank is not unique in her feelings — and her approach to the vaccine. Top doctors and health care professionals around the state have been volunteering to be the first to get the vaccine and to share their experiences.

Dr. Greg Sugalski, the chief of quality and patient safety in the Emergency Medicine Department at Hackensack University Medical Center, is an Army veteran who served as an emergency medicine physician at Fort Sam Houston in Texas and served two deployments, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A physician who has worked in support of combat missions during time of war, the Oradell resident also has served critically ill patients at Hackensack during the pandemic — and volunteered to be one of the first to be vaccinated.

These feelings were found all over the state.

Rosetta Oliver celebrates her vaccination. (Cooper University Health Care)

Rosetta Oliver, an associate nurse manager at Cooper University Hospital, was the first team member vaccinated there. A 30-year employee of Cooper, Oliver said she was excited to be among the first in the state to receive the vaccine.

“I am honored to be the first to be vaccinated at Cooper,” she said. “I have seen how serious this disease is firsthand, so I wanted to do this for my patients, their families and for my own family.”

Dr. Sharen Anghel, the chairwoman of medicine at Overlook Medical Center, was the third person to get the vaccine at Morristown Medical Center.

She said she was glad to do so — glad to set an example for the public — and glad to be a doctor who was willing to be first in line, not just on the front line.

Anghel said she’s not alone.

“I know there are a lot of doctors who were willing to take my place,” she said.