For Atlantic Health, transplant partnership with NYU-Langone is about elevating care – and doing it in N.J.

Atlantic Health System Overlook Medical Center in Summit.

Dr. Sharen Anghel, the chair of the department of medicine at Overlook Medical Center in Summit, is confident the new partnership between Atlantic Health and NYU Langone involving heart and liver transplants will be a huge success that improves the care transplant recipients in New Jersey receive.

It already has been, she said.

“We’ve already transplanted our first liver patient at NYU that came from Overlook Medical Center,” she said earlier this week, on the zoom call announcing the partnership.

Overlook, Anghel said, has an established relationship with Dr. Harmit Kalia, NYU’s director of transplant outreach for liver. Kalia now will be providing on-site care at Overlook while he also is working at NYU, Anghel said.

“I think that medicine is best served as a clinical team that is truly integrated and communicated as flawlessly as possible,” she said. “For any patient or any doctor that has worked with complex medical patients, I think we all know when we communicate better as a health care team, we better serve our patients and our patient populations. 

“This team, I know, already does this. So, I think much of the care going forward will only be enhanced both by the expertise at NYU Langone and the expertise we have here at Overlook.”

The clinical affiliation will partner NYU Langone’s nationally recognized transplant program with the nationally ranked Atlantic Health System Heart Care program located at Morristown Medical Center’s Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute and the ground-breaking liver services at Overlook Medical Center in Summit.

The partnership brings together two of the leading hospitals and hospital systems in the region. And does it at a time when the need for transplants – and the number of organs available – are both on the rise.

So said Dr. Linda Gillam, the Dorothy and Lloyd Huck Chair of Cardiovascular Medicine at Morristown Medical Center.

“Heart transplant is still the definitive therapy for patients with advanced heart failure,” she said. “And, currently, there are over 6.2 million patients in this country who suffer from heart failure. That number is growing. 

“Do all of them need transplants? No. But the number of new transplants is continuing to grow as well.”

Those involved said the recent rise in opioid overdose has led to a great increase of available transplants – increasing the opportunities.

Morristown Medical Center is looking to take advantage of the situation for its patients.

Morristown, the top-rated hospital in New Jersey the past three years, is nationally respected for its work in cardiology and heart surgery, repeatedly being cited among the Top 50 in the country in the U.S. News & World Report rankings. Gillam sees the opportunity to increase Atlantic Health’s ability to work with NYU-Langone as only adding to the care it is providing.

“At Atlantic, we have always been committed to delivering patients the highest quality here,” she said. “So, when the opportunity arose to collaborate with NYU Langone, which shares Atlantic’s commitment to quality care, attention to detail and the patient experience, it was definitely not one to miss.”

Both Anghel and Gillam stressed the relationship will help New Jersey patients get world-class transplant care without having to go to New York – except for the transplant.

Dr. Robert Montgomery, the director of the renown NYU Langone Transplant Institute, sees it that way, too. He said the relationship is a true partnership that will help patients get the best care possible.

“I don’t necessarily see it as New Jersey people going to New York, I see it as New Jersey people staying at home, where they have unbelievable care from doctors that they know are world-class leaders,” he said. “That’s just smart health care resource utilization.”

Montgomery said NYU-Langone was only willing to enter the agreement because of the reputations of Morristown (for cardiac care) and Overlook (for liver care). 

“Our degree of confidence in the care that’s provided at Morristown and Overlook couldn’t be higher,” he said. “It reflects directly on our statistics and our ability to continue to do transplants at NYU. 

“If we didn’t have this level of confidence that these patients would be cared for so well, before and after the transplant, this wouldn’t be possible. That’s what makes it even more unique. In a way, we trust the care so much that we’re willing to have that directly reflect back on us in – and I think that is going to be a wonderful reflection.”

Gillam said leaders at the Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute feel the relationship will help it attract more patients – though she noted the institute, pre-covid, already attracting a number of patients from New York City, New York state and Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

“When the word gets out about the quality of the care that we provide and the patient experience we provide here at Morristown, I strongly believe that we will continue to attract patients from outside of traditional area,” she said.

Anghel agreed.

“The alliance here really does make sense,” she said. “I do think that we will see a broader patient population, even just in New Jersey. I think when philosophies align across institutions it doesn’t necessarily have to be competitive force. It really does truly become a partnership.”