Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital director receives RISE Health Care Hero Award

Mariam Merced, director of the Community Health Promotion Program at RWJBarnabas Health’s Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, was recently recognized with RISE Health’s inaugural RISE Health Care Hero Award, during a ceremony in Nashville, Tennessee, at the RISE Summit on Social Determinants of Health.

This program honors an individual who has made a significant impact on the lives of underserved populations through health care and/or social services, and through superior examples of the RISE mission to promote health equity among all patients.

Joining RWJUH in 1991, Merced began her social impact work serving uninsured patients and those with limited English proficiency by facilitating connections to needed services. Throughout her tenure, she has been a staunch advocate for supporting patients and neighboring communities through programs such as holiday celebrations for low-income children, violence prevention and intervention, drug and alcohol cessation, back-to-school donations, youth summer employment programs and community health screenings.

Currently responsible for coordinating accessible, high-quality preventive health care services and educational programs that advance long-term, holistic health, Merced regularly partners with houses of worship, health institutions and community-based organizations to design and implement culturally appropriate health initiatives that serve the county’s diverse population.

“RISE Health’s recognition of Mariam Merced with the inaugural RISE Health Care Hero Award is a well-deserved testament to her commitment toward health equity and expanding access to health care within Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the RWJBarnabas Health System and the greater New Jersey community,” said Barry Ostrowsky, CEO and president of RWJBarnabas Health. “Her tireless dedication and passion have been key to advancing health outcomes in Middlesex County, both throughout the pandemic and long before.”

During the pandemic, Merced has played a crucial role in orchestrating RWJUH’s COVID-19 response — spearheading programs, initiatives and communications designed to support residents experiencing poor health, social and economic outcomes as a result of the pandemic and resulting disparities.

When data showed that New Brunswick had one of the lowest vaccination rates in New Jersey, Merced and her team canvassed several neighborhoods announcing vaccine clinic information and answering questions. Following those efforts, vaccination rates improved from 41% to 59% between April and June 2021.