At Hackensack Meridian Health, many initiatives aim to identify (and treat) issues before they become serious problems

Medicine has long tended toward the heroic, not-a-minute-to-lose efforts, with doctors like cardiology specialist Dr. Daniel Kiss bringing someone back from the brink of death. It’s the type of thing you see all the time on TV medical dramas.

Kiss aims for something else.

“While that’s certainly an admirable thing, here’s what’s better than that: Having it so that heart attack or other disease manifestation never happens in the first place,” he said.

Kiss, a structural heart cardiologist at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, said his center and others in the Hackensack Meridian Health network are working toward earlier and earlier interventions all the time for their patient population.

In his view, that’s the future of medicine — not the unsung hero narratives.

Hackensack Meridian Health is getting involved in recognition and prevention in a few ways at its health centers. One is its new AngioScreen Program, which Kiss heads. Instead of screening for issues needing immediate treatment, it’s a vascular test that looks more at indicators of future health risk.

“It doesn’t replace diagnostic testing,” Kiss said. “It’s trying to identify the portion of the population that’s really getting undertreated.”

Kiss added that there’s a lot of work hospitals can do to stratify risks for patients that might have underrecognized risk factors — long before they show up to an emergency room with symptoms of a stroke or other life-threatening condition.

One of those risks is presented by obesity, which is faced by an estimated 93 million adults in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At Hackensack University Medical Center, Dr. Hans Schmidt is directing a new Center for Weight Loss and Metabolic Health. There, and at other hospitals in the Hackensack Meridian Health system, doctors are addressing the root-cause health risks associated with obesity.

“The problem of obesity, not just in New Jersey but across the country, is really a medical crisis,” Schmidt said. “It leads to the majority of illnesses and deaths, including diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.”

Many cancers are also obesity-related, \Schmidt added. There’s few areas of health unaffected by it.

“What has the medical world been doing about it? Frankly, not much,” he said. “Doctors tell people they should watch their diet and exercise, but, beyond that, there hasn’t been any comprehensive care. People find weight loss programs, join gyms, follow (different systems) you might hear of on TV or radio, but those programs don’t typically work in the long-term.”

The Center for Weight Loss and Metabolic Health offers bariatric surgery, medication and other counseling and treatments for weight loss. Some of those options can be sought individually, or even sold directly to consumers in the case of medications.

“But some people don’t need medication at all; some people need surgery or nutritional advice,” he said. “I don’t know of many places that are incorporating the use of these medications, modalities and surgery options available to every patient under one roof.

“If you go to one place or specialist, you wouldn’t have all of those options. If you go to a Honda dealership, you’re not driving away in a Chevy.”

Looking ahead, Schmidt said the goal is to connect the dots between these new programs and other preventative health programs, such as Hackensack’s sleep apnea labs and diabetes centers.

“So far, the response has been good,” he said.

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Reach Hackensack Meridian Health at: or call 844-464-9355.