Best of Health Care 2024

by Madeleine Maccar | Apr 9, 2024
Best of Health Care 2024
Health Care Advocate
Mike Munoz
As AmeriHealth’s senior vice president and market president, Munoz is in a unique position to be a health care advocate, emphasizing the relationship between physical and emotional well-being. Internally, he empowers his team to continually strive for a positive and inclusive work environment that not only prioritizes mental health but also champions impactful DEI initiatives, while externally ensuring AmeriHealth provides its members the highest level of service.

Under Munoz’s leadership, AmeriHealth has sponsored myriad events giving associates the opportunity to improve the region’s quality of life. Through both financial and hands-on support, AmeriHealth works with causes like Special Olympics New Jersey, LARC School, Ronald McDonald House Southern New Jersey and RISE Pantry. By creating opportunities for volunteerism and ensuring it is a part of the culture of the organization, AmeriHealth sets the precedent that health care goes beyond the doctor’s office.

Munoz also uses his personal time to serve on numerous boards, including the Camden Community Partnership, Special Olympics New Jersey, the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey. Noting that the AmeriHealth team’s dedication to volunteerism allows them to further enhance the health and well-being of their communities, Munoz recently participated in the 100 Man Welcome at Foundation Academies, an opportunity for local men to be both visible supporters and positive role models for students.


Hypertension Innovation

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Virtua Health
About half of all U.S. adults have high blood pressure, and many are unable to control it with medications or lifestyle changes. But now, a groundbreaking new procedure is successfully treating uncontrolled high blood pressure—and Virtua Health is the first in New Jersey to offer the innovative treatment. 

The FDA-approved treatment, called renal denervation, targets overactive nerves on the surface of kidney arteries. The minimally invasive procedure uses ultrasound or radiofrequency energy to reduce the activity of these nerves, which help regulate blood pressure.  

“Many consider this the first significant innovation for treating high blood pressure in nearly 30 years,” said Virtua interventional cardiologist Kintur Sanghvi, MD. He recently performed Virtua’s first renal denervation using the Medtronic Symplicity Spyral system.

Renal denervation enables some patients to reduce or eliminate their blood pressure medications. When the procedure lowers a person’s blood pressure by 5 to 10 points, it cuts their risk of a cardiovascular event by up to 30%.


Community-Based Service Expansion
Jefferson Health
Responding to community need, the Jefferson Cherry Hill Hospital facilities and amenities have been upgraded to better serve Camden and Burlington counties, while Jefferson’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center is establishing a full complement of services in Cherry Hill. 

“Patients don’t need to travel far to obtain excellent care and better outcomes, as well as access to the latest technology and advanced clinical trials,” said Aaron Chang, president of Jefferson Health – East in New Jersey.

Patients also have access to the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson’s Washington Township campus. Both locations offer the National Cancer Institute-designated center’s resources and provide both extraordinary clinical care and strong community cancer programs close to home. 

Patients can also benefit from an array of clinical cancer trials and that early access to innovative, research-developed treatments. Jefferson’s Center for Clinical Research participates in more than 150 cancer-related trials and has one of the largest Phase I cancer research programs on the East Coast.

The staff includes board-certified cancer specialists and a team of multidisciplinary experts collaborating to share knowledge—including the latest in breakthroughs in genomics—to ensure each patient gets an optimal, highly personalized treatment plan and care, from diagnosis to survivorship. 

Both South Jersey Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center locations offer expertise to treat virtually all types of cancer, including rare and complex cancers, as well as comprehensive supportive services like nutrition, art and yoga programs. 


Partnership in Palliative Care
Samaritan and Rutgers University–Camden
The expansion and enhancement of palliative medicine services is at the heart of a partnership between Samaritan and Rutgers University–Camden, formalized last month by Samaritan President and CEO Phillip W. Heath, M.S., and Rutgers University–Camden Chancellor Antonio D. Tillis, Ph.D., signing a memorandum of understanding.

The partnership, the first of its kind for both institutions, aligns with their strategic goals, providing the opportunity to expand research, education and community engagement to advance the practice of palliative medicine in both Camden and the region.  

By engaging with Samaritan’s medical providers, clinical teams and staff, the partnership will support increased access to home-based health care services and supports for social determinants of health for communities of color and Camden, Burlington and Gloucester counties’ other underserved populations. 

The partnership will expand clinical rotations for Rutgers–Camden nursing, social work and psychology students by providing palliative medicine training alongside Samaritan’s interdisciplinary teams in Samaritan patient homes and its two inpatient centers, better positioning future practitioners to meet the needs of the growing aging population. 

According to the Center to Advance Palliative Care, 12 million adults and nearly 400,000 children in the United States currently live with serious illness and could benefit from palliative medicine. Rutgers–Camden students, faculty and staff will help expand the recognized advancement Samaritan’s palliative medical teams have made in increasing access, understanding and awareness of the role palliative medicine plays in serious illness care.


Legislative Policy Activist
Julienne Verdi
Verdi channels her personal health battles into fervent activism, tirelessly working on behalf of the over 40 million Americans living with headache disorders, including her own 8-year-old son. As the executive director of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and its sister entity, The Headache Alliance Inc., Verdi’s advocacy is a testament to her life’s mission: using the power of advocacy and activism to impact change.

For the alliance’s boots-on-the-ground advocacy initiative Headache on the Hill, Verdi recruits, trains and mobilizes nationwide volunteer advocates to walk the halls of Congress and address the numerous issues chronic headache disorder patients face. Verdi’s legislative advocacy also includes drafting legislation, submitting comments on regulatory issues and meeting with members of Congress and their staff to move forward the organization’s legislative agenda. 


Ambulatory Hub
Cooper University Health Care
Cooper University Health Care opened the first phase of its newest and largest outpatient campus at the Moorestown Mall in November. The Cooper Moorestown Campus—a 166,000-square-foot, three-story state-of-the-art hub—offers more than 26 medical specialties, a range of diagnostic services, nearly 100 exam rooms, concierge services, a café and more. 

The second phase is slated to open during this year. Once complete, additional services will include physical therapy, radiology, infusion services, radiation therapy, an outpatient surgery center, and Cooper and Inspira Neurosciences. This spring, the outpatient surgical center will offer same-day surgical procedures, six operating rooms, two procedural rooms and one interventional suite. Patients can recover in a private room, and their loved ones can either sit in a comfortable waiting area or enjoy the on-site amenities.


Leadless Pacemaker
Deborah Heart and Lung Center
In January, Deborah announced its team had successfully implanted
Abbott’s AVEIR DR, the world’s first dual chamber leadless pacemaker system effectively treating people with abnormal or slow heart rhythms. The groundbreaking FDA-approved system, roughly one-tenth the size of a traditional pacemaker, is a minimally invasive option for the nearly 80% of people who require pacing in two heart chambers (the right atrium and ventricle).

Leadless devices are implanted directly into the heart through a procedure that reduces exposure to potential lead and pocket-related complications, and offers a shorter, less restrictive recovery period.

“This is a first for New Jersey and we are excited to be at the forefront of treatment for arrhythmias,” says Raffaele Corbisiero, MD, division director, EP and Pacing. “It expands the options we have for treating irregular heart rhythms.”


Mental-Health Support
Acenda Integrated Health
Acenda offers more than 100 support programs for children, adults, families and caregivers. Its team endeavors to remain at the forefront of behavioral health, understanding the flexibility needed to meet people where they are in effectively improving their mental well-being. 

“We say there’s no wrong door, so it doesn’t matter what program you come in through or what way you get there,” says Bridget DeFiccio, Acenda’s senior vice president for integrated health. 

As the pandemic has underscored the tremendous need for—and void in—accessible mental-health treatment, Acenda recognized the benefit of providing multiple pathways to holistically understanding, treating and managing one’s overall wellness. Its award-winning Mental Health Resource Center is an extensive online collection of topical, timely blogs and articles so individuals can access the information to identify and understand their core challenges, which DeFiccio notes is often all the clarity many people need. 


Cancer Research Center Partnership
Coriell Institute for Medical Research
Coriell, Cooper University Health Care and Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, have launched their second research partnership: The Camden Cancer Research Center will investigate cancer and translate basic cancer science into new treatments. The three organizations will provide CCRC’s scientists. 

“The scientists in this partnership …  share a goal: learn as much as possible about the complex ways cancer develops in our body so we can prevent or defeat it with new tools and medicines,” says Jean-Pierre Issa, M.D., Coriell’s president and CEO, who will serve as the center’s inaugural director. 

The cooperative effort allows for unprecedented access for South Jersey cancer researchers. This center connects scientists with clinical care, allowing for the translation of basic findings into new treatments and improved patient care.

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Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 14, Issue 3 (February 2024).

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Author: Madeleine Maccar


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