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A Show of Gratitude
Health care heroes from South Jersey

by Amy Kodrich and Liz Hunter

As this issue spotlights various aspects of health and wellness, it seemed only fitting to dedicate some space to people in the health care field who have made a considerable impact in the aftermath of the pandemic. Whether working directly with patients or behind the scenes to keep operations running smoothly in the face of adversity, these local health care heroes, as nominated by their respective hospital systems, continue to make a difference, and are only a small sample of the thousands of employees giving it their all as we enter the third year of the pandemic.

Dr. Cindy Hou
Infection Control Officer, Jefferson Health – New Jersey

Hou started researching the coronavirus as soon as word of it started trickling into the U.S. in late 2019. Hou spent hours each day researching its potential spread and impact on health care workers and the public. By the time Jefferson – New Jersey had its first COVID-positive patient in early March 2020, Hou had become well-versed on diagnostic information and potential signs of the disease. Hou has been directly involved in caring for COVID-positive patients at Jefferson’s New Jersey hospitals since the pandemic began, while offering support to other front-line clinicians.

Along with serving for several months as Jefferson Health – New Jersey’s interim chief patient safety and quality officer, Hou was honored in 2020 as the Researcher of the Year by the American College of Osteopathic Internists.

Dr. Joseph Montella
Chief Medical Officer, Cooper University Health Care

Montella has been a tireless leader throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, having a role in almost every aspect of managing Cooper’s response. From communications to education and planning to problem-solving, Montella has been a calm, reassuring leader, providing guidance and encouragement. As one of the key leaders of Cooper’s incident management team, Montella has also served as chief communications liaison between the health system and its 850-plus member physicians group, providing critical and frequently changing information on new policies and procedures, as well as general updates. 

Maria Emerson
Director of Rehab Services, Pediatric & Community-Based Services, Virtua Health

Launched in 2018, Virtua Mobile Pediatric Services uses a specially designed van and travels into underserved communities to provide vital health services for children and families at no cost. Since then, it has served more than 9,000 children across South Jersey, and in the early days of the pandemic, Emerson and her team used the van to deliver groceries, diapers, toys and other necessities. Now, the van also offers a library for young visitors. Pediatric Mobile Services also acts as a pop-up vaccination clinic. Last November, the unit was honored with the Champions for Children Award from the New Jersey chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics for its services in urban and rural communities in South Jersey. Emerson was also responsible for helping design and create the first sensory room at the original Burlington County vaccine mega site, providing a separate, calming space for children and adults with special needs.

Tina Robinson
Employee Health Manager, Inspira Health

As the manager of nearly 7,000 people in the Employee Health Department for Inspira Health, Robinson stepped up to the plate to take over the extensive workload created during the pandemic. Her role grew from managing day-to-day operations to also include the expansion and development of processes needed to manage the organization’s increasing employee health needs. Robinson served in a leadership position focused on first getting vaccination shots to thousands of employees, followed by adult community members, older teens, and most recently 5- to 11-year-olds. She spearheaded efforts to create a child-friendly environment and process for the youngest age group, which was noteworthy in encouraging the vaccination process. Throughout the trials of the pandemic, Robinson was quick to take on multiple roles, including operations manager, traffic controller, vaccinator and comforter, while putting in 12-14-hour days to ensure the safety of the staff during the pandemic response.

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 9.
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