After two-year hiatus, Overlook Medical Center’s best, brightest celebrated at Excellence Awards
SUMMIT, NJ (Union County) – Enthusiastic applause filled the gala room as each name was called, and team members from departments spanning Overlook Medical Center strode proudly to the stage to accept their awards.
It had been three years since Overlook had celebrated its standout team members at its annual Excellence Awards. The event, like many in-person gatherings, went on hiatus in 2020 and 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this month, they gathered once again – pride in their accomplishments flowing through their veins along with the protection of COVID vaccines and learnings from the hard-fought experience of battling the virus.
Stephanie Schwartz, who became Overlook’s president in 2021, took the opportunity to proudly proclaim: “Now we are back, we are Overlook Strong and we are even better than ever!”
“These awards are particularly meaningful because the winners were nominated by their peers. Our colleagues know and understand what our days are like. They understand our challenges and appreciate our successes better than anyone else,” Schwartz said. “So being recognized for excellence by a fellow Overlook colleague is a very special kind of honor.”
As in past years, the awards honored team members from across a broad range of duties throughout the hospital, from clinicians at the bedside to a host of operational team members.
For those who nominated their peers, the award winners’ extraordinary qualities are well known and on display every day.
Secretary/technician Betty Dagner was well-known as the force behind the “Surgical Services Sweet Cart,” “Administrative Professionals Day Potluck,” and other morale-boosting initiatives in Overlook’s surgical services, such as organizing a TikTok dance video to encourage COVID vaccinations among team members.
Reading from Dagner’s nomination by her colleagues, presenter Clelia Biamonti, executive director of the Overlook Foundation noted of Dagner: “she doesn’t only participate, she orchestrates.”
Operating room nurse Grace Gildea RN, BSN, known as “The Locker Room Lady,” for welcoming new staff and helping them find a place in the perioperative area, is equally well known by her colleagues for her work ethic: “There is never nothing to do.”
Whether setting up teleconferencing, taking photos or video, or finding solutions to other technical challenges, media services associate William Green was Recognized for his ubiquitous presence throughout the campus.
“Whether you call or text Will, he always responds, ‘hey, what do you need?’,” said Overlook chief medical officer Jack Audett, MD.
Diagnostic radiologist David Hoffman, MD, was lauded by his colleagues for being a steadfast and loyal constant in the medical imaging team.
“Dr. Hoffman arrived in the thick of the pandemic,” wrote Melissa Bonassisa, medical imaging supervisor, who wrote the team’s nomination of Hoffman. “He was exactly what we needed and since the moment of his arrival at Overlook he has continued to provide a positive attitude and help us blossom as a department.”
Others were honored for their efforts to innovate or enhance care at Overlook. Clinical pharmacy specialist Justin Kaplan, PharmD, was recognized for his work creating and directing the Atlantic Health System PGY2 Critical Care Specialty Pharmacy Residency program dedicated to training future ICU clinical pharmacists. The program recently received full accreditation from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
“Justin is continuously working to design, modify and improve pharmacotherapy for patients,” said Lauren Yedvab, chief operating officer for Overlook as she and chief financial officer Stella Visaggio presented awards in the new “You Changed Someone’s Day” category.
Many were recognized for their extraordinary efforts during COVID:
Bringing together members of the transport services team, rehabilitation and other team members, the Overlook mobility team, also known as the Prone Team, proved to be an invaluable resource in treating critically ill COVID patients. Working in teams of four in 12-hour shifts, this team turned intubated, critically ill patients in their beds to lie on their stomachs and then onto their backs every 12 hours to help them breathe.
Jimmy Rainville BSN, RN, CEN, assistant nurse manager at Overlook’s emergency department, oversaw the day shift’s Monoclonal Antibody Infusions (MAI), a life-saving treatment for active COVID patients that met criteria. Nicole Hradil, nurse manager of the ICU and Neuro ICU, helped the rapid expansion of the unit to 120 critical care beds, assisted in the development of the Atlantic Health Critical Care COVID playbook and developed and implemented medical resident education plans.
Among those awarded in the new “Got Your Back” category was the nursing team of ICU 5. This group of neuroscience nurses stepped in to support the quickly rising tide of critically ill COVID patients at the height of the pandemic. Despite none being trained in critical care, they adapted and learned.
“They took on those same challenges our seasoned ICU Nurses took on,” recounted nurse manager Sorcha Hicks. “They were not just ‘helping hands’ or ‘buddies’ – they took assignments and provided extraordinary care.”
The team of the Thomas Glasser Caregivers Center was recognized for taking on the humbling task of working with bereaved families throughout the pandemic. Drawing upon their skill set of providing support services for families of patients, the team established a comprehensive bereavement and support program for families of those who lost loved ones to the virus, put virtual integrative services in place for isolated caregivers and created two virtual memorials to offer healing to families and team members. The Caregivers Center team contacted every family member within 24 hours and advised on funeral services.
“The caregiver center team had to quickly pivot in the blink of an eye,” noted Ophelia Byers, chief nursing officer for Overlook. “Every call was unique, just like the person who had just passed away.”
This marked the 15th year of the awards program, which has been organized each year by Donna Delicio, RN, MSN, manager of outpatient oncology at Overlook. The event this year took place at the Galloping Hill Park & Golf Course in Kenilworth on June 1.
The full list of award winners includes:
PATIENT CARE PARTNERS:
- Khaleel Canty, Supervisor Environmental Services/OR Team
- Betty Dagner, Secretary/Technician Surgical Services
- Robert Davis, Sr., Environmental Aide I
- William Green, Media Services Associates III
- Matthew Butera, Registered Dietitian
- Justin Kaplan PharmD, Clinical Pharmacy Specialist/Critical Care
- Michael Kurilko, Lead Radiation Therapist
- Jeanne Waxman, Speech Pathologist III
- Grace Gildea, RN, Operating Room
- Nicole Hradil, RN, Clinical Specialist ICU
- Joane Jones, RN, 2AB Orthopedic/Medical Surgical
- Sylvia Ylagan-Perlas, RN, Perianesthesia
- Jimmy Rainville, RN, ANM, Summit ED
- Debra Ann Schaffer, RN, Neuro ICU/Critical Care
- Anthony Forestine, MD, Vice Chairman Department of Emergency Medicine
- Jennifer Goodwin, PA-C, Bariatric Surgery
- David Hoffman, MD, Diagnostic Radiologist
- Basil Hubbi, MD, Medical Director Breast Center
- Manoj Shahane, MD, Chairman Department of Anesthesia
- Michael Weinrauch, MD, Section Chief, Cardiology
- GOT YOUR BACK: ICU 5 Team (Alyssa Jurtschenko, Kristen Kishbaugh, Myra Tahanlangit, Denice Hernandez , Diana Cardona , Arnel Augustine and Madeleine Deveraux)
- IF WE DO SAY SO OURSELVES: Mobility Team (Mobility team- Tameka Fong(transport), Darrius Munroe, Melisa Downer, David Hutchinson, Christine Bevensee/Michael Lima)
- AS ONE: The Caregiver Center Team (led by Vicki Kostis, RN Director, Nursing Medical Surgical, Marian Teehan, LCSW, and Valerie Gagliano, Caregiver Liaison)