SUMMIT, NJ AUGUST 2011 –Throughout the years, Cathy Cerutti, a social worker at the Valerie Fund Children’s Center at Morristown Medical Center, has been a source of compassion amid hardship, support during triumphs against the disease, and comfort in times of loss for hundreds of families of children diagnosed with cancer. It is these qualities that the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey recognized when it recently presented Cerutti with the 2011 Lester Z. Lieberman Humanism in Healthcare Award.
The Lieberman Humanism in Healthcare Award recognizes hospital and long-term care facility employees, nursing students, and nursing faculty who treat patients and their families with exceptional compassion and kindness and infuse these exemplary practices into health care.
Cerutti, a licensed clinical social worker who has worked within the field of pediatric hematology and oncology for more than 20 years, works with families and pediatric patients diagnosed with cancer and other blood disorders, following them on both an inpatient and outpatient basis and provides psychosocial support, counseling and intervention.
“The Humanism in Healthcare Award is a wonderful recognition and honor. However, children with cancer and blood disorders, and their families, are the real heroes,” Cerutti said. “I am privileged to help them along their journey toward healing.”
Charlotte Intile, a coordinator in the Continuum of Care department for Morristown Medical, who nominated Cerutti for the award, noted that Cerutti adapts her efforts to fit the needs of her patients and families, based on their developmental stages, psychosocial status and best learning style, taking into consideration that this could change during times of crisis. She employs a variety of techniques including play therapy for younger patients, talking directly with teens and adolescents to give them a sense of empowerment, and counseling to parents as they navigate the path of their child’s treatment.
Culturally sensitive to her patients and families, Cerutti also utilizes a number of tools to overcome cultural and language barriers, such as a special device that translates speech in other languages and patient education materials in different languages. When unfamiliar with a particular ethnicity or religion, Cerutti will research it for a better understanding.
“Cathy ‘starts where the patient is,’ and tailors her practice to best meet their needs,” Intile said. “To her patients and families, Cathy provides an ear to listen to, the compassion necessary to provide support and empathy, as well as the encouragement needed by our patients and families. She also carries this through to her team, who often turn to her in times of patient loss or difficult diagnosis. Her spirit is infectious, and she stands as a model for all at the Valerie Center as a compassionate, effective and caring healthcare worker.”
Cerutti’s dedication to pediatric cancer patients and their families extends beyond regular hospital visits and treatment. It is not unusual for her to come in after hours or on a weekend to meet with a family whose child has just been diagnosed or to provide support to a family whose child is dying. She takes on the role of advocating for patients, seeing to it that any obstacles standing in the way of their healing are addressed. For several years, she has played an active role in the annual Two Kids Car Show, which raises money for families of pediatric cancer patients who are in financial need.
Cerutti attends funerals for patients who have died, and follows up with these families during and after these difficult times. Cerruti is also instrumental in coordinating the Valerie Center’s annual memorial service, in which children who have died are remembered.
The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey is a private non-profit entity founded in 1996 by the Jewish community to support the healthcare needs of underserved and vulnerable adults and children in the Essex, Morris and Union counties. The Lester Z. Lieberman Humanism in Healthcare Award is a signature program of the foundation.
About Atlantic Health System
Atlantic Health System is one of the largest non-profit health care systems in New Jersey, comprised of Morristown Medical Center, Overlook Medical Center in Summit and Newton Medical Center. The three medical centers – all accredited by The Joint Commission – have a combined total of 1,308 licensed beds and more than 2,750 affiliated physicians providing a wide array of health care services to the residents of Northern and Central New Jersey. Specialty service areas include advanced cardiovascular care, pediatric medical and surgical specialties, neurology, orthopedics, and sports medicine. Each of these programs has earned top ratings and recognitions in their respective fields. Atlantic Health System is the official health care partner of the New York Jets and an official health care provider of the New Jersey Devils.
Morristown Medical Center’s Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute performs more heart surgeries than any other hospital in New York or New Jersey, and is one of 20 facilities across the country to perform catheter-based repair and replacement of valves on both sides of the heart. Atlantic Health System’s spine program – where surgeons perform more spine surgery than anywhere else in New Jersey – is one of just 13 hospitals across the country that has received the Gold Seal of Approval™ from The Joint Commission, achieving Disease-Specific Care Certification for cervical and lumbar spine treatments. With the Atlantic Neuroscience Institute based at Overlook Medical Center, the hospital serves as the hub for the New Jersey Stroke Network, and serves about 40 percent of the state’s stroke patients. The system’s Goryeb Children’s Hospital offers more than 100 board-certified physicians in 20 pediatric specialties. Morristown Medical Center is verified as a Level I Regional Trauma Center by the American College of Surgeons and designated a Level II by the state of New Jersey.
Atlantic Health System has been chosen for the past three consecutive years by FORTUNE® as one of the magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For®.” The organization has also been recognized four times by AARP as one of the “Best Employers for Workers over 50.” Inside Jersey magazine partnered with Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. and ranked Morristown Medical Center as the No. 1 hospital in New Jersey and the No. 1 hospital for treatment of heart failure and coronary surgery in the state. The survey findings also establish Overlook as No.1 for the treatment of neurological disorders and No. 2 for stroke treatment in NJ. Atlantic Health System is a Major Clinical Research Affiliate with The Cancer Institute of New Jersey and is the primary academic and clinical affiliate in New Jersey of Mount Sinai School of Medicine and The Mount Sinai Hospital.