Long Hill TWP, NJ – As he stood before a room full of colleagues from Overlook Medical Center, George Adzanu listened with quiet pride as his story was told.
It was a story about how George, a patient care technician in his native Ghana, came to America seeking a better life, despite not having a position in his chosen field available to him when he arrived. Undeterred, he took a different one – an attendant in Overlook’s parking lots – and waited patiently until a better one came along.
Three years later, one did, in Overlook’s environmental services. He was now “in the building,” his director, Charlene Ruggiero recounted, as she built up to another three years later, when a position in Overlook’s storied neuro ICU opened up – patient care technician. Adzanu applied.
Now in the position for three years, Adzanu had not only found his way back to the work he loved, but was being celebrated for it, in style, at the hospital’s annual Clinical Excellence Awards, where he was one of 20 Overlook team members and care teams who received awards for going above and beyond their duties. The event was held at the Primavera Regency in Stirling.
“I am so grateful for the chance to prove myself,” Adzanu said humbly. “I am so privileged to be here today.”
Ruggiero couldn’t have been prouder as she recalled interviewing Adzanu for the position.
“Patient care is his passion,” said Ruggiero, RN Director, Critical Care Services. “If we had more people like George, the world would be a better place.”
In addition to his colleagues, Adzanu was also joined at the event by members of his family, who joined him in 2017 in the U.S., eight years after he first arrived – his wife, Cynthia, who also now works at Overlook as an environmental aide working in the ICU, and two of his three sons, Emmanuel, 10, and Kelvin, 6. His eldest son, Benedict, 21, was unable to attend as he was in training, preparing to join the U.S. Army.
“We are, really, the American dream,” Adzanu said later that evening.
The awards are given in categories, such as the one Adzanu shared with three others who received the Patient Care Partner Award. Six nurses were honored in that category, and four physicians. The Allied Health Award honored four more individuals, including pharmacists, a respiratory therapist and a member of the cardiology team.
One of the presenters, Samantha Pozner, MD, president of Overlook’s medical and dental staff, noted that the awards underscored how important each specialty is to the care at Overlook.
“Whatever we do, as part of this medical center, matters and is important,” Pozner said. “We can all help a patient or family member have a positive experience.”
In addition to on-stage praise from Eric Whitman, MD, Medical Director, Atlantic Health System Cancer Care, Lee Starker, MD, PhD. a general/oncologic surgeon at Overlook, was presented one of the night’s Physician Awards by another longtime fan of his achievements – his father, Paul, who is chair of the department of surgery at Overlook.
The “elder Starker” as he is known by some in the hospital, enumerated the younger surgeon’s litany of academic, medical and research accomplishments, before sharing some recollections of his son growing up that demonstrated attributes critical to excellence in surgery.
“When Lee was around 10, I was going on a business trip and as I was coming down the stairs my suitcase ripped. He immediately got a needle and thread and stitched it back together. I knew then the kid had potential,” Paul Starker said, alluding to Lee’s technical excellence.
On perseverance: “He was entering his sophomore year in high school when he decided to switch from basketball to hockey. He needed to learn to skate and stick handle and didn’t have much time to do it,” Starker recalled. “I tried to dissuade him but he dug in and took lessons and practiced and by senior year he was a starting defenseman and co-captain at Summit High.”
And finally, on compassion, the elder Starker told of when Lee was a third year med student in Brooklyn. “He was assigned to a patient with a terminal diagnosis. He spent the time explaining the disease and the options of treatment and helped that patient make the difficult choice of how he wanted to spend the final days of his life.”
"So long ago, way back then, I knew that one day, we'd be here,” he said before embracing his son and presenting him with the award.
Overlook president Alan Lieber presented awards to two care teams at Overlook. The President’s Award for Heroic Care was presented to Overlook’s Maternity Center care team for their work in treating a woman who experienced a serious condition following childbirth.
“The team was exceptional - across units, specialties, and quite literally across the hospital,” said Fran Drigun, RN, executive director of Women’s Services for Atlantic Health System, who accepted the award.
Lieber also presented the Team Award to the COPD Readmission team, which in 2018 drastically reduced readmissions of COPD patients to Overlook through a multi-faceted approach that involved bedside education, follow-up care after discharge, and coordination with nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, residents and hospitalists.
In fact, through the team’s efforts, Overlook had several months in 2018 with zero COPD readmissions.
“This team’s work across the care continuum and departmental lines, and their fierce commitment to quality improvement shows how coordination results in better patient outcomes,” Lieber said. “They have set an example for other teams to emulate throughout Overlook.”
The full list of winners includes:
Patient Care Partners
- Barbara Slavin, Patient Experience
- Carolyn Williams, Patient Transporter
- Kathy Belfiore, Patient Liaison
- George Adzanu, PCT Neuro ICU
- Amulya Uppala, Clinical Pharmacist/Transitions of Care
- Jeri Jacobson, Respiratory Therapy
- Jessica Stemple. Oncology Pharmacy
- Xin Wang, Non Invasive Cardiology
- Althea Chin, RN 2AB/Ortho & Med/Surgical
- Gina Maguire, RN 3AB/Oncology
- Jaclyn Pastena Greico, RN Maternity
- Kimberly Colasanti, RN Oncology Infusion
- Kelly Rogers, RN ICU
- Susan Dooley, RN Emergency Dept.
President’s Award For Heroic Care
- Maternity Center Care Team (accepted by Fran Drigun, RN executive director of Women’s Services for Atlantic Health System)
- Gina LaCapra, MD Internal Medicine
- Lee Starker, MD General/Oncologic Surgeon
- Shibani Bhattacharyya, MD Anesthesiology
- John Hanna, MD Neurology/Stroke Program
- COPD Readmission Team (accepted by Mary Farrell, RN, COPD Team Nurse Manager)
About Atlantic Health System
Atlantic Health System is at the forefront of medicine, setting standards for quality health care in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the New York metropolitan area. Powered by a workforce of more than 16,800 team members and 4,800 affiliated physicians dedicated to building healthier communities, Atlantic Health System serves more than half of the state of New Jersey including 11 counties and 4.9 million people. The system offers more than 400 sites of care, including six hospitals: Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, NJ, Overlook Medical Center in Summit, NJ, Newton Medical Center in Newton NJ, Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains, NJ, Hackettstown Medical Center in Hackettstown, NJ and Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown, NJ.
In addition to the employed workforce, Atlantic Alliance, a Clinically Integrated Network represents more than 2,500 health care providers throughout northern and central NJ. This network includes 1,000 physicians and providers comprising one of the largest multi-specialty practices in New Jersey - Atlantic Medical Group, as well as members of the Atlantic Accountable Care Organization and Optimus Healthcare Partners which work to enhance patient care delivery.
Atlantic Health System provides care for the full continuum of health care needs including 12 urgent care centers, Atlantic Rehabilitation and Atlantic Home Care and Hospice. Facilitating the connection between these services on both land and air is the transportation fleet of Atlantic Mobile Health.
Atlantic Health System leads the Healthcare Transformation Consortium, a partnership of seven regional hospitals and health systems dedicated to improving access and affordability and is a founding member of the PIER Consortium – Partners in Innovation, Education, and Research – a streamlined clinical trial system that will expand access to groundbreaking research across seven health systems in New Jersey.
Atlantic Health System has a medical school affiliation with Thomas Jefferson University and is home to the regional campus of the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Morristown and Overlook Medical Centers and is the official health care partner of the New York Jets.