SUMMIT, NJ - Fittingly held as the nation marked 'Hospital Week', care providers throughout Overlook Medical Center gathered to recognize the hospital’s best and brightest clinical professional staff, including physicians, nurses, allied health professionals and patient care partners, at the hospital’s annual Clinical Excellence Awards Ceremony.

The annual event is organized by Overlook’s Community Advisory Board, administration and medical staff.

“At Overlook Medical Center, we all love what we do and always put our patients and their families as the focus of our efforts to create a Trusted Network of Caring,” said Alan Lieber, Overlook Medical Center President.

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Each winner was presented their award by a close colleague, who shared their personal insights into what made their co-worker stand out. Paul Rodgers, nurse practitioner in Overlook’s Neuro ICU, described meeting neuroscience nurse Maria Silva during her interview several years ago, as he presented her with one of the six nursing awards of the evening.

“She’s the person who you walk out to the unit and see her name on the board, and you know the day is going to be alright,” Rodgers said.

John Halperin, MD, medical director of the Atlantic Neuroscience Institute, presented neurosurgeon Yaron Moshel with a Physician Award noting not only Moshel’s achievements in treating brain tumors, but his connection to patients. “Not only is he technically superior, but to see him talk to patients and put them at ease is something special,” Halperin said.

The one awardee who every person in the room seemed familiar with was Danny McDuffie, the longtime greeter at Overlook’s front entrance. Clifford Sales, MD, Chief of Vascular Surgery at Overlook, described presenting a Patient Care Partner Award to Danny as “one of my greatest honors.”

Sales said he walked around Overlook asking various people to describe Danny in one word. The commonality he found in each person was the huge smile they made as they pondered the question.

“I think that summarizes why we are here to honor Danny tonight – his ability to make others feel good about themselves,” Sales continued. “Danny has a way of, quite simply, making people feel welcome and happy.  He crushes the anxiety of those walking into the hospital with his genuine warmth and his being.”

Sales noted how Danny’s affable and quick charm has made him so well known throughout the hospital, that he is recognized simply by his first name by nearly everyone at Overlook.

Danny, never a loss for kind and inspiring words, accepted his award with a grateful message of love and hope for the audience.

“Always put a warm spirit in your heart,” Danny urged. “So that when things aren’t the way they should be, you’ll always have a reason to smile.”

The testimonials offered a window to the close camaraderie among staff and doctors at Overlook – right down to nicknames.

Ann Oliva, executive director of the Overlook Foundation, delighted in presenting a Patient Care Partner Award to emergency department tech Leonard Pastore, whose work in the department earned him the name “El Presidente.” Pastore in turn thanked his supervisor nurse manager Sharon Kelly – “the Sheriff.”

Michael Rokhsar, MD, chairman of radiology, presented Christian Suarez, lead CT technologist at the Overlook Medical Center Union Campus, with an Allied Health Award, noting his reputation as “Mr. Fixit.”

“When our team needs a solution, we look to Chris for help,” Rokhsar said.

The event also helped highlight some of Overlook’s organizational and clinical achievements. As the Union Campus nears the 10-year anniversary of the transition from Union Hospital to a satellite campus of Overlook Medical Center, it is now seeing twice the emergency department visits as it did as a fully functioning hospital.

Christopher Amalfitano, MD, medical director of Overlook’s emergency department and president of the medical and dental staff, attributed much of that success to his colleague John Tyrrell, DO of emergency medicine, whom he presented with a Physician Award. Tyrrell had been serving at Union Hospital in 2007 and stayed when it transitioned to Overlook that year.

“He is the Union campus,” Amalfitano said of Tyrrell, who also won a Physician Award.

Each year the event highlights a team-based achievement that defies odds. Dubbed the “mission impossible” award, this year’s recognition went to the Neuro ICU for working to reduce Catheter Associated Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTIs), which are the most common type of healthcare-associated infection reported to the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN).

The cost of treating CAUTIs, though variable, can also be significant– adding an estimated $1,200 to $4,700 to patient costs for symptomatic episodes.

The most important risk factor for developing a CAUTI is prolonged use of  urinary catheters; however, decreasing their use in critical care areas can be challenging for care providers.  

Despite the odds, Overlook formed a multidisciplinary team spanning physicians, nurse practitioners, front line nurses, patient care technicians, radiology, transport, environmental, infection prevention, storeroom and administration to tackle the issue.

Through a bundle of best practices, the team was able to reduce use of catheters by about a third, and slashed the number of CAUTIs/year from 37 in 2014 down to just 4 in 2016 – an 89% reduction.

“Work like this involves changing practice and changing culture, the two most difficult achievements in health care. It is never, ever easy, but it is incredibly rewarding when we are able to make dramatic changes like this a reality,” said Charlene Ruggiero, RN, nurse manager of Overlook’s ICU and Neuro ICU. “Everyone at Overlook loves what they do, and want the absolute best care for patients.”

The full list of award winners includes:

Patient Care Partner Awards

Leonard Pastore, ED Tech  
Danny McDuffie, Greeter / Patient Experience
Ida Richardson, PCT / Neuroscience
Ignace Jean-Francois, PCT / PACU     

Nursing Awards

Mayra Giz-Marin, RN O/P Chemotherapy           
Cathy Traflet, RN Lactation Department                     
Randi Catequet, RN  ED                                          
Tammy Parker, RN ICU                                           
Maria Silva, RN Neuroscience                               
Jude Lark, RN ED                                                      

Physicians       

Charlesse Pondt, MD Medical Oncology                                                               
John Tyrrell, D.O. Emergency Medicine                                                                            
Yaron Moshel, MD Neurosurgery                
Nivedita Alla, MD Hospitalist/Internal Medicine
Robert Restifo, DO Pulmonary

Advanced Practice Nurse

Karen Macey-Stewart, APN Acute Pain Service / Anesthesia

Allied Health

Bonnie Nezlick, PT PhysicalTherapy / Speech Therapy   
Christian Suarez, Lead CT Technologist                           
Cathy Barnett, PT Lymphedema Specialist                     
Gaylord Barber, RRT Respiratory Therapy                      

Team        

Team CAUTI/Neuro ICU