Newswise — HACKENSACK, N.J. (DATE TK) — Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center has established an interprofessional Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Center which brings together all of the specialists a patient and family may need in one clinic, during one visit. The new ALS Center is the second such program in the Hackensack Meridian Health network, the other being at Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

Commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, ALS affects the function of the motor system and the muscles it connects to. This neurodegenerative disease progressively destroys nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Patients lose their ability to move, experience problems with speaking, eating, and swallowing, and in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed — leading to significant disability and ultimately death. The typical survival time is three years. There is no cure, making research to understand and better manage ALS all the more important. 

"Just over than 6,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year, which translates to 15 new cases a day, and more than 20,000 Americans have the disease at any given time," said Robert Connors, M.D., neurologist and neuromuscular specialist who directs the ALS Center with Florian Thomas, M.D., Ph.D., chair, Department of Neurology and Neuroscience Institute, Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center, and Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. "Families watch in despair as patients lose their ability to walk, dress, write, speak, swallow, and breathe. It is our goal to support patients and families as much as we can using the latest approaches to give them the best lives possible, with the goal of someday reducing the burden of this disease through the development of effective treatments."

At Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center's ALS Center, patients have access to all of the health care experts they need, including specialists from neurology, nursing, health psychology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, social work, nutrition, speech/language pathology, and palliative care. Services include:

  • Neurological evaluation to make and confirm the correct diagnosis
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Swallow and speech therapy
  • Nutritional guidance and support
  • Nursing care
  • Respiratory care
  • Psychological support
  • Social services

“This new center will provide our patients with the latest comprehensive medical services to improve their quality of life and that of their family members,” said Mark Sparta, president and chief hospital executive, Hackensack University Medical Center. “I believe it and will pave the way for the future of ALS care.”

Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center is a member of the Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS), a group of research centers recognized for their ability to perform clinical trials in people with ALS and other motor neuron diseases. Dr. Thomas collaborated with colleagues at NIH, Harvard and Johns Hopkins on a study of juvenile ALS that will soon appear in Nature Medicine. Together with the ALS Association, the integrated interprofessional team of experts offers comprehensive care and provides the support, services, and assistive devices needed to enable patients to optimize independence in their daily lives.

"There may not be a cure for ALS, but we are committed to providing comprehensive, easily accessible care to support patients and their families as soon as they are diagnosed," explained Dr. Thomas.

"Patients need to see multiple providers to get the care they need. Our center provides comprehensive care using a one-stop-shopping model. The providers come to the patient, rather than having the patient go from provider to provider," added Claire Gibbons, P.T., Director of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Hackensack University Medical Center.

To learn more about ALS care at Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center or to make an appointment, please call 551-996-8100.



Hackensack University Medical Center, a 771-bed nonprofit teaching and research hospital, is the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient services in New Jersey. Founded in 1888 as Bergen County's first hospital, it was the first hospital in New Jersey and second in the nation to become a Magnet®-recognized hospital for nursing excellence. The academic flagship of Hackensack Meridian Health, Hackensack University Medical Center's campus is home to facilities such as John Theurer Cancer Center, the Heart & Vascular Hospital, and the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women’s and Children’s Pavilion. Recognized as being in the top 1% of hospitals in the nation and #2 in New Jersey by U.S. News & World Report’s 2020-21 "Best Hospitals" Honor Roll, Hackensack University Medical Center also ranked as high-performing in cancer care, cardiology and heart surgery, gastroenterology and GI surgery, geriatrics, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, pulmonology, and urology. Hackensack University Medical Center’s comprehensive clinical research portfolio includes studies focused on precision medicine, translational medicine, immunotherapy, cell therapy, and vaccine development.



Hackensack Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit health care organization that is the largest, most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care.

Hackensack Meridian Health comprises 17 hospitals from Bergen to Ocean counties, which includes three academic medical centers – Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, JFK Medical Center in Edison; two children’s hospitals - Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital in Hackensack, K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital in Neptune; nine community hospitals – Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel, Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, Pascack Valley Medical Center in Westwood, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, and Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin; a behavioral health hospital – Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead; and two rehabilitation hospitals - JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison and Shore Rehabilitation Institute in Brick.

Additionally, the network has more than 500 patient care locations throughout the state which include ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, home health services, long-term care and assisted living communities, ambulance services, lifesaving air medical transportation, fitness and wellness centers, rehabilitation centers, urgent care centers and physician practice locations. Hackensack Meridian Health has more than 36,000 team members, and 7,000 physicians and is a distinguished leader in health care philanthropy, committed to the health and well-being of the communities it serves.

The network’s notable distinctions include having four of its hospitals are among the top hospitals in New Jersey for 2020-21, according to U.S. News & World Report. Additionally, the health system has more top-ranked hospitals than any system in New Jersey. Children’s Health is again ranked a top provider of pediatric health care in the United States and earned top 50 rankings in the annual U.S. News’ 2020-21 Best Children’s Hospitals report.   Other honors include consistently achieving Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and being named to Becker’s Healthcare’s “150 Top Places to Work in Healthcare/2019” list.

The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, the first private medical school in New Jersey in more than 50 years, welcomed its first class of students in 2018 to its On3 campus in Nutley and Clifton. The Hackensack Meridian Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI), housed in a fully renovated state-of-the-art facility, seeks to translate current innovations in science to improve clinical outcomes for patients with cancer, infectious diseases and other life-threatening and disabling conditions.

Additionally, the network partnered with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to find more cures for cancer faster while ensuring that patients have access to the highest quality, most individualized cancer care when and where they need it.

Hackensack Meridian Health is a member of AllSpire Health Partners, an interstate consortium of leading health systems, to focus on the sharing of best practices in clinical care and achieving efficiencies.

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