Newswise — JULY 31, 2020, Nutley, NJ – Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine is pleased to announce it has won the prestigious NOVA Award from the American Hospital Association – distinguishing it as just one of a handful of institutions across the country. 

The AHA Dick Davidson NOVA Award honors hospital-led collaborative efforts improving community health. The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine was honored for its contributions through the Human Dimension program, a key part of the curriculum which puts students out in the community to work on social determinants of health in day-to-day life. 

“The School of Medicine was just one of five programs in the nation to be awarded the American Hospital Association’s NOVA Award for improving community health,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, the CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health. “The Human Dimension and the innovative curriculum at this unique school are ensuring New Jersey communities, and beyond, will achieve high levels of wellness.” 

“The involved communities and the faculty, students and staff at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine are deeply honored to receive The NOVA Award honoring the Human Dimension program,” said Dean Bonita Stanton, M.D., of the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. “The HD program serves both as the platform for our curriculum and as tangible evidence to our commitment to the importance of community in health education and health care delivery.”   

“We are honored to partner with our communities for this transformational work,” said Carmela Rocchetti, M.D., director of the Human Dimension. “We strive to instill in our students that the patient is our teacher, the community is our classroom. We have found the most important learning comes from these valued partnerships. We look forward to evolving this unique program in the years to come.” 

The Human Dimension is a three-year course focused on “social determinants of health” – which include housing, food access and other standard-of-life factors. Pairs of medical students are matched with families in the community. The students come to know these individuals, families and communities very well—and in turn, the families and communities have become connected to the school. So far, nearly 150 families and 80 community partners have been touched by the program, in communities including Clifton, Nutley, Passaic, Paterson, Hackensack, Garfield, Bloomfield, West New York, Union City and groups spanning the State of New Jersey. 

The Human Dimension also links to classroom-based activities and small group mentorship with a faculty mentor, providing students with the critical knowledge, skills, and supervision to enrich the real-world learning. For instance, while a student is learning anatomy of the heart and risk factors for cardiovascular disease in their lab and classroom sessions, in the Human Dimension they review health histories with their families, and even go out to that family’s community and complete a “food map” — looking to see if there are sources of fresh fruits and vegetables or safe places to exercise in the family’s neighborhood and community. 

The AHA Dick Davidson NOVA Award recognizes health systems and hospitals for their collaborative efforts toward improving community health status, whether through health care, economic or social initiatives. Honorees participate in joint efforts among health care systems or hospitals, or among hospitals and other community leaders and organizations. “The most successful hospitals and health systems put in the work every day to improve the health of both patients and the communities they serve,” said AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack. “This year’s AHA Dick Davidson NOVA award winners demonstrated this commitment through partnerships and innovative programs that address urgent and immediate public health challenges.”



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. Hackensack Meridian Health assumed its independent operation in July 2020. The school’s vision is that each person in New Jersey, and in the United States, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, will enjoy the highest levels of wellness in an economically and behaviorally sustainable fashion. The School’s unique curriculum focuses on linking the basic science with clinical relevance, through an integrated curriculum in a team-oriented, collaborative environment. The school prides itself on outreach, through programs like the Human Dimension, which is active in communities across New Jersey.



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 34,100 team members, and 6,500 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 hospitals among the top 10 in New Jersey by U.S. News and World 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. 

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. 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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