Newswise — Edison, NJ – June 7, 2021 Helena Theurer, friend and dedicated supporter of Hackensack Meridian Health, was awarded the 2021 Pontifical Hero Award from the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Cura Foundation at their Fifth International Vatican Conference, held virtually from May 6 - 8, 2021, after being nominated by Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health

The conference, originally scheduled to take place at the Aula Nuova Del Sinodo in Vatican City, united the foremost leading physicians, scientists, leaders of faith, ethicists, patient advocates, policymakers, philanthropists and influencers to engage in powerful conversations on the latest breakthroughs in medicine, health care delivery and prevention, as well as the anthropological scientific and cultural impact of technological advances.

The Pontifical Hero Award for Inspiration honors individuals who – through their generosity, compassion, wisdom and leadership – have inspired hope. Those who receive the distinguished honor have worked tirelessly to improve human health and increase the quality of life around the world. The Pontifical Council for Culture and the Cura Foundation awarded Theurer the 2021 Pontifical Hero Award for Inspiration in recognition of her generous philanthropy and unwavering dedication to the collective fight against cancer.

“I was honored to nominate Helena, our beloved friend of many years, for the 2021 Pontifical Hero Award for Inspiration,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, CEO, Hackensack Meridian Health. “Throughout the years, Helena has embraced our shared responsibility to the patients and communities who depend on Hackensack Meridian Health, and her support has allowed us to transform cancer care in New Jersey and beyond. We are grateful for Helena’s friendship and support, and I congratulate her on receiving this well-deserved award.” 

Theurer, the only woman to receive the Pontifical Hero Award for Inspiration this year, joins other motivational leaders in receiving the distinct honor, including:

  • Stéphane Bancel, for leadership and steadfast dedication to protecting all humanity;
  • Max Gomez, Ph.D., for educating the public, leading by example and providing hope to millions;
  • Emmanuel “Manny” Ohonme, for providing hope to millions of children around the world;
  • Frank J. Sasinowski, J.D., MPH, for his unwavering advocacy for those with rare diseases;
  • Stephen Shaya, M.D., for promoting social change through commitment and work to improve human health and preserve the environment; and 
  • Andrew C.  von Eschenbach, M.D., for leadership in bridging the gap between science and faith. 

“I thank the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Cura Foundation for this wonderful award,” said Theurer. “I am very honored to be nominated by Mr. Garrett and to receive the 2021 Pontifical Hero Award for Inspiration. I feel very blessed that I can do what I can do, and I hope to continue for many years. I am very much inspired by Hackensack University Medical Center and John Theurer Cancer Center, as well as Mr. Garrett, Dr. Andre Goy and their teams. They do great work in fighting cancer, and I am so glad to be a part of it."

In 2008, Theurer made a leadership gift of $10 million to establish Hackensack Meridian John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center, named in tribute to her late husband, John. Last year, she generously gifted $25 million, the largest gift received in the network’s history, to Hackensack University Medical Center to further advance cancer research and transform clinical care at John Theurer Cancer Center, led by Andre Goy, M.D., chairman and chief physician officer,  John Theurer Cancer Center, and physician in chief, Oncology Care Transformation Service, Hackensack Meridian Health

In honor of her generous philanthropy, Hackensack University Medical Center dedicated and named its newest building on its campus, the Helena Theurer Pavilion. The Helena Theurer Pavilion is scheduled to be completed in fall of 2022.

To support the Helena Theurer Pavilion or to make a gift with thanks and recognition in honor of Helena Theurer, please click here or contact Clare Ward, interim executive director, Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation, at [email protected]


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 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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