It is not often that a high school sophomore, a "rock star" neurosurgeon and home care nurses share the same stage, but today, health care stakeholders were honored at the sixth annual Healthcare Heroes award ceremony.
The event, presented by NJBIZ, awarded innovators, educators and administrators leading the state through the rapidly changing health care landscape. The event attracted more than 350 attendees to The Palace at Somerset Park, in the Somerset section of Franklin.
Dr. Glenn Pomerantz, vice president and chief medical officer for presenting sponsor Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield New Jersey, told the audience that the only prerequisite for being a hero is to care. The insurer has sponsored the event for four consecutive years.
Winners included Children's Specialized Hospital, for hospital of the year; JFK Health System, for corporate achievement hero; and Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, for education hero organization, as well as many individuals.
Dr. Shabbar Danish, a neurosurgeon at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson, won the individual innovation hero award. Danish's introduction said when he was young, he wanted to be either an astronaut or a rock star — so he became a neurosurgeon.
Donna Albanese, volunteer of the year, was recognized for her deeply personal work for the NJ Sharing Network Foundation. Albanese donated a kidney to her mother and continues to work on behalf of others in need of organ transplants.
The youngest finalist was Jacklyn Rapport, a sophomore at the Health Science Academy, part of the Mercer County Technical School District. As part of a Girl Scouts project, Rapport put together a countywide science fair for middle school students to spark interest in science.
"I didn't expect to be here," Rapport said. "It was really strange to be in the room with Ph.D.'s and nurses, and being the only 15-year-old kid … I just thought it was going to be a science fair, I didn't think it would be that big of a deal."
Rapport's career aspiration is to become an Army doctor.
The nurse of the year, Susan Grinkevich, said her award is really a reflection of the entire staff at Holy Redeemer HomeCare and Hospice, in Elizabeth.
"I'm overwhelmed," said Grinkevich, an administrator. She added she will likely keep her award on her desk, but "I'll have to clear it off — I have lots of projects."