This year Deborah Heart and Lung Center turns 100! What a time to serve as president of New Jersey’s only specialty heart, lung, and vascular hospital.
I’ve been at Deborah for more than 40 years, and in that span of time I have had a front row seat to the significant advancements in pulmonary, cardiac and vascular care employed by our physicians and nurses, and have seen the introduction of many new and revolutionary treatments for our patients. Many of these lifesaving treatments, viewed as miraculous when first introduced, are now commonplace procedures performed every day.
While Deborah, located in Burlington County, is best known for its cardiac care, the hospital’s roots lie in pulmonary medicine. Founded in 1922 by a wealthy New York City philanthropist, Dora Moness Shapiro, Deborah was begun as a center of healing for tuberculosis sufferers. The open porches and fresh air of central New Jersey’s Pine Barrens was the perfect backdrop for those who needed to leave the crowds of the city for treatment. Mrs. Shapiro’s compassion extended not only to offering a medical safe haven for sick patients, but also to ensuring that no patient was turned away from Deborah because of an inability to pay.
To this day, Deborah continues Mrs. Shapiro’s mission, and in 100 years has never billed a patient for care at the hospital. This tradition has certainly presented challenges over the years, but it is also one of the most gratifying aspects of my work at Deborah. Serving as a life line for countless uninsured and underinsured patients over the years, many of our team members chose to work at Deborah specifically because of the hospital’s philosophy that “there is no price on life.”
Recent developments at the health center include treatments for central sleep apnea and abnormal heart rhythms. Click here to read more.
Deborah’s story as a cardiac specialty hospital began in the 1950s, as antibiotics virtually eradicated tuberculosis in the United States. In 1957, the board voted to add cardiac services to the Deborah offering. On July 28, 1958, pioneering heart surgeon Dr. Charles Bailey — subsequently featured on the cover of Time Magazine for his innovative surgical work — performed at Deborah what we believe to have been the first two open-heart surgeries in New Jersey; one on a 36-year-old woman and the other on a 3-year-old boy. Amazingly, the 3-year old boy — Bill DiMartino – remains in contact with Deborah today. As Bill looks back on his contribution to science and medicine in New Jersey, he often marvels at how much Deborah, and the procedures provided at the Center, have evolved in the last 65 years.
Bill’s story is just one example of Deborah’s legacy, a legacy that has over the last 100 years allowed for the healing of some 2.3 million patients with homes in every state in the U.S. and 87 countries around the world. These extraordinary statistics prove how one person’s quest to make the world a better place can create a surge of good for many.
Over the years, I have witnessed Deborah’s advancement through the work of our skilled physicians and nurses, the use of innovation in medical technology, the application of clinical research, and the ideas of medical/surgical Fellows, student nurses and others in the many Deborah medical education programs. This advancement, and our team’s commitment to our community and patients, makes Deborah a unique place to work and to get care.
It has been an honor and a privilege to be a part of the Deborah team and to help facilitate many of the innovations we have employed at the Center. To continue this legacy of excellence, we have commenced on a $108 million capital expansion project funded by the United States Department of Agriculture and private donors and supporters of Deborah.
This project will allow the Deborah team to meet the changing face of medicine and to continue to provide care at standards consistent with other world-class specialty hospitals. Once completed in early 2024, Deborah will be well-positioned to serve as a leader in quality care for the next 100 years. I congratulate this incredible institution, and those who work here now and who have gone before, on its 100th anniversary. I will not try and guess what Deborah will look like in another 100 years, but I am certain it, and those who work here, will be incredible.
Joseph Chirichella is president and CEO of the Deborah Heart and Lung Center and Deborah Hospital Foundation.