Rewiring Our Approach to Neuroscience

The Neuroscience Institute at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, led by Alan Colicchio, M.D., medical director, offers the region’s most complete lineup of neuroscience services for stroke, spine injuries, concussion, epilepsy, brain tumors, movement, memory disorders and more; including the region’s only Stroke Rescue Center.

Hackensack Meridian Health offers a comprehensive range of neuroscience services at seven of our hospitals, including The Neuroscience Institutes at Hackensack University Medical Center and Jersey Shore University Medical Center. Together, this broad network of services brings together clinical experts, advanced technology, innovative treatments and patient-centered care to manage and treat conditions of the brain, spine and nervous system. Staffed by neurologists, neurosurgeons (pediatric and adult), researchers and specialists in neuro-immunology, neuro-oncology, neuropsychology, movement disorders and neuropathy, this team takes an interdisciplinary approach to care.

Jersey Shore Recognized as a Leader in Complex Stroke Care

In 2016, Jersey Shore University Medical Center was recognized by The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association as meeting The Joint Commission’s standards for Disease-Specific Care Comprehensive Stroke Center Certification, which means it is part of an elite group of providers focused on complex stroke care. Complex Stroke Centers are recognized as industry leaders and are responsible for setting the national agenda in highly-specialized stroke care. Comprehensive Stroke Center Certification recognizes those hospitals that have state-of-the-art infrastructure, staff and training to receive and treat patients with the most complex strokes. Jersey Shore underwent a rigorous onsite review in May 2016. Joint Commission experts reviewed Jersey Shore’s compliance with the Comprehensive Stroke Center standards and requirements including advanced imaging capabilities, 24/7 availability of specialized treatments, and staff with the unique education and competencies to care for complex stroke patients.

New Head of Neuroscience Institute Focused on Patient-Centered, Comprehensive Care
Dr. Florian Thomas’s treatment philosophy is to provide patient-centered, comprehensive care.

In November, Hackensack University Medical Center welcomed Florian P. Thomas, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Neuroscience Institute, chief of the Neurology Division at Hackensack University Medical Center and interim chair of the Department of Neurology. A practicing neurologist since 1987, Dr. Thomas previously served at St. Louis University Hospital, Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and the St. Louis VA Medical Center as a tenured professor in the departments of Neurology, Physical Therapy and Molecular Virology. There, he founded and directed the St. Louis VA Regional MS Center of Excellence and the St. Louis University National MS Society Multiple Sclerosis Center. As a former director of the Spinal Cord Injury Service at the St. Louis VA, where he also founded and directed the Pain Rehabilitation Service, he is very familiar with the needs of people with advanced MS. Dr. Thomas’s treatment philosophy is to provide patient-centered, comprehensive care. Patients with chronic illness can feel overwhelmed with the challenges of their own care and the goal is to offer accessible, centralized care so patients can see their providers during a single visit, to communicate effectively with each provider. The next step is to offer similar care at Jersey Shore University Medical Center covering the needs of patients in northern and central New Jersey.

Life Changing Neurosurgeries Double Over the Past Five Years

2016 saw the highest volume of neurosurgical procedures to date, system-wide. And, over the past five years, volume has doubled at The Neuroscience Institute at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. To support this surgical volume, Jersey Shore’s Neuro-ICU provides specialized, comprehensive care for severe neurological and neurosurgical conditions, and access to the region’s only designated comprehensive Stroke Rescue Center and Level II Trauma Center. Staffed with Magnet nurses and other specialists, the Institute is leading the way. Additionally this year, we’ve expanded our services for pediatric neurosurgery.

Multiple Sclerosis Center Brings New Hope to Patients

In October 2016, Hackensack University Medical Center opened a new Multiple Sclerosis Center. This center is dedicated to treating people with MS and related disorders such as neuromyelitis optica, transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. The new center will serve as a hub for clinical care, community engagement, research, training and education for the community. Our goal is to improve the quality of life and neurological function of people who live with such illnesses, to help them lead their lives to the fullest extent possible and to remain engaged in their families, their community and the workplace. Communication is critical for this chronic disease. At Hackensack Meridian Health, we need to provide easy access to state-of-the-art, comprehensive care and have providers communicate rapidly and directly with one another about patient care issues.

A Milestone in Stroke Care

The integration of technology into patient care has become an important part of health care. Launched throughout Monmouth and Ocean counties in 2016, the Telestroke Network ensures the best possible outcomes for all of our patients by enhancing the availability of stroke expertise when it is needed most.

In Telestroke, a “robot” enables suspected stroke patients to be seen by a board-certified neurologist within minutes of arrival at the Emergency Department – when every minute counts. By using videoconferencing and image sharing technology, a Telestroke neurologist, who can be located anywhere in the U.S., can examine a patient, assess them for stroke symptoms, directly communicate with them, and rapidly prescribe a treatment such as tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which can help to reverse the disability of certain types of stroke if given within the first three hours.

In addition to being able to zoom in on the patient and communicate directly with them, their family members, and the other patient care providers, Telestroke enables the physician to order and review tests to better determine what type of stroke the patient is experiencing and immediately recommend a treatment option. Patients are now receiving faster care, which leads to improved outcomes. In fact, the tPA administration rate saw a significant increase. Prior to the launch, the system rate was 11 percent; after the launch, the rate grew to 21.25 percent across the network.

Specialized Care for ALS

Under the leadership of Mary Sedarous, M.D., the ALS Center launched at Jersey Shore University Medical Center this year and is the only program dedicated to treating ALS in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Its collaboration with the ALS Association (ALSA) allows the center to exchange information and best-care practices with the nation’s leading physician experts and clinics – helping to ensure that people living with ALS in our region have access to specialized care. The center is also fortunate to have the support of the Joan Dancy and PALS Foundation, which provides valuable feedback, education and in-servicing to enhance the care experience. The foundations see the Hackensack Meridian ALS Center as a program that supports their mission; thus, the foundation able to provide consultative support to the center.

Excellence in Neuropathy

Also in October 2016, The Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation (HNF) announced its Centers of Excellence (COE) for the hereditary neuropathy patient community. These designated centers all demonstrate strengths in providing excellence in clinical care and research. This prestigious designation was given to Hereditary Neuropathy Center at Hackensack University Medical Center has been accredited by the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation as a Center of Excellence.