Everyday Hero: Robert C. Garrett

Robert C. Garrett is the CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey’s largest health network with 17 hospitals, 500 patient care locations, 34,000 team members and 6,500 physicians. Under Mr. Garrett’s visionary leadership, the network is committed to helping people with diabetes manage their disease so they can enjoy an improved quality of life and avoid the debilitating complications caused by diabetes.

On May 18, Mr. Garrett will receive the Governor Brendon Byrne Humanitarian Award at our JDRF One Dream Gala in honor of innovative work that Hackensack Meridian Health has been able to achieve right here in our backyard.

Why are you so passionate about helping create a world without diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that puts strain on the patient and his/her family, has a myriad of complications, and can negatively impact the patient’s quality of life and productivity. Additionally, patients with diabetes have increased psychological distress and depression. That’s why we are so eager to eradicate this disease so people don’t have to suffer.

What about JDRF excites you the most?

I would say JDRF’s advocacy efforts for patients is what excites me most. It’s so important to let our patients know that they are not alone with this diagnosis. With such a dramatic increase in the number of people living with diabetes – 29 million Americans have some form of diabetes – it’s imperative that we invest more in finding a cure.

And, at Hackensack Meridian Health, our focus is on both type 1 and type 2 patients. It’s exciting to know that 80% of the research JDRF is funded will benefit people living with type 2 diabetes.

What initiatives are you overseeing at Hackensack Meridian Health to help people living with diabetes?

I am proud of the many initiatives underway at our network. Our experts conduct Interdisciplinary weekly team meetings so the care for our patients is comprehensive and coordinated which produces the best outcomes. In addition, we have a robust education program with registered dieticians to help patients adhere to the healthiest diet possible. We also have an impressive transition program when our patients reach 18 and beyond to help them manage in college and beyond when they leave home. Part of our comprehensive care includes monitoring our patients for depression and eating disorders which we can co-exist with this diagnosis.

And we support growing numbers of clinical research studies to advance our understanding of diabetes and to produce breakthroughs in treatment.

You may know that type 1 diabetes is on the rise in youth by 21%. How are your endocrinologists thinking about meeting the growing needs of this population?

We are working on many fronts simultaneously to be deliver more care to more patients. We are utilizing our resources better, creating group education programs and expanding convenient care options. We expect to increase tele-health options for patients, which is especially attractive to your younger patients.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge we face with diabetes?

The disease needs attention to detail and intense concentration, which many people – especially children – lack. Children don’t have executive functioning skill. Parents need to have that skill so they can properly manage their child’s chronic disease.

What are the shared benefits of the partnership between JDRF and Hackensack Meridian Health?

Our goal is to advance research with financial support. We are also interested in sharing in best practices with other major providers.

Hackensack Meridian Health has a long and successful partnership with JDRF through ongoing, regular collaboration with our clinicians and leaders. These forums have produced a host of educational opportunities, support networks and resources for both patients and caregivers.

For example, each year, JDRF distributes hundreds of care kits through our physician offices to newly diagnosed children and adults with tools and resources to help them on their journey. This is especially important as we jointly work towards building a community for these patients, that gives them access to resources and support.

Together our organizations host regularly scheduled educational seminars on topics most relevant to those living with diabetes. Last year we joined efforts to host a lecture educating patients on how to navigate their insurance benefits so that they are able to maximize their coverage. This was an important initiative as there can be several factors affecting the patient’s ability to manage their disease effectively.

Join Mr. Garrett and Hackensack Meridian Health on Saturday, May 18 at our JDRF One Dream Gala. Collaborative events between Hackensack Meridian Health and JDRF are regularly shared on our Calendar of Events.