The EJI Excellence in Medicine Awards® are awarded annually to honor those exemplary physicians and leaders whose dedication to medical care, education, research and public service has significantly impacted the delivery of healthcare in New Jersey and around the nation.
Profits from this annual event will be dedicated to the Excellence in Medicine Scholarship Fund; significant scholarships are provided to medical and healthcare students who represent the values of the Foundation and intend to practice in New Jersey.
This year, we will be holding our first ever virtual awards ceremony. While we may be celebrating differently than prior years, we believe this event will be just as impactful.
Visit ejifoundation.org for further event information and sponsorship opportunities.
Our 2021 Honorees
- John F. Bonamo, MD, MS – Outstanding Healthcare Executive Award
- Steven K. Libutti, MD – Outstanding Healthcare Executive Award
- Marco A. Zarbin, MD, PHD – EJI Physician’s Award®
- Linda Boyd, DO – Outstanding Medical Educator Award
- Eric G. Jahn, MD – Verice M. Mason Community Service Leader Award
- Vivian Bellofatto, PhD – Outstanding Scientist Award
- Davis S. Perlin, PhD – Outstanding Scientist Award
- Trish O’Keefe, PhD, RN – Peter W. Rodino, Jr. Citizen’s Award®
- Joseph V. Ditrolio, MD – Special Award for Innovation
- Charles J. Gatt, Jr., MD, & Michael G. Dunn, PhD – Special Award for Innovation
Our 2021 Honorees
Outstanding Healthcare Executive Awards
This award is presented to an executive in a healthcare-related organization or field who has demonstrated exceptional leadership in the enhancement of patient care and medical practice in New Jersey. There are two recipients in this award category this year.
JOHN F. BONAMO, MD, MS
John F. Bonamo, MD, MS, is Executive Vice President and Chief Medical and Quality Officer, RWJBarnabas Health (RWJBH).
Dr. John F. Bonamo is a physician executive with a distinguished clinical background in obstetrics and gynecology and a proven track record in hospital leadership. In 1981, after earning his medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and completing his residency at Saint Barnabas Medical Center (SBMC), Dr. Bonamo joined the hospital’s medical staff. In 2000, he became Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs at SBMC and in 2001 was appointed President and CEO.
Dr. Bonamo was named Executive Vice President and Chief Medical and Quality Officer of RWJBarnabas Health in 2015. In this role, he leads the system’s journey as a high reliability organization, an initiative to secure top-tier clinical outcomes and deliver the highest quality care and safest experience for patients and the RWJBH workforce. Dr. Bonamo is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and of the American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and is a member of the New Jersey Obstetrical and Gynecological Society. He is board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Dr. Bonamo holds a Master of Science in Health Care Management from Harvard’s School of Public Health and guest lectures in the Health Policy and Management Department. Since 2006, Dr. Bonamo has been a faculty member of the Beijing University International Management Program, teaching in the U.S. and China. He serves as visiting Professor in the University of Beijing master’s program for hospital management.
STEVEN K. LIBUTTI, MD, FACS
Steven K. Libutti, MD, FACS, is a distinguished physician who has made significant contributions in the field of oncology. In his roles as Director of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) and Vice Chancellor for Cancer Programs at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, he is committed to enhancing the delivery of high-quality care. Concurrently, Dr. Libutti serves as Senior Vice President of Oncology Services for RWJBarnabas Health (RWJBH), where he is responsible for the oversight and management of oncology services. His dual posts strengthen the successful public-private partnership between RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers University, ensuring the integration of the clinical and research missions of CINJ and RWJBH. Drawing from his outstanding background in administration and research, Dr. Libutti has made great advances as the Director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center, New Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI)–designated treatment center. He also spearheaded and is leading the New Jersey Statewide Cancer Programs Collaboration, a statewide taskforce implemented in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic to address oncology-related issues and needs across New Jersey.
As a surgical oncologist, Dr. Libutti is internationally renowned in endocrine surgery and the management of neuroendocrine tumors. Dr. Libutti graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College and earned his medical degree from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. He completed his residency at New York Presbyterian Hospital and his fellowship at NCI. He has published more than 300 peer-reviewed articles, is Editor-in-Chief of the Nature Journal Cancer Gene Therapy and holds 11 U.S. patents. He is also a Professor of Surgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and an Affiliated Distinguished Professor in Genetics at Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences.
EJI Physician’s Award®
This award is presented to a New Jersey physician for dedication and extraordinary service to the profession and to the citizens of the state.
MARCO A. ZARBIN, MD, PHD
Marco A. Zarbin, MD, PhD, is Chair of the Institute of Ophthalmology and Visual Science, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and Chief of Ophthalmology at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey. A Professor of Ophthalmology and Neuroscience, Dr. Zarbin is the Alfonse A. Cinotti, MD/Lions Eye Research Chair and directs the Ocular Cell Transplantation Laboratory.
Dr. Zarbin graduated from Dartmouth College (κβΦ, with highest distinction) and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Medical Scientist Training Program, αΘα) and completed resident and fellowship training (vitreoretinal surgery and medical retina) at the Wilmer Ophthalmological Institute.
He has published 259 peer-reviewed papers and editorials, 123 book chapters, one book on age-related macular degeneration, two books on stem cell therapy for degenerative retinal disease and two books on the management of diabetic retinopathy. Dr. Zarbin is a Vice Chair of the Foundation Fighting Blindness Scientific Advisory Board; Editor-in-Chief of Translational Vision Science and Technology; a member of the editorial boards of Ophthalmology, Ophthalmology Retina and the Journal of Vitreoretinal Diseases; and is a member of Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis.
Dr. Zarbin has received the Community Contribution Award from the Seton Hall Law School Peter W. Rodino, Jr. Society, the Heed Ophthalmic Foundation Award, the Visionary of the Year Award from the Lions Eye Bank of New Jersey and the Life Achievement Honor Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Outstanding Medical Educator Award
This award is presented to a medical educator who has made an outstanding contribution to graduate or undergraduate medical education in New Jersey.
LINDA BOYD, DO
Linda Boyd, DO, recently served as Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Family Medicine, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (SOM).
A graduate of UMDNJ School of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Boyd has 33 years of experience in academic medicine and a record of excellence in education, funded research, course administration and medical school administration, including 12 years of experience as a Dean. She previously worked at the New Jersey Medical School in Newark, where she was Course Director in a comprehensive doctoring course, a Clerkship Director in family medicine and the Interim Dean for curriculum. Before joining RowanSOM, she worked at Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia, where she was the Associate Dean for Regional Campus Coordination. She was responsible for developing and then managing four regional campuses in the state of Georgia. Since joining RowanSOM in 2013, she helped the transition from UMDNJ to Rowan University, increased the class size and worked toward an additional medical school location. Dr. Boyd is board certified in Family Medicine and practiced in Sewell, New Jersey until recently. Dr. Boyd has accepted a position as Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs at West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine starting in July 2021.
Her interests in teaching and research are in evidence-based medicine and non-cognitive domains in medical education, such as empathy, burnout and resilience. Her passion is to try to build a medical school environment and curriculum that is “kinder and gentler” and allows students to maintain some level of balance throughout their training.
Verice M. Mason Community Service Leader Award
This award is presented to an individual who has personified, led and provided the vision for an organization, and to the organization served, for extraordinary commitment to improving the health and welfare of the citizens of New Jersey.
ERIC G. JAHN, MD
Eric G. Jahn, MD, will accept the Verice M. Mason Community Service Leader Award on behalf of the Eric B. Chandler Health Center. Dr. Jahn is Senior Associate Dean for Community Health, Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health and Division Chief of Community Health at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS).
In his role as Senior Associate Dean for Community Health, Dr. Jahn is responsible for oversight of the community health mission of RWJMS. Major activities in this mission include the following: the Eric B. Chandler Health Center, medical student community-based service learning initiatives, community-based health improvement projects, a community interpreter program and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Project ECHO™, a telementoring program that increases primary care providers’ capabilities to care for complex patients.
Before his appointment as the Senior Associate Dean, Dr. Jahn served as the Medical Director of the Eric B. Chandler Health Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center operated by Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in conjunction with the Eric B. Chandler Community Board, Inc. Dr. Jahn served in this capacity from 1993 to 2009 and was Principal Investigator on its Ryan White funded initiatives. Dr. Jahn has been involved with numerous initiatives at the Chandler Health Center to improve medical practice outcomes and improve health disparities.
Dr. Jahn earned his AB degree at Princeton University and received his medical degree from UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. He completed his residency and fellowship in general internal medicine at the University of California Irvine Medical Center. Dr. Jahn maintains a practice in general internal medicine at the Eric B. Chandler Health Center.
Outstanding Scientist Awards
This award is presented to an individual or individuals who have made important contributions leading to advances in treatment. There are two recipients in this award category this year.
VIVIAN BELLOFATTO, PHD
Vivian Bellofatto, PhD, is Professor and Interim Chair, Department of Microbiology, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
Dr. Bellofatto received her undergraduate degree from Douglass College, Rutgers University, graduating with high honors in Biological Sciences under the mentorship of Dr. Evelyn Witkin. She received her PhD from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and completed a post-doc at the prestigious Rockefeller University in New York. Her area of research is infectious diseases.
Dr. Bellofatto’s research is focused on determining how mRNAs are metabolized in parasites of medical importance, namely, the protozoa Trypanosoma hemoflagellates. During the past 32 years, she gained the expertise and knowledge base of necessary reagents to carry out her research, initially studying RNA metabolism in bacteria as part of her PhD thesis project, thus developing a broad background in prokaryotic and eukaryotic RNA metabolism. Dr. Bellofatto developed the first DNA transfection system for trypanosome parasites, setting the groundwork for the expansion of her laboratory from studying RNA transcription to RNA degradation and mRNA translation at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in 1993. Dr. Bellofatto’s work has been featured in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the American Heart Association and other agencies since 1991. She has been a permanent member of several NIH review panels. In 2017, she was elected Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Bellofatto’s laboratory continues to demonstrate a record of productive, creative and important research that leads to significant understanding of eukaryotic gene expression, trypanosome-specific molecular processes and infectious disease control.
DAVID S. PERLIN, PHD
David S. Perlin, PhD, serves as the inaugural Chief Scientific Officer for the Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI), which seeks to rapidly translate innovations in science to improve outcomes for patients with cancer, infectious diseases and autoimmune disorders.
Dr. Perlin has been engaged for more than 30 years in developing molecular insights and technologies to detect, combat and prevent deadly fungal, bacterial and viral infections. Prior to joining CDI, Dr. Perlin was Executive Director and Professor at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School’s Public Health Research Institute and Director of the Rutgers Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL), one of 13 NIH-designated national centers for pathogen research.
Under Dr. Perlin’s leadership, his group has provided important insights about drug resistance and its emergence and has developed important molecular detection platforms for pathogen detection. During COVID-19, his group established an early novel FDA EUA-approved COVID-19 molecular test, jointly developed a highly successful high-titer convalescent plasma therapy program for hospitalized COVID-19 patients with clinical partners, and engaged in drug discovery against SARS-CoV-2 with pharma and biotech partners.
Dr. Perlin has published more than 280 papers and book chapters and has co-authored two books. His laboratory is supported by multiple grants from the pharma and biopharma sectors and the NIH, which has continuously funded him for more than 30 years. He currently leads an NIH-designated National Center of Excellence in Translational Research (CETR) to discover novel anti-infectives against drug-resistant bacterial and viral infections.
Dr. Perlin has served on advisory boards for the NIH, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, GAFFI, ADARC, and numerous pharma, biotech and diagnostic companies. He is also the founding Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Fungi. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and the New York Academy of Sciences. He was recently recognized by ROI-NJ as an ROI Influencer: Power List 2021 – Health Care.
Peter W. Rodino, Jr. Citizen’s Award®
This award is presented to a citizen or group of citizens of New Jersey who merits recognition for distinguished service in advancing and promoting the health and well-being of the people of our state.
TRISH O’KEEFE, PHD, RN
Trish O’Keefe, PhD, RN, is President of Morristown Medical Center and Chief Nursing Executive and Vice President of Atlantic Health System.
Under Dr. O’Keefe’s leadership, Morristown Medical Center has received numerous top rankings and accolades at the state and national levels, including being the only hospital in New Jersey named one of America’s “50 Best Hospitals” for five consecutive years by Healthgrades. Morristown Medical Center is nationally recognized in cardiology, orthopedics, critical care, geriatrics and gastroenterology—a testament to the quality Dr. O’Keefe expects. Leapfrog recognized the medical center with an “A” hospital safety grade—its highest— eleven consecutive times, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recognized the Medical Center with its highest five-star rating again in 2019. Dr. O’Keefe was also instrumental in the Medical Center’s prestigious designation as an American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Hospital for Nursing Excellence five consecutive times—making the Center one of less than one percent of hospitals nationally to achieve this honor.
Dr. O’Keefe is executively responsible for Atlantic Health System’s cardiology, oncology, orthopedic, pediatric and women’s health service lines. She also coordinates a systemwide approach for Atlantic Health System nursing and patient experience. Dr. O’Keefe is a noted presenter on national and regional stages on topics such as leading through a crisis: COVID-19, redesigning healthcare, empowerment and shared governance models, achievement of magnet status, resiliency in leadership, nursing’s role in the accountable care organization (ACO), geriatric care and medication management and care for the caregiver.
She has been recognized at the United Nations as one of “21 Nurses with Global Impact,” by Irish America magazine in its Healthcare and Life Sciences “50 List,” by the American Cancer Society as a Hero of Hope, by NJ Biz as a 2018 Vanguard Series Leader in Health Care, by ROI-NJ as a “Top 50 Power Influencer” in 2020, by Seton Hall University with the Margaret C. Haley Award for making a significant contribution to healthcare and by the Morris County Chamber of Commerce as a “Woman Who Shines.” She was recognized with the UMDNJ Dean’s Award for Advancing the Profession of Nursing and the ONE/NJ Nurse Executive of the Year Award and Professional Recognition Award. She is also the recipient of the Mary A. Mulholland Service Award from the Boy Scouts of America and was presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award from DePaul Catholic High School in Wayne, New Jersey. Dr. O’Keefe was also recently honored by the Tri-County Scholarship Fund.
Dr. O’Keefe has participated as a member of Seton Hall University President’s Advisory Board, a member of the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE), the New Jersey Organization of Nurse Executives (ONE/NJ) and Sigma Theta Tau International (the Honor Society of Nursing). She is certified as a nurse administrator by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). She received her BS degree in nursing from Wilkes College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and her MS degree in nursing administration and her PhD from Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey.
Special Award for Innovation
This special award is being presented in recognition of the recipient’s entrepreneurial spirit and innovations in the medical field.
JOSEPH V. DITROLIO, MD
Joseph V. DiTrolio, MD, is a urologist in private practice in Roseland, New Jersey, and Clinical Professor, Department of Surgery– Division of Urology, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
Dr. DiTrolio holds numerous patents, is involved in all aspects of technology and is a consultant for some of the largest companies in the urological field. His groundbreaking work on fiber optic technology led to the development of virtually all of the current endoscopic equipment. He has presented more than 100 papers and published numerous articles, nationally and internationally. Holding American and Italian citizenship, he is a senior member of the European Urological Association, as well as the American Urological Association. He worked for Vitreous State Laboratories in Washington, D.C., under a NASA grant for the development and utilization of fiber optics.
Dr. DiTrolio has been on the faculty of New Jersey Medical School since 1985, where he holds a full professorship in the Department of Surgery and is a member of Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. He has served as the Chair of the Department of Urology at St. Barnabas Medical Center, Hackensack UMC/Mountainside Hospital and the former St. Mary’s Hospital in Orange, New Jersey. Since 1979, he has been affiliated with the East Orange Veterans Administration and continues to support and service our veterans. His current position involves compensation and dispensation for nuclear, biological and chemical warfare, as it relates to the urological system. Since graduating medical school, he has been a member of the Alumni Association of New Jersey Medical School, where he served three terms as President and is currently the Chairman of the Board.
Dr. DiTrolio graduated from West Orange High School, University of Richmond and New Jersey Medical School. He completed his urology training at New Jersey Medical School. He also attended the Université de Paris, Sorbonne. He is Editor-in-Chief of Alumni Focus for Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and is Executive Founding Editor of The Journal of Medicine of New Jersey.
CHARLES J. GATT, JR., MD, & MICHAEL G. DUNN, PHD
Charles J. Gatt, Jr., MD, is an orthopaedic surgeon at University Orthopaedic Associates, and Chair, Residency Program Director and Associate Professor at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS).
Dr. Gatt holds various positions of influence in the orthopaedic field. In addition to his positions at RWJMS and his busy orthopaedic sports medicine practice, he is Orthopaedic Consultant and Team Physician at Rutgers University, Head Orthopaedic Consultant for Rider University Athletics and Program Director of the Limb Salvage Program at Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM). He has also developed a career as a physician-scientist, with his research efforts focused on the field of tissue engineering.
Throughout his career as an orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Gatt has been involved in numerous clinical orthopaedic projects ranging from the spine to the knee joint. The publications early in his career as a clinician focused on spine and joint kinematics under loading. More recent publications have focused on anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus injuries and reconstruction. This body of work spans all areas of orthopaedics, improving on knowledge and techniques in the field.
Dr. Gatt is board certified in orthopaedic surgery. He obtained his medical degree from UMDNJ-RWJMS after earning his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Lafayette College. He completed an internship and residency at UMDNJ-RWJMS. Following his residency, he did a fellowship specializing in orthopaedic sports medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Dr. Gatt has been honored with various awards attesting to his impact on the healthcare community.
Michael G. Dunn, PhD, is a tenured Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Founding Director of the Orthopaedic Research Laboratories at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. His doctoral training in biomedical engineering focused on wound healing and the biomechanical and biological properties of extracellular matrix-derived biomaterials. During his 32-year academic career, he has obtained numerous research grants, including federal funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Defense (DoD), pertaining to tissue engineering strategies for musculoskeletal soft tissue repair and reconstruction utilizing collagen-based, synthetic and composite resorbable biomaterials. He has authored more than 60 peer-reviewed publications and holds eight U.S. patents, while supervising the doctoral or master’s research projects of 20 graduate students. Numerous orthopaedic residents, medical students and undergraduate students have also trained in his lab.
During the past decade, Dr. Gatt and Dr. Dunn have guided the development of MeniscoFix™, a novel, patented implant developed in their Orthopaedic Research Laboratory to replace the meniscus of the knee after severe injury. The basic science project gradually evolved into a translational product development effort, with Dr. Dunn and Dr. Gatt co-founding NovoPedics, Inc., a medical device start-up company initially funded by the NJ Health Foundation—Foundation Venture Capital Group. Based on the research performed in their lab and recent DoD-funded commercialization efforts at NovoPedics, MeniscoFix™ (which has structural and functional properties similar to those of the native human meniscus) has the potential to restore knee function and prevent development of osteoarthritis in patients suffering from severe meniscus tears or post-meniscectomy syndrome. Their work has been part of the prestigious Armed Forces Institute for Regenerative Medicine and has received national recognition, including the Excellence in Research Award from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. The novelty and potential clinical impact of this device was recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who recently granted “breakthrough device designation” to MeniscoFix™.
2021 Scholarship Recipients
Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, Class of 2021
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Class of 2021
Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Class of 2021
Seton Hall University School of Health and Medical Sciences, Physician Assistant Program, Class of 2021
Rutgers School of Health Professions, Physician Assistant Program, Class of 2021
Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, Class of 2021
Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Class of 2021
Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Pharmacy, Class of 2021
Afra Guia Antoinette Trinidad
Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Class of 2021
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Class of 2022
2020 Scholarship Recipients
Laura Alban, PA-C
Seton Hall University School of Health and Medical Sciences, Physician Assistant Program, Class of 2020
Molly deButts, PA-C
Rutgers School of Health Professions, Physician Assistant Program, Class of 2021
Christian DiLiberto, DO
Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Class of 2020
Fairleigh Dickinson School of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, Class of 2021
Brittany Martinez, MD
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Class of 2020
Meaghan McCormick, DMD
Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, Class of 2020
Daniella Olan, PharmD
Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Class of 2020
Melissa Olsakowski, MD
Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Class of 2020
Nicole Silva, MD
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Class of 2020