Hackensack University Medical Center President Ihor S. Sawczuk, M.D. and Board Member Heather Choi Recognized as Ellis Island Medals of Honor Recipients

May 22, 2017


Heather Choi, a member of the Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation Board of Trustees (left) and Ihor S. Sawczuk, M.D., president of Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center (right), have been honored by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO), as recipients of the 2017 Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center is pleased to announce that Ihor S. Sawczuk, M.D., president of Hackensack University Medical Center, and Heather Choi, a member of the Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation Board of Trustees, have been honored by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO), as recipients of the 2017 Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

“I want to extend my congratulations on this special recognition,” said Robert C. Garrett, co-CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health. “We are proud and excited to see our honorees take their important place in this esteemed group.”

Since the Medal was founded in 1986, NECO honorees have included: seven Presidents of the United States; Nobel Prize recipient Elie Wiesel; Justice Sandra Day O’Connor; Secretaries of State Madeline Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton; Bob Hope; Muhammad Ali; Frank Sinatra; and Rosa Parks.

“Ellis Island remains an iconic symbol of hope, new beginnings and freedom. NECO’s Medals of Honor stand to remind citizens to support ethnic inclusion, diversity and the pursuit of the American Dream for all,” said NECO Chairman Nasser J. Kazeminy.

According to NECO, the medal recognizes individuals who have made it their mission to share their wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents and selfless generosity with those less fortunate; all while maintaining the traditions of their ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America.

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have officially recognized the Ellis Island Medals of Honor, and each year the recipients are listed in the Congressional Record.

In its 31st year, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor ceremony was held on Ellis Island on May 13. The ceremony, which was followed by a black-tie gala dinner in the historic Great Hall, took place in the original registry room, a gateway for millions of immigrants to the U.S.

About NECO
The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations – NECO- was created on the conviction of its founders that the diversity of the American people is what makes this nation great.  Its mission is to honor and preserve this diversity and to foster tolerance, respect and understanding among religious and ethnic groups. NECO is the sponsor of the Ellis Island Medals of Honor which are presented annually to American citizens, both native born and naturalized, who have distinguished themselves within their own ethnic groups while exemplifying the values of the American way of life. For more information, visit: http://www.neco.org/.

About Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center
Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center, a 775-bed nonprofit teaching and research hospital located in Bergen County, NJ, is the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient services in the state. Founded in 1888 as the county’s first hospital, it is now part of one of the largest networks in the state comprised of 28,000 team members and more than 6,000 physicians. Hackensack University Medical Center was listed as the number one hospital in New Jersey in U.S. News & World Report’s 2016-17 Best Hospital rankings – maintaining its place atop the NJ rankings since the rating system was introduced. It was also named one of the top four New York Metro Area hospitals. Hackensack University Medical Center is one of only five major academic medical centers in the nation to receive Healthgrades America’s 50 Best Hospitals Award for five or more years in a row. Becker’s Hospital Review recognized Hackensack University Medical Center as one of the 100 Great Hospitals in America 2017. The medical center is one of the top 25 green hospitals in the country according to Practice Greenhealth, and received 25 Gold Seals of Approval™ by The Joint Commission – more than any other hospital in the country. It was the first hospital in New Jersey and second in the nation to become a Magnet® recognized hospital for nursing excellence; receiving its fifth consecutive designation in 2014. Hackensack University Medical Center has created an entire campus of award-winning care, including: the John Theurer Cancer Center; the Heart & Vascular Hospital; and the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women’s and Children’s Pavilion, which houses the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital and Donna A. Sanzari Women’s Hospital, which was designed with The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center and listed on the Green Guide’s list of Top 10 Green Hospitals in the U.S. Hackensack University Medical Center is the Hometown Hospital of the New York Giants and the New York Red Bulls and is Official Medical Services Provider to The Northern Trust PGA Golf Tournament. It remains committed to its community through fundraising and community events especially the Tackle Kids Cancer Campaign providing much needed research at the Children’s Cancer Institute housed at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital. To learn more, visit www.HackensackUMC.org.