Hackensack’s Dr. Apovian Inspires Generations of Generosity
August 02, 2022
John Apovian, M.D., with his wife, Ines
When John Apovian, M.D., got his start at Hackensack Hospital as a medical student in 1953, he didn’t know how much his life would become entwined with the small community hospital.
Sixty-five years later—not far from where, as a young resident, he delivered a baby in a Volkswagen Bug parked outside the hospital’s doors—Hackensack University Medical Center recognized his decades of service to his patients, medical students and the overall growth of the hospital with the dedication of The John Apovian, M.D., Cardiac Surgery & Structural Heart Center. The building is part of the Heart & Vascular Hospital at Hackensack.
Dr. Apovian, who performed the hospital’s first cardiac catheterization and was instrumental in bringing the portable hyperbaric chamber to the U.S., is retired now. But when he was active at Hackensack, he was one of its most ardent supporters. “I was blessed to meet Dr. Apovian early in my career. He has always been a friend, mentor, and full partner to the Foundation,” says Helen Cunning, senior vice president, Network Initiatives, Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation. “Dr. Apovian didn’t just talk about raising money; he really did it.”
When patients expressed gratitude for their excellent care and asked how they could repay that, Dr. Apovian introduced them to the foundation and encouraged them to get active by donating and joining the board.
Over the years, his efforts brought supporters to the hospital who powered remarkable growth, allowing the small community hospital to evolve into the prominent medical institution it is today. Benefactors he recruited are responsible for New Jersey residents and others being able to access cutting-edge care at facilities such as the Jeffrey M. Creamer Trauma Center, the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women’s & Children's Hospital, the Creamer Family Institute for Medical Imaging and the Hekemian Educational Center.
“He wanted to make the hospital better so people didn't have to go to New York to get specialized care,” says his son, Mark, who carries on his father’s legacy at the foundation.
Wanting to make things better for his community was part of Dr. Apovian’s nature, ingrained in him by his parents—particularly by his mother, who, as a young woman in her native Armenia, witnessed the murder of her parents and three of her siblings, and fought back by transporting guns and ammunition through underground tunnels. With her homeland in ruins, she made her way to the U.S. in search of a better life.
“My grandma’s philosophy was you can’t walk around angry and bitter,” Mark says. “You have to care about other people because that enriches your life while you’re enriching theirs. She embedded that in my dad. That’s the way he thinks. Even to this day, he’ll say, ‘If you’re not helping those in need, then you’re not living a life of consequence.’”
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