Two Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine Students Earn NJBIA ‘Rising Stars’ Award

October 2, 2020

Lauren Valentine and Clara Chen were two of just five honorees statewide

Lauren Valentine and Clara Chen, students at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, have been recognized as two of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association’s“Rising Stars.”

The two women said they are pursuing medicine as a vocation to make a difference in the world.

“Studying medicine is more than just learning anatomy or physiology, but includes learning about the how social, environmental and behavioral determinants of each patient factor into one’s health,” said Valentine. “I aim to integrate all of these factors when coming up with the most effective and sustainable way to care for others. Everyone is deserving of compassionate, quality healthcare, and I will work effortlessly to carry out my social responsibility of uplifting those who I have the privilege to care for.”

“My career goal is to become a pediatric gastroenterologist and a prominent member of the medical community who advocates for the health and nutrition of our children, on both the individual and systemic level,” said Chen.

“These two young women have a vision for medical care that is consistent with that of the vision and mission of our medical school. They are well-poised to create a new medical future for the populations they will serve,” said Bonita Stanton, founding dean of the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. “We look forward to witnessing what they will accomplish in the careers ahead of them.”

The New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) Rising Star Award identifies future business leaders currently completing their undergraduate education who have demonstrated leadership, a passion for their anticipated field, and a commitment to volunteering/community involvement.

Valentine earned her undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Boston College, where she volunteered in a medium-security prison. She also worked as a full-time medical assistant to a dermatologic surgeon in Boston, and worked as a full-time intern at the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Now she is a co-founder and student leader of the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine COVID Care Team, which provides lessons to children of Hackensack Meridian Health team members. She is also a Peer Mentor for incoming students, and is volunteering as a research assistant in a health network obstetrics study. Valentine said she looks forward to upholding the Hippocratic Oath in the years to come.

“My goal for my future career as a physician will be to create an uplifting, humanizing environment for others,” she said.

Chen, who is part of the inaugural class for the school, earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard University, where she volunteered with the Crimson Care Collaborative clinics and the Harvard Food Lab for Kids. She also formed nutrition curricula for schools in western rural Uganda and worked full-time as Project Manager for a healthcare startup in Boston.

Currently, Chen is one of the lead organizers of the student-run clinic at the medical school, and is co-founder of the Chef M.D. nutrition group and the school’s Wellness Committee. She has engaged in quality improvement projects aimed at enhancing the school’s active learning curriculum, and organized a letter-writing campaign advocating for children’s health and COVID-19 policy issues.

“There is still far to go, but I hope to continue to learn, grow, and ultimately help as many people as possible,” said Chen.


The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, the first private medical school in New Jersey in more than 50 years, welcomed its first class of students in 2018 to its On3 campus in Nutley and Clifton. Hackensack Meridian Health assumed its independent operation in July 2020. The school’s vision is that each person in New Jersey, and in the United States, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, will enjoy the highest levels of wellness in an economically and behaviorally sustainable fashion. The School’s unique curriculum focuses on linking the basic science with clinical relevance, through an integrated curriculum in a team-oriented, collaborative environment. The school prides itself on outreach, through programs like the Human Dimension, which is active in communities across New Jersey.