New Jersey patients now have access to new and specialized treatment options, Penn Medicine Princeton Health says.

The merger of Penn Medicine and Princeton HealthCare System offers advanced care that otherwise may not have been available locally, like proton therapy or transplants, says Lori Gustave, Penn Medicine’s senior vice president of business development.

Gustave speaks at the Princeton Chamber on Thursday, March 8, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Princeton Marriott. Tickets are $75, $50 for members. Register online at www.princetonchamber.org or call 609-924-1776.

Penn Medicine’s advanced care strategy includes a commitment to research with a $923 million budget, newly approved treatment options, and advanced medicine programs, Gustave says.

In 2017 Penn Medicine received FDA approvals for two breakthrough therapies, one that uses the body’s own healthy cells to eliminate cancer cells (known as CAR-T therapy), and gene therapy that reverses blindness.

Several areas of Penn’s advanced medicine offerings include an organ-transplant program (rated among the top 10 in the country); the Roberts Proton Therapy Center; robotic surgery; advanced cardiac programs; a cancer center with worldwide recognition; a center for personalized diagnostics; a leading trauma network; and core competencies based on an academic based health system.

Patients will also have access to the Penn Medicine Center for Connected Care web service, which leverages Penn’s advances in telemedicine. According to its website, the connected care center centralizes the health system’s telemedicine activities, including its almost 15-year-old Penn E-lert eICU for the critically ill, a tele-homecare service for the chronically ill, as well as a telemedicine service linking obstetricians to trauma surgeons caring for critically injured pregnant women, and a tele-urgent care service that eliminates the need for in-person visits in some cases.

Gustave emphasizes that the partnership between Penn Medicine and Princeton Health Care is a merger, not an acquisition. “The words are often used interchangeably but the distinction is important,” she says. “We do not have a specific playbook for this work because each hospital and each micro-market is discrete and deserves an individual plan.

“We embed a Penn Medicine corporate executive with the Princeton Health executive team to handhold the integration efforts. Early on in the process we co-developed our core values that will hold true throughout the integration process,” she says, adding that the team leaders want to ensure that everyone is aligned on the important areas of patient centeredness and employee retention. The team’s aim is to maintain its values while leveraging the economics of scale.

About a year ago president and CEO of Princeton HealthCare System Barry Rabner announced the upcoming merger in an address to the Princeton Chamber. Rabner said he was optimistic about the outcome because it would bring hundreds of millions of dollars into New Jersey to be used by a not-for-profit organization to improve clinical care and access to state residents.

Acknowledging the high cost of health care shouldered by employers and patients, Rabner said he was looking forward to a partnership that would help Princeton’s delivery of health care both financially and clinically.

Princeton Health is now among six facilities that comprise Penn Medicine which include: Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Pennsylvania Hospital, The Chester County Hospital, and Lancaster General Health.

In addition to its acute care facilities, Penn Medicine offers a faculty practice plan, a primary care provider network, seven geographically distributed satellite facilities, home care, rehabilitation, hospice and a nursing home.

Gustave says her commitment to the healthcare profession is based on her interest in business and a desire to serve the community. She grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania where her father was a small business owner and a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves. Her mother was a special education teacher.

She completed her undergraduate degree in social work at the University of Pittsburgh. Upon graduation, she accepted an internship in the management office of a human service “mall” in Pittsburgh.

“The chairman of our steering committee was a hospital CEO at a local community hospital. I admired him greatly and thought that his career allowed him to lead a complex and important business while also giving back to the community,” she says.

“He encouraged me to obtain advanced degrees and pursue the healthcare management profession.” Following his advice, Gustave went on to earn a master’s degree in healthcare administration and also a master’s in business administration at the University of Pittsburgh.

Gustave joined the University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine) in 2007 as the director of strategic planning at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and was later promoted to serve as the associate executive director.

In 2011 she took on the role of Chief Operating Officer for the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Chief Administrative Officer of the Musculoskeletal & Rheumatology (MSKR) Service Line. She was promoted to Senior Vice President for Business Development in April 2017.

Gustave champions the Penn-Princeton partnership as one that is based on coordinated care bringing together multiple specialties. She believes that the process of receiving health care should be as easy for a patient as possible. “Every patient has a journey. It is our mission to simplify it,” she says.

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