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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Jul 01, 2017

Meet Steve Littleson of Hackensack Meridian Health

By Lori Draz

In the recent months, one of the most impactful developments on daily life in our area has been the Hackensack Meridian Health merger. The combined strengths of Hackensack and Meridian will touch every resident. It has already improved the quality of wellness and medical care, and the future is on a boundless, limitless track to becoming one of the greatest healthcare systems in the nation. A member of the health network’s senior executive team is Fair Haven’s own, Steve Littleson, who serves as president of the Hospital Services Division and chief operating officer at Hackensack Meridian. He is responsible for leading all 13 Hackensack Meridian hospitals. We sat down to learn more about the man who is the driving force behind all this innovation.

When you ask Steve Littleson about himself, the first thing he talks about is his family. The next thing he talks about is the hospitals he manages, which he speaks about as though they were also part of his family. He is completely, enthusiastically, and gratefully engaged in each of their successes and he is dedicated to bringing the nurturing energy of family into the daily operations of all the hospitals.

First, his personal family. Mr. Littleson has lived in Fair Haven since 1997, with Debra, his wife of 31 years, and his two daughters: Amy, who just graduated from the University of Richmond, and Jacqueline, who will be a sophomore at Vanderbilt, plus Liberty, their six-year-old Old English sheepdog. His family is so important that when asked about his favorite restaurant, he answered, “Birivino, because my daughter Jacqueline craves their Bolognese.” While most see him as an impressive business leader, there are many who know him as a neighbor and coach. He is proud that both his daughters went through the public school system. He was Fair Haven’s soccer and lacrosse coach, and organized 600 child soccer players each year. He has served on the boards of the Boy Scouts of America, Rotary International, American Red Cross, United Way, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. He is an active and visible part of the community, a lover of the Jersey shore beaches, and, on rare occasions, an avid golfer.

Next, his hospital family. Mr. Littleson shares that Hackensack Meridian is taking a much more holistic approach and working to improve the human experience. That encompasses the patients and their families, the time before and after their stay, and the emotional needs of the staff caregivers. “This work carries an emotional toll and we are addressing those needs for our nurses, technicians, administration, and other staff,” he explains.

He developed an interest in medicine and hospitals when, as a 17-year-old, he spent three months in traction following a snowmobile accident. He received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration from Pennsylvania’s Gettysburg College, and he interned at Gettysburg Hospital. He has a Master of Health Services Administration from George Washington University and is currently working on his Doctorate of Business Administration.

With patient satisfaction at the top of the list, Mr. Littleson said Hackensack Meridian is now part of the Experience Innovation Network, which consists of thought leaders who employ innovative stratagems to improve all parts of the human experience, from valet parking to food, to patient responsiveness.

“Hackensack Meridian is changing faster than ever before,” he says. “Regardless of politics, we have to find ways to make things more accessible, affordable, and rich in quality. In order to deliver real healthcare value, we are building many services outside of the hospital setting, to keep people out of the hospitals. We have opened a community resource center in Freehold Raceway Mall that offers advice on getting medical insurance. We are adding physician offices, urgent care, and expanding the number of nurses who work with patients over the phone to monitor chronic care. We have also partnered with Rite Aid Redi-Clinics. The most visible change is the construction of Hope Tower, dedicated to outpatient care. The Tower, at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, is set to open early next year.”

Another important development is the new cancer center at Riverview Medical Center. Hackensack Meridian has partnered with Memorial Sloan Kettering, so oncology patients don’t have to go to New York City anymore. There is also the K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital, with 24-hour, 365-day trauma and children’s care, and plans are underway to build a new emergency center at Bayshore Medical Center. Also in the works are plans to merge with Edison’s JFK Health. He states, “Hackensack Meridian offers every aspect of the continuum of care. We have an ambulance company, home care agency, nursing homes, rehab facilities, etc.”

Another benefit of the Hackensack Meridian merger is the shared services. Hackensack University Medical Center is an outstanding academic medical center with high-end programs in cancer and organ transplant, to name a few. Now, patients who need these services (often the sickest) don’t have to travel to receive them; access to the services is closer to home.

The future of local health care is bright and quite exciting, and behind it all is a very focused, devoted, and accomplished neighbor.