VNA Health Group’s Palliative Care Program

Celebrates 5th Anniversary at Community Medical Center

HOLMDEL, NJ (August 17, 2021) — VNA Health Group recently celebrated the 5 year anniversary of its Palliative Care Program at Community Medical Center (CMC), an RWJBarnabas Health facility, with a special gathering held at the hospital. Launched in March 2016, the Palliative Care Program at CMC was established by Marianne Holler, DO, FACOI, FAAHPM, VNA Health Group’s Chief Medical Officer, Palliative and Hospice Physician. With the support of Community Medical Center staff and leadership as well as the Grunin Foundation, the palliative program has grown to over 10,000 visits in the past 5 years.

Dr. Steven Landers, President and CEO, VNA Health Group commented, “We are honored to celebrate the wonderful partnership with Community Medical Center and to bring such an important service to the hospital and the community. The program has had a tremendous impact on patients and families dealing with a life-limiting illness by helping people live their best life.”

According to Patrick Ahearn, Chief Executive Officer of Community Medical Center, “Palliative care is needed in our hospital and the community, especially since Ocean County has a high concentration of older adults. Our mission is to help and cure people, as well as improve the quality of life in our area, and that includes people with serious illnesses. We are thankful to be working with such a passionate and caring team at VNA Health Group. We are also grateful to the Grunin Foundation, who has supported both the VNA’s palliative care program, as well as multiple Community Medical Center programs. We look forward to working together with these important partners to ensure palliative care becomes part of the mainstream healthcare continuum.”

The palliative care team at CMC includes Dr. Holler, along with Seema Varma, MD, VNA Health Group Palliative Medicine Physician and Medical Director, Hospice & Palliative Care, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, as well as newly hired palliative nurse practitioner, Kimberly Hitchens, who provides palliative consults in the community along with Vandana Sharma, MD, VNA Health Group Palliative Medicine Physician.

Serious illness has tremendous and far-reaching effects upon patients and families. A lack of information and understanding about end-of-life care can result in confusion, anxiety and doubt. Palliative medicine is an individualized approach to addressing the physical, emotional, cultural and spiritual needs of patients and families facing serious or life-limiting illness.

Dr. Holler’s passion for providing quality end of life care led her to develop the palliative program at CMC. Due to the region’s older population, she felt there was a real need to provide support that was missing. She and Dr. Varma collaborated with CMC physicians, nursing staff, case managers and social workers to educate them about palliative care and its value and benefits.

“Palliative care is a blessing”, said Dr. Holler. “We spend time with patients and families and have those heart to heart conversations about the patient’s wishes and goals. Although we may not be able to change the outcome, we can change how the patients and families experience that outcome. The incredible impact that palliative care has had on patients’ outlook and quality of life is extraordinary.”

“We have to reframe the conversation and let patients know there’s a lot more we can do. And that is focusing on patient-centered goals and helping the patient and families to think about what’s important”, said Holler. “There needs to be a shift to value-based services, positive outcomes, shared savings and keeping the patient as stable and comfortable as possible.”

“The future of palliative care is bright given that people are living longer and are more concerned about comfort and independence, managing symptoms and meeting their life goals,” said Dr. Landers. “Palliative care is becoming more relevant with the focus on value and quality of care.”

For more information about VNA Health Group’s Palliative Care Program, call 732-224-6654.

About Community Medical Center
Community Medical Center (CMC), an RWJBarnabas Health facility, is an academic medical center dedicated to advancing the quality of life and health of the greater Ocean County region by providing safe, high quality care. CMC is a fully accredited acute care hospital and maintains national accreditations in multiple specialty areas. Highly sophisticated services, not typically found in a community hospital, include advanced cancer, cardiac, emergency, maternity and neurology care, as well as cutting edge surgical care. Patients have access to advanced technology including the da Vinci Xi robotic surgical platform, Mako Robotic-Arm Assisted Surgery System for joint replacement procedures and state-of-the-art imaging technology. RWJBarnabas Health and CMC, in partnership with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey – the state’s only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center – brings a world class team of researchers and specialists to fight alongside you, providing close-to-home access to the latest treatment and clinical trials. The J. Phillip Citta Regional Cancer Center at CMC features one of the most sophisticated linear accelerators used for radiation therapy, a CyberKnife for treating inoperable tumors and holistic therapies to care for the whole person. CMC provides a broad array of health and wellness programs designed to help people achieve and maintain healthy lifestyles and optimal health. Visit for more information.

About VNA Health Group
Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) Health Group is the second largest independent, nonprofit provider of home-based health services in New Jersey and Mid-Central Ohio. Founded over 105 years ago with a mission to care for the community, today VNA Health Group helps individuals and families achieve their best level of health and well-being by providing high quality, compassionate home health, hospice, palliative and community-based care and offers private-pay personal care services. A full range of primary care services are available through the VNACJ Community Health Centers. Currently, VNA Health Group employs nearly 2,500 people and cares for over 150,000 individuals and families annually with a special focus on vulnerable populations such as children, older adults and those with serious and disabling chronic illness. Our unique partnership model with health systems leverages our clinical and technical resources to operate VNA of Central Jersey Home Care and Hospice, Robert Wood Johnson Visiting Nurses, VNA of Englewood, Barnabas Health Home Care and Hospice, Visiting Physician Services, and Visiting Nurse Association of Ohio. For more information about VNA Health Group and the VNAHG Foundation please call 800.862.3330, visit and follow us on Twitter at or @VNAHealthGroup.

Photo Caption: VNA Health Group and Community Medical Center leadership and staff celebrate the 5 year anniversary of the palliative program at the hospital. From left to right:
Donna Bonacorso, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Chief Nursing Officer & Vice President, Patient Care Services, Community Medical Center
Marianne Holler, DO, FACOI, FAAHPM, Chief Medical Officer, Advanced Care Institute, VNA Health Group
Seema Varma, MD, Medical Director, Hospice & Palliative Care, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
Kimberly Hitchens, APN, Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner, VNA Health Group
Patrick Ahearn, Chief Executive Officer, Community Medical Center
Jeremy Grunin, President, Grunin Foundation
Steven Landers, MD, MPH, President & Chief Executive Officer, VNA Health Group

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