From the football field to the medical realm
WNY native wins award for health care efforts
by Hannington Dia
Reporter Staff Writer
May 14, 2017 | 5530 views | 0 0 comments | 376 376 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Joe Simunovich
Joe Simunovich

When Hackensack Meridian Health Co-Chairman Joseph Simunovich was dominating the competition on Memorial High School’s football team decades ago, he may not have known those victories would lead to touchdowns in so many other fields. That competitive spirit led to the New Jersey Hospital Association recently selecting Simunovich as its “Healthcare System Trustee of The Year.”

“It takes a very strong, committed person, you have to be able to compete,” said Simunovich. “There are other health systems in the state of New Jersey.”

Simunovich was a Hudson County freeholder for 12 years through the early 1970s to the mid ’80s. before helping run the health care system. He’s also a former chairman of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and a former vice chairman of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

He’s also is the current president for Suez Water (formerly United Water)--which distributes water to West New York, Union City, Guttenberg, and Weehawken. In the past, he served as the president of Bell Atlantic.

But his biggest victories come in the medical industry. Simunovich has been a trustee of Hackensack University Medical Center for over 25 years. He has previously served as chairman for Hackensack UMC Health Network, Hackensack UMC Board of Governors, Hackensack UMC Foundation’s board of trustees, and Hackensack UMC at Pascack Valley Joint Venture Board. During the latter effort, he led successful attempts at reopening the Pascack Valley Hospital. Those positions were non-paid, volunteer ones, in addition to his current co-chairman position.

Hackensack Meridian Health runs several hospitals, including Palisades in North Bergen.

A calling

Simunovich said, of his work with the company, “It really was a sense of being able to give back and help people get the quality of care that we all want them to have.”

Currently, he also chairs the board of governors of the Seton Hall University-Hackensack Meridian Health School of Medicine, currently being built on the site of the former Hoffmann-La Roche biomedical campus in Nutley.

Simunovich says that the company’s long term plans include expanding the Hackensack network far and wide. Today, it extends across New Jersey, with 27,000 employees and 6,000 doctors. “It’s a large system,” he said.
"I have known Joe for 30 years and I have never met anyone who doesn't like and respect Joe Simunovich.” – Joe Lauro
With Donald Trump’s plans to change America’s health care insurance system, Simunovich said, “We’re watching it very carefully. We have some key people assigned to evaluate the [proposal that recently passed in Congress] and see what kind of impact it would have on our health system and our patients. Hopefully we’ll be able to work within the bill and still continue to provide the excellent care that we do provide.”

When asked if he misses Hudson County, Simunovich, who moved to Bergen County around 1984, said, “I do, in a way—a lot of very good people in Hudson County. A lot of friends there who are still friends today.”

One of those friends shared his thoughts on his longtime pal.

"I have known Joe for 30 years and I have never met anyone who doesn't like and respect Joe Simunovich,” said Joe Lauro, a spokesperson for Simunovich. “He has synthesized the worlds of public policy and business in New Jersey at a level very few people have ever approached."

Hannington Dia can be reached at

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