Debra Simon Center for Integrative Medicine Opens at the HackensackUMC Fitness & Wellness Center

April 16, 2014 01:12 PM
Lauren Wright, of Upper Saddle River (left) and her mother Debra Simon in 2009.

On April 12, 2014 the HackensackUMC Foundation proudly dedicated the Debra Simon Center for Integrative Medicine at the HackensackUMC Fitness & Wellness Center in Maywood during an emotional ceremony, which honored the life of Debra Simon (formerly of Saddle River, NJ) who passed away in 2009. 

“We are incredibly grateful to the family of Debra Simon. Through their donation, thousands of our patients’ lives will be improved,” said Robert C. Garrett, president and chief executive officer of Hackensack University Health Network. “This pavilion truly reflects our commitment to treatment of the entire patient --- both physically and mentally. Although time cannot heal her family’s loss, Debra’s name will live on through this meaningful and important project.”

The family of Debra Simon partnered with the HackensackUMC Foundation to see the center through to its completion. The process began four years ago, after Debra Simon committed suicide following a battle with depression. At the time of her death, Debra was living in southern California.


“My mom always shared the importance of supporting your local community through charitable efforts,” said Lauren Wright, daughter of Debra Simon. “After she died, I started to think about how her legacy could live on.  This began the partnership with HackensackUMC.  If we are able to help just one person struggling with any facet of their life, especially depression, then we have done our job. ”

Through the Debra Simon Center for Integrative Medicine, the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Medicine at HackensackUMC has been able to expand its psychotherapy program, including the addition of four psychotherapists. The overall goal of the program is to reduce the unnecessary use of psychiatric medications and strengthen the psychotherapy division to better serve the needs of patients.


“Being located at the Debra Simon Center for Integrative Medicine not only helps us address the whole person (mind, body, spirit) but also allows us to reduce the stigma of mental illness,” said Diego Coira, M.D., chairman, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Medicine, HackensackUMC.   “In the spirit of wellness, any individual can step into our beautiful facility and see their primary care physician, their behavioral health practitioner and/or go to the gym and exercise.”


Lauren worked with Dr. Coira on the concept behind the Debra Simon Center, which would carry on her mother’s legacy of helping others and at the same time, help people struggling with behavioral issues. 

In addition to behavioral health services, the Debra Simon Center for Integrative Medicine includes the MOLLY Diabetes Education/Management Center for Adults and Children, physical therapy, a women’s health center with mammography and bone density screening, and a large community health education area with a demonstration cooking studio.

“Hackensack University Medical Center is one of the best hospitals in the nation and it happens to be in our own backyard,” said Lauren Wright. “I thought it was a perfect fit. And, specifically, I wanted to support the psychiatry department in hopes of continuing the great therapy work that Dr. Coira and his team do on a daily basis.  My hope is to ultimately prevent another family from having to go through what my family has had to endure from the loss of suicide.”

Pictured from left to right:  Mark D. Sparta, vice president, Clinical Services and senior operations officer; HackensackUMC; Robert C. Garrett, president and chief executive officer, HackensackUMC; Lauren Wright, daughter of Debra Simon; Diego Coira, M.D., chairman, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Medicine, HackensackUMC; Helen Cunning; executive director, HackensackUMC Foundation.

About Hackensack University Medical Center

HackensackUMC, a nonprofit teaching and research hospital located in Bergen County, NJ, is the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient services in the state. Founded in 1888 as the county’s first hospital, it is the flagship hospital of Hackensack University Health Network, one of the largest health networks in the state comprised of 1,140 beds, nearly 10,000 employees and 2,200 credentialed physicians. HackensackUMC was listed as the number one hospital in New Jersey and one of the top three New York metro area hospitals in the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospital rankings for 2013-14. It also received 10 national rankings in: Cancer; Cardiology & Heart Surgery; Ear, Nose & Throat; Gastroenterology & GI Surgery; Geriatrics; Neurology & Neurosurgery; Orthopedics; Pulmonology; Urology; and the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital ranked as one of the Top 50 Best Children’s Hospitals for Neurology and Neurosurgery in the 2013-14 Best Children’s Hospitals list. The children’s hospital is housed with the Donna A. Sanzari Women’s Hospital in the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women’s and Children’s Pavilion, which was designed with The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center using the highest “green building” standards, and was included on the Green Guide’s list of Top 10 Green Hospitals in the U.S. HackensackUMC is among Healthgrades® America’s Best 100 Hospitals in five different areas – more than any other hospital in the state, is one of Healthgrades America's 50 Best Hospitals™ for eight years in a row, and received the Healthgrades Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence™ 12 years in a row. The medical center has also been named a Leapfrog Top Hospital, and received 23 Gold Seals of Approval™ by the Joint Commission – more than any other hospital in the country. It was the first hospital in New Jersey and second in the nation to become a Magnet® recognized hospital for nursing excellence; receiving its fifth consecutive designation in 2014. HackensackUMC is the Hometown Hospital of the New York Giants and the New York Red Bulls, and remains committed to its community through fundraising and community events. To learn more, visit:   






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