HackensackUMC Mountainside

Cristina Renée Pliego

Being Careful in the Face of Uncertainty

Laura Pliego was standing on the sidelines, as she had so many afternoons since her daughter Cristina Renée began playing soccer. She was talking to a friend when she heard the impact. "Even across the field, it sounded like a bowling ball striking a pin," she says. It took her a few seconds to realize that the sound she heard was her daughter’s forehead crashing into the skull of an opposing player as they raced to head the ball.

A member of the Montclair High School Varsity Girls Soccer team, Cristina Renée seemed surprisingly unaffected by the collision. She kept on her feet and shrugged off the blow. Her coaches took her out of the game, conducted an assessment, and sat her down on the bench with an icepack on her head. She showed no signs of dizziness as she talked with her teammates. "She looked and sounded completely normal, except for the growing bump on her forehead," Laura says.

After the game, Laura and her daughter were heading home, when Laura decided to check with Cristina Renée’s primary care physician. Her doctor advised them, just to be on the safe side, to go to the Emergency Department at HackensackUMC Mountainside. Upon their arrival, the triage nurse assigned Cristina Renée to the department’s Fast Track area, used for minor medical issues. That’s where the Pliegos met Diana Mendez, a physician assistant, and Dr. Marjory Langer, the Emergency Department’s medical director.

The dilemma the women faced was one that medical professionals encounter frequently: how to reconcile seemingly contradictory information. On the one hand, Cristina Renée was asymptomatic. On the other, the sound of the collision made an indelible impression on Laura.

The evident force of the impact, as Laura described it, ultimately made Mendez uneasy, and she asked Dr. Langer to examine the teen. "I came away with the same feeling that Diana had," Langer says. "Even though none of her symptoms called for a CT scan, which we are reluctant to order for growing children, I thought I would sleep better if I prescribed one anyway."

It was the right call. The scan revealed a small fracture of the skull base. Within four hours, Cristina Renée was on her way to the pediatric intensive care unit at HackensackUMC. "The transfer process with HackensackUMC is seamless," Langer says. "One call to the Transfer Center and they take charge of the handoff and keeping everyone updated on their progress. It’s a great system."

At HackensackUMC, Dr. Harshpal Singh, a neurosurgeon, monitored Cristina Renée’s care. She developed a small cerebral spinal fluid leak through the break, but fortunately it resolved on its own. "Cristina Renée was a very brave and matter-of-fact patient," Singh says. "If we had to fix the leak surgically, it would have been a serious procedure, but she was all for doing what needed to be done to fix it."


John Fromhold

Chief Executive Officer

Anthony Esposito Jr.

Chief Financial Officer

Bonnie Michaels, RN

Chief Nursing Officer

Theresa Soroko, M.D.

Chief Medical Officer

Karen Palatella, RN

Chief Quality and Compliance Officer

Jeffrey Welsh

Vice President of Physician Relations

Dawn Tosner

Vice President of Physician Practices

Tony Gilberti

Vice President of Specialty Development

Natalie Thigpen

Vice President of Marketing,
Public Relations &Planning

Fran Corridon

Vice President of Human Resources

Christopher Cannara, RN,

Assistant Chief Operating Officer

Joseph Patanella

Assistant Chief Operating Officer

Robert Cuneo

Assistant Chief Operating Officer


Achieved positive Employee Satisfaction Survey results: participation grew from 81% to 84%; with all three overall satisfaction indicators well above national benchmarks.

Achieved positive Physician Satisfaction Survey results – participation grew from 26% to 42%; 12 of 13 satisfaction dimensions above national benchmarks.

Twenty Hackensack University Medical Center specialists in five core specialties: Thoracic, Vascular, Neurosurgery, Surgical Oncology, and Orthopedics - expanded their practices with new office locations in the HackensackUMC Mountanside service area to help address critical community healthcare needs.


"A" rating from The Leapfrog Group

HealthGrades - The Center for Advanced Bariatric Surgery recognized as Center of Surgical Excellence, one of only 48 in the nation.

Consumer Reports - Top NJ Hospital for Surgical Care

Successful completion of various state and accrediting body reviews, including:

Joint CommissionNew Jersey Department of HealthAmerican Academy of Sleep MedicineAmerican College of Radiologists

Successful participation in NJHA’s Institute for Healthcare Optimization Collaborative

Cancer Center Received Accreditation with Special Commendation from the American College of Surgeon’s Commission on Cancer

American Heart/Stroke Association - Gold Plus Stroke Center