Press Release

For Immediate Release
Aug 20, 2014
Contact : Donna Sellmann, Public Relations Manager  
(732) 840-3279

Meridian Health Supports New Law Requiring CPR and Defibrillator Use Training for All High School Students

“Community of Life Savers” Program Well Positioned to Equip Students with Critical Skills  

Neptune, NJ - Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno has signed into law legislation that requires public and charter schools that include grades 9 through 12 to provide instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) as part of the existing health education curriculum.
Under the bill, instruction in CPR and the use of an AED would be provided to each high school student prior to graduation as part of the district's implementation of the Core Curriculum Content Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education. School districts may select a no-cost, non-certification instructional program to meet this requirement.
“This is a big step towards arming an army of people of all ages with the skill set to perform CPR and use an AED, which gives them the power to save a life,” says Dawn Calderon, D.O. chief of Cardiology at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. “Meridian Health is a huge supporter of this bill, as it is strongly aligned with our ‘Community of Life Savers’ program that was launched earlier this year.”
Dr. Calderon was one of the medical experts to offer testimony in favor of the law. The legislation was sponsored by Assembly Representatives Angel Fuentes, Patrick Diegnan and Nancy Pinkin, Senators Diane Allen and Joseph Vitale, and co-sponsored by Monmouth County Assemblyman David Rible. "We immediately recognized the opportunity to support a bill that would have tremendous impact on the health and welfare of our community,” says Dr. Calderon. “We applaud their efforts on such a critical health topic.”
Meridian Health recently partnered with the American Heart Association in a landmark, multi-year initiative to create a Community of Life Savers. When everyday people are equipped with the skills to perform CPR, survival rates can double or even triple. The program was launched in Monmouth and Ocean counties in March 2014.

Cardiac arrest is more common than one might think. It can happen to anyone at any time, including our youth. In fact, the American Heart Association estimates that there are approximately 100 student athlete fatalities each year from sudden cardiac arrest. Studies show that survival can be improved 200-300% if CPR is initiated by a witnessing bystander.

While the incidence remains low, the impact on families is tremendous. No one is more aware of this fact than Charlie and Beth Melita of Fair Haven, who lost their son, Robert, a 2009 graduate of Rumson-Fair Haven High School, to cardiac arrest in 2012. Unfortunately, Charlie and Beth are not alone in their grief. Several other families in Monmouth and Ocean counties and across the state have lost children to this tragic occurrence. The Melita’s have been proponents of the “Community of Life Savers” initiative from inception.
According to Vincent Zales, M.D., a board certified pediatric cardiologist with Meridian CardioVascular Network, “Cardiac arrest is fatal because all too often, those who experience it don’t receive immediate CPR from someone on the scene. Students will now be trained in techniques that can potentially save the life of someone in the school setting, as well as prepare them to assist with a life-threatening emergency within the community and throughout their lives.”

“Despite great advances in medical research, there is still no feasible and reliable way to predict these events, so there is no reliable way to prevent their occurrence. Our focus is on early recognition and immediate treatment.  When we launched ‘Community of Life Savers’, our goal was to train at least 5,000 Monmouth and Ocean county high school students in the first year,” said Dr. Calderon. “To date, we have taught more than 2,700 students the skills they need. Now that this vital training is law, we are confident that we’ll exceed this goal and are excited at the prospect of working with so many youth in the community.”
Meridian’s program is offered at no cost to schools or students. Additionally, the program is also set up in a way that it builds a sustainable CPR training infrastructure; Meridian will train staff from each school district as a CPR Instructor, enabling them to train additional teachers, administrators and students in their district.
Providing broad CPR training to the community has been part of Meridian’s educational offerings for years. In 2013, Meridian taught 19,324 people, which include health care workers, fire fighters, police, teachers, EMTs, and other community members.
 “Just a few months ago, an 18 year old from Monmouth county suffered sudden cardiac death while swimming. Only hours later, a 16 year old from Ocean county suffered a life threatening asthma attack while riding his bike, resulting in his heart stopping. In both cases, bystanders started CPR and called 911,” says Dr. Calderon.  “Both victims were successfully resuscitated and brought to Jersey Shore. I had the pleasure of meeting these patients as well as their life savers.  The bystanders who performed CPR were ages 17 and 16.  I am so proud of what these young people did to save the lives of others. When trained teens perform CPR, lives can be saved!”

About Meridian Health
Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit health care organization in New Jersey, comprising Jersey Shore University Medical Center and K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital in Neptune, Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin, Bayshore Community Hospital in Holmdel, and Meridian Partner Companies that include home health services, skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers, ambulatory care, ambulance services, and outpatient centers. Meridian Health has consistently been rated among the top performing health systems in New Jersey for clinical quality, is one of the FORTUNE “100 Best Companies to Work For”, and is the recipient of numerous state and national recognitions for patient care and nursing excellence.  For more information, please visit