Dr. David Condoluci was the recipient of The New Jersey Hospital Association’s Distinguished Service Award.
At a time when many doctors were afraid to treat patients with HIV, Dr. David Condoluci wanted to help.
“There was a lot of fear,” Condoluci said. “My values were there. There was a need, and I had a passion for trying to serve this group, and I really loved doing it.”
The New Jersey Hospital Association has taken notice of Condoluci’s unfailing desire to give back by awarding him its Distinguished Service Award at its 100th annual meeting. The award is given to health-care leaders who “demonstrate strength, integrity, professionalism and a relentless commitment to a New Jersey-based hospital or health system.
The Moorestown resident currently serves as senior vice president and chief patient safety and quality officer at Jefferson Health in New Jersey, in addition to having a practice as an infectious diseases physician in Voorhees.
Long before he was healing people, Condoluci was a young boy growing up in a suburb of Rochester, N.Y. His step-brothers were physical therapists, so he wanted to help mend people too. Years later, he applied to the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and was accepted.
Condoluci found his specialty while he was a resident in internal medicine. He said his mentor was the type of inspiring and professional man he wanted to be like, so he followed his path and completed a two-year fellowship in infectious diseases.
When he was first getting into the speciality in 1979, infectious diseases was a small field. Then in 1981, the first cases of HIV were identified. He said, looking back, those early years were especially difficult with so many patients dying because they didn’t know what the disease was or how to treat it.
The 1980s were a difficult time for patients seeking care, Condoluci said. In a joint effort between Cooper University Health Care and Kennedy Health (now Jefferson Health), health-care providers pulled together their resources to get more funding for patients with AIDS to provide early intervention programs. Condoluci subsequently was a founding member of the AIDS Coalition of Southern New Jersey as means for helping AIDS patients who were in desperate need of resources.
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, AIDS patients were grievously ill and in need of housing, transportation and psychiatric counseling, and the coalition was there to help them.
“Those early years, there wasn’t a lot of funding, and we had to make the most with what we had,” Condoluci said.
In 1995, new treatments that made a difference in patients’ survival rates came out, and it was the beginning of the more effective treatments that doctors use today. Prior to that, patients faced another setback: finding doctors who were willing to treat them.
Because doctors were unsure how the disease was transmitted, many were fearful to work with AIDS patients. Condoluci said he’s grateful he was able to play a small part in a big problem by helping these patients.
“When you do HIV work it’s like special; I think you almost have to have a calling to do it — like hospice or oncology or cancer with kids,” Condoluci said. “Being able to help someone, that’s your reward. I’ve been richly rewarded personally by being involved in this.”
Now in his 60s, Condoluci oversees quality and safety issues throughout Jefferson Health — New Jersey. He said patient safety is a natural outgrowth of his career in infectious diseases. He said, in the hospital, they are always trying to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. He said the priority is keeping patients safe and assuring them that when they come in for treatments, they leave in better condition than they came. At this time, Jefferson has lowered its sepsis mortality rate to 8.5 percent, which is well below most industry standards.
When Condoluci learned he was being recognized by the New Jersey Hospital Association, he was both honored and humbled. He said much like a firefighter or policeman, he’s always just viewed helping people as his job and never expected to be recognized for it.
Looking back on his career, he’s most proud of saving lives by treating HIV patients and of teaching students, residents and interns how to be a good doctor. More importantly, however, he’s proud to have taught them how to treat patients with empathy and compassion in their time of need.
“You never know what someone is going through; there are so many burdens [patients] carry today along with illness,” Condoluci said. “You can’t forget that there’s a human being there.”