Cooper Culture: Bringing Access & Innovation to South Jersey

More than ever before, there is an understanding that primary care providers (PCP) – physicians, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants – are essential to keeping us all healthy. They provide that first contact, that initial diagnosis and advice that can make all the difference in your care. It has been proven again and again that access to a PCP can keep people well.

Cooper Care Alliance was formed in Sept. 2020 as a way to increase access to primary care providers. The network of clinicians has flourished in the past 18 months, says primary care physician Carman Ciervo, DO, FACOFP, Chief Physician Executive of Cooper Care Alliance. He attributes the success to one thing: “It’s all about the Cooper culture.”

Dr. Ciervo was recruited by Cooper University Health Care to start the alliance after a 30-year career in family medicine. “I am a family physician, and I trained Family Medicine residents,” he says. “I’m also born and raised in South Jersey, so my work at Cooper strengthens my committment to the community.”

Dr. Ciervo says the alliance has grown steadily – there are currently 60 clinicians in the network ­ – because of the Cooper mission and leadership. “The growth we’ve had is unprecedented,” he says.

“When I started at Cooper, I felt the passion people have for this Healthcare System. It put the ‘why I do what I do’ back into perspective. Every Health System strives to support the community they are a part of. Cooper lives this every day!”

Greg Taylor, DO, Medical Director of Cooper Care Alliance, says the benefits the alliance provides for physicians “allows them to focus on caring for their patients. We’re advocates for our physicians. We’re a resource for them. We’re doing something unique here.”

Dr. Ciervo and Dr. Taylor say the Cooper culture also encourages innovation. They’ve seen it firsthand.

“Cooper embraces the phrase, ‘One Team, One Purpose,’” Dr. Ciervo says. “We started the Cooper CareNow program, where we provide care 7 days a week, 12 hours a day.”

We also integrated behavioral health services into primary care. There are multiple stressors in the world we live in, and having access to psychiatrists, psychologists and licensed clinical social workers gives people resources for their psychological health.”

“We’ve been empowered to make decisions that impact the delivery of care,” Dr. Taylor adds. “We’re able to try new things without some of the barriers you might expect. We were able to set up Cooper CareNow because there was support for it. People get sick on the weekends, people work during the day, and they can’t get in to see their doctor, so we’re providing that level of access.”

“But it also does some pretty innovative things for the providers,” Dr. Taylor adds. “If you’re on call, you won’t have a patient calling you at 6:30 in the evening, because someone is actually seeing that patient. There’s a real problem today with physician burnout, so we’re helping providers maintain that life-work balance.”

In October 2021, the Cooper Care Alliance opened The Center for LGBTQ+ Health.

“We recognized an important need in our community,” Dr. Ciervo says, “so we started the center with Dr. Justin Schweitzer, Medical Director, who has special training and a passion for caring for the LGBTQ+ community. It grew so quickly we now have an additional clinician, Physician Assistant Ryan Kirker. We are proud that the community has embraced this program.”

“Another component of success and innovation is the outstanding leadership of our co-CEOs, Kevin O’Dowd, JD, and Anthony Mazzarelli, MD, JD, as well as our Chief Physician Executive, Eric Kupersmith, who lead through servant leadership. One of the reasons for the growth-focused culture at Cooper is its leadership,” Dr. Ciervo says. “This type of leadership creates a culture of inclusion. When you have this, innovation is the norm and not the exception.”

Both Dr. Taylor and Dr. Ciervo are certain Cooper Care Alliance will continue to grow.

“Absolutely,” says Dr. Ciervo. “We are going to ensure primary care access for New Jersey residents. It’s how we live our culture authentically every day. There is no ‘I’ in team. Cooper Care Alliance is, was and will always be about the importance of everyone contributing to the care, the growth and the values.”


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