Deborah Heart and Lung Center

100 years of innovative care

In 1922, Tuberculosis (TB) was a dangerous infectious disease spreading unchecked in New York City, hitting hardest in neighborhoods where immigrants lived in cramped, poorly ventilated conditions. Fresh air, a high-calorie diet and relaxation were thought to be the only treatment.

Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills traces its origins to the epidemic. New York City philanthropist Dora Moness Shapiro purchased a cottage in Browns Mills and hired a doctor. She started Deborah as a sanatorium, where TB patients from the city could find refuge in the healing air of the Pine Barrens.

A century later, Deborah has grown from that single cottage to a 55-acre medical campus with partner medical practices located throughout South Jersey. Today, the Center offers leading-edge surgical techniques and non-surgical procedures for diagnosing and treating all forms of cardiac, vascular and pulmonary diseases in adults, as well as congenital and acquired heart defects in adults and children. Functioning as an independent specialty teaching hospital, Deborah is committed to advancing practices through collaborations with regional and nationally recognized specialty centers. Their partners include Capital Health System, Cooper University Health Care and the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, as well as in alliance with Cleveland Clinic Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute.

And while much has changed over the past century, Deborah’s commitment to treating patients regardless of their ability to pay has not. Deborah’s mission statement from a century ago, that “there is no price on life,” rings true today and continues to drive the Center’s fundraising goals, says President and CEO of Deborah Heart and Lung Center Joseph Chirichella. Although Deborah accepts insurance, there is no co-pay, deductible, balance bills or any out-of-pocket expense for care received at the hospital.

“Deborah has long been a beacon of hope, research, innovation and medical miracles that have saved hundreds of thousands of lives over the decades,” says Chirichella. “All of this has been accomplished with our hallmark of kindness and compassion, and without causing financial distress to our patients.”

Transition to a Heart and Lung Center

Over the 3 decades before antibiotics were widely used to treat TB, Deborah medical practitioners set the standards for treating diseases of the chest. This paved the way for Deborah’s transition from a TB sanatorium to a specialty hospital in 1957.

Charles Bailey Time Cover

Spearheaded by the work of Charles Bailey, MD, Deborah was the first hospital in the state to perform open-heart surgery. It was 1958, and Bailey’s successful operations on a 36-year-old woman and 3-year-old boy that helped position Deborah as a world-class heart and lung specialty hospital and landed its pioneering doctor on the cover of Time magazine. An article entitled, “Inside the Heart, Newest Advances in Surgery,” introduced the world to Deborah’s cutting-edge practices.

Providing Care to the Community

Over time, the Center added services relating to heart and lung disease, including vascular surgery, diabetes care, sleep medicine, wound care and rehabilitation services.

Additional milestones came with expansion in the 1980s, including the creation of a clinical research program in 1981 and the establishment of an emergency room in 2010. Partners in the construction of a 60,000 square foot, 3-story medical office building in 2018 added primary care and other specialty services to a rural portion of Burlington County.

Training Future Heart Specialists

Named a Top Teaching Hospital by The Leapfrog Group, Deborah is a stepping stone for training talented and highly-skilled doctors dedicated to innovation since 1965. Its fellowship program offers training in advanced heart failure and transplant cardiology, cardiac electrophysiology, general cardiology, interventional cardiology and vascular surgery. Deborah Fellows spend between one to 5 years in training, depending on the area of focus. They leave the program with hands-on practical experience gained by working in a facility that treats 70,000 outpatients, 4,000 inpatients and performs 1,600 surgical and 6,000 non-surgical procedures each year.

“The Deborah Fellows are part of the future of our country’s heart care,” says Chirichella.

The Center has been recognized by The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) as a leader in cardiac outcomes. Moreover, the NJ Department of Health recently recognized Deborah for having the lowest risk adjusted mortality rate in the state for cardiac surgery in its most recent report.

“A $108 million capital expansion and renovation project at the Browns Mills location, will position the Center at the vanguard well into the future.”

The Next 100 Years

“A $108 million capital expansion and renovation project at the Browns Mills location, will position the Center at the vanguard well into the future,” says Chirichella. The new construction, which started earlier this year, will add a 3-story vertical addition to existing hospital space, adding 36 new private patient suites. Three existing patient care units will be renovated, bringing Deborah’s total bed count to 95. Additional renovations include upgrades to the hospital’s cardiac catheterization labs, a new pharmacy clean room, and new robotic technology in the electrophysiology labs.

“This project, which began prior to Covid, was aimed at increasing our total number of critical care beds, enhancing patient privacy and well-being, along with the well-being of our clinical and support team,” says Deborah Executive Vice President and COO Joseph Manni. “The pandemic has served to reinforce our vision of these needs, and fortify our resolve to continue providing the highest quality cardiac, pulmonary, and vascular care in the region.”

“Unveiling new patient care units and modernizing existing space is an exciting anniversary present to share with the community,” says Chirichella. “Building towards the future has always been a Deborah underpinning,” he adds. “With our 100th anniversary this year, it is fitting that we are embarking on a bold new chapter in the hospital’s future.”


200 Trenton Road, Browns Mills

609-893-6611 |