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Cutting the ribbon on the Women’s Center at Saint Michael’s (L-R): Donna Zeuner, Assemblywoman Shanique Davis-Speight, Newark Central Ward Councilwoman LaMonica McIver, Danielle Boyd-Roney, Dr. Norma Rae, Dr. Deanna Howard, CEO Robert Iannaccone and Dr. Nadine Pappas.

NEWARK, NJ — For nearly two decades, Dr. Norma Rae dreamed of creating a center in Newark that would provide comprehensive, high-quality health care services for women in the city and surrounding communities.

This week, her dream came true when the Women’s Health Center at Saint Michael’s Medical Center was opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by local leaders, including Assemblywoman Shanique Speight and Central Ward Councilwoman LaMonica McIver.

The new center will offer breast, gynecological and, for the first time in many years, obstetrics services, under one roof in a spacious office on the third floor of the hospital.

“The Women’s Health Center provides a warm and safe environment where women’s health needs are the sole priority,” said Dr. Rae. “The Women’s Health Center is a place where women are the center of their health as they partner with their healthcare specialist, regardless of the type of insurance.”

Danielle Boyd-Roney, the Director of Women’s Services at Saint Michael’s, said the Women’s Health Center addresses many of the needs raised in Healthy New Jersey 2020 campaign, the state’s health improvement plan.

“Through the Women’s Health Center, Saint Michael’s is addressing health care imperatives such as early detection of sexually transmitted disease, breast and cervical cancer by promoting screenings, care and treatment,” Boyd-Roney said.

Boyd-Roney said many women in Newark must go to clinics to receive healthcare and in many instances must wait long periods of time before they can see a physician. The Women’s Center will be staffed by doctors in several specialties, including Dr. Nadine Pappas, a breast surgeon, Dr. Mrinal Koul and Dr. Deanna Howard, both specialists in obstetrics and gynecology.

“We will make sure that no matter the insurance, our patients don’t need to sit in a clinic environment,” Boyd-Roney said. “They will have a private practice experience. Just because you don’t make top dollar does not mean you don’t get top care.”

Boyd-Roney said the seed for a women’s center was planted in 2009.

“Dr. Rae burst into my office and said, ‘we must create a women’s health center; we must make sure women understand they are the center of the universe and everything that happens in their world is important’,” Boyd-Roney said. “That’s what this center is about.”

Dr. Rae, who also specializes in gynecology and obstetrics, has long been affiliated with Saint Michael’s and recently returned to the hospital to run the new women’s center.

“I am so grateful and so appreciative of the administration at Saint Michael’s for their support for this women’s health center,” Dr. Rae said.

Saint Michael’s CEO Robert Iannaccone said the Women’s Health Center is another service the hospital developed to meet a demand in the community. He said Saint Michael’s goal is to offer services that are on par with the best hospitals in the state.

Last week, Saint Michael’s received three America’s 100 Best hospital designations in three specialties from Healthgrades, the leading online resource for information about physicians and hospitals. Saint Michael’s was the only hospital in Essex or Hudson counties to earn the 100 Best designation in three specialties.

“What the people of Newark deserve is a hospital that is as good as those in the surrounding suburban communities,” Iannaccone said. “This center will offer personalized care that will be delivered in the most respectful, patient-focused way possible.”

Since Prime Healthcare purchased Saint Michael’s in 2016, the hospital has been investing in new equipment and services. Earlier this month, the 358-bed hospital cut the ribbon on two new cardiac catheterization laboratories that offer the latest equipment available.

Assemblywoman Speight, who sits on the Assembly Health Committee, applauded Saint Michael’s for opening the Women’s Health Center.

“In our city, we don’t have access to healthcare and we are sometimes forced to travel miles to receive it,” Speight said. “It’s great to know this center is right here in our community.”

Councilwoman McIver said she will waste no time getting the word out to her constituents about the new center.

“I am ready to get to work and get this center packed with patients,” McIver said.