Section: Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus

Alan Alda Discusses the Art and Science of Communicating


Toms River, NJ – Community Medical Center (CMC) and Monmouth Medical Center, Southern Campus (MMCSC), RWJBarnabas Health facilities, presented an evening with Alan Alda, on Tuesday, September 12 at Ocean County College’s Jay & Linda Grunin Center for the Arts with proceeds benefitting Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey and Friends’ Health Connection.

The night began with opening remarks from Michael Mimoso, MHSA, FACHE, President and Chief Executive Officer, CMC, and Frank J. Vozos, MD, FACS, Executive Vice President, RWJBarnabas Health and Chief Executive, MMCSC, both commenting on the importance of communication in the healthcare industry.

“A medical emergency can be frightening – not only for the person experiencing it, but for their loved ones too,” said Mimoso. “Our staff works incredibly hard to match the high quality care they deliver with the utmost compassion. It’s important for our physicians and nurses to be able to address and ease those fears.”

“Communication is a key component of health care and one that we strive to exhibit at each and every RWJBarnabas Health facility,” added Dr. Vozos. “When physicians and patients clearly understand one another, the benefits of care are exemplified and the journey to recovery is met seamlessly.’

Alan Alda, the legendary actor, director and author went on to discuss how to properly communicate with people from all walks of life, which he highlights in his new book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating. Alda provided insight into the life experiences that shaped his interest in not only science and medicine but the skill of clear communication, provided communication technique examples, answered questions from the audience and spoke at length with RWJBarnabas Health Corporate Chair of Geriatrics, Jessica L. Israel, MD.

Alda explained that while filming Scientific American Frontiers in Chile he became ill and fearing it was his appendix, he got to the hospital right away. Upon his arrival, the physician told him he knew what was wrong and said that his intestine had gone bad and the bad section needed to be removed and the good sections needed to be sewed back together.

“That moment truly made an impression on me,” said Alda. “I appreciated the way he spoke in such plain language so that I would understand and I thought about all of the instances in my life where this wasn’t the case. It made me start to think about how I could change the way people communicated with each other.”

Alda also took time to answer several questions from the audience before sitting down with Dr. Israel to discuss ways in which physicians and patients can communicate better with one another. Dr. Israel, who has been with RWJBarnabas Health since 2002, works alongside geriatricians and interdisciplinary teams from across the system to develop innovative, cohesive programs with a specialized focus on geriatrics and senior care. She also specializes in doctor-patient communication and said that when she first meets with a new patient she asks them to take her through their daily lives.

“I’m only getting a snippet of their lives for the short period of time they’re with me,” said Dr. Israel. “To truly understand my patient’s needs, I need them to take me through their day-to-day life and explain to me what they’re struggling with, what’s going well, and what they wish they could change.”

Dr. Israel suggested that patients need to find a physician who really understands them and their needs and that they feel comfortable with. She also said that it’s best to come to appointments with a list or a loved one so important pieces aren’t missed.

“I ask all of my patients to come with an agenda of what they want to talk about. I’m obviously going to ask them questions but I also don’t know what’s been going on in the three to six months since I saw them last so I need them to tell me,” said Dr. Israel. “I also make sure my patients know they can call me at any time if they have a question or concern. Often times it’s when you’re sitting in your kitchen at 10 pm when you think of something and I don’t want my patients to have to wait until they see me next to ask.”

Dr. Israel makes this recommendation of constant communication to her colleagues as well, explaining that to make the most of their appointments they need to have a level of trust and transparency with their patients. She adds that making sure each patient leaves appointments truly understanding what was discussed is central to successful treatment.

“Something I learned early on in my career is that it’s essential to listen and be patient,” said Dr. Israel. “If you’re discussing something difficult with a patient it’s important to wait and let the patient guide where the conversation is going to go. This allows physicians to get true insight into how the patient feels and what they understand, then in-turn enhancing the level of care they’re able to offer.”

In true Alan Alda fashion, he ended the night with wit and charm saying he agreed completely with Dr. Israel but he only played a doctor on TV.

About Alan Alda
Alan Alda has earned international recognition as an actor, writer, and director. He has won seven Emmy Awards, has received three Tony nominations, is an inductee of the Television Hall of Fame, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Aviator. Alda played Hawkeye Pierce on the classic television series M*A*S*H, and his many films include Crimes and Misdemeanors, Everyone Says I Love You, Manhattan Murder Mystery, and Bridge of Spies. Alda is an active member of the science community, having hosted the award-winning series Scientific American Frontiers for eleven years and founded the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. Alda is the author of two previous bestselling books, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learned and Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself.

About Community Medical Center
Opened in 1961, Community Medical Center (CMC) is a fully accredited acute care hospital and offers a comprehensive array of services including advanced cancer care, sophisticated neurology and neurosurgery services including a neuro-interventional lab with a bi-plane, a level 3 Epilepsy Program, and cardiac care featuring three cardiac catheterization labs. CMC’s surgical service features the latest generation daVinci Si robotic surgical platforms, the only program in Ocean County. The hospital’s commitment to technology is evidenced by access to advanced radiologic technology and one of the most sophisticated linear accelerators used for radiation therapy and a CyberKnife for treating inoperable tumors. As one of the area’s most trusted providers of maternal and children’s services, superior obstetric care, a Level 2 special care nursery with 24/7 on site neonatologists for newborns requiring special care, a dedicated pediatric unit and a pediatrician in the Emergency Department are provided. Visit for more information.

About Monmouth Medical Center, Southern Campus
Monmouth Medical Center, Southern Campus is an acute-care community hospital located in Lakewood, Ocean County. An RWJBarnabas Health facility, Monmouth Medical Center, Southern Campus merged with Monmouth Medical Center, a teaching hospital located in Long Branch, Monmouth County, in 2014. The hospitals are dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the communities they proudly serve through expanded access to specialty outpatient services that focus on preventive medicine and healthy living. The partnership has also expanded patients' access to geriatric and pediatric emergency services, as well as outpatient neurology, oncology and geriatric services. In addition, Monmouth Medical Center, Southern Campus offers all private rooms, which makes it the only provider in the region with all private rooms for overnight stays. For more information about Monmouth Medical Center, Southern Campus, visit

About Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey - Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey (CVCJ) is a non-profit organization founded in 1993 to assist the elderly, homebound, and veterans with everyday tasks to remain independent in their own homes. All services are free of charge and delivered by 1,200 volunteers to over 2,000 Ocean and Monmouth County, New Jersey individuals over the age of 60 who are no longer driving. Volunteers provide transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping, reassuring phone calls, visits from both humans and canines, and respite care. For more information about Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey, visit, or, or call 732-505-2273.

About Friends’ Health Connection
Founded in 1988, Friends’ Health Connection is a nonprofit organization that provides support, education and inspiration to help individuals lead a healthy, meaningful life.

CONTACT: Megan Granozio

Categories: Press Releases