Meet Mariekarl Vilceus-Talty, our New President and CEO

On February 1, 2021, Mariekarl Vilceus-Talty, MA, BSN, joined the Partnership as the new President and CEO following Ilise Zimmerman’s retirement. Let’s get to know Mariekarl and her vision for the Partnership’s next chapter.

Congratulations on your appointment! This position is new for you, but you’ve been a long-time supporter and Board Trustee. 

What motivated you to take on this new role?

I have been a long-time advocate of maternal-child health, which essentially leads to a healthier community.  Healthy women and babies translate to a healthier thriving community.  What better place to have a seat at the table than the partnership, an organization that continues to fight for education, equity, and equality for ALL women and children in New Jersey.

What is your overarching vision for the organization?

I want to build upon the foundation set forth by the women and men before me who have been advocating for the vulnerable and voiceless women and children who were almost invisible if not for the consortiums.   I want to achieve generational health and equity for the communities we serve.  When anyone in northern New Jersey hears or speaks about maternal health, they think of the partnership.  The overarching vision is to realize our mission to the point where there is no longer a need for our existence.

What excites you most about the Partnership’s future?

What excites me about our future is the endless innovation and collaboration. The Partnership will continue to change the lives of women and children throughout New Jersey. The endless possibilities to use technology and innovation to assist in the elimination of disparities, misinformation; to change paradigms, ensuring generational health and health literacy and equity to women in New Jersey.

How did you decide on a career path?

My mother is West Indian, born in Gonaives, Haiti, and she was a Maternal Child nurse for over 50 years.  As one of nine children who are mostly in the medical field, healthcare runs in the family and our culture. Medicine was in my future, whether I liked it or not.

I had been going to work with my mother for years at Kings County Hospital, in Brooklyn New York. I was always interested in maternal health – the intimacy between the nurse and the patient, the opportunity to be allowed to be part of such a private moment, guiding new mothers made a great impression on me.  I went to Nursing School at ADELPHI University, and my first job was in Labor & Delivery at Queens Hospital Center. They allowed me to go directly to Labor and Delivery – a rare opportunity for a young nurse – so maternal and child health is dear to my heart.

What do you wish patients understood about hospital staff?

Sometimes people come to the hospital believing that the staff doesn’t really care. We do care about them. I wish patients knew how much we care about them, but we are often managing multiple crises; physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers go to work to do their best and to heal, support, and provide the best experience possible during their stay. We must do a consistent job of presenting that to the patients and their families.

What do you wish physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers understood about patients?

I wish healthcare providers kept on the frontal lobe that patients are terrified and vulnerable when they arrive at the hospital or a physician’s office; patient experience information teaches us that patients have three major concerns; to be assisted, not to be harmed, and to be treated kindly. The world is so complicated these days with COVID-19, social determinates of health, economic concerns, and everyday responsibilities. A patient may need to pick-up a child at the school bus stop or take care of a family member in addition to their health concerns. A little kindness goes a long way.

In this era of COVID, it is easy to forget the person we are caring for and overlook the importance of human touch and taking a seat and just listen.

You were working at Jersey City Medical Center during the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you share your experience?

It’s still very traumatic. You are dealing with an unknown virus, and information changes rapidly. There were days where we knew we were losing the battle against COVID – it was overwhelming. When the CDC announced that no visitors were allowed, we knew we had to connect the patients, especially those in grave condition, with their family members. We scrambled as a team and connected families with iPads. Sometimes, it was for encouragement, and sometimes, it was to say good-bye. I transported patients to the morgue, and that experience lives with me every day.

But it also taught me the true meaning of leadership. I had to rally the nurses on the floor, and we had to keep going every day in the face of adversity and human suffering.

The lessons I learned will help me here at the Partnership to advocate for public health awareness and quality healthcare for all.

One of the Partnership’s most robust initiatives is our work promoting immunizations. Many people are uncertain about the COVID-19 vaccine.  What are your thoughts?

As a frontline worker, I was first in line for the COVID-19 vaccine at Jersey City Medical Center. After the suffering I witnessed, I knew I had to lead by example, trust in science and be at the forefront of helping protect my family and my community.

I understand the fear, especially in communities of color.

There is a long history of medical racism and abuse against Black and Brown people, especially regarding vaccines; however, our communities are also devastated by COVID-19.

Disproportionate infection and death rates among Black and Hispanic and misinformation on social media are killing us. From our best research to date, I want to state that the vaccine is safe, effective, and physician-recommended for most people. It’s our best defense to protect the ones we love and cherish against this deadly virus.

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