Samaritan Medical Center Earns National Recognition for Promoting Organ, Eye, and Tissue Donation

Samaritan Medical Center has earned a gold recognition for its efforts to increase organ, eye, and tissue donor registrations across the state, through the Workplace Partnership for Life (WPFL) Hospital Organ Donation Campaign. The WPFL is a national initiative that unites the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and the organ donation community with workplaces across the nation in spreading the word about the importance of donation.

Between October 2018 and April 2019, Samaritan Medical Center participated in HRSA’s WPFL Hospital Organ Donation Campaign. The program challenges hospitals and healthcare organizations to “let life bloom” by educating their staff, patients, visitors, and communities about the critical need for organ, eye, and tissue donation and by offering them opportunities to register as donors.  Samaritan Medical Center earned points for completing awareness and registry activities and new donor registrations during the campaign period.

Samaritan Medical Center was one of more than 1,480 organizations to participate in the 2019 campaign and one of 226 organizations to earn gold recognition.

This year’s Hospital Organ Donation Campaign added more than 48,000 registrations to state registries and the Puerto Rico registry, which also includes registrations from the U.S. Virgin Islands. The campaign has generated more than 492,000 registrations since its inception in 2011 and unites donation advocates at hospitals with representatives from their local organ procurement organizations, Donate Life America affiliates, and state and regional hospital associations.

Every 10 minutes, another person is added to the organ transplant list, reaffirming the critical and growing need for registered organ, eye, and tissue donors. For more information about the Hospital Campaign, visit  To sign up as a donor, go to Samaritan Medical Center (Watertown, New York) is a 290-bed not-for-profit community medical center, offering a full spectrum of inpatient and outpatient healthcare services. From primary and emergency care to highly specialized medical and surgical services, such as cancer treatment, neonatal intensive care, behavioral health and addiction services, and imaging services, Samaritan Medical Center and its team of healthcare professionals proudly serves the medical needs of our civilian and military community. Quality, compassion, and safety are the basic principles by which exceptional care is delivered at Samaritan.

(l to r) Kim Smith, Nurse Manager and Donor Liaison; Kim Thibert, Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer; Matthew Graney, Hospital Development Associate, Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network; Andy Short, Chief Operating Officer

Circle of Hope Cancer Awareness Dinner Event

Watertown, New York —– Samaritan Medical Center’s annual Cancer Awareness Event will be held September 25, 2019 at the Hilton Garden Inn at 1290 Arsenal Street in Watertown.  Informational and vendor booths will open at 4:30 p.m., followed by dinner and entertainment at 6:00 p.m.  Cost is $30 per person and $50 per couple.   Seating for the event is limited and reservations are requested by September 15, 2019.  You may purchase tickets online at or via phone at 315-785-5745.   

Each year, the Circle of Hope Committee at Samaritan hosts the Cancer Awareness Event to give the community a chance to come together to learn more about this deadly disease and also to bring together survivors, caregivers and friends for an uplifting and entertaining evening of connection and reflection.   This year, The Butler Did It Players will entertain attendees with a fun “who dunnit” mystery!   “Operation Murder” will begin as soon as guests walk in the door… and then the fun and laughter will begin as guests try to solve the mystery! 

Funds raised at the awareness event support Samaritan Medical Center’s “Circle of Hope Cancer Awareness Fund” which allocates money to improve the health and well-being of cancer patients throughout Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence Counties.

For more information, please visit or call 315-785-5745.

Samaritan Family Health Centers Receive Recognition from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) as a NYS Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) Practice

Samaritan Family Health Network’s eight primary care centers received recognition from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) as a NYS Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) practice at the 2017 standard, the most recent standard available.

This recognition is given to practices in New York State that meet a rigorous set of qualifications within six concept areas:

  1. Team-Based Care and Practice Organization
  2. Knowing and Managing Your Patients
  3. Patient-Centered Access and Continuity
  4. Care Management and Support
  5. Care Coordination and Care Transitions
  6. Performance Measurement and Quality Improvement

The principles of patient-centered care align with the momentum toward value-based payment, and ensuring that patients get the right care at the right time, at the right place. Samaritan’s success has been profiled in a case study encouraging other NYS health centers to become PCMH recognized. 

The coordinated effort on Samaritan’s end has led to patient care success; specifically this work has led to decreased Emergency Department visits and lower A1C levels in diabetic patients.  In addition, the following improvements have been made:

  • Better communication: Communication improved across the organization – between clinicians, and between patients and the office. This led to better provider and patient engagement.
  • Stronger care management: The care management program allows patients to spend more time with a nurse discussing more complicated health concerns. This helps patients better manage chronic conditions.
  • Patient-centered access: Clinical availability shifted from provider schedules to patient needs. This means patients with urgent care needs can be seen sooner.
  • Behavioral health integration: Process improvements increased behavioral health screenings by the tens of thousands per year. Integration of a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) into the practice meant primary care physicians could bring in a behavioral health professional immediately if they suspected possible life-threatening issues.
  • Population health management: Process and workflow changes, combined with stronger Health IT infrastructure, led to better overall population health management.

“Changing an entire primary care model with eight centers is a tremendous feat for any healthcare organization. Our team of 28 providers and staff took on the challenge.  They are willing and ready to help improve patient outcomes and they have succeeded,” states Mike Gonzales, MD, MHSA, Samaritan Family Health Network Administrator.

Samaritan Medical Center received its first PCMH recognition in 2011. This is the second time receiving the NYS PCMH 2017 recognition, the NYS-specific program that is built upon the NCQA PCMH model and which was rolled out in April 2018. All eight of Samaritan’s primary care sites are recognized:

  • Adams Family Health Center
  • Cape Vincent Family Health Center
  • Clayton Family Health Center
  • S.M.A.R.T Clinic (Graduate Medical Education) (Watertown)
  • Lacona Family Health Center
  • LeRay Family Health Center
  • Watertown Family Health Center
  • Sackets Harbor Family Health Center

Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization (FDRHPO) was instrumental in helping Samaritan gain this recognition.  They have assisted primary care practices in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence Counties achieve PCMH recognition. FDRHPO’s team of Practice Transformation specialists work closely with partnering practices to navigate the recognition process, from policy formation and adoption, to workflow transformation, and formal submission for recognition. To learn more about NYS PCMH please visit:

Ribbon Cutting Celebration – Healing Power of Progress and Expansion

Watertown, New York — Samaritan Medical Center celebrated its most recent facility upgrade with an official ribbon cutting and open house event on Tuesday, August 20, 2019. Since 2006 Samaritan Medical Center has embarked on a multi-year campus transformation and this next wave signifies the almost completed last step of the four phase process and progress of the most recent capital campaign, The Healing Power of Progress.

“Our Facility Master Plan has transformed the campus over the last decade to meet the growing health needs of this community and all with the help of our extremely generous supporters,” explained Thomas H. Carman, President and CEO. “The campus now includes a parking garage, patient pavilion, expanded as well as renovated space in existing buildings including the new Center for Women and Children and improved space that is much more patient centric for our mental health patients, plus a connector between the hospital and nursing home, as well as new services and specialties. This ribbon cutting and open house event allow us to share progress and excitement with the community and our staff, and reflect on what we have accomplished together.”

Part of the ribbon cutting event was the expansion and renovation of the new Center for Women and Children, which consolidates Maternity and Pediatrics onto one floor to offer an environment that appeals to the needs of women, children and families. It includes a new dedicated three-level entrance and parking lot that leads patients and visitors directly to the Center. The new space offers abundant natural light and a calm environment for mothers and families.  Once completed there will be 21 private mother-baby rooms and a dedicated Pediatrics unit with 8 rooms.  Areas already completed as part of this project include the Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the only NICU in northern New York, and Labor and Delivery Suite.

Guests at the event were able to see the beginnings of the updated Inpatient Mental Health Unit. This new space considers the unique healing needs of our patients in a more spacious, calmer and brighter environment.  The programming and activity space will feature the greatest enhancements for the patients and staff, including additional space for physical activity/exercise, improved group therapy/activity rooms with amenities, as well as quiet spaces designated for individual and group meetings.  The Unit will also see an increase in beds from 32 to 34 to help meet the demand in our community.  The project will be fully completed by 2022.

This project also includes improved space for the Medical Center’s Support Services including a new morgue with a family viewing area, a new loading dock and a new more functional store room.  Support Services has not been improved in over 40 years and is needed due to substantial expansion of services over time.

Samaritan Medical Center and its physicians are responsible for 95% of the care to Tricare patients in the North Country, including active duty Soldiers, retirees, civilian employees and their family members in our community, accounting for a significant percentage of patients in services, such as Maternity (46.5%), Neonatal Intensive Care (39.1%), Pediatrics (24.86%) and Inpatient Mental Health (27.5%).

During the ribbon cutting ceremony, Mr. Carman also provided an update on the most recent capital campaign. The Healing Power of Progress has surpassed its goal to date raising $6.1 million dollars.  Part of this campaign was support for the new Center for Women and Children.  Leading donors to this project were Children’s Miracle Network ($1,000,000); Kinney Drugs Foundation ($250,000); and M&T Bank ($100,000).  In addition, the Northern New York Community Foundation provided support to the Center for Women and Children and the Walker Center for Cancer Care ($150,000) and an additional $150,000 matching grant was made by the Community Foundation to establish formal partnership through the creation of an endowment within the Community Foundation for Samaritan’s benefit.

Samaritan also unveiled two special places on campus that honor contributions to the health system.  The Dr. Kim Memorial Garden was dedicated in honor of Dr. Moonjohn Kim, who was killed in a tragic motor vehicle accident in 2017.  He was a gifted physician respected and beloved by colleagues, staff and patients.  He left a legacy of tremendous medical skill, talent and true compassion. The garden was created completely by contributors to honor him and to know that his legacy will live on forever at Samaritan.  

With a successful year of fundraising, the Samaritan Foundation also unveiled an updated donor wall to show appreciation to those that contributed to the Foundation and the Healing Power of Progress capital campaign. The wall is located in the Patient Registration main hallway across from the Foundation office. Over 300 people attended the event.

Northern New York Community Foundation Supports Healing Power of Progress Campaign

The Samaritan Medical Center Foundation of Northern New York is pleased to announce that it has received a $150,000 grant from the Northern New York Community Foundation to support the Walker Center for Cancer Care and the Center for Women and Children, two strategic projects that are vital to the tri-county community. The new comprehensive cancer center houses cancer services, including radiation oncology, medical hematology/oncology, and physician specialists in a single convenient location designed with patients in mind. The Center for Women and Children moves all services for these patients onto one floor located within the hospital with expanded space, a dedicated entrance and advanced technology for our smallest patients.

In addition to the two projects, money raised through the capital campaign supports Samaritan’s endowment, which helps the health system to continue to plan for its future and meet community needs as they arise. The campaign began in 2018 with a goal to raise $6 million. An additional $150,000 matching grant was made by the Community Foundation to establish formal partnership through the creation of an endowment within the Community Foundation for Samaritan’s benefit. This partnership helps strengthen the long history of collaboration between the two organizations. The new fund joins three other permanent Community Foundation funds established by donors to provide annual support of Samaritan in perpetuity.

“Charitable giving helps make important advancements at Samaritan possible by allowing us to enhance patient care, expand facilities and bring specialized equipment to our patients,” states Beth Fipps, Vice President Community Services and Foundation at Samaritan.

Established in 1929, the Northern New York Community Foundation strives to inspire and celebrate giving, steward resources honorably, and foster vibrant North Country communities.

“The partnership with Samaritan strengthens a long history and relationship that has impacted the lives of many area residents,” said Rande Richardson, Executive Director at the Community Foundation. “Health care is a critical service for our communities and has been for 90 years of Community Foundation donors. This grant and newly established endowment partnership will help strengthen local services both now and for generations to come.”

Circle of Hope Cancer Awareness Dinner

Join Samaritan Medical Center’s Circle of Hope Cancer Committee at their annual Cancer Awareness Dinner

Wednesday, September 25, 2019
Hilton Garden Inn
1290 Arsenal Street, Watertown

Door open and Vendors start at 4:30pm
Program begins at 6:00pm

The Circle of Hope in conjunction with “the Butler Did It” presents a Murder Mystery Dinner this year. Gather your friends and family and join us for a mystery dinner.

Online reservations are now closed. See you at the event!


A Cancer Awareness Event. Proceeds benefit cancer patients and community education at Samaritan Medical Center

Samaritan Medical Center Receives Recognition for Newborn Baby Hepatitis B Vaccination Rates

The Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) recognized Samaritan’s Center for Women and Children for its noteworthy dedication to patient safety by adhering to their established policy to administer the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine to newborns prior to hospital discharge, and achieving a coverage rate of 91%. Samaritan Medical Center is on the IAC Hepatitis B Birth Dose ‘Honor Roll.’

The birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine is critical to safeguarding all infants from hepatitis B virus infection which can lead to chronic liver disease. Educating parents about the importance of this first dose falls on the nursing staff at every hospital. Nursing staff at the Center for Women and Children are educated about the vaccine and take the time to explain to parents the importance of this newborn dose. This dedication from nursing staff has resulted in the high percentage rate of newborns protected from a preventable disease. As IAC states “you (Samaritan) take patient safety seriously by following the national standard of care for protecting newborns.”

“Our staff are honored to receive this award again this year,” states Laurie L. Fegley, Director of the Center for Women and Children at Samaritan Medical Center. “It may seem obvious that newborns would be offered this vaccine, but it is the consistency and education of nurses that ensure parents understand the prevention benefits and choose to vaccinate. It is extremely important to our tiniest patients and we are proud to have maintained this high standard again this year.”

Front row left to right: Bonnie LaBarge RN, Leslie Dusharm, RN, Bobbie Burgess, RN, Laurie Houser, RN.
Top row left to right: Jennifer Wells, RN, Mindi Beebe, RN, Amanda Isula-Hillebert, RN, Eileen Calhoun, Unit Assistant, Mikayla Darrah, RN, Krista Rick, Certified Nurse Midwife, Dr. John Barrett, Polly Birtch, RN, Tara Cardinell, Unit Assistant

Samaritan Welcomes New Chief Financial Officer

Watertown, New York — Samaritan is pleased to welcome Maxine A. Briggs, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), to Samaritan’s administration and senior leadership team. Briggs brings over 13 years of healthcare experience and 24 years of accounting knowledge to the position.

Prior to joining Samaritan, Briggs served at the Health System Controller for the St. Lawrence Health System since September 2018 and Hospital Controller for Canton-Potsdam Hospital from March 2008 until September 2018.  In these roles she provided daily oversight and leadership to many hospital accounting processes, strategic financial direction to the systems, implemented benchmarking tools based upon best practices, directed revenue cycle growth, improved denial claims management and more.

“We are pleased to welcome Maxine to the leadership team at Samaritan,” says Tom Carman, President and CEO of Samaritan Medical Center. “Her strong financial background and understanding of healthcare’s financial challenges will serve us well. We look forward to her leadership and guidance as we continue to build the financial stability we have been fortunate to maintain for several years. This stability is vital to the families we care for.”

Briggs has a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management from SUNY Canton and began her employment at Samaritan on Monday, August 5, 2019. Briggs replaces Paul A. Kraeger who served Samaritan for 38 years.

smc chief samaritan officer maxine a briggs

Samaritan Welcomes Three New Physicians

Samaritan Medical Center is pleased to welcome Sima Banerjee, MD, Holden Heitner, MD and Jason Lulejian, DO to our hospital medical staff.

Sima Banerjee, MD, is our new Director of Interventional Radiology & Interventional Oncology. Interventional radiology is a medical sub-specialty of radiology utilizing minimally-invasive image-guided procedures to diagnose and treat diseases in nearly every organ system. Interventional oncology is a subspecialty field of interventional radiology that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and cancer-related problems using targeted minimally invasive procedures performed under image guidance

Dr. Banerjee will be offering comprehensive services to treat many conditions in many respective areas including:

Women’s Health:

  • Osteoporosis Kyphoplasty
  • Uterine Fibroid Embolization
  • Pelvic Congestion Syndrome

Men’s Health:

  • Varicocele Embolization

Cancer Care:

  • Tumor Ablation
  • Chemoembolization for liver tumors and liver metastasis
  • Ports – Vascular access for Chemotherapy

Liver Disease:

  • Transjugular Intrahepatic Portosystemic Shunt or TIPS
  • Balloon-occluded Retrograde Transvenous Obliteration (BRTO)
  • Portal Hypertension
  • Biliary Obstruction/Jaundice

Urinary Issues:

  • Stone Disease/Ureteral Stenting

Dr. Banerjee completed her medical degree at Kings College London School of Medicine, London. She completed her radiology residency training at Emory University, Atlanta, GA, followed by fellowship training in interventional radiology at University of Alabama Hospital, Birmingham, AL. 

Dr. Banerjee is located at Samaritan Medical Center, 830 Washington St. Watertown and is accepting new patients.  Her office can be reached by calling (315) 785-4230.

Holden Heitner, MD, specializes in Orthopaedic Surgery. Orthopaedic surgeons are dedicated to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders of the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. 

Dr. Heitner completed his medical degree followed by residency training in Orthopedic Surgery at SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY.  Dr. Heitner is in process for certification with the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Dr. Heitner is part of the North Country Orthopaedics Group located at 1571 Washington St. in Watertown and is accepting new patients.  Their office can be reached at (315) 782-1650.

Jason Lulejian, DO specializes in Psychiatry. A psychiatrist is dedicated to the diagnosis, prevention, study, and treatment of mental disorders. Dr. Lulejian is offering comprehensive inpatient mental health services to Samaritan’s Inpatient Mental Health Unit patients at the Medical Center.

In addition, he will offer limited outpatient addiction services through our Outpatient Addiction Services at 1575 Washington St. in Watertown. This is a much needed service for the community and Samaritan is pleased to offer this limited expansion of service.

Dr. Lulejian completed his medical degree at Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, Pomona, California, followed by residency training in psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY.  Dr. Lulejian did inpatient and outpatient rotations at Samaritan during his residency training in Psychiatry at SUNY Upstate.

Dr. Lulejian is in process for certification with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.  

Ameritas® Awards Grant to Samaritan’s Walker Center for Cancer Care

The Samaritan Medical Center Foundation of Northern New York is pleased to announce a donation to the Walker Center for Cancer Care from Ameritas® through Watertown native, Kim G. Allen, managing partner of United Professional Advisors, LLC and co-founder of United Wealth Advisors Group, LLC. Mr. Allen was awarded the Lester A. Rosen Humanitarian and Achievement Award and chose the Walker Center for Cancer Care as the non-profit recipient in memory of his mother, Linda Allen.
For the full press release and to view the video about this incredible donation please visit this link to the Ameritas® website.

From left to right: Tom Carman, President & CEO of Samaritan Medical Center; Kim Allen, Rosen Award Recipient and United Professional Advisors, LLC and co-founder of United Wealth Advisors Group, LLC; Christine & Rex Allen, sister-in-law and brother to Kim Allen, and Jerry Allen, father of Kim Allen.