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Voices of HMSOM: Martinelli Helps Educators Hit the Ground Running

Institutions which set out to do things differently have to develop their own ways. When it comes to the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, it has meant developing a unique humanistic focus on learning – with the goal of producing life-long learners and a humanistic perspective among tomorrow’s physicians.

Joseph Martinelli is a modern educator who helps the faculty and staff figure out and standardize the “Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine way” of doing things – right down to curriculum plans, evaluations, and better ways of conducting everyday learning.

“It’s been neat to see this all coming together over my time here,” said Martinelli.

“Joseph Martinelli has served as the conductor who helps fit all the pieces together to create a coherent and often beautiful end-product,” said Bonita Stanton, M.D., the founding dean of the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. “He has been critical to our success despite the many changes in our teaching approaches that have been necessitated by the rapidly changing environment resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic. “

Martinelli is one of the key staffers helping to recruit and train the school’s faculty from across Hackensack Meridian Health. He assists on observations and evaluations, and helps refine what’s going on in the classroom, physical and otherwise. This includes methods such as “Forward with Feedback” and “One-Minute Learner,” which helps prioritize ways for busy professionals to easily identify what works, and what can work better in the educational environment.

But Martinelli also assists with the student end of things: by helping the LCP program; bringing together workshops for new phases of each class’s progression toward a degree; pulling in assessments of what is occurring in class via programs with engagement tools; and orchestrating large group active learning (LGAL) classroom formats. He also helps with updating the School’s website and keeping it current.

All this work became even more critical to maintain cohesion at a new medical school emerging during the COVID-19 pandemic era. The rapid transitions facing all institutions of learning necessitated by the speed and absence of predictability with which COVID-19 were especially disruptive to medical schools which require a wide range of educational approaches, many of which in the case of the HMSOM are quite innovative. For more than a year, almost all the teaching and learning had to be done virtually. The faculty, who were often refining a relatively new curriculum which had been developed for small-group, in-person training, also had to learn to do so remotely.

“It was tough,” said Martinelli. “It was tough for everyone.”

A fledgling career in education brought Martinelli to the medical school. After earning his undergraduate degree at Seton Hall University, he started working at the middle school he once attended in Somerville, with an eye toward special education, history, math and science classes. But the environment was not for him – and he returned to Seton Hall to get a master’s degree in public relations. The internship that followed was with the PGA Tour. In that capacity, Martinelli worked with nonprofits, recruited volunteers and helped with fundraising – all requiring organizational skills he’s subsequently found helpful at the medical school.

But it is other, more unique experiences which also inform the job he’s doing at the School. He was a successful distance runner in high school and in college, where he represented Seton Hall on the varsity team and ran some big races over his undergraduate career. (Despite recently sustaining a major leg injury, he’s also currently in training for the New York Marathon in November).

His close association with sports also extended to being a college mascot. Martinelli portrayed the Seton Hall Pirate, and the Marquette Golden Eagle in a short career as a crowd-pleaser – as the former he even made an appearance in an ESPN commercial.

Taken together, the distance runner has learned the value of patience and pacing – as well as the value of holding the attention of an audience, no matter what the goal is.

“The School is really starting to hit its stride,” he said. “Everything is truly coming together.”

Next up for Martinelli: pursuing a master’s in Healthcare Administration. Continuing the philosophy of life-long learning, it’s a whole new fascinating career trajectory for a professional who started off focusing only on teaching in a classroom.

“I had never been in a hospital prior to this job,” Martinelli said. “But I’ve found, learning how the medical field works, that it’s a really worthwhile pursuit.”