RWJUH Somerset's Tony Cava to retire – My Central Jersey

SOMERVILLE – It’s a mixed bag of emotions for Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset’s Anthony Cava as the new year approaches. He is set to retire on Jan. 2 after nearly 40 years in health care.
Leaving RWJUH Somerset is hard, said the 67-year-old Cava, more commonly known as “Tony.” But, it is time, he said.
He was inspired to retire now because of something his wife told him − “Everybody knows how much money they have. But no one knows how much time they have.”
“She’s a wiser person. And that just resonated with me,” Cava said. “I love what I do. But I want to spend more time with my family, especially my grandkids and my wife. It’s a little bittersweet and there is sadness because I love this place and I’m really fond of the team and everybody here. But, I don’t know how much time I have. I missed a lot with my own girls growing up. I spent hours and hours at the hospital.”
Cava said he is going to ease into retirement.
“I’m going to take Christmas week off − the first time I’ll have Christmas week off in 35 years,” her said. “And that’s amazing to me. You think back and you realize those kinds of things − something as simple as a snowstorm. Most people could hunker down and stay in front of their fireplace. I’ve been in the hospital for every single major snowstorm for the last 35 years while my wife and girls stayed home. I’m looking forward to a snowstorm so I can be home.”
For the past seven years, Cava has been on a mission to transform health care in Somerset County. A nationally accredited, 333-bed hospital, RWJUH Somerset provides comprehensive emergency, medical/surgical and rehabilitative services. As CEO and president, Cava expanded services and modernized the facility to meet the community’s evolving healthcare needs.
On Dec. 12, Cava was honored as the 2022 Somerset County Business Partnership’s Citizen of the Year. Cava calls the honor “a bit overwhelming.”
“I never really thought of myself as in that level,” he said. “It’s interesting, though, if you look at the history of the award − it started in 1950 and the first recipient was the president of the old Somerset Hospital. We’ve come full circle. But I really believe in receiving this award − it’s a recognition of one person’s achievements, but for me, I’m receiving it on behalf of the close to 3,300 people that work here.”
Cava, a registered pharmacist with more than 35 years of experience in health care administration, joined RWJUH Somerset in January 2015 and led the hospital through the merger of the Robert Wood Johnson Health System and Barnabas Health 14 months later.
Under his watch, the first primary care center for the LGBTQ+ community in the state − the Babs Siperstein PROUD Center − opened in 2017. Three years later, he navigated the hospital through the COVID-19 pandemic. For Cava, the first stands out as his biggest source of pride while the second represents the most challenging time in recent healthcare history.
“Being the first primary care center for the LGBTQ community in the state − I think it brought our organization, me in particular, the most satisfaction and the most pride of anything, almost anything I’ve ever done in my career,” Cava said. “And I’ve done a lot of things in my career in health care.”
COVID-19 changed the scope of health care.
“A moment that will stand out forever with me is has to be COVID − the first wave back in March of 2020. I’ll never forget the day I got the call with our first patient − March 16,” he said. “What this organization and this team went through with our community was really something I’ll never forget. I say this often − I’m old enough to remember AIDS. I was a pharmacist in New York City at the time, and we thought that was devastating. But the difference with COVID is it affected everyone regardless of your race, your color, your sexual orientation. And that to me was much more dramatic than AIDS to a large degree.”
More:Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset PROUD Family Health to expand
COVID continues to stress the health-care industry, Cava said. Because of the pandemic, having a full workforce has become a challenge for all hospitals as many workers have retired or left the profession.
“To try and backfill that workforce has been a real struggle for all of us, the hospitals,” Cava said. “We’ve all become dependent on outside agencies. That’s at a tremendous cost. I believe it’s going to take another couple of years for the workforce to stabilize, especially in health care. And unless you have a willingness or want or an altruism to be part of health care, it’s really a struggle, and that’s something that’s going to continue. In my opinion, COVID changed the landscape, forever in life and we just have to learn how to adapt and how to adjust. Every health-care system is trying to find that that middle ground again.”
During his tenure, Cava oversaw a three-year cardiology renovation and expansion project, new projects such as a Same Day Surgery Center and Rehabilitation Services Department and renovations to the Maternity Pavilion, Radiology Department and Behavioral Health Unit, including the Eating Disorders Unit.
According to Bill Arnold, executive vice president, Southern Region, RWJBarnabas Health, and president and CEO, RWJUH, Cava guided the hospital through a transformative time.
“We are grateful for his vision and leadership, particularly during the unprecedented challenges we faced during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Arnold said.
Looking back on his tenure at RWJUH Somerset, Cava sees the hospital’s work with the community as a crucial chapter in his and the hospital’s story.
“I think our organization has really galvanized the community over the last seven years through the relationships that I’ve built and the relationships that the organization built − there’s just so many organizations that have really embraced our hospital and it really brought us back into the fold,” Cava said. “So that we can truly say we are not only the town’s hospital, but the county hospital.”
Though part of the larger RWJBarnabas Health organization, RWJUH Somerset has maintained its community hospital roots.
“We’ve worked really hard to maintain the community feel that when people come in here, they feel welcome,” Cava said. “They’re not just a number, if you will. We could get sucked up into that whole milieu of being part of a larger health-care system. And clearly there are a lot of benefits for us to provide the care and services, but it’s that community feel and touch when you walk in our door and you’re greeted. Immediately. Just those little low touch things make a big difference in how patients feel when they come into our hospital.”
But, Cava said RWJUH Somerset is able to provide the comprehensive care because it is part of a larger health-care system.
“There’s a lot of benefits that we receive. Frankly, benefits that our hospital and most hospitals that were standalone couldn’t afford to do,” Cava said. ” We wouldn’t have the expertise and the wherewithal to do that. We’ve been able to renovate every square inch of this hospital with the exception of one patient care area. And we are adding a two-story addition right now. You really can’t do these things as an independent standalone hospital anymore.”
Patrick Delaney, the hospital’s chief operating officer, will succeed Cava as the hospital’s chief administrator. Like Cava, Delaney joined RWJUH Somerset in 2015 and has worked closely with him to oversee hospital operations and facility improvements. .
Under Delaney’s leadership, Cava said the county will see the completion of the addition and recognition of its Orthopedic Center of Excellence.
“I think that that’s front and center for this organization,” he said. “I also think that continued growth of our oncology program at our Steeplechase Cancer Center with our partnership with the Cancer Institute of New Jersey is going to be paramount for our community. We’ve started that and we will continue to grow that because that’s definitely needed.”
But there are other areas of growth, he said.
“I also feel we need to continue to grow our cardiology program,” he said. “We were fortunate that we were able to partner with the largest cardiology group in Somerset County. And with them joining the other two cardiology groups, this will really begin to grow our already formidable Cardiology program.”
But there is still more to be done.
“And lastly, I think it’s our Behavioral Health Service,” Cava added. “We have an Eating Disorders program that’s only one of two in the state and we have just completed a $10 million renovation of the Center. We want to bring in some really high-caliber researchers and medical directors from across the country to run the program and provide a much needed service in our community and beyond. “
Improving those goals is Delaney’s mission.
“Those are the areas that I think Patrick should work on and I know he will work on them because we have a blueprint − a strategic plan − to follow,” Cava said. “I also think building and tightening our relationship with our sister hospital in New Brunswick, so that they can grow into a premier academic medical center will be great for both our hospitals and communities. Those are what I see as our priorities.”
Once Cava hands over the reins, he and his wife plan on doing some traveling, including a trip to Turks and Caicos in January. Once they return, he plans to do consulting work on a per diem basis, most likely within the RWJBarnabas Health system.
“I do want to keep busy. I feel that I still have a lot to offer,” Cava said. “I just don’t want to do it at the pace that I’ve been doing it for the last however many years. Health care is evolving and changing so quickly, I do want to be a part of that and still help our system out.”
Cava is grateful for those with whom he has shared his journey as a healthcare professional, both within the RWJUH Somerset team and community.
“They’ve been absolutely awesome in supporting me supporting our hospital,” Cava said. “And I would ask that they continue to do that as we grow and better serve them. That’s what I would hope for the future.”
Cheryl Makin is an award-winning features and education reporter, part of the USA Today Network. Contact: or@CherylMakinTo get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.


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