Comedian Tracy Morgan presents award to nurse from Woodbridge

Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan presented the Tracy Morgan Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation Nursing to a Hackensack Meridian Health JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute nurse who has dedicated her 30-year career to working with brain-injured patients.

Morgan presented his third award to Gina Domingo, RN, CRRN. Domingo works on the Brain Trauma Unit at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute, where she began in 1990.

Domingo was among the nurses who cared for Morgan after the comedian was seriously injured and in a coma following a 2014 accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. Since Morgan’s recovery, he has returned to comedy as well as to producing and acting. He has shared his story of recovery on the national stage, highlighting the work of the professionals dedicated to patients with brain injuries.

“Every day our team members are on the front lines saving lives and getting patients through the most difficult of circumstances. I am so proud of our health care professionals and am humbled by the work they do,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, CEO, Hackensack Meridian Health. “Congratulations to Gina who is so deserving of the Tracy Morgan Award. On behalf of Hackensack Meridian Health, I extend a heartfelt thanks to Tracy Morgan for taking the time to recognize the extraordinary care provided by JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute.”

“I’m so honored to receive this award,” Domingo said. “When you work with people with brain injuries, often they cannot communicate verbally. Sometimes they can’t move.  The work is challenging. But when you can contribute to someone’s recovery, it’s just so rewarding.”

Morgan presented the award to Domingo after his performance at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank on Feb. 20. She is the third rehabilitation nurse to receive the Tracy Morgan Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation Nursing.

After Morgan’s recovery, the comedian publicly thanked JFK Johnson nurses, physical therapists and other members of his team as well as his physician, Brian Greenwald, M.D., who is medical director of the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Center for Brain Injuries.

“Even today, Tracy’s amazing recovery continues to give hope to many of our patients — and also to their families,” Dr. Greenwald said. “And to see him returning to accomplish all he wants in life … that’s what we want for all of our patients.”

Sara Cuccurullo, M.D., vice president and medical director of JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute, said that by sharing his story, Morgan has put a focus on the role of rehabilitation nursing.

“We created this award to thank Tracy for the inspiration he continues to provide to our patients and for the light he shines on the skill, compassion and specialized training of rehabilitation nurses,” she said.

Rehabilitation nurses possess the specialized skills to help patients with disabilities, chronic illness or injuries reach their maximum level of function. They design and implement strategies that are based on scientific nursing theory to promote physical, psychological, social, and spiritual health.

Domingo, who lives in Woodbridge, graduated from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, The Philippines. She said she appreciated seeing Morgan make full use of his talents as a comedian on the stage at the Count Basie.

“Often, a patient will return to visit and it’s always exciting and memorable to see them living the life they want and doing all they can,” she said. “So to see Tracy on stage … making everyone laugh. To see that kind of recovery in any of our patients is what motivates us every day.”