Celebrating 25 Years of Shore Medical Center's Cardiac Rehab Program

Celebrating 25 years of dedication and care! From left to right, Shore Medical Center Cardiac Rehab founders cardiologist Dr. Jim Ziccardi and Chris Kozmor, RN, M.Ed, stand proudly with Mark Zaleskiewicz, who has been a part of the program since its inception. Both Chris and Dr. Ziccardi traveled hours to join the open house event on Tuesday, June 18, marking a quarter-century of transformative cardiac care."

On Tuesday, Shore Medical Center’s Cardiac Rehab program celebrated 25 years of helping people overcome serious cardiac events and conditions through exercise and education. This milestone event featured an Open House and welcomed some very special guests: Shore Cardiac Rehab founders Dr. Jim Ziccardi and retired Director of Cardiac Rehab Chris Kozmor, both of whom traveled hours to be there, along with exercise physiologist Mark Zaleskiewicz, who has been with the program since day one and continues to treat patients today.

Cardiac rehabilitation became a recognized method for helping patients recover from cardiac events in the early 1970s. Chris Kozmor recalled, “Before then, cardiac patients who suffered a myocardial infarction were treated with pain medication and rest and were instructed to do as little as possible. When I was training, we’d have to brush their teeth and wash their faces for them.” 

As a cardiologist, lifelong runner, and exercise enthusiast, Dr. Ziccardi was eager to be involved in the new field of cardiac rehabilitation. He trained in Chicago under the physician who started the first cardiac rehabilitation program in the country. Afterward, he ran his first cardiac rehab program in 1977 in Chicago until 1979. That’s when he moved to New Jersey and became medical director of the cardiac rehab program at Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation, where he first met Chris Kozmor. 

Chris shared, “Bacharach told Dr. Ziccardi that they had a nurse for him to help run the program – me. But he said he wanted to talk to me first. He asked me, ‘Do you smoke?’ I said ‘nope!’ ‘Do you eat healthy?’ ‘Yep!’ ‘Do you exercise?’ ‘Yes!’ He said, ‘Then you’re the right person for the job.’”

Together, Dr. Ziccardi and Chris ran a very successful program at Bacharach and later opened a second program at what is now Complete Care at Linwood. Dr. Ziccardi soon felt it was time to establish a program at Shore Medical Center, and he worked with Shore leadership at the time to make it happen. 

In June of 1999, Dr. Ziccardi and Chris opened the cardiac rehab program on the 4th floor of Shore Medical Center. After Dr. Ziccardi retired, Chris continued to run the program and advocated for its move to a more convenient location for patients. The program was eventually relocated to 710 Centre Street at Shore’s Center for Outpatient Rehabilitation. Chris retired in 2022, and the program is now overseen by Jennifer Pero, MSN, RN, along with Penn Cardiologist Dr. Gene Iucci. Our dedicated team includes longtime exercise physiologists Mark Zaleskiewicz and Sandy Martini, as well as newer staff members Matt Glogau, Enrique Rodriguez, and Dawn Bryant-Kuhar, all working together to guide hundreds of patients each year back to better heart health.

At the Open House, Dr. Ziccardi reflected on his career as a cardiologist, saying, “Cardiac rehabilitation is one of my favorite achievements in my career.” He and Chris agreed that aside from the satisfaction of helping patients regain their heart function, cardiac rehab is instrumental in helping to identify abnormal heart rhythms in patients, which can be life threatening, thanks to the diligent heart monitoring and attention patients receive during their supervised exercise program.

We are immensely proud of the work done by our Cardiac Rehab team over the past 25 years and look forward to many more years of helping patients achieve healthier lives. The current Cardiac Rehab team would like to express their heartfelt appreciation for the time, effort, and resources contributed by countless individuals—including the SMC Executive Board, Leadership, and our community—that have enabled the Cardiac Rehab Program to thrive over the past 25 years.