Virtua Announces its Humanitarian of the Year and First Achievement Award in Clinical Excellence

Awards correspond to health system’s Celebration of Philanthropy 

(May 13, 2021) - This year, during National Hospital Week, Virtua Health is recognizing its philanthropic partners through a special Celebration of Philanthropy. The virtual celebration recognizes two remarkable individuals who support and sustain healthy communities. Entrepreneur Pepe Piperno has been chosen as Virtua’s Humanitarian of the Year, and Martin Topiel, MD, Virtua’s infection control officer, is the first recipient of the Achievement Award in Clinical Excellence for his role in Virtua’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The events of the past year have proven how connected we are as a community. Both Pepe Piperno and Dr. Martin Topiel have long histories of helping others and have risen to the challenges of our times in service of those who need it most,” said Dennis W. Pullin, FACHE, president and CEO of Virtua Health. 

Pepe Piperno believes that the best thing about success is being able to share it with others. Piperno founded the Domenica Foundation in honor of his mother, whose compassion for helping others ignited Piperno’s spirit of giving back. Through his dedication and this foundation, he has improved the quality of life for underserved communities in South Jersey, particularly in Camden, where he grew up. Piperno was one of the first philanthropic partners to support Virtua Health’s new Eat Well Mobile Grocery Store, which is improving access to fresh, affordable food for those in need in the City of Camden and across South Jersey.

Dr. Martin Topiel has been a leader in every regard during his 35 years at Virtua Health. In 2001, he helped establish Virtua’s Emergency Preparedness and Bioterrorism Committee, which laid the groundwork for Virtua’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As head of infection control, Dr. Topiel developed and led safety and quality procedures and processes to keep frontline staff safe, launched innovative treatment and evaluation centers for patients, and served as a reassuring and steady leader in Virtua’s response to the ongoing public health crisis.

Both honorees are featured in the “Celebration of Philanthropy” video that Virtua will share with its donors. The video, which also highlights the impact donors are having on Virtua’s community programs and services, will be available online and on Virtua’s social media channels. 

Sarah Fawcett-Lee, senior vice president and chief philanthropy officer for Virtua Health said, “As we reflect on the challenges of last year, the support of our philanthropic partners and our communities helped us find the strength and resilience when we needed it most. This celebration pays tribute to them, and to all health care workers who sacrifice so much in service of others.” 

For more information on Virtua’s Celebration of Philanthropy, please visit