Meet Westchester’s Healthcare Heroes in 2023

Photo by Ken Gabrielsen

In our 10th year, Westchester Magazine celebrates these 13 outstanding individuals who have tirelessly dedicated themselves to improving the quality of life around the county — and in some cases, even around the world.

By Regina Molaro, Deborah Skolnik, and Nick Brandi

The 2023 Healthcare Heroes Editors’ Humanitarian Award

Dr. Moscatello
Courtesy of WMCHealth

Dr. Augustine Moscatello

Director, Department of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery Westchester Medical Center; Professor & Chair, Department of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery, New York Medical College

Dr. Abraham
Courtesy of WMCHealth

Dr. Manoj Abraham

Associate Director of Otolaryngology, MidHudson Regional Hospital, and Founding Partner of Facial, Plastic, Reconstructive & Laser Surgery in Poughkeepsie; past-President, New York Facial Plastic Surgery Society and the Dutchess County Medical Society; Westchester Magazine Healthcare Hero, 2014

If “inspiring” is the first word that comes to mind when thinking about Drs. Augustine Moscatello and Manoj Abraham of WMCHealth, then “brave” must be the second. In September of 2022, these two highly accomplished physicians mounted a medical mission to use their world-class surgical skills to render vital aid to the hapless and war-torn people of Ukraine. After touching down in Krakow, Poland, the two surgeons spent roughly the next 12 hours riding a bus and being cleared by security checkpoints en route to Western Ukraine and Ivano-Frankivsk Regional Clinical Hospital, where the casualties were waiting. During the 10-day mission of mercy, Drs. Moscatello and Abraham evaluated and treated approximately three dozen patients, both civilian and military, most of whom were the victims of gunshots or artillery blasts. The doctors’ days often began at 5 a.m. and ended at 11 p.m., frequently amid the ominous din of emergency alerts and air-raid sirens.

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During his career, Dr. Moscatello, has led or participated in more than two dozen medical missions worldwide, ranging from Cuba and Vietnam to Thailand, India, and Ethiopia, while Dr. Abraham is himself a multidecade veteran of international medical missions and survived ethnic violence as a child. The physicians concur that their time in Ukraine was unlike anything they had experienced before.

“The people of Ukraine are being battered by this war. As physicians, we were fortunate to help civilians and military personnel injured in the conflict,” says Dr. Moscatello. “We developed training programs for Ukrainian physicians, so they are familiar with the advanced surgical skills necessary to treat these horrendous injuries. We taught these techniques while we were in Ukraine and are developing a program to bring Ukrainian surgeons to the U.S. for this training.”

At press time, Dr. Moscatello, Dr. Abraham, and their colleagues were scheduled to return to Ukraine in April. Dr. Abraham estimates that the September 2022 mission provided more than $1 million in donated medical supplies and services.

Ellen Bloom, MPH

Director of Community Affairs for NYP Westchester, NYP Westchester Behavioral Health Center, and NYP Hudson Valley Hospital

Bloom healthcare heroes 2023
Photo by Ken Gabrielsen

From a young age, Ellen Bloom was focused on giving back to her community. When she was a teen, she became a candy striper at Bronxville’s Lawrence Hospital, which is now NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester.

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“I’ve always been sensitive to the plight of marginalized or victimized individuals. I am empathetic and believe strongly in being an advocate for people whose voices may not be heard or those who need support and guidance in getting basic needs met,” says Bloom.

“I’ve always been sensitive to the plight of marginalized or victimized individuals.”

She has been directing community-outreach programs and implementing regional grassroots initiatives for more than 30 years. A champion for health and wellness, Bloom helped NYP allocate $250,000 to community organizations in 2022.

During the pandemic, she brought hope to her community. Bloom teamed up with Westchester Behavioral Health Center to create virtual programs to address the fear that many students were experiencing due to isolation. Interactive Zoom discussions on anxiety, substance use, and eating disorders were introduced. In 2022, NYP’s team hosted 228 virtual events, which touched 12,000 lives.

Last year, Bloom helped dramatically increase funding for Caring for the Hungry and Homeless of Peekskill (CHHOP) by establishing sponsorships. The revenue raised was four times the amount generated in 2021. Bloom also was instrumental in coordinating the distribution of nearly 24 tons of food through her work with the nonprofit organization Feeding Westchester.

Always cooking up ideas, Bloom also helped develop Physician in the Kitchen, which invites community members to learn how to cook healthy recipes while working alongside a chef and a physician.

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Dr. Caroline DeFilippo

Medical Director for Adult Primary Care and Population Health, Optum

DeFilippo
Photo by Ken Gabrielsen

“I treat the people I grew up with, and I love it.”

“I treat the people I grew up with, and I love it,” says Dr. Caroline DeFilippo. A general internist, she practices in Mount Kisco — just 15 minutes from her childhood home in Armonk. But professionally, she’s leagues from where she started. Not only is she a highly respected physician, Dr. DeFilippo also serves as medical director for adult primary care and population health for Optum. Although Dr. DeFilippo is continuously rated as one of the top doctors at Optum for patient satisfaction, she also works to provide all of Optum’s internal medicine and family practice physicians with resources to help patients that have diabetes, mental health issues, and other conditions. Additionally, she strives to head off doctor burnout and helms the Serious Illness Conversation Program, which trains healthcare professionals to have meaningful discussions with patients who face life-threatening conditions. With doctors’ workloads mounting and patients using new channels to call or email questions, Dr. DeFilippo’s extra effort sets a high bar. “That’s the challenge we’re trying to navigate as a profession, to be able to say to patients: ‘We want to be available and support you’ but do it in an efficient way. We need to engage through new channels while keeping our focus on the patients who are in the office, in front of us.” That means a conscious balance between big-picture challenges and one-on-one relationships. For example, DeFilippo calls her patients to discuss every test result and urge them to stick with their health plans. “It’s a way of saying, ‘I’m thinking of you,’” she says. “Face-to-face or not, the phone still has a way of bridging the distance. And people notice.”

Guy Fessenden

Executive Director, CHOICE of NY

Fessenden healthcare heroes 2023
Courtesy of Guy Fessenden

“People only listen to celebrities and kooks. I wasn’t famous, so I had to do something odd,” says Guy Fessenden, who ran cross-country from New York to California on a mission to generate awareness for mental illness and eliminate the stigma associated with it.

Determined to honor the strength of his daughter, Suzanne, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, Fessenden managed to win the hearts of local media from coast to coast.

Although he had initially planned to return to his career in technology after his journey, Fessenden ultimately chose a different path. “Running alone for 600 hours allowed me an opportunity to think. Since I wanted to help people like my daughter, I decided to continue this work,” says Fessenden.

That’s when he joined CHOICE of NY, a peer-run, nonprofit, mental-health-advocacy agency based in New Rochelle. At the time, CHOICE served 120 people per month. Today, with Fessenden at the helm, the agency works with more than 3,000 people monthly.

Fessenden says he is honored to be part of an organization that saves lives while restoring people’s dignity and confidence. “Eighty percent of the people we work with have families that have given up on them. Once that happens, they start crashing,” he says.

CHOICE of NY is there to provide a safety net. Beyond case-management services, it offers job training and placement, a wellness center, food pantry, clothing lending service, and more.

A motivational speaker, Fessenden moonlights as a standup comedian who performs regularly. He uses comedy as a tool to connect with people and get his message across.

Our Healthcare Heroes Awards event takes place on May 9!

Our Westchester Home Builders Awards take place on April 4!

Our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Forum is March 14!

Unveiled: A Boutique Bridal Brunch is February 25!

Our Best of Westchester Elimination Ballot is open through March 6!

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