Presenting Westchester County’s Healthcare Heroes in 2021

Allow us to introduce 16 selfless superstars whose local efforts and community outreach make Westchester County an even better place to live.

By Nick Brandi, Regina Molaro, Deborah Skolnik
Featuring photography by Stefan Radtke

Adam S. Weissman, PhD  •  Sheila Nolan, MD

Darrell Wheeler, PhD  •  Diane Pagan, MSN, ANP

Don Starr, MD • Lori Fulham, RN

Laurie Ann Walsh, MSN, RN, DNP  •  Ammir Rabadi, MD

Eric Korn, John Van Dekker, and Louie Lanza

Rita Mabli  •  Walter Roland, PA • Renee Recchia

Traci Gardner, MD  •  Renee Garrick, MD

More than any other in recent memory, the past year has been a time of reflection and circumspection — not just individually but communally. The enervating exigencies of the pandemic forced us all to reevaluate everything we thought we knew about life, ourselves, and one another. It is no surprise, then, that we at Westchester Magazine approached this year’s Healthcare Heroes event with an unprecedented level of discernment. Should 2021 be “Healthcare Heroes: The COVID Chronicles,” or should we ignore the pandemic as if it never occurred?

We ultimately decided that neither of those options felt right. Instead, we decided to welcome nominations that were predicated either on a nominee’s exemplary performance within the context of the pandemic or completely independent of it. The result is that we gave due solemnity to a cataclysmic event whose domestic-fatality count is approaching that of the Civil War while recognizing and celebrating those whose day-to-day heroism persevered not because of the coronavirus but despite it.

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We think you’ll support our decision when you see our proud pastiche of 16 winners — as eclectic as they are elite. In the pages that follow, you’ll read about doctors and nurses, educators and administrators, and humanitarians and executives who in some remarkable way embody a singular dedication to our community that is truly second to none.

This year also marks the debut of two new Healthcare Heroes awards. Determined by the editors of Westchester Magazine, we are proud to present our first-ever Healthcare Heroes Editors’ Award for Outstanding Community Service along with our inaugural Healthcare Heroes Institutional Award for Excellence, which is presented to an organization rather than to an individual. These special commendations will most likely not be bestowed annually but rather as actions and circumstances merit them.

To our winners: A heartfelt congratulations on this impressive achievement. Your courage and selflessness are a debt we can never fully repay.

Adam Weissman

Adam S. Weissman, PhD

Founding President, CEO, and Chief Psychologist of the Child & Family Institute and Weissman Children’s Foundation

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Pediatric psychologist Dr. Adam Weissman is a healthcare leader with a mission to achieve mental health access and equity for all. In 2011, he founded the Child & Family Institute (CFI), which offers highly specialized, evidence-based psychological treatments. Beyond the clinic, which has 15 U.S. sites, services are offered through a global telehealth initiative. CFI also offers training through partner institutions, including the prestigious Columbia University.

Early last year, Dr. Weissman launched Weissman Children’s Foundation (WCF) — a nonprofit that reaches families in need regardless of their ability to pay. As COVID-19 intensified, WCF launched a mental health initiative to provide immediate treatment for underserved communities, especially communities of color.

“I was motivated by the mounting mental health crisis, largely ignored by the federal government and insurance companies, and the recent surge due to COVID,” says Dr. Weissman. “With higher rates of anxiety, depression, suicide, trauma, grief, child behavior issues, and marital and family conflict, our nation’s most vulnerable and marginalized families are too frequently denied access to affordable, effective care.”

Through WCF, Dr. Weissman aims to bridge that gap in care. To date, WCF has helped more than 200 families.

He recently established the Equity and Effectiveness Scientific Council (EESC), which studies treatment effectiveness and mental health disparities, with a focus on social justice, equity, and policy change.

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A prolific author and clinical researcher, Dr. Weissman is an adjunct professor at Columbia University who received the American Psychological Association’s “2020 Distinguished Contributions to Practice Award.” At age 39, he was the youngest person ever to receive the honor — the highest in his field and just one reason the Business Council of Westchester honored Dr. Weissman as a “40 Under 40 Rising Star.” He is currently president of the Westchester County Psychological Association.

Sheila Nolan
Photo courtesy of Boston Children’s Health Physicians

Sheila Nolan, MD

Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Boston Children’s Health Physicians (BCHP); Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases & Pediatric Hospital Epidemiologist, Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital (MFCH)

The guidance that Dr. Sheila Nolan provided to nearly 900 physicians and staff members in 60-plus locations during the COVID-19 pandemic is what earned her the moniker “BCHP’s very own Dr. Fauci.”

As chairperson of the Infection Control Committee at BCHP and pediatric hospital epidemiologist for MFCH, Dr. Nolan was well prepared to lead. With Westchester County at the epicenter of the initial U.S. outbreak, she needed to rapidly establish guidelines to ensure the safety of the physicians, staff, and patients at both facilities. “Our people were on the front lines, and information was changing so quickly, we had to figure out the safest way for them to do their jobs, and we couldn’t wait for the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] to update their guidance,” says Dr. Nolan.

Since BCHP cares for children, some of whom are critically ill, its services were deemed necessary. “Despite shutdowns and launching a telehealth platform, certain patients still needed to be physically seen,” says Dr. Nolan. Her guidance enabled these patients to continue receiving care even during the height of the pandemic. Since COVID-19 screening was imperative, she assisted with the rollout of rapid testing.

Dr. Nolan was also at the fore of diagnosing an influx of cases with severe inflammation of multiple organ systems in pediatric patients with COVID-19, establishing a multispecialty team to create guidelines to care for patients with this new syndrome. Additionally, worked with the Westchester County Department of Health to share crucial data with the community. The observations that were made on MFCH’s patients with this syndrome, later defined as multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), were published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Darrell Wheeler, PhD

Darrell Wheeler, PhD

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Iona College

“If you think about the day-to-day college operations, I oversee everything except for residential life and facilities,” says Darrell Wheeler, PhD, MPH, ACSW, provost and SVP for academic affairs at New Rochelle’s Iona College. During the pandemic, of course, the school’s daily operations were completely upended. “It has been an anomaly of a year in my 30 years of higher education,” Wheeler acknowledges.

For advice on how Iona should function during the pandemic, he wrote to Dr. Anthony Fauci in the spring of 2020. “[Dr. Fauci] wrote back and had his team get in touch with me to review my preliminary thinking,” Wheeler shares. Students were sent home early for spring break, while the college transitioned to virtual instruction. “We had to recalibrate our entire campus community,” he adds.

For fall 2020, “we decided to go with what we call the mixed mode of teaching, where we knew some students would be on campus and some would not want to come,” he says. Dr. Fauci’s team agreed with Wheeler’s plans. They included outfitting classrooms with 360-degree cameras and plexiglass shields at the front and implementing in-classroom social distancing. One-way walking directionals were placed throughout campus, and random PCR testing was introduced.

“We didn’t have a single outbreak for the first nine weeks of fall,” Wheeler shares proudly. A later uptick caused the college to go virtual briefly, “but we came back and were able to conclude the semester,” he says. Iona now rapid-tests students every other week.

Wheeler credits his success partly to his earlier experience working with HIV and AIDS patients and their families in the 1980s. “This pandemic didn’t freak me out as much, because I felt with the right public health responses, we could get through it,” he explains. That’s exactly what’s happening. “Some colleges around us of this size have not survived as institutions,” he observes. “Iona has not only managed to stay afloat, but last year we opened up a degree program in nursing and two degree programs in entrepreneurship. We continue to strive ahead for academic success, because that’s what we’re here for.”

Diane Pagan, MSN, ANP

Diane Pagan, MSN, ANP

Director, Complex Care Program, Westmed Medical Group

Diane Pagan, an adult nurse practitioner and director of Westmed’s Complex Care Program, oversees some of the healthcare system’s most challenging patients. “They have multiple chronic conditions, and their conditions could be complicated by socioeconomic factors, or they could be homebound,” she explains. To get around these issues, Pagan began paying house calls to some of her charges soon after stepping into the job, in 2019. “In their homes, I’d really get a handle on every single thing that was going on — not only the medical stuff but also the social stuff,” she shares.

When COVID-19 came to Westchester, the obstacles her patients faced only multiplied. “They were afraid to go into the hospital,” Pagan recalls. “They were afraid to go into the office. They were saying, ‘What do we do?’” Her response was what one would expect of only the most committed and self-sacrificing health professional: “I just put on all my PPE and kept going to their homes,” she says.

During her visits, Pagan adjusted medications, performed labs, and ordered needed tests, such as X-rays. She often placed end-of-life patients on home hospice if they desired. “The families were really grateful, because if their loved one went to the hospital, nobody could see them,” she notes. One homebound woman lacked food, so Pagan went to Stop & Shop for her.

Besides house calls, managing her staff, and participating in workshops for caregivers, she worked with the superintendent of the Mount Pleasant School District to recruit volunteers to sew facemasks, which she collected, and asked teachers to have their students write letters to healthcare providers: “I stuck them on the doors of all our doctors at our Westchester office and in the cafeteria.”

Although her role has reverted to being more administrative now, Pagan still stresses the importance of a personal touch in healthcare. “Even if it’s just to say, ‘I don’t have an answer for you, but I’m here if you need me,’ it matters,” she says. “That can do more than any medication.”

Don Starr, MD
Photo courtesy of Dr. Don Starr

Don Starr, MD

Pediatric Anesthesiologist, White Plains Hospital Center

“Lead by example. With any luck, you’ll inspire a few people along the way,” says Dr. Don Starr, a pediatric anesthesiologist who was designated a Fellow of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (FASA). Beyond his stellar leadership, it was his dedication to exceptional education and commitment to the specialty that earned him the Society’s most prestigious honor.

Dr. Starr says he is guided by the same philosophy that his father abided by. “Always do the right thing, even if it’s not the easiest. You won’t regret it, and you’ll sleep better.”

In the early days of the pandemic, Dr. Starr sprang into action. Fueled by compassion and a desire to serve, he began making house calls to several people, mainly seniors, who were fearful of leaving their homes.

Beyond providing medical guidance, he supplied masks, delivered groceries, cooked meals, and cleaned homes. With a bit of levity, Dr. Starr refers to his recent project as “Pandemic Team Starr,” and he’s appointed himself CEO, or Chief Everything Officer.

“I provided people with reassuring advice to help them stay safe. They all remained COVID-free, and I’m very proud of that,” says Dr. Starr. He also offered guidance for the safe reopening of a dance school and provides ongoing medical COVID-19 safety consultation to the school.

Prior to the pandemic, Dr. Starr volunteered for many community projects. He taught an introductory medical course to high school students and was an instructor at Stop the Bleed, a national campaign that teaches the public how to control serious bleeding and save lives during emergency situations.

Dr. Starr serves on the Executive Committee of Westchester Anesthesiologists and is a delegate of the White Plains Hospital Medical Board.

Lori Fulham, RN
Photo by Jessica Arditi Photography

The 2021 Healthcare Heroes Editors’ Award for Outstanding Community Service

Lori Fulham, RN

Clinical Nurse Manager, St. John’s Riverside Hospital

Prior to the onset of COVID-19, Lori Fulham functioned as a clinical nurse manager assigned to the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), where she and her team of nurses monitor and care for patients who have just come out of surgery. When the world as we knew it came crashing down and St. John’s expanded its ICU 333% in response, Fulham stepped up and never looked back. She was redeployed to the ICU, where she and her staff had to adapt immediately to a radically different style of nursing and care for legions of critically ill patients. At a time when healthcare units didn’t have the treatment resources they would later on, Fulham not only rallied her staff as they made the transition but also worked extra shifts and constantly came into the hospital when she wasn’t scheduled to work. Rather than have her exhausted staff return to the hospital to cover shifts for the remaining core of emergency surgeries, Fulham covered those shifts and the PACU herself, so they could rest. She came in the middle of the night, even when there wasn’t much going on, to check on patients and her staff to make sure they were okay.

“None of the PACU team and other redeployed nurses who were assigned to the expanded ICU would have made it through our darkest days without her,” says PACU nurse Ann Marie Tierny, RN. “She took a tremendous burden off each of us by somehow always being there in the worst possible moments and kept us all moving forward. She did the work no one else could bear to do. She is a great nurse, and she was — and is — our rock!”

Fulham maintained this impossible pace throughout the pandemic. Yet, through it all, she remained upbeat and cheerful, boosting morale while championing her team onward. In the end, Lori Fulham brought out the best in everyone around her, and lives were saved because of it.

Laurie Ann Walsh, MSN, RN, DNP

Laurie Ann Walsh, MSN, RN, DNP

Chief Nursing Officer & Vice President of Patient Care Services, NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital (NYPLH)

As she guided a team of 670 employees through the darkest days of the pandemic, Laurie Ann Walsh drew upon the leadership skills and expertise she garnered from her 35 years of experience.

When NYPLH became the first hospital on the East Coast to care for a patient with community-acquired COVID-19, Walsh was tasked with immediately overhauling the operational and nursing procedures. Beyond redeploying staff, she reimagined the workflow and revamped spaces to accommodate more patients.

Confident and decisive, Walsh is open to facilitating change. In fact, she helped establish some of NYPLH’s coronavirus protocols, which later served as a model for other hospitals.

Through her collaborative, hands-on style, Walsh empowers her team to excel. Early on, when her staff were at the bedsides of COVID patients, she stepped in to lend a hand. “Part of allaying their fears is to be with them and show them that they are not alone,” says Walsh.

“The team’s morale remained high because of Laurie. She was there daily with her staff, logging 16-hour days with midnight calls, continuously demonstraing strong, compassionate leadership,” says Michael Fosina, president, NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital.

Walsh also encouraged her team to support one another. With a mission to provide “care for the caregivers,” she introduced group activities, such as nature walks and a knitting club.

One year after the onset of the pandemic, a heartfelt message from a team member still resonates with Walsh. “When I look back, you never left us,” wrote Kelly Maydon. In 2010, NewYork-Presbyterian honored Walsh with its President’s Circle Award.

Ammir Rabbadi, MD

Ammir Rabbadi, MD

Board-Certified Physician

When Dr. Ammir Rabadi took over as chief physician for the Yonkers Public School System last July, “the system was flustered and closed,” he recalls. “I felt I could bring some clarity on how to reopen.” Immediately, he began crafting a technology-driven plan, creating videos and internet tutorials on social distancing, plus an online symptom questionnaire parents must answer before their children could attend school. Kiosks that scan students’ and staffers’ faces and temperatures were installed at school entryways. Dr. Rabadi is also implementing an electronic medical records system to allow closer school monitoring and facilitate communication between parents and school nurses.

The upshot of these efforts: The system’s 27,000 children have been able to attend school safely — random testing in November found a COVID-positivity rate of less than 1%. “Our plan has been the model for so many other districts in Westchester County,” observes Dr. Rabadi, who was a unanimous selection among this year’s Healthcare Heroes judges. “The Department of Health leans on Yonkers and asks us their questions.”

This heavy lift is far from Dr. Rabadi’s only responsibility. The board-certified family-medicine physician and father of four also runs a practice in Yonkers, is vice president of the medical board at Yonkers’ St. John’s Riverside Hospital, and is a clinical professor at New York Medical College, in Valhalla. He’s a philanthropist, as well, sponsoring a food kitchen at a Yonkers YMCA that feeds 40 adults daily.

The Dominican Society of Yonkers is a beneficiary of Dr. Rabadi’s generosity, too, as he serves on its board, “getting people jobs, getting people education, and just being there when people need that extra hand to be picked up off the floor,” he explains. Yet, he’s never too busy to answer a call from his patients, who all have his mobile number. “I want to be the person who can bring understanding to your life, clarity, and peace of mind,” he says.

Eric Korn, John Van Dekker, and Louie Lanza
Eric Korn, John Van Dekker, and Louie Lanza

The Healthcare Hero Institutional Award for Excellence, 2021

Eric Korn, John Van Dekker, and Louie Lanza

Million Gallons Challenge

Community, kindness, and the culinary arts were the focus of the Million Gallons Challenge initiative, which kicked off in March 2020, after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Louie Lanza, founder of Hudson Hospitality Group, in Peekskill; Eric Korn, chef of Monteverde at Oldstone, in Cortlandt Manor; and John Van Dekker, founder of marketing/PR firm Enormous Creative, in Peekskill, are the visionaries behind this goodwill campaign.

The trio united on a single undertaking: To whip up one million gallons of soup to help provide food security for colleagues and community members in distress. The project mobilized chefs, restaurateurs, and restaurant and hospitality workers who had lost their jobs during the shutdowns. Those who pitched in to cook up some goodness utilized vacant kitchen space and ingredients that would have otherwise been discarded. Approximately 16,000 gallons of soup were made.

“The movement was part instinct and part practicality,” says Lanza. “It made sense as a way of avoiding food waste when we knew people were going to be losing their jobs.” A prominent restaurateur and developer, Lanza’s Taco Dive Bar won the Best of Westchester award for Best Tacos, while his Fin & Brew nabbed the Best New Restaurant prize. Lanza also serves as co-chair of the Westchester County Reopening Task Force, of which Van Dekker is also a member.

When the industry began reopening, in June 2020, the Million Gallons Challenge shifted its focus. Its efforts currently support advocacy, policy, and the safe reopening of restaurants.

“I’ll always be proud that I was part of a team that fed people in a time of need,” says Korn — a chef since 2008. Korn’s previous culinary outings have earned him multiple Best of Westchester awards, including Best New Restaurant Best Caterer, and Best Wedding Caterer.

Rita Mabli

Rita Mabli

President & CEO, United Hebrew of New Rochelle

“There’s an attitude of pure kindness that permeates everything we do,” says United Hebrew of New Rochelle president/CEO Rita Mabli. During her 40-year career at United Hebrew, she helped cultivate its culture of care, collaboration, and respect.

When the senior-care campus suddenly found itself at the epicenter of New York State’s COVID-19 outbreak, Mabli drew upon a framework already established through mock drills for various types of potential emergency situations. “All of the planning helped us as we made decisions,” says Mabli.

When United Hebrew’s first resident tested positive, Mabli implemented new protocols, educated staff, residents, and families, and expanded communications. Her foresight prompted her to restrict visitation even before Governor Cuomo mandated a ban on nursing-home visitations.

For 90 days, without a single day off, Mabli reported to work to support her team. Most evenings, she was there to thank them before they headed home. “The top-down example Rita set made me so thankful to work here. I felt supported, like we were all in this together,” says Jennifer Tan, chief nursing officer at United Hebrew.

Beyond providing leadership to 800 team members who care for 1,000 residents, Mabli used her engaging personality and warmth to lift spirits. Every day, she used the public-address system to broadcast an inspirational message, which was followed up with a song. Staff often found fleeting moments of joy by dancing in the hallways.

Mabli certainly practices what she preaches. Proud of the organization she helms, she entrusted United Hebrew to care for her own family members when they needed rehabilitation treatment.

Recent honors include the McKnight’s Women of Distinction Award and the Women of Achievement Award from Iona College. Mabli serves on the boards of the Westchester Public/Private Partnership for Aging Services and the Westchester County Association.

Walter Roland, PA

Walter Roland, PA

Physician’s Assistant, Urgent Care of New York

No one would have blamed Walter Roland, a physician’s assistant at Urgent Care of New York, in Yonkers, if he’d opted for a cushy retirement back in 2003. He had spent 20 years on the Mount Vernon Police Department, achieving the rank of detective sergeant. Prior to that, he served as a corpsman in the U.S. Navy, from 1977 to 1981, followed by two years of Reserve duty. Yet, even while working full-time as a law enforcement officer, Roland took prerequisite night classes for physician’s assistant school, in which he enrolled after leaving the police force. “I wasn’t the type who was going to go be a security guard somewhere,” he says.

Notwithstanding his police work and 17 years of PA experience, “I don’t think anybody could have been prepared for what we’re going through now, with COVID,” Roland, 62, shares. “Early on, we started to see the serious cases, the ones we had to send to the hospital.” Yet, rather than beg off of the work (“as a provider, you see many people leaving the field,” he observes), Roland stepped up even more. “If they need help when I’m off, I’ll come in,” he says, adding, “I would not have been able to do this without the understanding and support of my wife.”

Recent duties have included comforting newly diagnosed COVID patients, many of whom begin crying the moment they get the news. “You just try to reassure them. I tell them that medicine has come a long way in dealing with COVID and that 99 percent of people are getting over this.”

Roland estimates he has seen hundreds of COVID cases yet has never felt afraid. “I put it in God’s hands, and thank God I haven’t gotten COVID. I’ve felt overwhelmed by the number of patients we’ve had but never by COVID itself. This work is fulfilling because I’m helping others. That’s been my whole life.”

Renee Recchia

Renee Recchia

First Deputy Commissioner of Health, Westchester County Department of Health

In March of 2020, “COVID went from being a small piece of what we did to being pretty much everything that we did,” says Renee Recchia, first deputy commissioner of health at the Westchester County Department of Health. “You saw a complete sea change in our operations.”

Though she had assumed her current title only weeks earlier, the 26-year department veteran leapt into action. “I started reporting down to New Rochelle daily — New York State created a command center there,” shares Recchia, 54. “We started putting in place the testing operation.”

At first, that meant sending nursing teams to the homes of people who were sick or possibly exposed; later, she helped design New York’s first drive-thru COVID-testing site, in New Rochelle, plus other pop-up sites. She also oversaw the training of new staffers to assist in COVID case investigation and led a team that assisted state researchers by identifying people who might have antibodies for potential blood donation.

Sometimes, she had to make controversial decisions. “In the beginning, if you were in a classroom, and there was a positive case in that classroom, the whole classroom was put on quarantine,” she says. Later, based on data, she revised that policy so only those who had been closer than six feet to the infected person were quarantined. “You can certainly be criticized,” she observes. “But I thought we could be criticized for having all this data and doing nothing with it.”

Recchia also oversees her department’s routine functions, such as providing WIC services for women, infants, and children, overseeing early intervention and preschool programs, and conducting restaurant inspections. Life has understandably been stressful. “In the beginning [of COVID-19], when we were seeing the number of people who were dying, there were times I had to close my door and just cry,” she confesses, “yet I am so very proud of the fearlessness of our team.”

Traci Gardner, MD

Traci Gardner, MD

Medical Director & Chief Medical Officer of The Children’s Village

Dr. Traci Gardner knew she was stepping into a demanding role when she became medical director and chief medical officer of The Children’s Village in March of 2019. Besides ensuring the well-being of the 400 children who live on the child-welfare agency’s Dobbs Ferry campus, she would serve as medical director of its school district. In addition, Dr. Gardner would oversee the agency’s two clinics, in the Bronx and Harlem. Still, “I did not know that within a year, we would be in a full-fledged pandemic that would change not only the way we provide healthcare but also the way we communicate,” she says.

As COVID-19 surged last spring, she worked with state epidemiologists to safeguard the Village’s children. The school went remote, and kids were divided into “family clusters” — small groups that would live, dine, and play as units, distanced from other clusters. Dr. Gardner also contacted the laboratory performing the first local COVID-19 tests and arranged to test symptomatic children by late March 2020.

Once vaccines became available, she had to convince Children’s Village’s 1,500-person staff, many of whom are African American and Latino, to get inoculated. “There was distrust of the healthcare system,” she explains. Dr. Gardner therefore held a town-hall meeting to demystify vaccines. She got vaccinated herself and chronicled her experience on video and social media. Now, she says, the primary reason her staff isn’t fully vaccinated is due to “supply and demand.”

Dr. Gardner touts the merits of COVID-19 vaccines well beyond Children’s Village. “I spoke to the Black Theatre United and the Black News Channel about it, and I also did some stuff with the Childcare Council of Westchester,” she says. In addition, she’s on the advisory board of the Westchester County Family Court and part of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network’s Health Equity Task Force. “I’m passionate about advocating in big systems for children and families — and for health in general.”

Renee Garrick, MD
Photo by Duvell Loraine Campbell, Imaging Specialist, WMC Health

Renee Garrick, MD

Executive Vice President & Chief Medical Officer, Westchester Medical Center Health Network; Professor of Clinical Medicine & Vice Dean, New York Medical College

Having the ability to influence healthcare on a broader level has been a source of inspiration for Dr. Renee Garrick, a clinical administrator, nephrologist, and educator.

Over the course of her 35-year career, Dr. Garrick has been a prominent voice in health advocacy on the national, state, and local levels and has helped guide public health policy here in Westchester. Through her affiliations, she advocates on behalf of patient safety and quality improvement. Her work with the NYS Department of Health State Hospital Review and Planning Council Planning Committee, for example, helped ensure that patients in New York State would have lasting, equitable access to dialysis.

She is a member of the Renal Standing Committee of the National Quality Forum — a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to catalyze improvements in healthcare; she also chairs and participates in the Human Factors workgroup of Nephrologists Transforming Dialysis Safety, a partnership between the American Society of Nephrology and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Garrick is also active with the New York State Department of Health’s Office-Based Surgery Program (OBS), which promotes safety and quality services for patients undergoing procedures in an accredited OBS setting.

As a leader, Dr. Garrick believes in the importance of understanding the skills and potential of her team. Having that awareness enabled her to swiftly work with the medical and administrative staffs to help plan and implement WMCHealth’s response to the pandemic. In addition to redirecting staff, she was an essential catalyst for bringing her colleagues’ innovative ideas to fruition. This resulted in the creation of new clinical care teams and expanded the range of procedures available for the care of patients with COVID-19.

Our Healthcare Heroes

These 16 exemplary individuals have stepped up to make helping others a personal mandate. They may be your neighbors, healthcare providers, or leaders in the communities where you live and/or work. They represent the pillars of our community and are a key factor in the quality of life we have come to expect in Westchester County. We are privileged to have them among us and honored to showcase them to the grateful community they serve.

Our Method

We received upwards of 100 Healthcare Heroes nominations this year, submitted by family, friends, patients, coworkers, managers, and even hospital CEOs and presidents. That collection was vetted down to the 50 strongest nominations, representing a diverse roster that included not only doctors and nurses, but also therapists, executives, entrepreneurs, and public officials. From this select group, our six judges independently selected their 10 top candidates, supplemented by three to five “alternates,” from redacted nominations that revealed neither the names nor the current professional affiliations of the nominees. From this group, points were awarded to each, with the top 12 point-earners declared winners. Additionally, two editors’ awards were handed out for the first time in the competition’s eight-year history — one to an individual, the other to an organization.

Our Judges

It is with the deepest gratitude that we acknowledge our blue-ribbon panel of judges — each an accomplished healthcare provider in their own right — who selected 12 of our extraordinary winners. They are:

Robert W. Amler, MD, MBA
New York Medical College, Vice President, Government Affairs; Dean of the School of Health Sciences and Practice and Institute of Public Health; Professor of Public Health, Pediatrics, and Environmental Health Science

Sherlita Amler, MD, MS
Commissioner of Health, Westchester County

Kathleen Reilly Fallon, MD
Board-Certified Foot and Ankle Surgeon, Midtown Manhattan Health Center; Founder and Chairwoman, Heavenly Productions Foundation

Mary H. Gadomski, BSN, RN
Executive Director, Montefiore Home Care

Mary K. Spengler, MS
Chief Executive Officer, Hospice of Westchester

Jessica Zwerling, MD, MS
Director, Montefiore Hudson Valley Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease; Program Director, UCNS Geriatric Neurology Fellowship; Director, Memory Disorders Center at Blondell; Associate Director, Center for the Aging Brain; Associate Professor of Neurology; Clinical Director, Einstein Aging Study


Our Best of Westchester Party is July 24!

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