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Meet the 2014 NY/NJ GEM Award finalists is proud to introduce our 2014 finalists for the GEM (Giving Excellence Meaning) Awards.

The 30 finalists below will be honored June 3 at a gala event at the Teaneck (N.J.) Marriott at Glenpointe.

For tickets or more information, visit


Judith Aponte, RN, PhD, CDE, CCM, APHN-BC, Associate professor, Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing, Manhattan

As co-investigator of a CUNY-Workforce Development Initiative Award, Aponte worked with public health colleagues and developed two diabetes courses that are offered annually to more than 100 public health and nursing graduates. Through an interdisciplinary collaborative relationship with the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, she co-authored a newsletter and a book chapter in 2013, both of which focused on diabetes in Hispanics. For the past six years, as one of two nurse members of the American Diabetes Association’s Latino Advisory Committee, Aponte developed ways to reach and educate Hispanics locally and globally on diabetes. Aponte has worked to increase the visibility of Hispanic nurses through her involvement in the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, including as a 2013 keynote speaker when she addressed how the Affordable Care Act would impact Hispanics. Her research includes diabetes-related issues affecting different Hispanic subgroups and ways to improve diabetes outcomes in Hispanics living in one of the poorest urban areas of the U.S., the South Bronx in New York City. She has translated her findings into words that can be understood and used by Hispanics globally. Aponte mentors nursing students, particularly those who are bilingual (English/Spanish). She has provided opportunities for undergraduate and graduate nursing students to participate in a community health fair, Feria de Salud Por Tu Familia in the South Bronx, which provides services to approximately 3,000 community members. Her more than 25 publications in peer-reviewed journals focus on two themes: use of big data or national databases to explore the health-related issues of subgroups of Hispanics and reports on her funded diabetes research studies.

Marilyn Bookbinder, RN, PhD, FPCN, Director of nursing and quality, Department of Pain Medicine and Palliative Care, Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Manhattan

Bookbinder oversees 14 NPs and RNs in multiple practice settings, including three ambulatory pain practices, inpatient palliative care and chronic pain, and inpatient postop pain management services. Her commitment to advanced practice nursing and pain management is evident in the projects she has spearheaded, including creating an NP point person role for the acute pain service and the chronic pain consultation service; implementing a collaborative practice model for NPs working with the pain physicians; a grant-supported quality program implemented by Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospitalists that created new electronic systems for tracking pain; and creating and implementing one of only two NP fellowships in palliative care. The NPs who have completed this fellowship have assumed leadership positions in palliative care programs around the country. Bookbinder was instrumental in bringing a pilot program of an oral patient-controlled analgesia device to MSBI and is working with nurse managers to collect and report data. In 2013, Bookbinder was elected director at large for the Eastern Pain Association. Bookbinder directs quality improvement in the department of pain and palliative care. She created the infrastructure of the department and chairs the pain and palliative care quality steering committee, which oversees four subcommittees. She also created and moderates a quality improvement conference for the hospital’s 10 physician fellows and other trainees, has been a co-chairwoman of the hospital-wide end-of-life committee, and has been actively involved in the continuum pain QI committee.

Theresa Criscitelli, RN, EdD, CNOR, Assistant director of professional nursing practice and education, Winthrop-University Hospital, Mineola, N.Y.

A former director of perioperative education at Winthrop, Criscitelli maintains accountability for the perioperative area, but also assists with overall operations of the department of education. She oversees four periopative educators directly and assists in the oversight of 19 more nurse educators across the organization. In 2011, Criscitelli helped develop an educational program in nursing research and evidence-based practice at Winthrop, where nursing research was needed. As facilitator of the nursing research and evidence-based research council, she helped create a research toolkit for novice researchers that, through her research and mentoring, resulted in 15 active nursing research studies with institutional review board approval and RNs as the lead investigators. Criscitelli also created an OR training program for RNs with no OR experience and plans to extend the program to new graduate RNs by the end of 2014, providing a unique opportunity to new grads to begin their professional career as OR registered nurses. Criscitelli was a faculty member in the surgical technology program at Nassau Community College in Garden City, N.Y., for 14 years. She shares her expertise and knowledge through many published articles in nursing and surgical technology journals, including the AORN Journal, The Surgical Technologist and OR Nurse, among others. An abstract of her doctoral dissertation, “The Job Demands-Resource Model and Work Engagement for Perioperative Nurse Managers,” was accepted for poster presentation at the 25th annual Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Research Congress in Hong Kong in July 2014.

Joseph Bernard Narus, APRN, DNP, NP-BC, Nurse Practitioner. Male Sexual and Reproductive Medicine Program, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Manhattan

Narus’ NP-only practice is the first of its kind at the center and is one of the highest volume NP practices there, with independent visit volume reaching 1,100 last year. His responsibilities included the management of patients with erectile dysfunction, Peyronies disease and reproductive issues. Narus is actively involved in the development and utilization of evidence-based guidelines for the men’s sexual and reproductive medicine program and provides education to the staff on new developments, advanced treatments and new products for male sexual and reproductive health. He was awarded a $50,000 grant last year by the Geri and ME Nursing Fund at MSKCC to implement his current study, development of a content-validated standardized patient education teaching tool regarding post-radical prostatectomy sexual dysfunction. The project aims to improve nursing knowledge and patient satisfaction. He was one of two NPs selected by the Sexual Medicine Society of North America to serve on its APN/PA and website committees. He was one of the first ambulatory NPs at the hospital to bill independently and has worked with the other NPs at MSKCC to increase their role and improve billing practices with their collaborating attending physicians.

Mary Jo Vetter, RN, DNP, ANP/GNP-BC, Vice president, product development, Visiting Nurse Service of New York, Manhattan

Vetter joined VNSNY in 2000 as a consultant and has since worked in several key leadership roles. She helped develop, launch and administer VNSNY’s internship program for baccalaureate nursing graduates and has worked with Pace University and the University of Pennsylvania to design and create an evidence-based practice fellowship program to support role development of VNSNY clinical leaders to facilitate quality and practice improvement initiatives. Several publications followed, sharing information about operationalizing a joint faculty appointment, EBP beliefs and implementation behavior in home care nurses, as well as an evidence-based practice improvement model that has been used by VNSNY and many nursing students across the U.S. to guide scholarly projects. She has assumed a clinical leadership role in the nursing, education, practice, quality and retention grant in collaboration with the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing and the NYU College of Nursing, School of Social Work and Touro College of Pharmacy. During the next three years, they will work to detail tenets of interprofessional practice in a community-based setting and develop curricula for national delivery to promote the concept of healthcare teams. She recently was appointed as a faculty member at Kalaidos University in Zurich, Switzerland, to design and deliver curriculum for a new APN degree in community-based primary care that will be offered in 2015. In 2008, she was tasked with establishing the new clinical product development department, with the responsibility of developing new products and services to position VNSNY as a major contributor in healthcare transformation. As its VP, she administers a multidisciplinary team of 10 staff members who define and operationalize new evidence-based models of care that meet the business and clinical needs of payers and consumers.


Claire Carmody, RN, BSN, OCN, Clinical Nurse 4
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Manhattan

As a clinical nurse 4 on a 42-bed unit in the critical care division, a fast-paced telemetry floor specializing in postop head and neck surgery, urgent care observation, melanoma and sarcoma, Carmody often is asked to precept new nurses, orient students and work alongside a multidisciplinary team. She is co-chairwoman of the divisional quality safety council and is a representative on the patient safety advisory task force, whose recommendations she sought before piloting the falls prevention safety strategy on unit M17. Carmody helped to develop an educational program, “Put a Halt to the Falls,” and worked to re-educate all staff on M17 about prevention. Identifying the need to more actively engage patients in falls prevention, she co-authored “Your Safety in Your Hands: Unit Based Safety Council Strives to Increase Patient Participation in Falls Prevention in the Inpatient Oncology Setting” and moderated the poster presentation at the Oncology Nursing Society conference in 2011. She also authored “Whistle Blowers Need Not Apply: Promoting a Culture of Safety Through Full Disclosure,” which she presented at the ONS conference last year. Carmody recently completed an MSKCC evidence-based practice research fellowship with a focus on early mobility, safe patient handling practices and improved communication strategies. She has brought improvements to frontline staff through her “Culture of Safety” lecture series that is offered quarterly in a lunch-and-learn format to all staff in the divisions of acute care and critical care/pediatrics. More than 900 direct-care nurses on both day and night shifts have attended.

Moira Cumella, RN, MSN, CWOCN
Wound Ostomy Nurse, Saint Clare’s Health System, Denville, N.J.

Cumella is responsible for coordinating a comprehensive program for the nursing care, education and rehabilitation of patients requiring wound, ostomy and incontinence care and acts as a liaison between disciplines and patients and their families. During her first days as the wound ostomy continence nurse, Cumella met with staff to assess their clinical competence. At the time, there was a significant increase in pressure ulcers. Through her leadership and collaboration with nurses and physicians, she was able to revitalize the pressure ulcer prevention committee and established skin care experts on each unit. She worked collaboratively with the clinical electronic documentation department to develop helpful hints for notation in the EMR to assist the nurses in accurate documentation and staging of pressure ulcers. As head of the pressure ulcer prevention committee, Cumella developed and copyrighted the Pressure Ulcer Practice Tool and 3 Day Assessment form for all RNs to use to enhance patient care related to pressure ulcers. The practice tool is a guide for the nursing staff on assessment of patients for prevention of pressure ulcers. She works with the education department to educate nursing staff on current concepts of wound, ostomy and continence care. Cumella also monitors staff documentation related to care of these patients to ensure regulatory standards are met and identifies and implements strategies for improvement. She investigates and recommends new approaches in the care of patients with wounds, ostomies and incontinence and has partnered with a former patient to offer in-hospital and at home ostomy counseling. She compiles monthly and annual reports for NDNQI and the clinical quality and patient safety committee. When Cumella learned many of the patients in the children’s crisis intervention unit came with grocery bags housing their belongings, she organized the Teddy Bear Roundup and collected 500 teddy bears and backpacks for the children.

Ma.Cecilia D. Lopez, RN, BSN, Registered nurse
Newark (N.J.) Beth Israel Medical Center

Lopez is a member of the professional practice council and has written policies on the epidural pump and intra-abdominal pressure monitoring, among others. To increase awareness and compliance among PACU staff regarding the financial and clinical benefits of performing a full skin assessment immediately postop, she collected data in the PACU for 12 months, resulting in more than 1,290 observations and chart audits. The PACU staff was able to sustain 95% to 100% compliance with performing a full skin assessment throughout this period. Lopez developed a poster, “Early Assessment and Prevention of Skin Breakdown in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit,” highlighting the project for the hospital’s Quality Week activities. The poster was accepted by the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses for presentation at their 33rd national conference in April and is the first nursing poster to be accepted at a national conference from the division of perioperative services at Newark Beth Israel. She often is chosen to precept new nurses and nursing students. Her commitment to helping staff was rewarded at NBI’s Nurse Excellence Awards in 2012 when she was named Preceptor of the Year. Lopez is a true patient and family advocate, and her nominator said her greatest attribute is a knack for being able to identify the patient’s and family members’ key stressor and implement the appropriate strategies to alleviate it. One family member, who was too embarrassed to admit she did not speak enough English to understand the updates regarding her husband’s condition, was relieved of her mounting anxiety once Lopez realized the situation. Lopez immediately contacted the language line to provide the wife with all updates. The husband, who always had translated for the wife, was still sleepy from anesthesia and was not able to do so.

Mia Rose, RN, BS, CCRN, Registered nurse
Overlook Medical Center, Summit, N.J.

Rose is the go-to person in the CCU. A dedicated patient advocate who often functions as charge nurse and preceptor, her strong clinical skills and willingness to teach make her the optimal resource and mentor. She researched and ordered safety goggles, was instrumental in getting maintenance to change the brackets on shelving that posed a safety hazard to patients and staff, and developed a process to corral the mass of cords and wires commonly seen in the critical care environment. Rose shared her safety goggle information with occupational medicine, which now shares the information with all employees. After identifying an educational need for CCU staff caring for post-partum patients with pregnancy-induced hypertension, Rose worked with a colleague from labor and delivery to develop a poster detailing key points to remember when caring for the critically ill post-partum patient. She participated in computer trials to develop the electronic charting specific to CCU and is the unit’s informatics superuser, providing answers and support in a manner that makes it easier for others to learn. She is mentoring two new grads in the residency program, with whom she generously shares her experience. She volunteers her time with Jeans for Teens and and has mentored her younger brothers as they organized their friends to donate to this cause. She also raises awareness for organ and tissue donation and transplantation through participation in the N.J. Sharing Network’s 5K run. She collects school supplies and shoes for children in Jamaica. Her colleagues say she is an example to the staff of a nurse who uses critical thinking skills, possesses personal attributes of warmth and empathy, and gives of her talents to improve and strive for the best patient care-focused environment possible.

Alexis H. Sherman, RN, BSN, CWOCN, Ostomy nurse clinician
Mount Sinai Hospital, Manhattan

Sherman is responsible for rendering preop teaching and stoma site marking to new ostomy patients and educating patients and their families regarding ostomy management while the patient is in the hospital. She conducts case presentations and nursing grand rounds on very difficult to manage ostomies and fistulas, and keeps abreast of literature and trends in healthcare practices, nursing and patient care delivery. Sherman develops and supports preceptors in their role as ostomy support nurses on the gastriointestinal unit and participates in risk-management activities including investigating, identifying and communicating issues of risk in a timely manner. She assisted in the initiation of the Mount Sinai program “Stepping Out with Your Stoma,” a weekly support group that is near and dear to her. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and colitis at 5 years old. After gastrointestinal surgery, she was given an ostomy. She learned how to care for the skin surrounding the stoma and a made drastic changes in her diet. She learned how to care for her ostomy and didn’t let the condition change who she was. Sherman became a star of Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America events, speaking at CCFA when she was just 11. Sherman has volunteered as a counselor at the foundation’s Camp Oasis since 2001. As a member of the New York chapter’s medical advisory committee, she lectures on living with an ostomy. In 2002, she received the CCFA’s Student Research Fellowship Award presented by Solvay Pharmaceuticals.


Helen Christina Ballestas, RN, PhD, ANP-BC, Assistant professor, Adelphi University College of Nursing and Public Health, Garden City, N.Y.

Ballestas is responsible for coordinating the theory and clinical courses in Nursing Care of the Adult 1 and 2 for 50 full-time adjunct faculty members, ensuring that faculty are prepared with the necessary materials to teach three med-surg courses to 100 students. In addition, she advises 30 students. She is on the advisory board for the College Science and Technology Entry Program at Adelphi, which is a government grant-funded program designed to support, mentor and guide minority students in programs such as science, math, pre-med and nursing. She is very active in CSTEP events, including working with students during summer internships, presenting at local events and working one-on-one with nursing students who need extra mentoring and guidance. Ballestas is developing a program/curriculum with a large hospital system in New York that focuses on encouraging and mentoring minority staff nurses to move into leadership roles. For the past four years, she has taken 20 baccalaureate students to Costa Rica during spring break as part of her onsite “cultural diversity–Costa Rica” course. The purpose of the course is to teach students civic responsibility and how to take care of patients in a culturally competent way. The founder of the Long Island chapter of the National Hispanic Nurses Association, Ballestas is chairwoman of the educational committee for NAHN at the national level and has addressed the New York State Department of Health in Albany on behalf of migrant workers and perceived healthcare disparities. She was named NAHN’s Nurse of the Year in 2013 and Faculty Advisor of the Year in 2012.

Mary E. Fortier, RN, EdD, CNL
Associate professor, Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J.

Fortier mentors junior faculty and advises students in addition to her teaching courseload. She is described by her nominator as a committed educator and the epitome of a professional role model. With more than 30 years in nursing, she holds a wealth of clinical experience and knowledge that she willingly shares with her students and colleagues. She mentors senior nursing students and prepares them for the NCLEX with constant encouragement to “think like a nurse.” She created an assignment for one course that requires students to complete 100 practice exam questions each week. Following her lead, many nursing faculty have incorporated this assignment into their course requirements, and students have reported that this exercise has contributed to their success on NCLEX. Fortier teaches more than 150 BSN students each academic year while participating in college and university committees, publishing in peer-reviewed journals and presenting at local, regional, national and international meetings and conferences. It is said that she is a role model for professionalism and shares her experience and expertise, teaching her students to provide care in a culturally sensitive, caring and comprehensive manner. She is well respected by her colleagues and is an active and vital member of the college of nursing. She serves on department, college and university committees and impacts the reputation of the university as well as the profession. She also recently earned her doctorate in higher education, an accomplishment that attests to the commitment she has to educating the next generation of nurses. Fortier has extended herself to faculty members as well as students, and the measurable differences she has made in the profession is sure to have an impact on future nurses.

Janet Mackin, RN, EdD, Dean, Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing, Manhattan

Mackin’s nominator described her as “an exceptional and inspirational role model and mentor whose commitment and collaboration to advancing nursing education and practice have influenced the enhancement of academic excellence and student success.” As dean, she oversees the day-to-day operations of the school for more than 300 students, 12 full-time faculty and 50 part-time faculty. She developed a mentoring program for full-time and part-time faculty, and her dedication to the pursuit of excellence in nursing education and her collaborative working relationship with faculty played a major role in the school of nursing achieving Regents Accreditation as a college in 2012. Founder of the Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing Honor Society, Mackin spearheaded the charge to establish an RN-to-BSN degree program at PBISN that recently was granted approval. The program is one of a few hospital-based nursing programs to offer both associate and baccalaureate nursing education. She also led the initiation of the National League for Nursing’s Center of Excellence designation and was instrumental in the development of “Your Health First,” a program for students that encourages a proactive approach to good health. The program provides students with guidance on nutrition, stress reduction and exercise. Mackin also led the development and implementation of the Eye-to-Eye program in collaboration with Beth Israel Medical Center physicians. This program is geared toward enhancing interprofessional communication between students, nurses and physicians. She is involved in the state and national nursing agenda in improving the quality of healthcare and patient outcomes through nursing education, and she established an education department at the school of nursing that provides continuing education to members of the healthcare profession. Under her leadership, the school published the children’s book, “I Want To Be A Nurse, Do You?”

Altagracia Mota, RN, MSN, OCN
Program manager, Nursing professional development and nurse residency coordinator, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Manhattan

Since becoming program manager in 2007, Mota has mentored staff in a department that has grown from seven educators to 13. As a board member of the Nurse Advocacy Forum, she meets with college juniors and seniors and new graduate RNs to assist in their transition from student to practitioner. She is a hospital affiliate member of the curriculum advisory committee at the College of New Rochelle (N.Y.), and has provided suggestions for curriculum changes and improvement. She implemented the University Health Systems Consortium/American Association of Colleges of Nursing Nurse Residency Program at MSKCC to help facilitate new graduate transition to oncology healthcare delivery. Goals of the program include adapting to the night shift, caring for patients and family members facing end of life, cancer symptom management, teamwork and collaboration, Situation Background Assessment Recommendation — known as SBAR — communication skills, delegation, ethics, compassion fatigue and self-care. More than 500 new graduate nurses have participated in the program. It is believed her guidance and mentorship have contributed to the institution’s successful retention rate. According to Mota’s nominator, 95.5% of new graduates who begin working at MSKCC are still in their positions at their one-year anniversary. In February 2013, Mota presented information about an innovative redesign of the cancer center’s nursing competency assessment forms. The new documentation format built upon two evidence-based constructs. The first incorporated the Quality and Safety in Nursing Education guidelines into orientation competency assessment, and the second utilized Patricia Benner’s Novice to Expert Model of skill acquisition. The QSEN model now is used in all the nursing competency forms. The second in the redesign of the orientation competency incorporates Benner’s Model to evaluate nursing competency as level 1, level 2 and level 3, with each level building upon the next. The model is presented during MSKCC’s preceptor workshop.

Launette Woolforde, RN-BC, EdD, DNP, Director of nursing education, professional development, research and professional practice, North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, N.Y.

Woolforde oversees 17 nurse educators who provide support to the many specialty units and programs in the hospital. She is so passionate about education that she enrolled in two doctoral programs at the same time. She launched the Nursing Leadership Academy, a one-year program to prepare new nurse leaders for roles in nursing management. Woolforde created a departmental scorecard to track specialty certification, clinical nurse advancement and achievement of BSN and advanced degrees in nursing. She encourages her team of nurse educators to become certified and instituted a nursing professional development series for them. The purpose of the program is to advance the practice and expertise of the education team. She facilitated the development of courses focusing on educational technologies, narrative pedagogy and learner-centered curriculum design. As a result, 88 members of the nursing education team at NSUH now are certified by ANCC in nursing professional development. Woolforde has mentored five educators at NSUH as they worked through the process of their first publications and also mentored three educators who were accepted as podium presenters in national conferences in 2013. Last year, Woolforde created a junior faculty program to support the senior practicum experience for nursing students at the College of New Rochelle (N.Y). She has been instrumental in reducing the number of catheter-associated urinary tract infections at NSUH by establishing structures and processes that raise awareness and promote diligence among the frontline staff. Under her direction and guidance, a group of 185 RNs have become CAUTI prevention champions. The nurses were provided education on how to best serve as a resource on the patient care unit and also were trained on new catheter insertion practices. The interdisciplinary staff address urinary catheters during daily rounds. To provide real-time education and support for units that have a higher number of catheter days, such as ICUs, a nurse educator provides additional oversight on a daily basis.


Joan Corasaniti, RN, MSN, CEN, CTTS
Pulmonary nurse navigator, Atlantic Health System, Morristown (N.J.) Medical Center

In preparation for her role as pulmonary nurse navigator, Corasaniti participated in a joint program between Duke University and Rutgers University to become a population care coordinator. She is an integral part of Atlantic Health’s accountable care organization, and, in conjunction with the manager of the Pulmonary Center of Excellence, leads the pulmonary work group for the ACO that consists of nurses, physicians, managers and respiratory therapists. Part of her role involves investigating evidence-based practice for COPD care to decrease readmission rates and length of stay for this disease. She puts in hours of research, collaboration and development of practice standards in alignment with the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease standards. A Six Sigma Green Belt, Corasaniti is a lead on Morristown’s Six Sigma project to reduce the length of stay for COPD patients and assisted in collecting data for the study. The study resulted in the development of a multidisciplinary discharge checklist that helps patients prepare for discharge starting at admission. Corasaniti is a certified tobacco treatment specialist and started a smoking cessation group at Morristown. She collaborates with social services in the lung cancer center for many activities, including a lung cancer support group for patients. She organizes a lung cancer bereavement vigil during lung cancer awareness month, one of two such vigils in the state. She has helped more than 200 patients struggling with tobacco addiction since the program began three years ago. She runs a monthly smoking relapse prevention program for people who previously have participated in the six-week cessation program. Corasaniti shared her experience and expertise in the development of the program at the annual conference of Oncology Social Workers in 2012. “It’s Not Quitting, It’s Living: The Development of a Community Quit Smoking Program” describes how to run an oncology patient-focused smoking cessation program.

Elisa P. Green, RN, MSN, APN-BS
Advanced practice nurse, Saint Clare’s Health System, Dover, N.J.

Green is responsible for incorporating incentives to reduce work-related injuries and enhance the health and wellness of close to 3,000 employees. She is an instructor for the stroke educational program for nurses. In the program, she teaches how to properly mix tPA and how to provide pre- and post-care for the patients who received the medication. She is a member of many hospital committees, including infection control; clinical quality improvement; safety; employee activity; the credentialing committee for the medical staff; and an evidence-based project partner. Before her current position, Green spent many years with the health system in various areas, including oncology, PACU, critical care, the ED and quality management. Her accomplishments in these areas have proven beneficial to the health system and allowed Green to be fully recognized for her expertise. While working as an assistant patient care manager in the ED, the department won an award for having the highest patient satisfaction score. As a staff member in quality management, she received the health system’s Service Superstar Award for expertly completing the many tasks assigned to her. Noted for a meticulous work ethic, Green successfully led the design and implementation of the safe patient handling and movement evidence-based practice project, for which she helped develop policies and educational programs for need assessment and to ensure training was initiated and completed. The project has gained perfect scores from the health system for the past three years and, as a result of its implementation, employee-related injuries were down to 30 and lost work days were reduced to 50. In 2012, Green’s project poster was one of the top three winners at the National Poster Board Contest in Texas. Passionate about community health, Green has been a speaker for Weight Watchers, sharing her knowledge about weight management, diabetes care and healthy eating.

Susan Morin, RN, MS, PMHCNS-BC, NPP
Director, Adolescent and Eating Disorder Partial Hospitalization Program, John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, Port Jefferson, N.Y.

Morin’s job entails oversight of the clinical and operational functions of the adolescent treatment team and the eating disorder team within John T. Mather’s partial hospitalization program. When Morin assumed the role of director, the eating disorder program operated only three days a week for three hours a day. Committed to providing patients access to the quality treatment they need, she lobbied for more staff to increase the capacity for additional patients. In 2013, she increased the total number of patient visits by 112 in the eating disorder program and by 404 in the adolescent program. The eating disorder program expanded to a five-day-a-week partial hospitalization program that provides comprehensive interdisciplinary treatment for eating disorder patients. The program is the only eating disorder partial hospitalization program for adults in Suffolk and Nassau counties, according to her nominator, and the only eating disorder partial hospitalization program for adolescents in Suffolk County. Under her direction, patient satisfaction surveys for both programs are consistently above 90%. As director, Morin initiated an affiliation with the National Eating Disorder Association of Long Island and was a board member until 2011, when the local affiliate was absorbed into the national organization of NEDA. As a NEDA Long Island board member, she served as chairwoman of the educational programs for the community on eating disorder awareness. In addition, she established an eating disorder support group in Suffolk County. The group continues at Mather on a monthly basis, free of charge. She also established free eating disorder screenings offered on a weekly basis at the partial hospitalization program. Morin’s passion to help young people extends outside of Mather as well. She participates in community, college and high school health fairs to educate and inform others about eating disorders. A Eucharistic minister, she is the coordinator for religious education within her parish and assists with adolescents in the religious education programs.

Patricia M. Thomsen-Early, RN, MSN
Registered nurse, South Nassau Communities Hospital, Oceanside, N.Y.

A staunch supporter of community education, Thomsen-Early encourages it through many avenues. She has participated in biohazard detection drills in Nassau and Suffolk counties through health departments, emergency rescue services and police departments at two postal processing facilities. She also has administered influenza vaccines at postal facilities in the region. While working as a contract nurse for the U.S. Postal Service, she developed and implemented employee wellness programs, including blood pressure screening during Go Red for Women and Men’s Health weeks. She continues to educate staff on health and wellness by providing information on stroke awareness and emergency preparedness. Thomsen-Early delivers care rooted in evidence-based practice. Many of the best practices she uses in her daily practice to prevent avoidable readmissions have been incorporated into SNCH. She is regarded as extremely knowledgeable about agency policies and procedures, department of health regulations and Joint Commission standards, and the high-quality, cost-efficient care Thomsen-Early provides has contributed to the hospital’s recognition as a Top 500 agency nationwide by Home Care Elite. Her knowledge and experience allow her to be an effective mentor to staff, including assisting those who are less proficient in the use of the EMR system. During home visits, Thomsen-Early spends the time necessary to educate patients on medication use, signs and symptoms, and adverse effects. Her efforts have resulted in SNCH’s home care compare scores often ranking above state and national averages and its patient satisfaction score being above the national benchmark as well. Committed to the community at large, she has volunteered with the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology organization in various roles over the past 14 years. These problem-solving programs are geared toward increasing elementary, middle and high school students’ interest in science and technology.

Lin Dan Yu, RN, MSN, CHPN
Access center manager, MJHS Hospice and Palliative Care, Brooklyn

Yu oversees the admissions staff who serve a multitude of cultures, including Orthodox Jewish, Russian, Latino and Chinese. Fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese and English, she is said to bring special insight to serving the fast-growing Chinese-American population in New York. MJHS has adapted by bringing its healthcare services to the Chinese community. As a nurse, manager and mentor, Yu is instrumental in continuing that progress. She cared for more than 200 Chinese-speaking patients last year, including a 94-year-old woman with dementia. When the elderly woman was hospitalized with an emergency, her family had to choose whether to have their mother undergo a risky surgery or provide only comfort care. Yu helped the woman’s son and daughter understand the clinical issues at stake, clarified treatment and discharge options presented by the clinical team and made recommendations for interventions aimed at keeping their mother comfortable. Yu’s compassionate care has helped MJHS establish and solidify important business relationships, too. At NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital, for example, Yu often is called when there is confusion with a discharge plan. Yu prides herself on keeping abreast of benefit opportunities set forth by governing agencies. Her commitment to community and family led her to volunteer to be a founder of the MJHS One Dragon Team. In this capacity, she serves as an ambassador throughout the Chinese community, where healthcare services and benefits such as hospice care are not fully optimized. Yu’s clinical expertise provides her with a firm grasp of disease trajectory so she can better assist patients and families in knowing what to expect and how to mitigate symptoms.


Donna Caccavale, RN, BSN, MBA, CIC, NEA-BC
Director of nursing, critical care, Winthrop-University Hospital, Mineola, N.Y.

Caccavale oversees the management of four adult critical-care units, the neuro intermediate care unit and four telemetry units. Her solid grasp of the financial climate within the institution enabled her to gain administrative support for increased staffing levels, further enhancing quality patient care and satisfaction. Her leadership and extremely effective management style has boosted the confidence levels of her managers and educators who have blossomed under her guidance. Caccavale did not hesitate when she was asked to assist in the ED as acting interim director. Without reservation, she devoted many hours interviewing ED staff, obtaining feedback. and identifying challenges and opportunities within the department, all while maintaining full responsibility for her other units. Through collaboration with other nursing directors and the CNO, she has empowered the staff, refined processes and improved relationships with other departments, resulting in increased staff morale and better patient care that are reflected in the ED’s HCAHPS surveys and RN work and practice environment satisfaction scores. She is a member of the hospital wide critical care committee and is the only nurse amid a group of high-level physician directors and chairs of the ICUs. Caccavale worked as an infection preventionist for seven years, during which time she served in a leadership position within the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. She became president of the local chapter, which under her leadership received the APIC Chapter of the Year award at the organization’s national conference. She also received a Leadership Award from APIC for her administration. She continues to use her infection prevention expertise in the critical-care setting and was an integral part of a team that brought Winthrop’s CLABSI rates down to zero.

Joan Cassano, RN, BSN, CCM, MPA
Clinical director, episodic care management, assessment/coding/OIU, Visiting Nurse Service of New York, Manhattan

During the seven years leading up to her latest promotion, Cassano served as a regional clinical director of business development, first in Queens and Nassau County, then Brooklyn, and eventually encompassing VNSNY’s Manhattan region. Her responsibilities grew from directing two home healthcare managers who managed 80 intake staff to directing six managers in charge of 109 intake staff. She currently directs nine episodic care managers in the management of high-performing teams across the agency. According to her colleagues, Cassano has the ability to see the big picture and guide others to the end result, resulting in excellent patient outcomes. Cassano was one of the first two VNSNY nurses to take part in Duke University School of Nursing’s population care coordinator program, an intensive 12-week course focused on managing the care of patients as individuals and community residents to improve long-term outcomes. Last summer, she spoke before a crowd of more than 700 VNSNY staff, managers and guests at its managerial summit meeting, sharing the experience and knowledge gained from the PCCP course. Cassano has been invited to speak on the Duke campus to cohorts of the past two programs, relaying her experiences in the program in an effort to ensure understanding of PCCP expectations, teaching and future implementation. As clinical director of VNSNY’s Centralized Operations Resources, Cassano took responsibility for a number of projects and initiatives, playing a major role in orchestrating, implementing and evaluating services of the many patient populations VNSNY serves, including the congestive heart failure and telehealth initiatives. She also served as intensive rehab program leader in an initiative for the PT/INR for orthopedic patients. Always committed to the well-being and safety of VNSNY’s patients, she sought and secured a $1 million grant from the American Red Cross for post-disaster assistance after Superstorm Sandy.

Denise Fochesto, RN, MSN, APN-C, CCRN
Manager, ICU, MICU, Hyperbaric & Nursing
Morristown (N.J.) Medical Center

Under Fochesto’s leadership, MMC received accreditation with distinction for hyperbaric medicine service by the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society, the first to be accredited in New Jersey. Fochesto manages patient-endowed staff education funds for the critical-care nursing staff to promote continuing education and certification. To date, 100% of the nursing leadership team in the ICU have completed MSN degrees and professional certification. She collaborated with leadership of other adult critical-care units to adopt a new monitoring system that will save millions of dollars in the years to come because of the contractual inclusion of free lifetime system upgrades. During her interim leadership of the orthopedic surgery department, she served as project leader for Joint Commission accreditation for disease-specific certification for total hip and knee replacement and for lumbar and cervical spine disease-specific certification. Both accreditations have been renewed by her successors, but Fochesto remains committed to supporting them. Between 2001 and 2009, she managed the nursing education department and sought administrative and medical support to fund and develop a state-of-the-art human simulation laboratory. She managed a $2 million budget and saw the growth of nursing education to include nursing informatics. A grant proposal and business plan she wrote provided funds for an animal-assisted activities program to enhance healing and the experience of patients and families. She was appointed project leader for the initiative by a corporate team led by the board of trustees. The project was adopted systemwide and was extended to create a center of excellence for animal-assisted therapy. Through Fochesto’s efforts, two current institutional review board-approved studies have been initiated, with the grants providing funding for Morristown’s first National Animal-Assisted Activities Conference. An educational video also was produced. Excerpts of the program will be placed on the corporate website as a resource for other hospitals that are interested in starting pet therapy programs.

Nancy Houlihan, RN, MA, AOCN
Nurse leader, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Manhattan

Houlihan has worked for four decades at MSKCC. She is a nurse leader for the breast cancer disease management team and oversees the practice and daily nursing operations of 50 nurses, eight advanced practice nurses and four PCTs. She led the development of a quarterly nursing newsletter for the institution that is now a means of communication to engage, educate and inform the nursing community on relevant matters concerning nursing practice, research and accomplishments of all nurses in the institution. She supports the collaborative effort of advanced practice nurses, research nurses and staff nurses in the creation of nursing-led research training classes for office practice nurses who are struggling to meet patient needs in that setting. The effort not only helped to develop the leadership and presentation skills of experienced nurses, but has enabled the reallocation of research nurses to nine new phase 1 studies while traditional office practice nurses assume the care of phase 2 and 3 clinical trial patients. She also collaborated with other disciplines to institute a virtual developmental treatment unit within MSKCC’s existing service for phase 1 drug development. She pioneered and was instrumental in the growth of the NP-led survivorship program for cancer patients across MSKCC, and partnered with the administration on the implementation of fast track treatment chairs that decreased wait times in the breast chemotherapy unit. Most recently, she developed an innovative, NP-led referral program to expedite patients with abnormal mammography into the institution to identify the need for biopsy and/or surgery that has decreased the time from abnormal mammography to surgical consultation.

Irene M. Jankowski, RN, MSN, APN-BC, CWOCN
WOCN manager, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, Manhattan

Described as the name and face of ostomy and wound care excellence at MSBI, Jankowski designed and implemented a hospital-wide skin saver team and unit-based skin saver champion initiative to pressure ulcer prevention that she continues to refine as needed. She has been practicing in the field of wound ostomy care since 1989. Through her efforts and expertise as WOCN manager, the program has expanded to include both inpatient and outpatient clinical services that meet the needs of patients, physicians and MSBI. She has developed a number of patient-focused educational materials and co-authored a pressure ulcer pocket guide for non-wound specialist healthcare provider use throughout the health system. In collaboration with MSBI’s department of colorectal surgery, Jankowksi has developed and manages one of the only NP-run outpatient ostomy clinics in the New York/New Jersey Metro area and has since led the initiative to expand this into Brooklyn. She serves as a clinical instructor/preceptor for a number of universities and maintains ongoing preceptorship for WOCN students from La Salle University, Emory University and Wicks Educational Associates. In 2009, she became the first Joint Commission Resource/Hill-Rom Nurse Safety Scholar-in-Residence, a grant-funded position for which she served as a clinical expert for a multi-hospital project that focused on pressure ulcer prevention program gaps and barriers to bedside implementation of pressure ulcer prevention protocols. She continues to serve as a consultant for JCR and has spearheaded initiatives to establish a quality, evidence-based WOCN program that includes direct clinical consultation services; a cost-effective material management approach; formalized education of all levels of healthcare professionals; and preceptorship of future WOC nurses. Nationally recognized for her work in the use of negative pressure wound therapy, clinicians from across the country continue to reach out to Jankowski for her expertise in this therapy.


James Cameron. RN, CEN, CPEN
Pediatric emergency nurse, NorthShore-LIJ Health System/Huntington (N.Y.) Hospital

One week after 9/11, Cameron volunteered to help establish the first National Nurse Response Team for the U.S. Public Health Service and was credited by Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge as one of the founding members of the Department of Homeland Security. Cameron has worked with New York U.S. Rep. Timothy Bishop’s office to secure endorsement of the Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act of 2013 that will improve patient safety and quality of care by enhancing the voice of nurses in hospital staffing decisions. He recently was appointed to an 8-year term to be the Emergency Nurses Association’s congressional legislative contact for New York’s First District and is a member of the newly formed Suffolk County Medical Reserve Corps advisory board, responsible for the mass care and sheltering of people affected by a disaster. As a member of the MRC, Cameron is trained to assist workers at a station in the Emergency Operations Center headquartered in Yaphank, Long Island. He works closely to coordinate plans with the state Department of Health, the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council and organizations such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army. He will be a part of the team on Suffolk County’s new Major Emergency Response Vehicle that can provide mass casualty incident response and transport, medical evacuations, on-site triage, firefighter and emergency medical services rehabilitation and medical support for long-term emergencies. In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Cameron is working with others to issue mandatory evacuations as early as possible, to find ways to fast track healthcare workers to work and to transport community members to safety. He and his colleagues also are exploring ways to house families of emergency staff more effectively.

Kathe M. Conlon, RN, BSN, CEM, MSHS
Burn Emergency Preparedness Coordinator
Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Barnabas Health Office of Emergency Management, Livingston, N.J.

Conlon volunteers as the senior nurse logistics for the New Jersey Task Force One Urban Search and Rescue. Formed in 1997, the task force assists local forces by providing additional expertise and equipment in a large-scale rescue effort. The task force consists of specialists in four areas: search (to find trapped victims); rescue (which includes digging victims out); technical (structural specialists who make rescues safe for the rescuers); and medical (personnel who care for victims before and after a rescue). Conlon’s first assignment was during 9/11, where she tended to both burn victims and team members. More recently, she helped residents affected by the severe flooding in northern New Jersey and on the Jersey Shore during Hurricane Sandy. She also spent two days working in medical logistics at MetLife Stadium during this year’s Super Bowl. Because she is well respected by emergency personnel across New Jersey, the task force sought Conlon’s expertise when forming the USAR team. She is the first woman and first RN to join a team like this, which is typically composed of firefighters. A former phlebotomist, Conlon decided to go to nursing school just one month before the burn center opened when an explosion sent five patients to the ICU. She has since helped develop and provide disaster programs for Saint Barnabas. She also developed a policy to identify the burn injured and have them moved locally to the best facility until they can be transferred to a long-term burn center. To facilitate this, she is developing a Web-based program designed to triage, track and transfer patients from a mass casualty incident. She completed a Certificate of Emergency Management from Kean University and a master’s degree in Homeland Security from Fairleigh Dickinson University, the only RN in her class and one of only a few women.

Jacqueline Gulstone, RN, PhD, CNS, FNP-BC
Family Nurse Practitioner
Brookdale Hospital Medical Center, Brooklyn

For more than a decade, Gulstone has travelled to developing countries two to three times annually, volunteering her services to medical missions and raising funds to purchase school supplies for schools and children. As president of two of the organizations with whom she volunteers, Gulstone guides her team in the U.S. to raise scholarship funds for nursing students annually, and prepares Thanksgiving baskets for needy families. She spent Thanksgiving 2012 in Breezy Point, N.Y., giving food, groceries, equipment and medical supplies, and also cleaning homes for families in despair. That evening, she sorted coats received by one of the organizations for distribution to needy children in the community. Gulstone established a health ministry in her church and provides health awareness presentations and handouts and volunteers most Sundays after church to speak to other congregations about healthy eating and health habits. She has appeared on local and international TV programs to speak to various communities about nursing, health issues and domestic violence and has assisted a local domestic violence group in raising funds. Gulstone was called upon by the United Nations to spearhead a project in Guyana, her birth country, to produce a documentary on the nursing program offered in that country. She saw the opportunity as a way to call attention to the nursing shortage there and to gain international assistance for nurses. Eight years ago, Gulstone was informed of a family whose mother died suddenly, leaving her husband to care for their six children. Since then, Gulstone has supported the family with food, clothing and annual Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets. She is a mentor to one of the daughters, who is enrolled in a local nursing program.

Barbara Ann Herrmann, RN, BSN, CNOR
Staff Nurse
Overlook Medical Center, Summit, N.J.

Herrmann grew up in a family that believes in volunteering and helping others. Her father received an award from former President George W. Bush in 2005 for his volunteer work doing taxes for employed, developmentally delayed individuals. As a teenager, she volunteered as a candy striper at Overlook and at the New Jersey Food Bank. Now, as an OR nurse, Herrmann believes she possesses a skill that can benefit people all over the world who cannot afford healthcare and would not have access to the level of care she and medical mission teams can provide. Her first mission was with the Catholic Medical Mission Board of New York working at a clinic and assisting with gynecological surgeries in Haiti. Since then, she has spent many vacations volunteering with Healing the Children New Jersey in Azogues, Ecuador; Bangkok, Thailand; Ica, Peru; Esmaraldas, Ecuador; and Trujillo, Peru. As a volunteer on missions, Herrmann creates the surgical schedule, sets up the OR, facilitates room turnover, packs supplies before a trip, and unpacks supplies upon return. Herrmann was a guest lecturer at La Universidad Catolica de Cuenca in Azogues, Ecuador, in 2009 as part of the mission there. She was presented with the Jhansi Chowdry Nurse of the Year Award from Healing the Children in March, an honor bestowed upon a nurse who has shown outstanding volunteer support for Healing the Children and who possesses humanitarian qualities. When asked why she loves volunteering, Herrmann said she loves being a nurse and loves to travel, so missions merge these two passions while allowing her to better the lives of many children. Her spirit and enthusiasm have spread to the hospital’s auxiliary volunteer groups, and one of them sews pediatric hospital gowns in fun, kid-friendly patterns for children to take home.

Mayano Ochi, RN
Registered Nurse
Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn

Ochi provides patient-centered nursing care for childbearing families in the antepartum, intrapartum and postpartum settings in one of the busiest obstetrical services in New York State. A dedicated community servant, she took on the challenge of leading a group of 20 volunteers on a medical mission to Cebu in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan last fall. Her enthusiasm and organizational acumen were evident as she single-handedly built the team for this journey — identifying and encouraging the volunteers, raising funds and leading the group through the preparations for the mission and the return home to New York. Her colleagues said she managed every detail of the trip seamlessly, including the gathering of needed equipment and supplies, organizing plane and bus schedules, designing workflows and scheduling mealtimes and rest periods. She worked tirelessly to listen to the more than 1,000 adults and children who sought care and spent her free time in the evenings working on preparations for the next day’s activities and planning future volunteer experiences. She recently established the Maimonides Global Health Interest Group, an endeavor that brings together interdisciplinary healthcare professionals who desire to contribute their knowledge and expertise beyond the walls of Maimonides. Colleagues and students who have an interest in creating healthy communities across the globe meet to determine ways to facilitate future medical missions and influence the well-being of populations where resources and knowledge are less available than in the U.S. Ochi also plays a critical role mentoring nursing students on the labor and delivery unit, thereby influencing new generations of nurses. Before her career in nursing, Ochi was an advocate for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and at-risk children.

By | 2021-05-07T08:18:28-04:00 May 19th, 2014|Categories: Nursing Awards|0 Comments

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