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Doctors of Distinction awards presented virtually

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Medical professionals from Westchester and Fairfield were honored for their contributions to health care and medicine during Westfair Communications’ eighth annual Doctors of Distinction awards. Of particular note was the creation of a new category of awards: Covid-19 Heroes.

Because of the pandemic and protocols discouraging large gatherings, instead of the traditional cocktail hour, dinner and presentations, a virtual event was created and streamed live on Sept. 24. The event now can be viewed on-demand by visiting the Westfair MediaProductions channel on youtube.com.

Judges handling the process of selecting the honorees were: Janine Miller, executive director of the Westchester Medical Society; Dr. Stephanie Kazantsev, a dermatologist; and Dr. Camelia Lawrence of the Hospital of Central Connecticut and Midstate Medical Center.

Dr. Salomon Amar of New York Medical College in Valhalla accepted the Biomedical Breakthrough Award. Amar said that during his approximately three decades as a doctor it has been especially gratifying to see the explosion in technology and therapeutic approaches, especially those that have been developed as a result of feedback from patients related to their needs.

“The circle coming from the patient into the lab with animal models, with clinical trials and coming with tangible answers after a profound modelization of the process is probably the most gratifying experience that we have,” Amar said.

Dr. Kelly Hutcheson, recipient of a No Land Too Far Award, said, “We as physicians have the unique gift of being able to change the quality of life for those who are less fortunate. In the field of opthalmology this is evermore apparent, as giving someone the gift of sight can alter every aspect of their existence, from their ability to work to their standing in the community to their personal sense of happiness, fulfillment and well-being.”

Hutcheson was instrumental in founding a charitable organization that has brought medical and surgical care to patients in the Dominican Republic. Hutcheson is chair of the Department of Opthalmology at New York Medical College and serves as director of opthalmology for the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth).

A No Land Too Far Award also went to Dr. Andrew Swiderski of Open Door Family Medical Center.

“One effect of working overseas is that you return home to feel a bit foreign working in your own land,” Swiderski said. He urged that young people become involved with organizations such as the Peace Corps and learn foreign languages.

The Caring For All Award was accepted by Steven Srebnik, a physical therapist who founded Performance Rehabilitation in Yonkers.

“The physical therapy profession is relatively young in the big scheme of health care delivery,” Srebnik said. “It’s only been over the course of the last three or four decades that physical therapists have been very aggressive at doing the research and studies to collect data to help guide our decision making in the clinic,” Srebnik said.

Dr. Barry Zingman of the Montefiore Health System Albert Einstein College of Medicine received the Cutting Edge Award.

The Exceptional Leadership in Health Care Award was accepted by Dr. Mooyeon Oh-Park of Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains.

“Annually we have approximately 3,000 inpatient admissions and  180,000 outpatient visits,” Oh-Park said. “During the pandemic…we immediately recognized the tremendous unmet needs of physical, psychological and cognitive rehabilitation of…Covid-19 survivors. Burke was able to establish a working model of addressing these needs,” Oh-Park said.

Dr. Richard P. Morel, chief physician executive of CareMount Medical, received a Health Executive of the Year Award, as did Michael Spicer, president and CEO of St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Yonkers.

Dr. Susan D. Klugman of Montefiore Health System, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, received the Female Trailblazer Award., while the Lifetime Achievement Award went to surgeon Dr. John Savino of WMCHealth.

“Another lifetime achievement award is coming in November, with the birth of our first grandchild,” Savino said.

The Power Couple Award was given to Dr. Jenifer Johnson and Dr. Jason Shuker, both of whom are with the Westmed Medical Group.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted how gratifying and motivating our professions truly are,” Shuker said.

“Being able to guide and and counsel patients through the scariest and most uncertain times in their lives is both rewarding and humbling,” Johnson said.

Ebrahim Afshinnekoo, a student at New York Medical College, was the recipient of the Promise For The Future Award.

“It has been truly inspiring to see the amount of sacrifice the health care community has made in the service of others,” he said about the response to Covid-19. “I’m excited to be pursuing a career in medicine where this is the way.”

Support Staff awards went to Daniel Boxer of Whittingham Cancer Center at Norwalk Hospital and Brian Fullerton of Northern Westchester Hospital.

The Flanzer Center for Emergencies and Critical Care’s team at White Plains Hospital, the Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness at Stamford Hospital and the NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital’s Women’s Health Services team all received Team awards.

Telehealth Awards were given to White Plains Hospital’s Telehealth Platform, the Phelps Hospital Behavioral Health Team and Americares Free Clinics.

Dr. Anu Pani of Immediate Medical Care MD in Ossining received the Urgent Care Center Award.

Husband and wife Dr. Richard Findling and Dr. Dina Katz of Phelps Hospital, Northwell Health, were honored with the All In The Family Award.

A special category of awards, Covid-19 Heroes, was created this year in the face of the pandemic. Westchester County’s Commissioner of Health, Dr. Sherlita Amler, was honored for her “calm, practical and emphatic approach that respects individual rights and concerns and promotes optimal strategies to protect public health.”

Dr. Donald Chen, epidemiologist at Westchester Medical Center (WMCHealth) as well as the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and MidHudson Regional Hospital who leads the department of infection prevention and control was honored as a Covid-19 Hero.

George W. Contreras, assistant professor at the Institute of Public Health and assistant director of the Center for Disaster Medicine at New York Medical College, was honored for his work combating Covid-19, including his continued service as a paramedic in New York City during the pandemic.

Catherine O’Connell Hopkins of St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Yonkers was honored for her work at the hospital as well as in the community and Yonkers Public Schools during the outbreak that included instituting testing programs.

Dr. Michelle Espinoza of Phelps Hospital Northwell Health, a palliative and hospice specialist, was named a Covid-19 Hero, as was Sandra Kachelreiss, also of Phelps.

Another Covid-019 hero was Dr. Sandra Kesh, deputy medical director and infectious disease specialist at the Westmed Medical Group.

Also honored with a Covid-19 Heroes Award was Dr. Nigel Knox, a board-certified anesthesiologist and pain-management physician at the Westchester Medical Center (WMCHealth). He has been part of the center’s Covid hypoxic response team, supporting the care of coronavirus patients in respiratory distress.

Jennifer Tan, chief nursing officer at United Hebrew of New Rochelle, received a Covid-19 Heroes Award. She led the development of a Covid treatment and recovery unit at United Hebrew.

The Team Covid Award went to St. John’s Riverside Hospital. Named were: Dr. Rajendra Rampersaud; Dr. Joseph Brill; Dr. Robert DeMatteo; Dr. Richard B. Wu; Dr. Michael DiGiorno; Dr. Paul Antonecchia; Dr. Mark Silberman; Dr. Raffaele Milizia; Dr. Paul Sasso; Dr. Radhika Hariharan; Dr. Steven Barry; Dr. Anthony R. Darmiento; and Dr. Jonathan Bauman.

White Plains Hospital and United Hebrew of New Rochelle were Health Care Leaders for the event.

Health Care Partners were: Webster Bank; Open Door Family Medical Center; Burke Rehabilitation Hospital; The Chelsea; NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital; The Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth); and Yale NewHaven Health.

Supporters were: Gilda Bonano LLC; Blossom Flowers; The Bristal Assisted Living; CareMount Medical; Kensington Senior Living; St. John’s Riverside Hospital; Westmed Medical Group; and Phelps Hospital Northwell Health.

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