Westfair Communications, publisher of the Fairfield County Business Journal, will host its annual Doctors of Distinction award ceremony celebrating the accomplishments of physicians in Fairfield County on May 16 at The Water’s Edge at Giovanni’s in Darien.
This year’s awards, co-presented by Quinnipiac University, will recognize eight physicians and one medical school student in seven categories of judging.
The Doctors of Distinction event will benefit The Hole in the Wall Gang Fund Inc., a Connecticut nonprofit founded in 1988 by the late Academy Award-winning film actor Paul Newman that provides “a different kind of healing” and respite to seriously ill children and their family members at its Ashford summer camp and in more than 40 hospitals and clinics across the Northeast.
Keynote speaker for the ceremony is Kevin Scanlan, a health care life sciences consultant for IBM Watson who is developing a natural language processing tool that can extract information from unstructured text data sources ranging from medical literature to clinical trials to clinic notes. The machine will be integrated with genome sequencing data to bring useful genomic information to the clinic and deliver genetic testing results with increased speed and greater accuracy than manual methods.
This year’s Doctors of Distinction categories and winners:
All in the Family – This award will recognize husbands and wives, parents and children or siblings who work together in a practice or separately, dedicating their lives to make other lives better.
Dr. Kelly Harkins-Squitieri and Dr. Rafael Squitieri, Advanced Radiology and St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Bridgeport
Harkins is an attending radiologist with Advanced Radiology Consultants, medical director of the Breast Health Center at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport and associate program director of the radiology residency program at St. Vincent’s. Her husband, Rafael, is a cardiac surgeon and chief of cardiothoracic surgery at St. Vincent’s Medical Center. Married for 25 years, the couple met in medical school.
Growing up on Staten Island as the eldest of four siblings, Harkins decided on a career in medicine at the age of 13, after taking care of her beloved grandmother with breast cancer for several years at the end of her life.
She received her undergraduate degree in biology and psychology at SUNY Stony Brook and her medical degree from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where she was awarded the Rock Slyster Award for Clinical Research. She received two National Institutes of Health grants for basic and clinical research while at Mount Sinai. After completing her diagnostic radiology residency, she pursued a fellowship in breast imaging at NewYork Presbyterian Hospital.
Rafael Squitieri, graduated from Columbia University and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where he completed a fellowship in cardiovascular and cardiothoracic surgery. He joined St. Vincent’s in 2001.
Squitieri has introduced several minimally invasive procedures to St. Vincent’s Medical Center. After pioneering new techniques for aortic-root and aortic-arch reconstruction, he helped launch the trans-aortic valve replacement program at St. Vincent’s, the first in Fairfield County, which gives new hope to people with aortic stenosis who were previously considered too high of a risk for traditional open heart surgery.
Squitieri also serves as a diplomat of the American Board of General Surgery and the National Board of Medical Examiners.
The couple has been married for 25 years and have 4 children, Michael, 24, Katherine, 20, Lauren, 18, and Jack, 8.
Caring for All – This award will recognize a doctor who turns no patient away, but rather devotes time and effort to providing the best care possible to all patients.
Dr. Patricia Calayag, Greenwich Hospital
Calayag is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology and sees patients from adolescent through menopausal years. Her practice includes general obstetrics and gynecology, both high- and low-risk pregnancies with special interest in fertility, laparoscopy and minimally invasive surgery.
Calayag graduated from Wesleyan University and earned her medical degree from SUNY-Stony Brook School of Medicine. She completed her residency training at Harvard University School of Medicine’s Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, where she was also a clinical teaching fellow for Harvard medical students.
In private practice since 1995. she joined Westmed Medical Group in 2008 and in 2014 was appointed associate medical director of women’s health at the multispecialty practice group in Fairfield and Westchester counties. In 2015, she was appointed chairwoman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Greenwich Hospital.
Cutting Edge – This award will recognize a doctor who spends endless hours working on research and clinical trials to try to erase the world of diseases.
Dr. Salvatore Del Prete, Stamford Hospital
Del Prete graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1974 and attended SUNY-Buffalo School of Medicine. He completed his internal medicine training at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Memorial Hospital before becoming board certified in internal medicine.
During his years at Dartmouth, Del Prete became interested in oncology and developed what he described as “an intense interest in clinical trials.” He went on to a fellowship at Dartmouth in hematology and oncology, where he regularly participated in clinical trials. He joined the hematology/oncology group at Stamford Hospital in July 1984 and was responsible for developing and expanding its clinical trial program.
Del Prete in 1985 was the first U.S. physician to use intraperitoneal chemotherapy for ovarian cancer patients — 19 years before this practice became the standard of care. He has also authored several studies based on his research.
“I continue to be deeply interested in clinical trials to further the science since it is this path that will improve both the quantity and quality of our patients’ lives,” he said.
Female Trailblazers – This award will recognize female doctors who made great strides in empowering other women to advocate for themselves and be aware of their specific medical needs.
Dr. Camelia Lawrence, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Bridgeport; and Dr. Katherine Vadasdi, Orthopedic and Neurosurgery Specialists, Greenwich
Lawrence is a board-certified surgeon specializing in benign and malignant breast disease. She has fellowship training in advance breast cancer surgery, including skin and nipple-sparing mastectomy, sentinel node biopsy and oncoplastic techniques.
Lawrence earned her bachelor’s degree from Fordham University and her medical degree from the University of Rochester School of Medicine. She completed her residency at New York Medical College in Valhalla and did fellowship training at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, California.
Lawrence joined St Vincent’s Medical Center in 2015 as a breast surgeon with the task of further developing the medical center’s breast health program. She also serves as assistant professor of surgery at Quinnipiac University’s Frank Netter School of Medicine.
Lawrence serves on the board of directors for Women Physicians of Fairfield County.
Vadasdi is an orthopedic surgeon trained in adolescent and adult sports medicine as well as shoulder and elbow surgery. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Dartmouth Medical School, she performed a residency in orthopedics at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and completed her fellowship training in shoulder, elbow and sports medicine at Columbia University Medical Center’s orthopedics department. While at Columbia, she was assistant team physician to Columbia University Athletics.
Lifetime Achievement – This award will recognize a physician respected for a lifetime career in the medical profession.
Dr. Nicholas A. Viner, Bridgeport Hospital
Viner, who held the rank of major and served as chief of urology in the U.S. Air Force at Scott Air Force Base, earned his undergraduate degree from College of the Holy Cross and his medical degree from Vanderbilt University Medical School. He completed his residency in general surgery at Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut and his residency in urology at Vanderbilt Hospital in Tennessee. He is certified by the American Board of Urology and is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.
Viner is an active member of several professional and medical associations and served as past president of the Bridgeport Health Network.
No Land Too Far – This award will recognize a doctor who donates his or her time and expertise to countries where medical care is either nonexistent or at barest minimum.
Dr. Julie Varughese, Americares
As an Americares medical officer, Varughese is responsible for increasing access to quality medicine for low-income patients in more than 90 countries. She shapes health programs to enhance patient care, provides medical oversight and reviews offers of donated products from over 200 pharmaceutical and medical supply companies for safety and effrectiveness. She also oversees the Americares medical outreach program, which supplies medical products to U.S.-based health care professionals traveling overseas to provide primary care services and surgeries for patients in desperate need.
Since joining Americares in 2015, she has traveled with the organization to Cambodia, El Salvador, Haiti, India and Tanzania.
Varughese earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, and a medical degree from Rush University in Chicago, where she completed her residency training. She also completed an infectious disease fellowship at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. She is board-certified in infectious disease, internal medicine and pediatrics.
Promise for the Future – This award will recognize a medical student who excels in his or her studies and will bring compassionate care and a fresh perspective to the medical profession.
Corey Hassell, Quinnipiac University Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine
Hassell graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in philosophy and linguistics and worked in South Korea as an English teacher before returning to the U.S. and working as a Japanese interpreter prior to enrolling in medical school. He is about to enter hid fourth and final year at the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine.
Hassell has concentrated his studies in the field of geriatric psychiatry, focusing on homelessness in the geriatric veteran population, geriatric substance use disorders and the application of analgesics in the treatment of dementia-related behavioral disturbances. His research has been presented at national academic conferences and has been published in “Current Treatment Options in Psychiatry.”
Hassell also is the founder and leader of the Psychiatry Journal Club at the Quinnipiac medical school and serves as the class community service chairperson. He plans to pursue a residency in psychiatry next year.
Judging the 2017 Doctors of Distinction awards were Katie Stiles Attubato, ACNP (acute care nurse practitioner) trained at New York University; Dr. Patrick McNeillie, clinical lead and senior architect for Watson Genomics, IBM Watson Health, and Dr. Rebecca Zucconi, assistant professor of medical sciences at Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University.
Event sponsors include The Kensington, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Miller Motorcars, Yale New Haven Health, Sandler Training, Stamford Health and Val’s. Event supporters are The Bristal Assisted Living, Buzz Creators and RBC Wealth Management.