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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Eleven Members of WMCHealth Workforce to Compete in TCS New York City Marathon

Team WMCHealth Running in Support of Healthcare Services in their Hudson Valley Communities; Six are First-Time Marathoners

news item

VALHALLA, N.Y. (September 25, 2019) – Fueled by their commitment to Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) patients, a dedicated group of 11 WMCHealth workforce members will compete in the TCS New York City Marathon November 3. Each runner has his or her own motivation and has taken up the marathon challenge in support of the life-changing and lifesaving care provided to patients at WMCHealth hospitals across the Hudson Valley. Six are running a marathon for the first time.

Team WMCHealth for 2019 includes: Christopher Castro-Gonzalez, PrEP Specialist at Westchester Medical Center; Fabio Danisi, MD at MidHudson Regional Hospital; Angela Flesland, RN at Westchester Medical Center; Brittany Foote, RN at Westchester Medical Center; Brian Geiger, MSPT at Westchester Medical Center; Lisa Hirsch, MD at Good Samaritan Hospital; Kristin Jedziniak, RN at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital; Michael Kim, MD at Westchester Medical Center; Luis Tatem, MD at Westchester Medical Center; Elizabeth Tilley, PhD at Westchester Medical Center; and Yurij Tsuvanyk, surgical technician at Mary’s Avenue Campus of Health Alliance Hospital.


Members of Team WMCHealth from Valhalla, NY Campus.

Donations collected for each runner’s efforts will support essential programs and services in the local and regional hospitals the runners represent. Tax deductible contributions can be made by visiting wmchealth.org/marathon.

Here’s a closer look at the runners who will “Go the Distance to Make a Difference” for healthcare in the Hudson Valley on November 3.

Christopher Castro-Gonzalez, PrEP Specialist 

Inspired by his colleague Sandra Kaufmann, RN, who ran in last year’s TCS New York City Marathon and helped him train, Christopher Castro-Gonzalez said getting past mile eight was the toughest part, but now he’s on his way.

This is Chris’ first marathon, but after running several half-marathons and training, he says he is hooked on the sport, and has big plans for the future. Among them: running one marathon in every state over the next 10 years, starting with this year’s New York City Marathon, followed by the Walt Disney World Marathon in January 2020.

A Newburgh resident, Chris has been working at Westchester Medical Center since June 2018, first in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology and then working in the AIDS Care Clinic.

“Moving over to work with AIDS patients has inspired me to run on behalf of the thousands taken by this disease before their time,’’ said Castro-Gonzalez. “I wholeheartedly believe in Westchester Medical Center’s mission. Last year, I cheered WMCHealth runners during the marathon, including my co-worker Sandi who inspired me to run for all of the patients who can’t run for themselves. Watching her raise money and make a difference in the community was the push I needed to run for others.”

Fabio Danisi, MD

A neurologist at MidHudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie, Fabio Danisi, MD, says he began running seriously after encouraging his teenage son to join his high school’s cross-country team. It was then that he discovered that he had asthma, but by running regularly and using an inhaler, Fabio has been able to manage his condition and enjoy his new obsession.

With encouragement from family, friends and his patients, Fabio ran his first marathon in 2016 and plans to continue running. As a physician, he encourages his patients to live a healthy lifestyle. “Exercise is beneficial for mood, good sleep and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia,’’ he said. “I’m thrilled to represent MidHudson Regional Hospital and WMCHealth in the greatest of all marathons. I’m raising funds to benefit our community and will make my family, friends, running mates and co-workers proud.”

Angela Flesland, RN

Angela Flesland first qualified to run in the New York City Marathon in 2012, the year the marathon was cancelled due to Superstorm Sandy. It took Angela seven years, but she is finally getting her chance to run in the marathon. She enjoys training with her rescued dog, Justice and tries to run 50 miles each week.

Angela is a registered nurse in the Coronary Care Unit at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla. A lifelong Poughkeepsie resident, she spent 10 years as a member of the Dutchess County Legislature serving as the Majority Leader and Budget, Finance and Personnel Committee Chair. Angela currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Dutchess Community College where she was inducted as a member of their alumni hall of fame in 2018.

Angela said that she has found another way to give to her community, through patients at Westchester Medical Center, and now by running the TCS New York City Marathon on their behalf.

“Running 26.2 miles isn't easy, but I enjoy that it pushes me physically and mentally. I’m up for this challenge, and I appreciate the community’s support in helping me achieve my goal,” she said.

Brittany Foote, RN

Brittany Foote, RN, is proudly following in her father’s footsteps. A cross-country runner, Brittany’s dad inspired her to start running in second grade and she has been doing it ever since. The Goshen resident was a cross-country runner in high school and later in college, but this will be her first marathon.

A registered nurse in Maternal Fetal Medicine at Westchester Medical Center, Brittany said she is running on behalf of her patients and her co-workers. “I’m excited and honored to represent WMCHealth and run with my colleagues to raise money for an organization, WMCHealth, near and dear to my heart,’’ she said.

“I'm not just running for myself; I'm going the distance for every WMCHealth patient.”

Her next accomplishment: a December walk down the wedding aisle.

Brian Geiger, MSPT

As a physical therapist, Brian Geiger, MSPT, has admired his patients’ determination to overcome physical challenges. It is this determination, he said, that has guided him through the many hours of training in preparation for his first marathon.

A resident of LaGrangeville, Brian has worked at the Westchester Medical Center for 18 years.

“I've seen individuals work relentlessly just to be able to take their first step again – and they relish the joy that success brings to them and their loved ones. So, this year, I want to fulfill one of my own goals: running the TCS New York City Marathon. While I run, I will think of every person and every first step that I've helped achieve,” said Brian.

Lisa Hirsch, MD

Lisa Hirsch, MD, has a very special connection to Good Samaritan Hospital: She was born there. So, when Hirsch, who now works at the hospital practicing internal medicine, was asked to run in the TCS New York City Marathon in support of Good Samaritan Hospital, she did not hesitate to tackle the challenge.

Lisa comes from a long line of runners. Both her mother and father completed the TCS New York City Marathon together. And now that she’s started running, her son has started training too.

Although Hirsch ran in medical school, she recently resumed running to stay fit, and this will be her first marathon. The Manhattan resident started working at Good Samaritan Hospital three years ago.

Hirsch said she would be running on behalf of hospital patients and programs.

“I’m fundraising to support the wonderful WMCHealth programs that are so beneficial to our patients,” she said.

Kristin Jedziniak, RN

After two breast cancer diagnoses and a mid-life career change, Kristin Jedziniak, RN, of Warwick is no stranger to challenges. A registered nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, Kristin switched careers after being inspired by the nurses who helped her through her battles with breast cancer.

After her first diagnosis in 2009, she returned to school to become a nurse, and changed her lifestyle. Kristin began long-distance walking, and eventually running. But in 2015 during her last semester in nursing school, her breast cancer returned. She managed to regain her health, complete nursing school with honors, and enter her dream career working with children.

“I always wanted to work with kids – and what better place could there be? I’ve completed many 5K races and a 10K – and participating in my first TCS New York City Marathon is my next challenge. Running for every patient at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, and my co-workers, is an honor.”

Michael Kim, MD

Working long hours as a neurosurgery resident, Michael Kim, MD, was looking for a way to stay in shape. He discovered running fit perfectly into his busy lifestyle. Michael ran his first TCS New York City Marathon last year, and is looking to beat his time of 4 hours and 50 minutes this year. Michael, who splits his time between Valhalla and Queens, squeezes in practice runs after shifts and on weekends and sometimes runs on the North County Trailway in Westchester County. He said his wife, who is also a physician, has been supportive of his ambitions, but wonders how he has been able to fit practice into his busy schedule.

“Running the TCS New York City Marathon on behalf of WMCHealth and its patients allows me to provide outreach and awareness for my patients in ways that I never had the opportunity to do before,’’ he said. “I’m inspired by every one of my colleagues’ determination. I’m honored to represent them on the streets of New York City and to proudly let everyone know I’m part of the WMCHealth team, dedicated to providing the finest care in the Hudson Valley.”

Luis Tatem, MD

Running is a passion for Luis Tatem, MD. A fellow specializing in Infectious Diseases at Westchester Medical Center since 2017, Luis runs one or two marathons a year. Most recently he has run marathons in Philadelphia, Delaware and Lima, Peru. Luis, a Yonkers resident, said he loves running because it allows him to focus on himself and find time alone. “My favorite part of running is to find this space, to find myself while I run: no talking, just focus on running. It’s my ‘me’ time,’’ he said.

While this is not the first marathon that he has run, Luis says it is the first that he will be running on behalf of patients and his workplace.

“I signed up to be a part of the marathon with WMCHealth because I believe in our mission. I see it in every patient I care for. I run for healthcare access. I run for our patients,’’ he said.

Elizabeth Tilley, PhD

Elizabeth Tilley, PhD, is the clinical administrator in the Department of Surgery at Westchester Medical Center. A resident of the Bronx, Elizabeth has worked at Westchester Medical Center since 2016.

Elizabeth said she has been running since she was 10 and has competed in several marathons, but not since giving birth to her daughter in 2016. She said running improves her health and gives her the chance to be outdoors and in touch with nature. She loves running along trails and often trains at City Island, Orchard Beach and in New York City’s parks.

Joining Team WMCHealth seemed like the perfect way for Elizabeth to get back to running while contributing to WMCHealth’s mission.

“My job is an important part of my life, and so is running. That’s why participating in my first TCS New York City Marathon is a thrill. Representing WMCHealth in the marathon will bring an overwhelming sense of joy because it lets me proudly say I’m part of a great team that supports healthy initiatives.”

Yurij Tsuvanyk, Surgical Technician

As a surgical technician at the Mary’s Avenue Campus of Health Alliance Hospital, Yurij Tsuvanyk has seen the benefits of physical activity for patients recovering from surgery. A longtime proponent of exercise, Yurij, who lives in Stone Ridge has been running since his teens. Starting with 10-mile runs and then half-marathons, Yurji had worked his way up to competing in 50-mile events. Despite this, he had never run in the TCS New York City Marathon.

“I often watch the TCS New York City Marathon on television and have wanted to be a part of this great event. Now, I’m doing it! I appreciate the wonderful opportunity to represent HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley and WMCHealth,’’ he said.