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Staff recognized for outstanding service

April 17, 2017

The University celebrates several outstanding staff members who have demonstrated significant and longstanding contributions to the University.

The recipients of this year’s staff awards will be recognized at an April 19 reception in Helen Wood Hall. Their names will also be inscribed on plaques in the Medical Center and in Wallis Hall on the River Campus.

Witmer Award

The Witmer Award for Distinguished Service is presented to staff members whose careers have been characterized by outstanding and sustained contributions to the University.

(University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Janet Cushing

Administrator II
Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation
Center for Musculoskeletal Research

With 43 years of service and well-demonstrated dedication, creativity, and positivity, Janet Cushing is described by colleagues as the “go-to person” in her department.

Cushing started her career at the University in 1974 as a laboratory technician in medical/radiation and biology and biophysics, before joining the Department of Orthopaedics in 1979. She played a key support role in the growth of the research enterprise that culminated in the formation of the Center for Musculoskeletal Research in 2001. Over the past 15 years, her responsibilities increased as the center continued to expand. In 2008, Cushing was promoted to Administrator II, managing the day-to-day operations of the center.

“It is not an exaggeration to state that Janet was a steady force and a key factor in the success that we collectively enjoyed,” writes Hani Awad, professor of biomedical engineering and of orthopaedics and rehabilitation, who nominated Cushing for the award.

She is responsible for the post-award management of a research portfolio in the Center for Musculoskeletal Research, which as of fiscal year 2016 exceeded $7 million annually.

“Simply put, Janet’s contribution to the enterprise is woven into the fabric of what the Center for Musculoskeletal Research is today,” writes Mike Zuscik, associate professor of orthopaedics, of pathology, and of biomedical engineering, in a letter supporting Cushing’s nomination.


(University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Joyce Johnson

Associate vice president for investments and associate treasurer
Department of Institutional Resources

With the University for 42 years, Joyce Johnson does her job with a “quiet confidence” that has earned her the respect of colleagues within and outside the University.

In his nomination letter, Douglas Phillips, senior vice president for Institutional Resources, says Johnson continually seeks ways to improve the University’s investment return as well as the process by which decisions are made.

“She is not one who quietly follows along the easy path,” Phillips says. “She questions almost everything and does so in a disarming manner, usually accompanied by a laugh.”

Colleagues cite her “extraordinary” institutional memory and team approach as an important asset to the department—and the University.

“Joyce’s well-informed, respectful, and amicable interaction with investment managers over the years has contributed significantly to the University’s reputation as being among the best-managed endowments in the nation,” writes Robert Rahbari, an investment officer in the Office of Institutional Resources.


(University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Peg Lee

Senior HR business partner
Human Resources

Peg Lee has spent 30 years in Human Resources at the Medical Center, dedicating her career to promoting a work environment where people feel valued and where they can enjoy professional growth.

Lee is described as trusted and fair, accountable, and as a supportive teacher and coach. She often faces difficult situations where honesty, caring, and integrity are critical. Colleagues say she demonstrates these attributes in her interactions and decision-making.

“This is exemplified in the way she promotes ‘doing the right thing,’ even if it the more difficult thing to do,” writes her nominator, Kathy Gallucci, associate vice president for human resources at the Medical Center and executive director for human resources for the University.

Patricia Witzel, associate vice president and chief nursing officer says Lee is highly respected by members the Nursing Department, for whom she has been the primary human resources contact for the past 15 years.

“Her calm demeanor and respectful approach is evident in all her interactions, even as she is dealing with difficult or complex situations,” Witzel writes.


(University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Donna Porcelli

Graduate program administrator
Department of Biomedical Engineering

After joining the University in 1976 as a secretary in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Donna Porcelli built a reputation for being a loyal, honest, and “extremely knowledgeable” resource for students and faculty in the department. When she moved to the Department of Biomedical Engineering in 2001, that reputation continued to grow.

“Donna has been an exceptional role model and she has been highly respected and admired by each of our staff members over the years,” writes Diane Dalecki, Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, in her nomination letter.

In her current position, Porcelli plays a key role in graduate admissions and recruiting activities for the department. Colleagues say she has touched the lives of countless graduate students in biomedical engineering over the years, and has helped them be successful.

“Donna’s dedication to the University’s mission and values can be summed up by her diligent and tireless work ethic, which has made her a rock for our department,” writes Hani Awad, professor of biomedical engineering and chair of the department’s graduate committee. “Donna is willing to do whatever it takes to support our graduate program.”


(University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Anne Swantz

Associate director of the Sovie Center for Advance Practice
Department of Nursing

Anne Swantz is a strong leader and role model who personifies the institution’s values of integrity, compassion, accountability, respect, and excellence, her colleagues say.

Swantz joined the University in 1978 as a pediatric nurse before quickly advancing to nurse leadership positions. Today, Swantz leads more than 500 nurse practitioners and physician assistants as associate director of the Sovie Center for Advance Practice. Under Swantz’s leadership, the program has grown into one of the largest advance practice networks in the county.

“Anne is a true collaborator. She builds relationships and gains the trust and confidence of those around her, making her a well-respected member of the leadership team,” her nominators write.

Colleagues supporting her nomination cite Swantz’s creativity as she helped design and develop Advance Practice Provider (APP) residency programs for emergency medicine and critical care to help them better acclimate to high-stress clinical environments. She also partnered with the Physician Wellness Committee to make the group’s physician wellness educational sessions available to APPs.

“Anne is recognized by her peers and colleagues for her commitment to excellence, collaborative spirit, and her ability to successfully execute complex initiatives,” writes Patricia Witzel, associate vice president and chief nursing officer.


Meliora Award

The Meliora Award recognizes staff members whose work performance and dedication during the preceding few years exemplify the University’s motto, Meliora.

From left: Cindy Gary, Dale Hess, Debra Haring, and Paula Losey. (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Arts, Sciences & Engineering Research Office Team

The AS&E Research Office Team works to assist faculty in achieving their research and scholarly goals by supporting the preparation and submission of grant and award applications.

The team has been integral to winning grants from such bodies as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Carnegie Corporation, and the Mellon Foundation. It plays a vital role in orienting new faculty to the research culture and wide range of resources available in the University.

The team—which consists of Debra Haring, Cindy Gary, Dale Hess, and Paula Losey—has implemented a number of projects in recent years, including a new AS&E research website; the seed grant program known as PumpPrimer; a database for fellowships and awards; analyses of peer institutions; workshops and training sessions on grants and awards; and workshops and meetings designed to spark interdisciplinary collaborations aligned with strategic priorities throughout the University.

“The AS&E research team is truly exceptional, and their efforts have reaped numerous rewards to the AS&E research mission,” says Wendi Heinzelman, dean of the Hajim School

(University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Candice Lucas

Director of community health services
Center for Community Health

Candice Lucas is director of Community Health Services and the Cancer Services Program of Monroe County at the Center for Community Health. In her role, she has expanded the Cancer Services Program, which provides financial assistance for uninsured and underinsured people in need of cancer screenings. She secured more than $500,000 in grant funding to expand the Healthy Living Program into a suite of community healthy lifestyle programs.

“She embodies the spirit of Meliora as expressed in her vigorous and sustained efforts over several years to promote and enhance community service excellence, through innovation and collaboration, which have resulted in improved health outcomes in the community,” writes Nancy Bennett, director of the Center for Community Health, in her nomination letter.

As the Race and Health Disparities Workgroup chair since 2013, Lucas was instrumental in Monroe County’s ability to secure a five-year, $8 million Health Professions Opportunity Grant, which is designed to help entry-level, low-income employees identify a health care career path.

“Lucas lives the values of Meliora and is in constant pursuit of excellence, professional growth, and personal improvement,” writes Bennett.


University photo/J. Adam Fenster

Marilynn Reif

Program administrator
Department of Emergency Medicine

Marilynn Reif has helped lead numerous projects that have advanced patient care.

Reif has worked on the conversion of Lakeside Hospital into a branch of UR Medicine, the expansion of UR Urgent Care sites throughout Monroe County, and program development at the Strong West Emergency Department. The success of the emergency department relies in large part on her diligent efforts, her colleagues say.

“Marilynn Reif has been a tireless advocate for the University of Rochester and for the patients that seek care across our institution,” writes Mike Kamali, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine, who nominated Reif for the award. “Her one most distinguishable characteristic—integrity—has permeated throughout our department, helping make urgent and emergent care highly regarded,”

Adam Anolik, chief financial officer at Strong Memorial Hospital and Highland Hospital, also offered praise for Reif: “Marilynn is someone who I look forward to working with regardless of the subject, as her experience has shown that she is someone who will focus the teams on the goals at hand while not missing any of the critical details necessary to ensure success.”


Front, from left: Christine Colaluca, Doris Ludek, Candace Bush, Denise Valone. Back, from left: Bernice Jurczak, Brian Mochrie, Joan Mark, Ron Herreid (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)



The Human Resources Management System team is celebrated for successfully tackling three large projects over the last year: automating licensing verification across the clinical enterprise, completely overhauling the graduate student appointment process, and changing the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) pay exemption status for approximately 1,500 employees.

When the FLSA rule change was held up by a last-minute federal court injunction, the team only had a few days to reverse all the work it had done to ensure that employees were paid the correct amount.

“Their ability to make changes on a moment’s notice prevented a painful transition for employees and saved the University from a difficult situation,” writes nominator Kathy Miner, director of University Human Resources Administrative Services.

The team—which includes Doris Ludek, Candace Bush, Christine Colaluca, Ronald Herreid, Bernice Jurczak, Joan Mark, Brian Mochrie, and Denise Valone—successfully accomplished all these projects while continuing to perform their regular duties.

Nicole Grodis, administrator in the Nursing Practice, worked with the HRMS Team during the license verification automation.

“They were always willing to address my issues and concerns,” she writes in a letter supporting the team’s nomination. “I was skeptical going into this project how well it would work, but the HRMS team was diligent, respectful, and collaborative with all of my issues and concerns.”


Staff Community Service Award

The Staff Community Service Award honors a nonmanagement staff member whose commitment best exemplifies service to the University and the Greater Rochester community.

University photo/J. Adam Fenster

Andrea Clarke

Community liaison
Center for Community Health

Andrea Clarke is deeply committed to improving health in Rochester.

In her role with the Center for Community Health, Clarke helps patients with high blood pressure make lasting changes in their lifestyle, connects underserved residents of Monroe County to health services, and creates positive working relationships with other community organizations.

“Andrea Clarke has a heart of gold,” writes Shaquana Divers, director of the Heart Advocate Program at the Center for Community Health, in her nomination letter. “Her generous spirit and passion for community health, expressed in outstanding performance in her work roles and also in her many university outreach and community service activities, are an inspiration to others.”

Beyond her work at the University, Clarke is extensively engaged in community service. She volunteers with the Blood Pressure Ambassador Program; UR Street Outreach; the Rochester Jamaica Organization; WellVentions; Foodlink; the Boys and Girls Club; the Champions of Change clothing drive; the Community Health-project Advisory Board at the University’s Laboratory for Aging, Population Health, Disparities, and Intervention Research; and the Center for Community Health’s Special Events Committee.

“It is truly a pleasure to work with her as a volunteer and I am impressed by the other volunteer projects Andrea is always taking on to improve our community. Every time I see and speak with her, she in involved with a project that I admire,” writes Colleen Begner, event coordinator at the American Heart Association.

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Category: University News