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Friday, July 12, 2024

Suffolk County Recognizes 2024 Healthcare Heroes


(Left to right) Peter Montague, Jimmy Mack, Keri Moschetto, Dr. Carl Goodman, Anthony Minelli, Dr. Edison Blanco, Dr. Tia Knight-Forbes, Mary Jane Finnegan, Kacey Farber.

In March 2021, the Suffolk County Legislature approved a resolution introduced by Legislator Anthony Piccirillo (R-Holtsville) to create an annual initiative to recognize a “healthcare hero” from each legislative district in June. The initiative coincides with June’s designation as Healthcare Heroes Month in 2020 during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

At their Tuesday general meeting, the Legislature recognized the eighteen honorees from across the county.

Smithtown Honorees

Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) recognized Mary Jane Finnegan, RN, as the Twelfth District’s honoree. Finnegan, a lifelong resident of Ronkonkoma, sought to pursue nursing since her youth, mainly for the “diversity, flexibility, and vast opportunities for career growth.”
After graduating from Villanova University with her BSN, Finnegan graduated from Adelphi University with her Master’s Degree in Nursing. She first worked at Stony Brook University Hospital as a float nurse on the medical-surgical floor. She then went on to pediatrics and was “instrumental” in opening Stony Brook’s burn unit. In 1988, she came to St. Catherine’s of Siena Hospital in Smithtown, where she would work as in the emergency room, as a supervisor, a nurse educator, director of the Emergency Department and Behavioral Health, assistant Vice President of Clinical Services, and finally, as a Chief Nursing Officer, a position she has held since 2015.

“Mary Jane has dedicated her entire life to nursing. She is the epitome of a nurse and is one of the most kind, caring, compassionate, and composed people you will ever meet,” said Kennedy. “Mary Jane has made an impact on thousands of people’s lives that she has touched over the years. It is comparable to the ripple effect that occurs when a rock is thrown in the ocean. It is durable and never-ending. Thank you for your service.”

Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) recognized the St. James Ambulance Corp. alongside Legislator Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), as the department covers territory between the Thirteenth and Fifth Districts, primarily serving St. James and the Village of Head of the Harbor.
Formed in 1956, the department went into operation with an ambulance that cost $1700. Today, they have three ambulances and eighteen volunteers.

“These people wake up in the middle of the night, no matter what, 365 days a year, whether it’s raining or snowing,” said Trotta. “They don’t ask why, they don’t get paid, they all have jobs, but they do it. So, on behalf of myself and Legislative Englebright, I congratulate you.”

Brookhaven Honorees

The First District ecompasses the North Fork and Shelter Island, as well as parts of eastern Brookhaven including parts of Calverton, Manorville, and Wading River.

Legislator Catherine Stark (R-Riverhead) recognized Kathleen Pokorny, a professional in the medical and emergency services field. She currently serves as a volunteer paramedic at the Sound Beach Fire Department, Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance, the Rocky Point Fire Department, and the Terryville Fire Department.

“Kimberly Pokorny’s career is a testament to her unwavering dedication,” said Stark. “She’s been responsible for inspecting and maintaining equipment, transportation, and vehicles, ensuring a higher standard of living for emergency medical services. Her extensive experience coupled with her educational background and volunteer work makes her a respected and valuable asset to any organization she’s part of.”
Legislator Jim Mazzarella (R-Moriches) honored Anthony Minelli, PA, of Shirley Community Ambulance. Minelli is currently pursuing his undergraduate degree in emergency medicine and working full-time, along with exceeding thirty-five hours of volunteering weekly. After completing his critical care EMT course, Minelli became the lead narcotic agent, CPR instructor, and secretary of Shirley Community Ambulance.

“Anthony is an outstanding leader who is selflessly devoted to his work in the medical field, his volunteer commitment to the ambulance company, and his dedication to his community,” said Mazzarella. “His tireless devotion to the medical field is a testament to his status as a healthcare hero for the Third Legislative District.”

Majority Leader Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) nominated Peter Montague as the Healthcare Hero for the Fourth Legislative District. Montague received a call from a frantic husband whose wife was in active labor and unable to reach a midwife or hospital for assistance. Montague gave step-by-step instructions to the husband to help his wife through labor. A healthy baby girl was born at 5:34a.m.

Montague, a resident of Selden, is a member of the Suffolk County AME and a member of the Suffolk County Fire Rescue and Emergency Services Distribution. He volunteers at the Farmingville Fire Department.

“He is recognized for his exemplary character and for consistently demonstrating his unwavering commitment to the community and public service. Thank you very much for your service,” said Caracappa.

Legislator Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) honored Keri Moschetto, LPN, a resident of the Fifth Legislative District who works at the Smithtown Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing Care. Moschetto was recognized for her valiance in responding to a code-red signal at her workplace, She ran to a fire on the first floor, into the smoke, and pulled a patient out to safety. She regularly maintains care plans, monitors labs, participates in family meetings, acts as a liaison between doctors, families, and patients, and coordinates doctor visits.

“Keri’s courage, dedication, and professionalism placing herself in harm’s way to protect the patient’s life is inspirational,” said Englebright. He also quoted the words of Dr. John Folan with respect to Moschetto’s work ethic: “in all my career as a physician, providing care to innumerable members of our community, there are few if any nurses who compare to Carrie’s skill, work ethic, and most importantly, her compassion. She uniquely demonstrates medical knowledge much beyond her training.”

Legislator Chad Lennon (R-Rocky Point) nominated Dr. Anthony Szema, a clinical professor of medicine specializing in pulmonary critical care, allergy, immunology, and occupational medicine at Hofstra of Northwell Health. Szema is known for coining the term “Iraq-Afghanistan War Lung Injury. His testimony before the U.S. Senate contributed to the passage of the PACT Act.

Legislator Dominick Thorne (R-Patchogue) nominated Dr. Carl S. Goodman, Chief of the Port Jefferson Volunteer Ambulance Company. He joined as a volunteer in 2000 and has a strong educational background from George Washington University.

“He has played a key role in developing various EMS programs including mobile integrated health, rapid sequence intubation, high performance CPR, and rescue medic programs,” said Thorne.

Islip Honorees

Legislator Anthony Piccirillo (R-Holtsville) nominated Dr. Travis Bench, an interventional cardiologist from Sayville. Bench works at Stony Brook-Southampton Hospital and practices in Southampton and Center Moriches.

“He’s a hard worker and a committed doctor. Dr. Bench works long hours and is often working on call to provide immediate care for cardiac emergencies,” said Piccirillo. “Aside from seeing patients at his office, he performs catheterizations and studies the link between Lyme disease and cardiac complications.”

Legislator Sam Gonzalez (D-Brentwood) nominated Dr. Edison R. Blanco, a family medicine specialist from Bay Shore. He was recognized for his “tireless” work every day during the COVID-19 Pandemic, “risking his own health to provide critical care.”

“Dr. Blanco is renowned for his ability to create educational connections with all his patients, consistently growing the vocal sound of his care,” said Gonzalez. “His dedication to frontline healthcare. Dr. Blanco is somebody who just continues to work tirelessly without looking for any particular accolades.”

Legislator Trish Bergin (R-East Islip) was absent, although her honorees were the parents of Heather McNamara, a cancer survivor who underwent a twenty-three-hour surgery to remove a large tumor. Her surgery made history when, at seven years old, she was the first patient to have several organs removed and replaced to remove a tumor. Heather volunteered with the Exchange Ambulance of the Islips and Islip Terrace Fire Department. She also assisted the New York Blood Center. Heather sadly passed away at the age of twenty-two after an infection led to multiple organ failure.

Tina and Joe McNamara received a standing ovation from a packed house in the Riverhead auditorium.

All Honorees:

District One – Kathleen Pokorny
District Two – Jimmy Mack
District Three – Anthony Minelli, PA
District Four – Peter Montague
District Five – Keri Moschetto, LPN
District Six – Dr. Anthony M. Szema
District Seven – Dr. Carl S. Goodman
District Eight – Dr. Travis Bench
District Nine – Dr. Edison R. Blanco
District Ten – Heather McNamara and Parents Tina and Joe
District Eleven – Jalen Jones
District Twelve – Mary Jane Finnegan, RN
District Thirteen – St. James Ambulance Company, EMS 6
District Fourteen – Gerry Connolly, RN
District Fifteen – Dr. Tia Knight-Forbes
District Sixteen – Dr. Sara Siddiqui
District Seventeen – Dr. Angelica M. Hernandez
District Eighteen – Kacey Farber, LMSW

Matt Meduri
Matt Meduri
Matt Meduri has served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Messenger Papers since August 2023. He is the author of the America the Beautiful, Civics 101, and This Week Today columns. Matt graduated from St. Joseph's University, Patchogue, in 2022, with a degree in Human Resources and worked for his family's IT business for three years. He's also a musician and composer with his sights set on the film industry. Matt has traveled all around the U.S. and enjoys cooking, photography, and a good cup of coffee.