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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Ten WMCHealth Runners “Go the Distance to Make a Difference” for Patients in TCS NYC Marathon on Nov. 4

Team fundraising supports services at 10 Hudson Valley hospitals

news item
A special group of Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) employees who have trained for months to complete a 26.2 mile race of a lifetime at the TCS New York City Marathon on November 4 will run for their patients and their co-workers and support WMCHealth facilities across the Hudson Valley.

The team’s 10 members – five nurses, a nurse manager, occupational therapist, psychiatry resident, nurse practitioner and the network’s executive vice president and chief administrative officer – all motivated by their own unique stories – will participate in this year’s marathon in support of the life-changing and lifesaving care provided at each of WMCHealth’s 10 Hudson Valley hospitals.

“Each year, a dedicated team of WMCHealth workforce members spends months training for the TCS New York City Marathon in support of the hospitals and patients they serve,” said Michael D. Israel, President and CEO, Westchester Medical Center Health Network. “Fueled by a commitment to their patients and encouraging health and wellness in the communities where they live and work, these runners are going the distance to make a difference on November 4, with the support of our network and their patients behind them.’’

Donations collected for each runner’s efforts will support essential programs and services in the local and regional hospitals the runners represent. 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” on Nov. 4.

Bill Leverenz, RN
HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley


When Bill Leverenz started his career in healthcare in the 1970s washing pots and pans in the dietary department at HealthAlliance Hospital predecessor Kingston Hospital, he never dreamed that he would be running the New York City Marathon on the hospital’s behalf. Over those years, Bill became a registered nurse and is now also a patient experience coordinator, a job he loves because he gets to make sure that patients get the best care and have the most positive experience during their hospital stay. Now turning 60, the Kingston resident says that it’s never too late to accomplish your goals.

“I’m running the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon to reward and recognize my colleagues’ hard work in HealthAlliance’s Employee Engagement and Patient Experience Department. Our team is dedicated to creating the most compassionate environment to aid our patients.”


Munyaradzi (Munya) Rwakonda, RN

Good Samaritan Hospital


Munyaradzi Rwakonda, RN, knows the health benefits of running. As a registered nurse in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at Good Samaritan Hospital, she has seen how a lack of exercise and poor eating choices can contribute to heart disease.

“Every time I care for a patient with heart disease, I am reminded to take care of myself by eating healthy and exercising regularly,” said the Milford, Pa. resident.

For Munya, who has completed two marathons, participating in the New York City Marathon is something she never dreamed of when growing up in Nigeria. She has been training every day to reach her goal: to finish the race in four hours and 30 minutes.

“The opportunity of working for Bon Secours Charity Health System and Good Samaritan Community Hospital, where I’ve worked for 15 years, allows me to show my passion,’’ she said. “I am running for all the patients who cannot do it themselves.”


Chris Howard, BSN, RN
MidHudson Regional Hospital


Chris Howard, BSN, RN, of Cortlandt Manor, says running clears his mind and helps connect him to nature. Chris, Director of Emergency Services (Nursing) at MidHudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie, is excited to be running the NYC Marathon as his very first marathon. Most exciting, however, is the chance to represent his team in the Emergency Department.

“MidHudson Regional Hospital and its emergency department have a tight-knit team that supports each other,” said Chris. “We rallied around one of our nurses who ran on Team WMCHealth in last year’s marathon, and it became a terrific morale and team-building boost for us. I am honored to represent MidHudson Regional Hospital and WMCHealth at the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon.”


Christopher McGovern, NP
Westchester Medical Center


As a nurse practitioner in the Department of Neurosurgery at Westchester Medical Center, Chris McGovern, NP, knows that perseverance is behind many of the successful recoveries that patients with traumatic brain injury and other serious neurological health challenges experience. It is this strength of purpose that is behind his inspiration to tackle this year’s New York City Marathon.

After running 30 road marathons and many trail ultramarathons, the Nelsonville resident said he is ready to face the New York City Marathon. “I've served our patients for 21 years, and Westchester Medical Center is part of my family,’’ he said. “I’ve never run for a cause as important as Westchester Medical Center. The marathon is a great test of endurance and perseverance in the face of great obstacles. Just as we can overcome the trials of the 26.2 miles, we can help our patients overcome personal struggles with their health.”


Sandra Kaufmann, RN

Westchester Medical Center


For Sandi Kaufmann, RN, her inspiration comes from her patients. A staff nurse working with cancer patients in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology at Westchester Medical Center for the past eight years, nothing is more important to her than providing outstanding care to her patients.

A seasoned runner, marathoner and tri-athlete (she ran in last year’s New York City Marathon) Sandi says that picturing her patients and all they face helps her see the race to the end.

“Before every race, I write the initial of patients battling to regain their health on my wrist and run that race for them,” she said. “When I struggle with training or feel like quitting, I remember I’m running not just for myself, but to give hope to those less fortunate than me.”

Kara Bennorth
Westchester Medical Center Health Network


As Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of WMCHealth, Kara leads thousands of employees at one of the largest healthcare organizations in the region. She says she is particularly proud to run in recognition of the staff who work so tirelessly to care for the region’s most ill and injured patients.

For the past 22 years, Kara, a resident of Carmel, said she has come to respect and love the organization that has given her the opportunity to make such a difference. An avid runner, Kara, is ready for the challenge that lies ahead.

“It has been an amazing journey through groundbreaking moments, challenges and even crises. But through all of this, the heart of WMC — its workforce — has remained committed to our mission of providing care and comfort to people when they need us most. As Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, I can’t think of a greater honor than to represent my colleagues’ commitment, dedication, talent and expertise in an event that in many ways matches the truest spirit of the phenomenal work that goes on every day in our organization.”


Julianne Darcey, RN
Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital


For the past two years Julianne Darcey, RN has cared for the region’s most seriously ill and injured children, working as a registered nurse at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. The Hillsdale, New Jersey resident says it is something that has shaped her perception of the meaning of strength.

“I see strength and determination every day in patients suffering from chronic diseases and recovering from grueling surgeries. I see it with families and parents who look to hospital staff to restore their child’s health. I see it in my colleagues every day and during every shift. They put patients’ needs before their own, even if it means not sitting down until halfway through the shift.”

Julianne said she will be thinking of the children and their families on November 4 when she runs in her first New York City Marathon. “Strength and determination will get me through training for my first marathon and to the finish line,” she said.


Sarah Vaithilingam, MD

Behavioral Health Center


Hailing from Canada, Sarah Vaithilingam has already done more than her share to give back to her new country. A resident physician at WMCHealth’s Behavioral Health Center for the past two years, Sarah says she will be running on behalf of her patients, particularly the children. She knows that the stigma of mental illness adds to the difficulty of treatment. She says she hopes that the funds she will raise can continue the work she has done to reverse that stigma and give children at the Behavioral Health Center a safe place where they can be accepted.

“The marathon is a platform to raise awareness about the quality of the psychiatry program at Westchester Medical Center and to represent a marginalized community. While I have run small races -- including 5Ks, 10Ks and half-marathons -- and play on soccer teams, the New York City Marathon is the ultimate accomplishment. As a Canadian, it will be a real honor to give back to the community that has embraced and supported me throughout my residency. I couldn't imagine running this marathon for a better cause than to provide support and awareness to patients served by our department.”


Roz Schultz, RN

Westchester Medical Center


As a registered nurse and case manager at Westchester Medical Center, Roz Schultz, RN, knows that making sure patients who are discharged from the hospital get the proper follow up care is almost as important as the treatment they receive in the hospital.

Roz, who has a master’s degree in health administration, just celebrated her one-year anniversary working in the Case Management Department at Westchester Medical Center and she is eager to represent her new hospital in the New York City Marathon.

A proponent of living a healthy lifestyle, Roz is an experienced runner who has run three half-marathons this year, including the New York City Half-Marathon, but has never run the New York City Marathon.

“I never dreamed I would run the New York City Marathon, but I am ready to challenge myself and I embrace joining Team WMCHealth. Westchester Medical Center continuously raises the bar on excellent care for patients, and I appreciate their support in helping me achieve my goal,” said the Tarrytown resident.


Claire Becker, MS

Westchester Medical Center


An occupational therapist at Westchester Medical Center, Claire Becker has competed in five half-marathons, but her life goal has been to complete the TCS New York City Marathon.

“For each of the last seven years, I've watched the New York City Marathon from the sidewalks of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I'd make signs and cheer as runners stampeded through my neighborhood. Each year, I leave feeling so inspired – not only by the thousands of runners willing themselves to the finish line, but also by the supportive energy of communities across all five boroughs that cheer on runners from across the globe.” Unfortunately, due to an injury, Claire will not be able to compete as planned this year, but will instead defer her run to the 2019 New York City Marathon. She will continue to raise funds this year for WMCHealth and will be there once again to cheer on the runners, this time as part of Team WMCHealth.

“I am honored to represent WMCHealth,” she said.