Main Line Today Magazine Healthcare Heroes 2019 banner

From nonprofit leaders to NICU nurses and everything in between, these 24 healthcare professionals are positively impacting the quality of care in Philadelphia’s western suburbs.



(From left) Dr. Maribel Hernandez, Howard Nathan, Susan Cacciavillano, Stefanie Steinberger, Sister Betty Burke, Dr. Robert Noll, Tina Bruckner and Dr. Margrit Maggio. Photographs by Tessa Marie Images.

Please join us on May 15 at The Desmond for an evening of networking and celebration as we pay tribute to this year's honorees. For tickets and more information, click here

Susan Cacciavillano, RN, BSN, RNC​
Stefanie Steinberger, DPT, NTMTC​

Chester County Hospital

In Chester County Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, babies are cared for by nurse Susan Cacciavillano, lead NICU physical therapist Stefanie Steinberger and their team of “Cuddlers,” 34 volunteers specially trained to hold, rock and soothe prematurely born infants. “Positive touch can change how babies’ brains develop,” Steinberger says.

She and Cacciavillano brought the program to Chester County Hospital by winning a $10,000 grant from Huggies’ No Baby Unhugged program. “Most parents can’t be in the NICU with their kids 24 hours every day,” Cacciavillano says. “Now, we have people who help.”

Marie Robinson

President, Chester County Hospital Women’s Auxiliary

Chester County Hospital’s new state-of-the art NICU exists, in large part, because of funds raised by the Chester County Hospital Women’s Auxiliary, a 300-member group led by its president, Marie Robinson. “Chester County Hospital asked if we could raise $1.25 million in honor of its 125th anniversary,” Robinson says. “I said, ‘Oh yeah, we can do that.’”

A retired teacher who lives in West Chester, Robinson was thrilled to see her team acquire the money needed to renovate Chester County’s only Level 3 NICU. And the auxiliary is just getting started—Robinson plans to raise another $1.25 million by 2020.

Melissa Hewitt, RNC-NIC, MSN

NICU Clinical Director, Einstein Medical Center Montgomery

To help parents cope with their babies spending days or weeks in the NICU, Melissa Hewitt—a nurse and mom to two preemies—brought the Journey Bead program to Einstein Medical Center Montgomery. The charms hang on lanyards attached to NICU incubators. Cupcakes represent weight gain, bubbles are for first baths, and a piglet is for first feedings. Beads are added when babies reach these and other milestones. “Parents often feel like their babies take one step forward and two steps back,” says Hewitt. “Journey Beads are symbols of progress and reminders that every day is one day closer to going home.”

Laura O’Kane​

Founder and Executive Director, Paws and Affection

Laura O’Kane’s life has gone to the dogs—literally. Inspired by a book about companion animals, O’Kane started Paws and Affection, a Narberth-based nonprofit that trains dogs and pairs them with kids who have anxiety, depression, balance problems, diabetes and other special needs. To date, Paws and Affection has 17 companion dogs and community volunteers. “Seeing the connections between kids and dogs is amazing,” says O’Kane. “It’s why we do what we do.”

Heather Carlino, MSN, CRNP​

University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

By day, Heather Carlino is a clinical lecturer at Penn’s pediatric acute care nurse practitioner program. Her other passion is Spring Brook Farm, a West Chester-based nonprofit that provides animal therapy and other activities for kids ages 6-12 with autism, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome and other special needs. Carlino serves as vice president of Spring Brook Farm’s board of directors, and her nursing know-how powers its Camp Geronimo. “The animal-human bond is amazing and inspiring,” Carlino says. “When you put a bunny in someone’s lap who can’t talk to you and their whole face lights up, you know they’ve made a connection and felt joy.”

Main Line Today Healthcare Heroes 2019

(Standing, from left) Heather Carlino, Dr. Rachael Polis, Laura O’Kane, Marie Robinson, Tom Gaylets and Julie Donley.

(Seated, from left) Joy McGowan, Kelly Andress and Melissa Jenkins.

Joy McGowan, M.S., CCC-SLP​

Director of Assisted Technology and Augmentative Communication, Easterseals Southeastern Pennsylvania

At Easterseals Southeastern Pennsylvania, Joy McGowan uses eye gaze communication and other technologies to unlock communication for people with hearing or motor impairments and a wide range of special needs. Sign language, gestures and picture exchanges are part of her augmentative communication purview—and so are 3D printers, key guards, iPads and software programs. “The goal is create tools that foster independent communication and empower people to function at home, school and work,” says McGowan.

Robert Noll, MD

Chair of Pediatrics, Director of Hospital Pediatrics and Emergency Care, Crozer-Chester Medical Center

The Philadelphia-Serengeti Alliance is a nonprofit that raises funds to install wells in remote districts of Tanzania so that residents can get clean drinking water. It’s just one of Dr. Robert Noll’s passions. “Cholera and other illnesses run rampant in contaminated water,” says Noll, who’s an alliance board member. “If they don’t have access to a good well, girls are plucked from school and made to walk seven kilometers each way to a clean source and carry heavy cans of water back to their villages.”

At 53, Noll also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2017. By summiting, he raised $20,000 to refurbish old wells and create new ones.

Jay Sigel

Founder, Jay Sigel Invitational

His numerous golf successes aside, Jay Sigel may be most proud of the lives saved by Penn Medicine’s cancer-fighting treatments. “Women were doing great work raising awareness about breast cancer, but men were in the dark ages about prostate cancer,” says Sigel, a golfer on the amateur circuit who didn’t turn pro until the age of 50.

Back in 1992, Sigel created his eponymous golf event to raise awareness for the disease. Each fall, the Berwyn resident hosts the tournament, which was held last year at Newtown Square’s Aronimink Golf Club. So far, the Jay Sigel Invitational has raised more than $4 million for Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center to fund patient care and research into prostate and breast cancer.

Melissa Jenkins

Community Director, Breastcancer.org

Since 2001, Breastcancer.org has been a trusted online resource. Melissa Jenkins was part of its inception, and she and her moderators continue to curate a large volume of material culled from physicians, researchers, pharmaceutical experts and other professionals. “We bring validated information to the community to make sense of some of the conversations and add perspective,” says Jenkins. “We try to represent the voice of people affected by breast cancer. We want to help people make the best decisions and support them through their journeys.”

Margrit Maggio, DMD

Penn Dental Family Medicine

There’s nothing awesome about cavities—unless they’re virtual cavities in virtual mouths being treated by real dental students wielding real drills. Virtual-reality simulators and other cutting-edge technology were brought to Penn Dental Medicine’s Advanced Simulation Lab and Operative Dentistry by its director, Dr. Margit Maggio. Maggio serves on Penn Dental Women’s Network and was a fellow at the prestigious American Dental Education Association. Now in private practice in Berwyn, she continues to mentor aspiring female dental professionals. “For dentists, it’s all about the tactile feedback of working in a mouth,” she says. “The sooner we can get students to understand that, the sooner they can get to working with patients.”

Brian Corson, MSW, CRPS

Founder and Executive Director, MVP Recovery

Call Brian Corson a hero and he’ll recite a list of reasons why he’s not. Regardless, many people in Delaware County consider Corson a trailblazer in addiction recovery. In 2014, he opened the first of what is now a network of 15 sober living houses. MVP Recovery provides the next treatment step for those who have successfully completed detox and rehabilitation programs for drug and alcohol addiction. To date, more than 80 percent of MVP’s graduates have stayed sober. “The opposite of addiction is connection,” Corson says. “We’re a sober community focused on life skills. We help people get jobs, educations and therapeutic counseling.”

Tina Bruckner

Founder, Main Line Health’s One Day at a Time

After she learned of her daughter’s heroin addiction, Tina Bruckner searched for ways to help her child—and herself. A senior executive assistant at Paoli Hospital, Bruckner founded One Day at a Time, a support group for Main Line Health employees who have loved ones struggling with addiction. “Mostly, its parents whose children are addicted to heroin,” says Bruckner.

One Day at a Time features speakers who have professional—and often personal—experience. “We can’t always help,” Bruckner admits. “But if we can, we absolutely want to learn how to help our loved ones’ long-term recoveries.”

Main Line Today Healthcare Heroes 2019

(From left) Amanda Blue, Brian Corson, Leanne Valentine, Helene Moriarty and Melissa Hewitt.

Sister Betty Burke, RSM, RN, MSN

Founder, Prevent

In 2017, when Sister Betty Burke created Prevent, a five-month awareness program for eighth graders at Saint Eugene School in Primos, her goal was to foster good decision making prior to the transition to high school. With funding from Mercy Fitzgerald Health System, Prevent has since expanded to Saint Laurence School in Upper Darby and Saint Francis de Sales School in Philadelphia.

Far more than a simple “Just Say No” program, Prevent brings in guest speakers who deliver the hard truth about drug abuse and other topics. “One speaker said that she sat in the seats the students were in,” Burke recalls. “Now, she and 25 percent of her classmates are in recovery from drug addictions.”

Rachael Polis, DO, MPH

Crozer-Keystone Women’s Health

In 2018, Dr. Rachael Polis, a pediatric and adolescent gynecologist, received a grant from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence for a two-year initiative to combat a pressing issue: relationship abuse among teens. Working with the Domestic Abuse Project of Delaware County, she is instituting awareness and prevention strategies that will be implemented throughout the William Penn School District, as well as among school nurses and Crozer-Keystone’s OBGYN medical residents. “The program addresses teen dating violence, but it has a wider scope,” says Polis. “It includes emotional, psychological and technology abuse, with texting and social media.”

Julie Donley RN, BSN, MBA

Director of Nursing, Devereux Children’s Behavioral Health Services’ Residential Programs

Julie Donley leads a team of nurses who deliver specialized care for the 155 patients who live on Devereux’s Malvern and Glenmoore campuses. “The need has increased dramatically,” says Donley. “My job is to make sure our nurses have what they need to take care of these kids. We’re nurturing and caring for children dealing with various levels of trauma.”

That list includes PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD and schizophrenia, along with issues arising from sexual abuse, human trafficking and the drug-related deaths of parents. “It’s very rewarding when we see children change, grow and, ultimately, leave us to continue their lives on a better path,” she says.

Amanda Blue, MPH

Outreach Manager, West Chester University College of Health Sciences

Wanting to empower college students, Amanda Blue brought Mental Health First Aid to West Chester University. Created by the National Council for Behavioral Health, the program includes eight hours of training on specific skills that can be deployed when a mental health crisis occurs. Since it was implemented at WCU in 2017, more than 700 people have volunteered for training, over 75 percent of them students. “The goal is to stabilize a situation until professional help arrives,” says Blue.

Leanne Valentine, Ph.D.

Clinical Director, West Chester University Community Mental Health Clinic

Leanne Valentine opened West Chester University’s Community Mental Health Clinic to address a soaring unmet need for therapeutic services. Intake is $50, a single session $25. If patients can’t afford that, the cost is further reduced.

In 2017, the clinic’s first year, Valentine, 23 graduate students and two pre-doctorate students worked with 100 clients, including children, families and senior citizens. “We set it up to be community facing,” Valentine says. “There was a huge need for low-cost mental health services among students and West Chester residents,”

Michael Huggins

Founder and President of the Board of Directors, Transformation Yoga Project

When a corporate crime landed Michael Huggins in prison, he made the most of his stay. Inmates shared their pasts with Huggins, and he soon realized that trauma often fuels criminal behavior. “They saw me exercising and asked what I was doing, so I taught them poses, but I never called it yoga,” he says.

Following his release in 2012, Huggins created Transformation Yoga Project. The Kennett Square-based nonprofit now brings yoga to prisons, addiction recovery facilities, sober living homes and behavioral health facilities throughout the Delaware Valley.


Related: How this Once-Incarcerated CEO Found Purpose in Prison


Helene Moriarty, Ph.D., RN

Professor, Villanova University’s M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing; Chair in Nursing Research, Diane L. & Robert F. Moritz Endowment; Nurse Researcher, Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center

Knowing that too many military veterans return home with traumatic brain injuries fuels Helene Moriarty’s commitment to the Veterans’ In-home Program. This groundbreaking initiative has introduced veterans and their families to occupational health strategies—everything from mobile phone apps to “command centrals” that hold keys and other items. “Rather than try to fix the deficits in the veteran, the goal is to modify the home environment to be a better fit for the person with TBI,” says Moriarty. “We hope that, with more research, VIP can be translated into current VA practice, with meaningful benefits for veterans and their families.”

Tom Gaylets, BSN, RN, MSHCA

Assistant Vice President, Interventional Platform, Einstein Medical Center Montgomery

Tom Gaylets isn’t just an operating room nurse. He’s a Marine. Gaylets’ seven years in the Corps were the preamble to what has become a lifetime of serving his community. Among his efforts is a program that recognizes veterans who are patients at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery with surgical caps, pillows and door magnets emblazoned with American flags. “They haven’t always been treated with respect, and I wanted to make their time in the hospital easier,” says Gaylets, who also formed the Einstein Montgomery Veterans’ Resource Group. “We do events with kids, clean-ups and other projects.”

Maribel Hernandez, MD

Cardiologist, Lankenau Heart Institute; Medical Director, Main Line Health Women’s Heart Initiative

Latina women develop heart disease 10 years earlier than their Caucasian counterparts. Researchers don’t know why, but Dr. Maribel Hernandez wants it to stop. Due to her efforts to raise awareness about heart health in the Hispanic community, she was named the American Heart Association Philadelphia Chapter’s Por Tu Corazón Ambassador and an AHA Go Red for Women Champion. “Education about risk factors is not getting to them,” says Hernandez. “Latina women put their families first. It’s very much part of our culture.”

Howard Nathan

President and CEO, Gift of Life Donor Program

For 41 years, Devon’s Howard Nathan has worked tirelessly to increase organ donation participation. He lobbied for legislation that created the driver’s license donor registry. Now, more than 48 percent of Pennsylvanians have licenses that indicate their willingness to donate. He was also behind the opening of the Gift of Life Institute, which offers training in donor awareness, and the Gift of Life Family House, a 30-room facility for families of transplant patients. “We’re currently the largest donor organization in the U.S. and possibly the world,” says Nathan.

Kelly Andress

Founder and President, SageLife

Dementia is actually a host of diseases that manifest differently in different people. Understanding those micro-classifications is the basis of the Positive Approach to Care, created by nationally recognized expert Teepa Snow. Each of SageLife’s six communities are built around the PAC philosophy. “These are not nursing homes where grandma sits in a rocking chair all day,” says Kelly Andress. “Instead, we monitor the progression of residents’ various conditions and create environments to celebrate what they can do while compensating for what they can’t. Aging is a journey we’re on with residents and their families. We
keep them in situations where they will succeed.”

Photographs taken at AVE King of Prussia. Hair and makeup by Salon Amar in Bryn Mawr.

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