Community Care

Central Region Partnership is Changing Lives

By Libby Marino

Community - Moments Fall 2022

Here’s something you may not know — it’s estimated that 40 percent of all food in the United States goes to waste, according to hunger relief organization Feeding America.

The Hospital of Central Connecticut (HOCC) team has been doing its part to make a small dent in that statistic thanks to its partnership with the Salvation Army in New Britain. As of July 29, HOCC donated 804 pounds of food. All goes directly to the Salvation Army’s Men’s Shelter.

“It’s opened employee’s eyes and has gotten everyone excited to contribute to the community,” said Joseph Spooner, executive chef for food and nutrition at HOCC, who is heavily involved in the food donation process. “Every Friday, the Salvation Army comes to the hospital and picks up the food we’ve set aside for them throughout the week.”

The idea for this partnership came from Hartford HealthCare’s food vendor, Compass One. Connecticut Foodshare then got involved to help HOCC identify an organization for donations through a methodical vetting process. That’s when the Salvation Army’s Men’s Shelter was identified. It’s important to note that all donated food never leaves the hospital kitchen and is strictly screened before being donated.


“We’ve been able to set up this program and help men in the community by not only giving them a meal, but also helping them get their life back in order,” said Whitney Bundy, senior director of guest services for Hartford HealthCare.

She explained that after learning that the Salvation Army has a program called Pathway to Hope, which helps men in the shelter find employment, Hartford HealthCare’s talent acquisition team stepped in.

“They now work with the program and have been able to hire men from the shelter to join our food and nutrition team,” Bundy said.

HOCC is the first hospital in the state to take part in this type of food donation program, serving as an example for other facilities at Hartford HealthCare and beyond. St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport more recently launched a similar program donating 329 pounds of food in the first few months and the hope is that Hartford Hospital and others will soon follow suit.

“This really is a win-win for everyone involved,” Spooner said.

HOCC launched a partnership with the Salvation Army in New Britain, donating food to a men’s shelter. Photo by Rusty Kimball.

Hospitalist Brings Medical Care to War-Torn Ukraine

By Ken Harrison

Dr. Mohammed Qureshi, right, in a lighter moment while providing medical aid in war-torn Ukraine.

As chief hospitalist for Hartford HealthCare’s East Region, Dr. Mohammed Qureshi spends his days caring for patients at both Backus and Windham hospitals, and the work he and his team perform can be life-changing.

The word “life-changing” took on a whole new meaning, however, when Dr. Qureshi traveled to Eastern Europe this year to offer medical aid to people in Ukraine who had been wounded or injured during Russia’s invasion.

Working with the organization Humanity First, Dr. Qureshi joined a team of doctors, nurses and other healthcare specialists in a field hospital set up just over the Ukrainian border in the village of Medyka, Poland, where they provided treatment to the refugees fleeing their war-torn country.

Dr. Qureshi’s main role was as an internal medicine doctor, although he said he found himself treating patients with a wide range of injures and conditions, almost always with a translator by his side or using a translation service on his phone when one was not available. From the hospital, patients were then transferred to healthcare facilities throughout Europe.


“Nearly all of the people we treated were women, children and the elderly,” he recalled.

Despite the tragic reason for his trip, Dr. Qureshi said he was inspired by the people he worked with and the people of Poland who welcomed refugees from the neighboring country with open arms.

“Poland has more than four million refugees and it was amazing to see how they have opened their country and their hearts to the people of Ukraine,” he said. “Equally inspiring was the tireless work of all of the doctors and nurses who were there to help.”

“You are a role model and an inspiration to all of us,” Donna Handley, East Region president, told Dr. Qureshi at Leadership Forum. “We are all incredibly proud of you for what you have done.”

“I have learned that we have to count our blessings and look at what others are going through to put things in perspective,” said Dr. Qureshi, who also traveled to New Orleans to provide medical care after Hurricane Katrina. “Whenever you see the opportunity to help, I hope you will.”

HHC Ambulance Lending Help in Ukraine

By Brian Spyros

A Hartford HealthCare ambulance left for Ukraine in late June, carrying thousands of dollars worth of medical supplies to provide lifesaving support to civilians and soldiers in the war-torn country. The ambulance was sent to Irpin, a devastated area that operated 109 ambulances prior to the war but fewer than 10 remained due to extensive shelling and bombing as part of the Russian invasion in the region.

The ambulance was stuffed with thousands of dollars in medical supplies to provide lifesaving support to civilians and soldiers in Ukraine. Many were collected by first responders in the Northwest Region, including stair chairs, PPE, bandages, backboards, stretchers and splints. Two portable ventilators were shipped separately.


Air National Guard Descends on Hartford Hospital…. For Training

By Elissa Bass

Taking part in medical training at the Center for Education, Simulation and Innovation at Hartford Hospital, from left, are: Maj. Jennifer Monahan, a trauma performance improvement nurse at Backus Hospital; Lt Col. Charles Johndron, MD, a physician in the Hartford Hospital Emergency Department; and Sgt. Anitress Delgado, with the CT Air National Guard.

In a groundbreaking agreement, Hartford Hospital now provides training to CT Air National Guard medical personnel to help them be deployment-ready.

The CT division of the Air National Guard includes 26 medical personnel who serve as medics and nurses.

“This partnership will allow us to more readily meet and maintain our training requirements of logging 40 hours at a Level 1 Trauma Center,” said Jennifer Monahan, an emergency and critical care nurse at Backus Hospital and chief nurse for the division. “In the past, if someone was deploying, we would need to arrange special training for them at a medical base that met the criteria.”

Now, “this is a huge, huge, huge opportunity for us,” she said.

Members of the CT Air National Guard all have regular “day” jobs and serve in the Guard one weekend a month and two weeks each year. They are often called up to assist with natural disasters domestically or overseas.

Dr. Charles Johndro, a Hartford Hospital emergency physician and lieutenant colonel in the CT Air National Guard where he is part of the ground surgical, was instrumental in hammering out the training agreement. He does the training for Guard members in the hospital’s emergency department one Sunday a month and about 10 other days during the month.

“Our medics and nurses did not have the opportunity to train these skills close to home,” Dr. Johndro said. “The Hartford Hospital ED environment can be very similar to what you might encounter when you are deployed — a high volume of patients in acute situations. The opportunity to train in that environment is invaluable.”

For Sunday trainings, Dr. Johndro is off the hospital clock and dresses in fatigues.

“We work on skills with the mannequins, we can see the patients in the ED but I’m not involved in their direct care so I can teach the case. I can break it all down for them, from the (patient) arrival on,” he said.

When Dr. Johndro is on shift, Guard members “can see everything that I see, and get a more in-depth view because I am actually working with emergency patients. These folks wouldn’t typically have access to the opportunities this partnership provides.”

The agreement between the hospital and the Guard, he said, is groundbreaking for the whole country.

“I think Connecticut is way ahead of the curve on this,” he said. “There’s a lot of challenges nationwide getting the required training. We are fortunate because Jennifer and I are involved in both sides of it. After we establish a safety record with this, I would love to grow this program. It is such a great opportunity for all our Connecticut personnel.”

Nurse ‘Fills her Cup’ on Costa Rica Mission

By Kate Carey-Trull

Cheryl Mitchell and her son, Richard, took a medical mission trip to Costa Rica together.

When Hartford Hospital nursing coordinator Cheryl Mitchell found out about his medical mission trip to Costa Rica, she joked it would be her last opportunity to go on a field trip with her son, a college senior at the time.

They laughed, but when he asked trip organizers if they needed another chaperone who was a licensed nurse, they jumped at the chance to include her. Mitchell and her son, 21-year-old Richard, headed to Costa Rica for a week with 16 other students and two nursing professors.

“With the way things have been in the world, this was a fantastic opportunity,” Mitchell said, adding that her son, a nurse who graduated from Norwich University, started work for Hartford HealthCare this summer.

“He will be a fourth-generation nurse. It makes me very proud,” Mitchell said.

Mission trips are also a family tradition and they went to Uganda in 2012.

“I wanted my kids to understand that they are more fortunate than they realize, and to instill the importance of giving back,” she said. Daughter Olivia, 23, lives in Spain, teaching English and applying to PA school.

The Costa Rica trip gave Mitchell an opportunity to talk with the other students about giving back in their communities.

“It was a great, inspiring trip, but you don’t have to travel to give back,” Mitchell said. “I said plenty of people in their own towns have needs they likely don’t even know about.”

They volunteered through Corner of Love, a non-profit initially based in Nicaragua. After the government there made humanitarian aid illegal in 2018, organizers fled to Costa Rica.

Volunteers organized supplies, set up a relief center and assessed medical and social needs for intake. Problems such as advanced urinary tract infections due to dehydration and lack of safe drinking water were common.

“It becomes a cycle. They are afraid to drink the water because of parasites. They may not have housing or access to safe water or good nutrition,” she said. “We would connect them with other services for housing, employment opportunities and education.

Trips like these fill her cup and re-energize her, said Mitchell, a Hartford Hospital nurse since 2005.

“We all push ourselves and burn the candle at both ends, but this helps bring you back to your why, why I am a nurse,” she said.

Hartford HealthCare and Connecticut Children's Hospital have sponsored two Zoomobiles bringing animal education to kids at Beardsley Zoo.

It’s a Zoo Out There

By Keith Fontaine

As part of expanding system presence in Fairfield County, Hartford HealthCare, through the Pediatric Care Alliance with Connecticut Children’s, sponsored a pair of Zoomobiles at Beardsley Zoo.

The Zoomobiles are wrapped with colorful animal designs and are ready to zoo-m throughout the region to educate children in schools, camps, and other facilities about popular zoo animals. The vehicle, which always has three to four live animal ambassadors on board, also travels out of state. Past venues have included The Berkshire Museum in Massachusetts and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City.

Sponsoring the Zoomobile is one way the two health systems are doubling down on efforts to support the optimal development and health of all children.

SVMC Drives Address Basic Needs

By Robin Stanley

Sock drive: Posing with a sampling of the sock donation, from left to right, are: Edna Borchetta, mission services/ pastoral care, Daisy Rodriguez, mission services/pastoral care; Bartosz Szczypiorski, case manager; Bill Hoey, vice president of mission services; Jennifer Nascimento, stroke coordinator; and Aimee Valle, pantry coordinator.

Separate efforts at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in early summer generated almost 250 pairs of shoes and 1,000 pairs of socks that can help those in need in the area.

The committee organizing the Share a Pair Shoe Drive hoped to collect 200 pairs of footwear, but colleagues across the institution — including the 9 East behavioral health team with a haul of 84 pairs — boosted the effort.

The shoes — in various sizes and styles — will be stored at St. Vincent’s to help ensure patients can leave the hospital with their feet protected and can be tapped by community health workers throughout the City of Bridgeport.

The socks — collected through the efforts of Jennifer Nascimento, APRN, Ayer Neuroscience Institute stroke coordinator, supported by the Mission Services team, were donated to The Thomas Merton Center to support its Shower Program, which serves 80 people per week.

Shoe drive: The Share a Pair Committee includes, from left to right, Teresa Peterkin, emergency department; Coreen Martin, behavioral health; Debby Botticelli, mission services/pastoral care; Alice Lennon, behavioral health; Marianne Blanco, case management; Deborah Duva, case management; Ann Gorton, emergency department; Edna Borchetta, mission services/pastoral care; and Kathy Beck, mission services/pastoral care.

Community Health Team Combines Meals and Wheels

By Elissa Bass and Jeff Evans

Hartford HealthCare East Region President Donna Handley rides the blender bike created by Norwich Tech students and Backus Hospital to promote exercise and healthy eating.

Photo by Jeff Evans.

What started as a fun way to offer nutritious information accelerated in June when the East Region Community Health team pedaled the inaugural “blender bike” into a Franklin senior living complex to whip up some shakes.

Working with a team of Norwich Tech students, the Community Health team — Director Joseph Zuzel, nurse Michele Brezniak and dietitian Shannon Haynes — put the pedal to the metal, modifying an exercise bike with a working blender.

“I was looking for way to make our presence at community events more hand-on and meaningful,” Zuzel said. “I thought it would be a great way to not only educate people about healthy eating and exercise but have them take part in it.”

Although blender bikes are sold online, Backus Development Manager Gen Schies suggested he reach out to Norwich Tech for help building one. Students in the automotive shop class were tapped for the task.

“I love taking a need like healthy food and nutrition and cascading that into multiple sectors of our community to see how we can all work together to address that need,” Zuzel said.

The bike hit the road this summer for community health events. As the peddler produces healthy smoothies and hummus, recipes for the treats are available courtesy.

Check out the bike in action here

5K Raises $10,000 for Purple Light Project

The second annual Purple Light 5K Race and Fun Walk on the Institute of Living campus in late August was a resounding success, raising more than $10,000 to support Behavioral Health Network (BHN) patients in need.

Ninety registered runners participated and walkers of all ages finished the one-mile fun run.

Erica Moura, event organizer and the director of human centered care at the BHN, said the has been able to purchase and distribute basic items such as like clothing, food, hygiene items, blankets, and taxi/bus vouchers with the money raised.

One runner understood the need for such help personally, having received support during and after admission to the IOL.

“We’re fortunate to have so many give of themselves in support of our patients, and our staff who are privileged to care for them,” said James O’Dea, PhD, senior vice president at the BHN.

More than 100 runners and walkers joined in the fundraising 5K to benefit the Purple Light Project.