We work at Hartford HealthCare, but when we asked you where you find fun, relaxation or even deeper meaning in your lives, we continue to be astonished at the variety of hobbies and activities you pursue in your spare time. Share your hobby or activity with us by emailing susan.mcdonald@hhchealth.org.

A Student of Safety

If you’re ever in an emergency, make sure you have Patrick LaBuff on speed dial

Story by Robin Stanley

Hartford Hospital emergency manager Patrick LaBuff oversees an incident command team of more than 120 clinical and non-clinical colleagues and, outside work, he’s a member of Connecticut Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) and a swift water rescue technician.

What’s USAR and what is your role?

USAR is a disaster deployment team that specializes in various search and rescue situations.

They are viewed as an elite group of police officers, firefighters, medical personnel and engineers that deploy for building collapses, terrorism incidents, swift water/ flood response, hurricanes, wilderness search, wide area search, technical rescue, trench rescue and confined space rescue.

We were sent, for example, to the New London church collapse as support for search/rescue and debris removal.

What’s a swift water rescue technician?

We respond to flooding or swift water scenarios and provide various boat and go-rescues, which means we rescue victims on top of cars in a flash flood or rivers, and use special boats and rope systems to engage in safe rescues. We also prepare equipment for deployment, educate community members regarding water safety, plan rescue techniques and engage in surface rescue swimming.

What’s training like?

It took me more than seven years to achieve this highly specialized class. There are only 30 swift water rescue technicians on the USAR team. To build credentials, you join a fire or police department or emergency service agency.

I took firefighter I and II certifications as prerequisites. After seven years and a move to Connecticut, I joined USAR. Like most new members, I started in the planning division to learn the process and take specialty courses before moving into the rescue division. The course for swift water rescue took several days and included classroom work and rescue scenarios in the swift water sections of the Housatonic River.

To maintain certification, we take a swim test annually and conduct practical skill sessions during monthly drills at state parks and training facilities such as the New England Disaster Preparedness Center at Camp Hartell.

I have also participated in disaster deployments like Bozrah flooding and a staging operation for Hurricane Henri.

“It took me more than seven years to achieve this highly specialized class. There are only 30 swift water rescue technicians on the USAR team.”

What do you do outside of work and USAR?

I am finalizing my doctorate in emergency management and teach homeland security at Columbia Southern University, focusing on bio-terrorism response, weapons of mass destruction and incident command courses. For fun, I hike the Adirondacks and Catskills.

I completed the Fire Tower Challenge with my father, which included summiting 25 mountains that are collectively twice the height of Mt. Everest. I enjoy writing and have published emergency management articles, including professional development and active shooter response for healthcare facilities, in EMSWorld magazine.

Currently, I’m writing a wilderness survival article focused on group safety, preparedness and leadership. I also love to ice fish at the Canadian border, camp and winter hike in the Adirondacks.”

Devoted Dozen — When LaBuff isn’t on call to save lives, he’s working on his doctorate in emergency management. He also climbed 25 mountains that are collectively twice the height of Mt. Everest.

This Colleague Finds Joy When He Gets Access to a Mic

Story by Elissa Bass

Bill McKiernan’s day job is managing Access Center operational transformation for Hartford HealthCare. The 53-year-old Seymour resident has been with HHC for 10 years. He likes his job. He does a good job at his job. But it’s his night job that brings him joy. McKiernan is the lead singer of Shameless, a busy cover band he formed with friends 14 years ago. He put down the microphone for a few minutes to answer some questions.

How did you become a singer?

I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. I realized at an early age that I really enjoy singing and began developing my voice. I joined choirs and performed in musicals through high school. By the time I was 14, I was in my first band and singing publicly. Time really flew by because I’ve been singing semi-professionally for 30 years!

Do you play instruments?

I play some chords on the guitar and understand it enough to fumble through songs.

Do you write songs?

I have a bunch of original music recorded and some that needs to be. Many of my original songs are on streaming services and YouTube under the name Dewey McKiernan. Dewey is my writing partner and we came up with the name Dewey McKiernan.

Where did the name Shameless come from and what kind of music do you play?

Shameless was created 14 years ago with my very talented musician friends. When we first started rehearsing, we didn’t have a name and asked friends for help. During one of many conversations, someone said we were the band with no name, which turned into Nameless and then Shameless! The name is a perfect fit. Getting “shameless” is a state of mind — forgetting your troubles, letting go of stress and getting lost in the music is what we’re all about. We don’t care what we look like, we just want to have a good time with everyone who comes to see us.

Our playlist is massive and we cover songs from all genres from the ‘60s to today. We play venues all over Connecticut, including the casinos, and occasionally in Massachusetts and New York. Shameless consists of: Frank Ventresca, keyboard; Vince Bossio, guitar; Kevin Cerulo, bass; and Adam Robinson on drums.

Are you a big hit at karaoke?

I don’t get many chances to sing karaoke. I’ve always thought that I’m singing karaoke with a great band because we’re playing all the familiar songs.

Exec Shares His Love of Dressage, His Horse Crush and the Reasons He Rides

Story by Levell Williams

Saddle up — Vincent Wright tries to get a ride in with Crush whenever he can.

Vincent Wright, vice president of revenue cycle operations, spends work hours navigating a packed calendar and making sure Hartford HealthCare is paid appropriately for the care we deliver. Off the clock, he enjoys spending time with his paint quarter horse, Crush. Together, they are an accomplished Western dressage duo.

What is dressage?

Dressage is a horse-riding sport. Both the rider and horse are judged on their showmanship and transition between techniques. Some standard dressage moves are the slow walk, the trot (a fast walk) and the canter (a rhythmic gallop).

How did you begin doing dressage?

When I got Crush in February 2015, I wanted to join the western rodeo circuit. But the rodeo I had in mind shut down so we got involved in dressage. I’ve been doing it for almost 10 years.

How do English and Western dressage differ?

English dressage is a formal style of dressage usually set to music in the professional setting. There are similar movements as in Western Dressage, but there is no music associated with Western, only precise movements and transitions.

Do you do dressage professionally?

I don’t because Crush is 20 years old, and I would have to push him like he was about three. I’m happy to show him at local shows where there’s no money involved, just ribbons, status and experience.

At what difficulty level do you compete?

We compete at level two of the six scored levels of organized dressage. Levels seven and eight are reserved for professional show performers.

If Crush could speak, what might he say?

He’d probably say he likes it when I bring him carrots and treats.

Does your personal style influence your dressage?

I try to put myself together from head to toe every day and I do the same thing with Crush, from his saddle to his headstall and bridle. It’s just my thing. My parents had a lot to do with that. He knows he’s a good-looking boy. You can see it in the way he prances around. He knows it.

What do you most enjoy about dressage?

It’s just fun to do. Having a relationship with a horse is the ultimate in trust. The horse can’t see you. It can only feel you.