May 2016

High-Tech Mannequins Prompt Gift to Nursing Sim Lab

Grace Merritt
Grace Merritt

3 min read

When Bertie Chuong ’82 MS, RN first visited the new simulation lab in the UConn School of Nursing, she was excited to discover a healthcare setting with realistic high-tech mannequins. With help from Simulation Lab technicians, the mannequins can breathe, move, and even say “ouch” when poked with an IV.

These life-like patients can be programmed to simulate a real nursing scenario. The technician can program the mannequin to tell the nursing student that they are not feeling well, then suddenly have the mannequin’s heart start to race and blood pressure drop.

Bertie Chuong ’82 MS, RN
Bertie Chuong ’82 MS, RN

“This is great because you can have the nursing student think critically and then react,” Chuong said. This type of training is critical to developing assessment skills and building confidence as a novice nurse, she said. In today’s practice settings, students need to have this simulation experience before starting in the workplace, so that they can be more comfortable with their basic skills.

Chuong was so impressed with the simulation lab’s mannequins and other forward-looking features that she recently decided to endow a fund to support it. The funds are earmarked specifically for the simulation lab and may be used, for example, to buy new equipment for it or hire personnel to work in the lab.

“I’m doing this to help maintain UConn’s state-of-the art nursing program, to continue what has been a stellar program,” Chuong said. “I think it’s just so important to continue to support the school that you graduated from.”

Chuong has built a successful career as a nurse manager, nurse director and educator at Yale-New Haven Hospital, where she has worked ever since earning her masters at UConn. She initially managed a staff of 75 in the medical intensive care unit. More recently she shared governance of the entire nursing staff as the resource and education coordinator.

Her gift, the Bertie Chuong Endowed Fund for Nursing, will help the school to continue to provide cutting-edge training in the simulation lab, said Regina Cusson, dean of the School of Nursing.

“Bertie’s generous support is forward-thinking,” Cusson said. “It will help us provide the latest and best training to future generations of nursing students.”

In addition to the simulation lab, the Nursing School’s new wing also features classrooms, exam rooms where students can practice on each other and real patients, and simulated hospital rooms outfitted with IV poles, hospital beds, and other equipment.

“It’s just such a great learning environment,” Chuong said.

She has fond memories of her days in UConn’s graduate nursing program.

“My time at UConn was wonderful because we had great instructors and really enthusiastic students,” she said. “I made some extremely good friends at the time. I met faculty who I continue to be friendly with and have been wonderful mentors throughout the years. The faculty was right there on the cutting edge of what was going on in nursing.”

Chuong grew up in Rye, N.Y and graduated from Cornell University, where she originally planned to major in British history. Realizing that it might be difficult to find a job, her parents urged her to switch to a more practical major, so she ventured into nursing.

As an active alum, she regularly comes to campus to attend Nursing School events and cheer on the women’s basketball team. She and her husband, Jackie, a gastroenterologist, live in Guilford with their black lab, Emma.

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Recently Established Pichette Scholarship Names First Neag School Student Recipient

UConn Foundation
UConn Foundation

5 min read

By Stefanie Dion Jones

From the moment the Neag School of Education announced its intention this past fall to launch a new scholarship fund in honor of longtime colleague Valerie Pichette, intense support from within and beyond the University quickly became clear.

Faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, students, and friends of UConn immediately offered an outpouring of contributions — contributions that accumulated so quickly, in fact, as to reach the UConn Foundation’s endowment requirement within a mere six weeks, ensuring that the Valerie J. Pichette Scholarship Fund will now honor Pichette every year in perpetuity.

To date, a total of more than $56,000 has been raised for the scholarship through cash and pledges from 117 donors, according to the UConn Foundation. Not only has it turned out to be the top employee-supported fund at the University for fiscal year 2016, but the total amount raised in Pichette’s honor also is more than double the minimum needed to establish a new fund named in honor of a University staff member.

The scholarship was created to honor Pichette’s 30 years of service to the state of Connecticut, including her 18 years at the Neag School, where she served as an executive assistant – first with Dean Richard Schwab and later with former Dean Thomas DeFranco. However, Pichette, who was privately battling cancer when the scholarship was first initiated, passed away in November before news of its status as an endowed fund had become official.

Paying It Forward

Later this month, the Valerie J. Pichette Scholarship Fund will honor its first student recipient, Luis Organista ’14 (CAHNR). Organista, a UConn alum with a bachelor’s degree in natural resources and the environment, will be joining the Neag School’s Avery Point campus this May as a student in the Teacher Certification Program for College Graduates (TCPCG) — an 11-month, post-baccalaureate teacher education program through which aspiring schoolteachers earn a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, as well as recommendation for teacher certification by the state of Connecticut.

Organista, who will receive $1,000 in financial support for the coming academic year through the new fund, has his sights set on teaching science, specifically biology and environmental science. Since graduating with his undergraduate degree, Organista has worked in a number of roles for the state of Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection. This past summer, part of his job involved educating 20 inner-city children about environmental conservation and fisheries — which included taking children for fishing trips on local lakes. It was in this setting, interacting with school-aged youth on a daily basis and getting them excited about the natural world, that Organista found himself inspired to explore a career path focused on teaching.

“I decided teaching would be great because I enjoyed being with the kids,” says Organista, now 24. As he started researching teacher certification programs, he soon became aware of TCPCG. Knowing, as he says, that “it would work out perfectly,” he headed to an upcoming information session and was ultimately accepted into the program. In preparation for his time in the TCPCG program, Organista is currently working as a science and math tutor at Windham Middle School.

“We’re overwhelmed and speechless by the amount of support everyone has given. It’s a testament to my mom and to how she impacted so many people.” — Dan Pichette ’04, ’11

Upon learning that he had been selected as the recipient of the Pichette scholarship, Organista began reading about Pichette and her legacy. What he found, he says, “really showed how much she cared for the students and how much work she put into ensuring that they enjoyed what they did.”

“Receiving this award helps me to think about doing the same thing,” he adds. “I want to be a teacher that helps students out and is always there to help with any problems or in improving themselves. I want to be a role model for the students in school and in the community.”

He says he also felt a special connection with Pichette after realizing that she had worked at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Willimantic prior to her time at UConn; Organista is a lifelong resident of Willimantic.

Luis Organista ’14 (CAHNR), second from right, receives Valerie J. Pichette Scholarship Fund
Luis Organista ’14 (CAHNR), second from right, is the first student recipient of the Valerie J. Pichette Scholarship Fund. He will begin as a Neag School TCPCG student this May. He was honored at the April 20 Honors Celebration at Jorgensen Center, where he met members of the Pichette family as well as Dean Richard Schwab (third from right).

‘All Thanks to Her’

The scholarship will be formally presented to Organista at the Neag School’s annual Honors Celebration on April 20, where he will have the opportunity to meet members of Pichette’s family. Organista says he is eager to learn more about Pichette and to express his gratitude to her family members: “I hope that they maybe will follow me in my career and see where I head so that they can see the potential that I’ve reached – and that’s all thanks to her.”

Organista also has been named the recipient of two other scholarship awards — the Husky Teach Noyce Scholarship, which is funded by the National Science Foundation to help support science, technology, engineering, and math education in the U.S., and the Neag School of Education Graduate Fellowship, awarded to graduate students with strong academic performance.

“It sounds like [Luis] is the perfect candidate and what my mom would have wanted — especially with him going through TCPCG, a program that was close to my mom’s heart. It’s the cherry on top that he’s from Willimantic, with our family having roots there,” says Pichette’s son Dan Pichette ’04, ’11, dean of students at the Journalism and Media Academy Magnet School in Hartford, Conn. “The idea that this scholarship will go on in perpetuity — we’re overwhelmed and speechless by the amount of support everyone has given. It’s a testament to my mom and to how she impacted so many people.”

“This is a wonderful example of how faculty and staff give ‘Close to Home’ in support and honor of our colleagues,” says Heather McDonald, senior director of development at the UConn Foundation. “It’s a powerful statement to have more than 100 donations within six weeks.”

The Foundation’s staff played a major role in the swift and successful establishment of the Valerie J. Pichette Scholarship Fund, adds Dean Schwab, who worked closely with Pichette for many years at the Neag School. “We are very thankful to the Foundation team for their partnership in pulling all of the moving pieces together,” he says. “The fact that this scholarship came together so quickly is a testament to all of those who knew and loved Val.”

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Hygienist-Turned-Dentist and Student Star in Radio Spots

UConn Foundation
UConn Foundation

2 min read

A dental hygienist who took her patients’ advice to become a dentist and a brilliant UConn sophomore who has already invented a heart monitor battery charger will star in new radio spots on NPR to promote the UConn Foundation’s scholarship drive.

In her 60-second spot, Greenwich dentist Dr. Christine Tierney explains that she wants to help students who are the first in their family to get a professional degree. Environmental science major Bridget Oei talks about how her scholarship not only gave her financial aid, but the motivation to push herself.

The UConn Foundation has raised more than $56.5 million for scholarships and fellowships for UConn students since the Transform Lives scholarship initiative launched last year.

Tierney ’86 (DMD) grew up in a large family where the most advanced degree was an associate’s in dairy science. Tierney was earning her associate’s herself in dental hygiene and working after school as a dental assistant when her patients urged her to become a dentist. She had never really considered getting a professional degree, but decided to apply and got in to the UConn School of Dental Medicine.

Tierney, who has a successful dental practice in Greenwich, recently created a fellowship to help students who were the first in their families to attend professional school.

“It’s something I’m really proud of,” she said. “I really do think we have an obligation to give back, and UConn makes it easy to do and makes you feel really good about it.”

[Listen to Tierney’s NPR Segment]

In her NPR spot, Oei, a sophomore from Hebron, explains that scholarships have helped her to take charge of her academic path and motivated her to push herself.

Oei, who is on the pre-med track, has already done some innovative research at UConn. She has invented a paper-thin device that can charge the batteries in a heart monitor by using the wind from a person’s breathing. She won the Robert and Carlotta Holster Honors Scholarship and Stamps Scholarship, among others.

“The scholarships mean more than money. They’re not just subsidizing my education,” she said. “Meeting donors, you realize that there are people out there who actually believe in you personally and they’re willing to support you because of what they believe what you can do. That’s inspiring and extremely motivational for me and for so many other students who have received scholarships.”

Oei, who intends to become a dermatologist, is also a competitive Irish dancer, ballet dancer, violinist, and fiddler.

[Listen to Oei’s NPR Segment]

Transform a life by supporting scholarships at UConn

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New Fund Helps Dental Students Facing Emergencies

Grace Merritt
Grace Merritt

2 min read

Ron D’Andrea ’81 DMD still remembers the nightmarish shadow that a cancer diagnosis cast over his family seven years ago.

His son, Kevin, was a senior at Notre Dame High School in West Haven, Conn., when he spiked a temperature and was overcome with lethargy. Blood tests revealed a serious problem.

“Kevin’s doctor told us to get him to a hospital immediately because his blood counts were so off,” said D’Andrea, a dentist in Hamden, Conn.

Kevin was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, a devastating blow that shook his family. He was able to graduate from high school that spring but had to delay starting his freshman year at Providence College in R.I. while he underwent intense chemotherapy. Kevin spent the next three years receiving treatment at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut and Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island while juggling an intense academic curriculum at Providence.

“With our visits to the hospital, Kevin and I saw how families struggled both emotionally with the diagnosis and economically to make ends meet,” Dr. D’Andrea said. “I just wanted to do something that could help families faced with a crisis like we were undergoing.”

As a result, Dr. D’Andrea established a new fund at his alma mater to help any UConn dental student going through an emergency or economic hardship. The Dental Student Crisis Fund can be used to help a student who suddenly needs cash to, for instance, pay for an unexpected trip home or to deal with an economic, health, or family hardship.

The fund will provide some stress relief to dental students, who, like many graduate students, are often managing on a shoestring budget, said Dr. R. Lamont MacNeil, dean of the UConn School of Dental Medicine.

“Having a fund like this will really help in those emotional situations where the last thing you want to think about is having dollars in the bank. You just want to get through those issues,” MacNeil said. “It could be a death in the family or a parent who is ill, and the student just has to get home.”

Dr. D’Andrea established the fund to honor Kevin, 25, who is now nearly five years cancer-free and thriving in his fourth year at the UConn School of Dental Medicine. In fact, Kevin recently won a dean’s award for his work on fungus and saliva. He also has organized a mission trip to Grenada in May to provide dental care to underserved people.

Kevin, who plans to contribute to the fund himself once he graduates, said he hopes it not only eases the burden, but helps keep students on track.

“I hope that it relieves some of the stress to get over the terrible circumstance in which they find themselves,” he said. “I hope it really does help a student to follow their dreams and become who they want to become,” he said.

The D’Andreas hope that more donors will step forward and add to the Dental Student Crisis fund, so that when needs arise, students will have an immediate resource to help them.

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Former FVL star Radue ready to launch comeback

UConn Foundation
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< 1 min read

By Tim Froberg, USA Today Network-Wisconsin
This article was originally published on Post-Crescent.

The hair is coming back and so is the fastball.

The latter will serve Ryan Radue well the remainder of his collegiate baseball career at the University of Connecticut.

When he does return to the mound, Radue may see the sport differently.

He’s endured enough off the field to know that must-win games don’t really exist. But there are must-win situations in life, and he’s winning a personal battle against the ultimate opponent.

Read the rest of the story on Post-Crescent.

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School of Business Receives Largest Bequest Ever

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2 min read

By Claire Hall

Alumnus Gordon Flynn ’56, an industrial engineer and research consultant who enjoyed collecting prints, paintings, clocks and unusual artifacts, has left his $1 million estate to the School of Business, the biggest bequest in the school’s history.

“I am really happy that I can help students get their education and get started on their careers,” Flynn told a writer for the UConn Foundation in 2012 in announcing his unrestricted, planned gift. He was motivated to give, in part, he said, because of the rising cost of higher education.

“I’m told that Mr. Flynn appreciated many of the finer things in life, such as art, culture and collectibles. But it strikes me that what he cherished even more was his UConn education and the ability to share that gift with our students,” said School of Business Dean John A. Elliott. “We are tremendously grateful for Mr. Flynn’s unrestricted gift to the School of Business, which will be earmarked for the School’s most imminent needs.”

Flynn graduated with a degree in marketing and started his career with the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. He later joined Safeway Inc., one of the nation’s largest food and drug retailers, which transferred him to San Francisco. He worked for the company for approximately 25 years. He was also a member of the Society of Senior Industrial Engineers of California.

Flynn joined the Catholic Alumni Club, and that’s where he met Jeanne McInnis, a nurse and educator, who would become his wife of 30 years. Together they enjoyed going to the theater, opera, museums and special cultural events, as well as dining in the San Francisco restaurants and touring wine country. They had many close friends, whom they loved to entertain in their Oakland, Calif., home with views of San Francisco Bay. Jeanne Flynn predeceased her husband in 2006.

Flynn, a native of New Haven, Conn., also loved gardening. Flynn died in 2013, but his estate gift just arrived at UConn. His obituary said he was a kind and compassionate man, who will be remembered for his Irish sense of humor.

This story was originally featured in the UConn School of Business newsletter

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