Dr. Deckers Award Culminates UConn Health Workforce Gratitude

The 2022 Seasons of Gratitude at UConn Health culminated with the 13th Dr. Peter J. Deckers Employee Appreciation award presented to Genice Nelson, nursing director for behavioral health at UConn Health’s New England Sickle Cell Institute and Connecticut Bleeding Disorders Center.

Nelson was chosen among five finalists, highlighted in this year’s nominee video:

This year’s celebration was exceptionally bright as the UConn Health workforce community gathered in-person once again to celebrate colleagues with five, 10, 15, and 20 years of service in 2022. In addition, this year’s Fall/Winter PAWS and TEAM recipients were honored for consistently performing above and beyond their job expectations and furthering UConn Health’s mission through teamwork and excellence.

In total, over 690 individuals were honored Tuesday in the rotunda. As Dr. Bruce T. Liang, UConn Health CEO and executive vice president for health affairs, noted in his remarks, this celebration was a wonderful UConn Health addition to this year’s holiday season.

In Awe of Respiratory Therapists

“I now understand they are an absolute integral part of the health care team, and a truly amazing resource.”

Respiratory therapists group portrait
UConn Health respiratory therapists include (from left): Vanessa Woodruff, Samantha Marino, Zenaida Palma, Randy Luke, Stephanie Gutierrez, Stacy Pacheco, Sara Drouin and Tarjeet Bharara. (Photo provided by Sandy Thibodeau)

As UConn Health observes Respiratory Care Week, Oct. 23-29, here is a testimonial from a medical student that was part of a recent written assignment. Students were asked to reflect on their observations of the respiratory therapists’ experience, including the RTs’ interactions with the health care team and the patients’ experiences.

My main takeaway is respiratory therapists are really amazing health professions that I have never really considered until now.

I had always heard about “RTs” during the COVID pandemic especially, but I never thought about what that might entail. I thought that respiratory management was always managed between the pulmonologist and nurses, such that orders for oxygen and/or breathing apparatuses by the pulmonologist were implemented by the nursing team, and more advanced ventilation such as intubation and tracheostomies were performed by the pulmonologists.

Respiratory therapists small group portrait
UConn Health respiratory therapists include (from left): Eunice Albertinie, Vanessa Woodruff, and Damaris Rivera. (Photo provided by Sandy Thibodeau)

I was blown away by how much our RT does… She shared a story of when a patient came in and with her 15-plus years of experience, immediately knew that this patient needed a BIPAP. However, the resident said it was not needed yet. Rather than argue, the RT simply went to grab and set the BIPAP up, but did not place it. Finally, when the resident said BIPAP was necessary, it was all ready to go. The RT shared that had she waited for the resident’s orders for the BIPAP, there would have been a delay in care because of the time it takes to get the BIPAP from the floor and set it up. I thought this was such an incredible story to hear, because it showed me that even though doctors technically go to school for a longer period of time, we need to respect these professionals that have extensive experience in the field and have trained specifically to help patients breathe. Our RT was sharing about all of the intricacies of O2 and CO2 balance, with extensive knowledge about microbes such as pseudomonas that cause respiratory infections.

In our curriculum, we have pretty much covered all of the material surrounding respiratory infections and V/Q mismatch and gradients and things like that, and I still feel like I barely know these things – and a lot of my classmates struggle with this material as well. I just think it’s absolutely amazing how RTs know pulmonary inside and out. Like I genuinely don’t understand what pulmonologists do that RTs don’t. I know it was very condescending of me to not know how knowledgeable RTs were before, but I am fortunate to have had the experience to learn.

Respiratory therapists group portrait
UConn Health respiratory therapists include (from left): Samantha Marino, Vanessa Woodruff, Marzena Mocarski, Sara Drouin, Tarjeet Bharara, Zenaida Palma, Stephanie Guitierrez, Stacy Pacheco, and Sandy Thibodeau. (Photo provided by Sandy Thibodeau)

Another take away was that RTs are super passionate, caring, hard-working health professionals. People who require respiratory therapy are extremely sick, and it requires extreme care and empathy to be able to take care of patients in such acute condition. Our RT was telling us about how much they worked during the pandemic and would not leave the floor for insane periods of time. She told us about how they all stayed over time every single day. She even talked about how she needed to buy nice sneakers because of how much they run around. And above all, despite working so much, she still was so passionate about what she does, even saying she will stay late and set extra things up because she loves seeing the relief of patients when they are finally able to breathe.

Overall, I never really thought about RTs, but I now understand they are an absolute integral part of the health care team, and a truly amazing resource. The way in which you breathe really guides how anxious/distressed you might feel, and as RTs are solely focused on making sure patients can breathe comfortably, they are truly at the center of patient care.

Looking at Us: Lucius Downey, IT Tech and Children’s Book Author

Lucius Downey in bookstore
Lucius Downey, a UConn IT desktop support manager, created a children’s book character based on his son, Tyler. His first book, Tyler Travels New York City, is available at the UConn Health bookstore and on his website, tylerclub29.com, along with t-shirts, hats, and the Tyler doll on his left. (Photo by Chris DeFrancesco)

Lucius Downey is in his 10th year working for UConn Health’s Department of Information Technology, where he recently accepted a promotion to the position of desktop support manager. He had been a technical analyst for the last six years, and was a contract employee before that. He is also a children’s book author. His first published book, Tyler Travels New York City, is available at retailers, including the UConn Health Bookstore, and via tylerclub29.com and Amazon.

Downey lives in New Britain with his son, Tyler, who turns 12 Sept. 29.

Lucius Downey

Luicius Downey environmental portraitFavorite movie:
“Coming to America”

Favorite actor:
Denzel Washington

Person you’d most like to meet: Tyler Perry

Favorite place to visit:
I would like to visit Hawaii or Alaska.

Something about you today your younger self would never believe:
That I would live outside of New York City

What was it like working in IT during the height of the pandemic?

During the height of the pandemic, it was very busy. The first few weeks were very challenging, but we were able to work through those challenges and resolve many issues. One of the challenges was preparing equipment for our users to work from home.

What would you say is the most misunderstood thing about the work you do?

I think technicians can make the work look easy, so some will assume it is, but we face challenges as well.

What is the most rewarding thing about your work at UConn Health?

My job is to provide desktop and hardware support to our staff. The most rewarding thing is being able to resolve technical issues for our users. I really love helping people.

You’re also a children’s book author. How did that come to be, and when did you start?

I started writing music and poetry at a very young age, but never a book. During the pandemic, I wanted to try something new and challenge myself, so I started writing children’s books. I wanted the books to be of significance to me, so I decided to write the book with my son, Tyler, as the main character.

I took a picture of him when he was three years old, and I handed it off to a friend of mine who’s an illustrator. His name is LaMont Russ. From that picture, we created the character, and from there we created the story. We also have a small cartoon on YouTube. Tyler’s 11 years old now. He’s into sports, he loves pizza, he loves riding bikes, and he loves reading as well. So that was the inspiration behind this entire project. We would like to have not only books for students, but also an app. At some point, we will finish up the app and then we’ll move on to other subjects for school, but right now we’re focusing on reading.

Cover of book "Tyler Travels New York City"

How many have you written/published? What can you tell us about your body of work as an author?

Currently, I have about seven books finished and waiting to be published. Tyler Travels New York City is the first book I’ve published that is part of the TYLERCLUB29 traveling series. Tyler will travel to a different location in every book. He just so happens to go to New York City in the first book because that’s where I was born and raised. In addition to the travel series, I also have other books I’ve written which I plan to publish as well. The next book to be released is Tyler It’s Time. In that particular book, it’s time for something — time for practice, time for school — and that particular series will rhyme.

Learn more about Downey’s creative work at tylerclub29.com.

Making Positive Changes in a Slow but Productive Way

Linda York portrait
Linda York is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at UConn Health. (Photo by Tina Encarnacion)

As a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at UConn Health, every day I am educating patients on their diet for various reasons.

Perhaps it’s how to eat a lower-fat, healthier diet to lose weight, how to eat a consistent carbohydrate meal plan to achieve better glucose control, or how to improve gastrointestinal symptoms by making dietary modifications. Whatever it is, it involves change. As we all know, achieving change can be overwhelming.

Why is that? In the Fogg Behavior Model explained in the book Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything, author B.J. Fogg explains that there is a relationship between three factors: motivation, ability, and prompt. He explains that motivation can be on a scale of 0 to 10, and the higher your motivation the easier it is to do something. However, we need something to prompt us to do something. These prompts or cues for me could be that before I go downstairs, I bring my running clothes and sneakers so it is easy to put them on and do my morning run.

Another important point is to have specific little habits that you do which will add up to losing weight versus having a goal of just losing weight. An example could be, every time I sit down to eat I am going to drink 2 cups of water. This will fill me up and help me to eat less at that meal, and help me stay hydrated. Perhaps feeling good about drinking those 6 cups of water will help you to then eat at least half of the plate of veggies. One good tiny habit leads to the other.

How many times have you heard to do a half hour of aerobic exercise every day? Perhaps if you try to do a five-minute walk at the same time every day, you will be successful at being consistent in that five-minute walk and gradually will increase your walk to 10 minutes and so on until you get to your goal of 30 minutes each day. Eventually, walking for a half hour and drinking two cups of water before each meal will become a habit.

So next time you want to make a change such as learn a language, lose some weight, or become a better listener, break it down and achieve one tiny habit at a time.

—Linda York M.S., R.D., CDCES

Linda York is a Sodexo dietitian who works in the outpatient clinic at UConn Health.

Looking at Us: Registered Dietitians

‘Changing the Way People and Patients Eat, One Plate at a Time,’ a perspective from UConn Health dietitian Linda York

Linda York portrait
Linda York is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at UConn Health. (Photo by Tina Encarnacion)

You have seen them around – perhaps in the NICU, on the medical floors, in the cafeteria, at medical meetings, education seminars, in the outpatient cancer center or diabetes nutrition clinic. Who are they? They are the registered dietitians of UConn Health, employed by Sodexo. (Sodexo is a worldwide food service company for hospitals, companies and other venues and has been at UConn Health for several years.)

March is National Nutrition Month so our Sodexo registered dietitians will be in the cafeteria featuring a weekly theme and a delicious recipe from Sodexo.  Chef Roland will prepare a sample of the recipe for you to taste.

Here is a summary of the weekly themes presented for National Nutrition Month.

Week 1: Kerry Coughlin, MSRD, kicks it off with “Smart Tips to Build a Healthy Salad.”

Week 2: Hannah Anctil, R.D., presents “Eating on the Run in 2021.”

Week 3: Erin McDonald, R.D., offers “Power Up Breakfast.”

Week 4: William Kelsey, R.D., features a cultural food theme.

National Nutrition Month 2021 logo
(provided by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)

The other Sodexo registered dietitians at UConn Health who are working behind the scenes for National Nutrition month are Erica Burdon, MSRD, Chris Carnright, MSRD and myself.

And who keeps us all organized? That would be Melissa Kelly, MSRD, Sodexo hospital clinical manager, who not only manages the R.D. staff, she also offers her clinical expertise and guidance in all areas of clinical nutrition.

Be sure to check Lifeline for posts featuring the weekly recipe/handout done by our Sodexo registered dietitians.

And next time you see one of us, please say hello. We are here for you!

—Linda York MSRD, CDCES

Meet CAO Janel Simpson

Chief Administrative Officer Janel Simpson joins UConn Health with a combination of private- and public-sector experience. For the last six years she’s been at the Department of Social Services, a $7.6 billion state agency, most recently in the role of deputy commissioner. She spent the majority of her career before that in the insurance industry, including HSB, the Hartford, and the Phoenix. Janel holds an MBA in finance and strategic initiative from Columbia University, and a BA in mathematics from Clark University. She arrived to UConn Health Aug. 30.

Janel Simpson portrait
Janel Simpson, UConn Health chief administrative officer (Photo by Tina Encarnacion)

Describe your role at UConn Health?

My role is a little different than the former chief administrative officer. I have responsibilities for administrative services, including the oversight of administrative policy development and implementation, auxiliary operations, child care and wellness centers, parking and transportation, environment of care, and life safety. Responsibilities also include development of decision support function and liaison to the “One UConn” effort.

What brought you here?

The opportunity to work in an environment with amazingly dedicated and talented individuals where the work feels meaningful. This is a great opportunity to utilize my experience in operations, strategy, finance, IT. I enjoy working in environments where no two days are alike and you learn to expect the unexpected. I can honestly say, I have experienced all that in my short tenure thus far.

What about your experience will help you in this role?

The ability to prioritize, keep the “big picture” in mind while addressing the “smaller” items that may deliver large returns in short timeframes. The ability to multitask, crisis management, being able to operate, remain calm and make critical decisions under pressure.

At DSS your clients are individuals with food insecurities, need for cash assistance, medical coverage, fuel assistance, etc. When I started, our timeliness for providing benefits for our clients ranked us in the bottom 5% in the nation, leading to the filing of three federal lawsuits against the department. This placed us under a great deal of scrutiny by those we served, the media, state and federal governments.

The department gained a reputation of not caring or not doing enough, though we had some of the most dedicated and committed individuals who really wanted to make a difference. The agency had a 27-year-old antiquated system supporting an equally antiquated paper process. We had to change our technology, process, culture, and narrative simultaneously.

It was the most challenging time. Regardless, we worked as a team to define and achieve our goals. We restructured the organization, redesigned our processes, implemented a new $350 million eligibility system, and changed our culture. Connecticut is recognized by the federal government as the gold standard for system implementation, top two and top ten nationally for timely processing of SNAP and Medicaid eligibility respectively. With these changes, Connecticut received $6 million in bonus funding from the federal government. The department successfully satisfied all terms and conditions of all three federal lawsuits in less than three years.

What do you see as the most promising and challenging aspects of being CAO at UConn Health?

The promising thing is that whatever challenge we face, we have the team in place to tackle it. You see it exemplified every day.

Like other state agencies, and frankly, many private companies, you must achieve your goals with finite resources and fewer dollars than one’s spending needs. Here at UConn Health we all have the same overarching goal, together we must and will achieve it.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I volunteer my time mentoring middle and high school girls of color.

Spotlight on Services: Orthodontics

Dr. Flavio Uribe
Dr. Flavio Uribe, UConn School of Dental Medicine

Whether the need is for a straighter smile or better bite, the Center for Orthodontic Care at UConn Health, located in the 6th floor of the Outpatient Pavilion on the Farmington campus, is ready to offer a customized treatment approach. Dr. Flavio Uribe, interim chair of the UConn School of Dental Medicine Division of Orthodontics, is clinic director.

Why is a healthy smile so important, particularly in children?

Creating beautiful smiles that will have a lasting effect on the well-being of our patients is at the core of what we do as orthodontists.

Smiles are contagious and help to spread positivity and joy. Children’s perception of their smile can influence their self-esteem and psychosocial development. Having a beautiful smile can help patients look and feel better about themselves, which has a significant impact on multiple aspects of their life.

As orthodontists, we are always striving to provide unique and beautiful smiles to our patients, and we believe that every patient deserves to feel the self-confidence that results from orthodontic treatment.

What about the overall health aspects of orthodontic care?

While there are numerous aesthetic and psychosocial benefits associated with a beautiful smile, one of the fundamental principles of our profession is to create an oral environment that fosters proper function and overall dental health.

It is typically recommended that children begin seeing an orthodontist by the age of 7 to evaluate their growth and overall dental development. Starting at this age, there is a potential for intervention which can help prevent worsening of dental problems. This is also the age during which psychosocial development may be the most impacted.

What are some recent advances in care that the Center for Orthodontic Care can offer?

There have been many exciting developments in the field of orthodontics over the past couple of decades which have helped to broaden the scope of treatment we are able to provide as well as aid in providing faster, more efficient treatment. Advances such as 3D imaging, digital scanners, and the mainstream use of clear aligners are some of the ways in which we can treat a range of complex malocclusions (misalignment of the teeth or bite) that once may have been difficult.

The added benefit of innovation in orthodontics has been improving the ease and accessibility of orthodontic care, which continues to reach a broader spectrum of patients from what was once predominantly children and adolescents to more and more adults seeking orthodontic treatment.

We take pride in staying on the cutting edge of technology and research to provide our patients with the highest standard of orthodontic care possible.

How is it determined if a patient is a candidate for braces (or other orthodontic intervention)?

It starts with a screening examination to determine if the patient would benefit from braces. (There is no charge for this initial examination.)

If we determine the patient would benefit, the next step is a records appointment, where we do imaging work, take models of the teeth, conduct a thorough clinical exam, and review medical history.

From there we come up with a diagnosis and a treatment plan. Sometimes this can include surgical orthodontics first before we can proceed with braces. We then discuss the risks and benefits of the proposed treatment with the patient (and parent, when applicable), answer their questions, and if all are in agreement, we move forward.

What should we know about “invisible” braces?

Traditional braces involve metal or ceramic brackets or bands that are glued to the teeth. A wire runs through each one to gradually move the teeth over time, resulting in a corrected bite and/or smile.

An alternative to traditional braces is a clear-aligner treatment, commonly known as Invisalign. This treatment uses transparent orthodontic devices that are removable, although we recommend leaving them in all the time to get the desired results. As the brand name suggests, the aligners are nearly invisible, which makes this approach very popular. It can be a treatment option in many circumstances.

Learn more about orthodontic care at UConn Health, or call 860-679-2664 for an appointment.

Spotlight on Services: Transport

UConn Health transport aide Howard Fairley brings a patient to his hospital room. “I love the job. I give it all I got. I was hired on Valentine’s Day and fell in love with the job,” he says. (Photo by Kristin Wallace)

Often when patients come to the UConn John Dempsey Hospital, particularly for surgical procedures, the first and last people they encounter during their stay are the transport aides. UConn Health has 25 transport aides: nine full-time staff, 12 part-time staff, and four students. They are a unit within the Office of Logistics Management that works around the clock, and as such, are considered Level 1 (essential) staff.

Describe the role of transport aides and how they fit into our care delivery mission?

“First and foremost, they’re transporting inpatients,” says Alex Schwarz, who supervises the transport aides. “They’re also moving specimens, they’re getting and moving equipment (such as stretchers or wheelchairs) when it’s needed, they’re rounding, they’re responding to Code Blues, Rapid Response Team calls,  in addition to the massive transfusion protocols. Sometimes they’re the first ones to see the patients, and usually they’re the last people the patients talk to before heading home. They can leave a lasting impression of the care we offer here.”

“Even though they’re not treating patients, they play a vital role, in that they get the patients where they need to be for treatment,” says Logistics Management Director Jeff Boyko. “Whether it’s bringing patients down for CT scans or X-rays, or moving specimens and equipment, they focus on getting people and things where they need to go so our doctors and nurses can focus on patient care.”

“People are feeling sick, we’re trying to help them get better, so they can move on,” says Howard Fairley, who, in his third decade in the role, is UConn Health’s most veteran transport aide. “We do whatever we need to do as far as transporting them, and then help the nurse do all that she does, so we can get this patient down to the doctor and it all can run smoothly and safely.”

“Any patient or anything patient-related, we’re here to move,” Schwarz says. “We averaged 169 transports per day in December.”

UConn Health transport aides (from left): Howard Fairley, Anna Kustra, Brian Schramm, Gabriela Buksza, Sean Reynolds, and Gwen Williams
UConn Health transport aides (from left): Howard Fairley, Anna Kustra, Brian Schramm, Gabriela Buksza, Sean Reynolds, and Gwen Williams (Photo by Alex Schwarz)

What are their qualifications?

“Our transport aides are CPR-certified,” Schwarz says. “They go through crisis prevention intervention (CPI) training, which teaches them to recognize the signs of patients or visitors who may go from exhibiting normal behavior to becoming agitated, then agitated escalating to aggressive, then aggressive to violent; it teaches them what to do to keep themselves safe and to try de-escalate the situation.”

“We also look for people with experience in a hospital or clinical setting, transporting patients, transitioning them from different modes of transport. They also have experience with the equipment, such as patient lifts, and they are trained in safe patient handling and two-step identification to verify they’re moving the correct patient.”

“You try to make the patients feel comfortable in a sick situation,” Fairley says. “You try to feel them out first, to see how you can uplift their spirits, to make them feel that this is going to be OK.”

What are the most rewarding/challenging aspects of the job?

“I really enjoy the patients,” Fairley says. “I try to come across friendly and easy to talk to, and I want them to feel that way, to help them feel more at ease about their medical situation.”

“There was this one older gentleman who had heart surgery, and he was just fretting, saying he was going to die. I spoke to him, I said, ‘Life and death is about your tongue. Speak life, and live!’ Four days later, he was so happy, when I saw him he said, ‘Hi, my friend!’ I get joy out of seeing that. It’s all about the patient. That’s pretty much the way we do it.”

“It can be a challenge when the patient doesn’t really want to be here, but that’s understandable. When a patient’s not nice, you’ve got to find your way around that and not take it personally. They’re sick, they’re hurting, they may be angry, they may receive bad news from the doctor. When someone gets a bad report, or doesn’t make it, those are some of the things you deal with. It weighs on a person to see stuff like that.”

What’s an example of when the transport aides are moving something other than patients?

“When someone’s in the O.R. for a surgery or a mother’s giving birth, if the patient starts losing blood, UConn Health has a massive transfusion protocol,” Schwarz says. “Many departments are notified, including ours. Transport’s role is to go get the requisition for the blood, haul up to the blood bank, get that blood, and run back and forth with the blood, which obviously is a pretty critical component.”

How far back does the role of transport aide go, and what has changed?

“Transport goes back to the start of the hospital and used to be a function of what today we call Facilities Management and Operations,” Schwarz says. “It was under Nursing for a while, and in 2013 it came under Logistics Management.”

“The job has remained pretty much the same over the years in terms of responsibilities. But the way that we log the calls and the way that we track performances have changed throughout the years. When transport moved to logistics, they were logging all the calls that came through. We had someone dedicated to answering the phone, taking all the calls and handwriting all of the calls that came through on a log, and then they were going into Excel after the fact and they were transcribing everything that was written into the log. Then we moved toward having an Excel log, in which they directly entered the information. We had all kinds of formulas set up in the spreadsheet, and we gained some efficiency and reporting capabilities. And now we’ve moved to UConn HealthONE, so we don’t even have that person sitting on the phone anymore. That individual is basically an on-shift lead person who’s actually out there helping with the calls, which I think has proven to be beneficial. On average, 97 percent of the calls are completed within 16 minutes of being requested. Before HealthONE the average would fall between 20 to 23 minutes.”

How do we request a transport?

“Basically anything patient-related that needs to be transported within the hospital should be placed into HealthONE,” Schwarz says. “Everyone should have access to place patient and non-patient transport requests. Our transporters sign in to HealthONE, which assigns them to the calls on a rotating basis, subject to availability.”

Looking at Us: Dr. Alan Lurie, 45 Years and Counting

Alan Lurie and his father (1974)
Do you recognize Dr. Alan Lurie without a beard? Pictured here in 1974, Dr. Lurie says his father, Mitchell Lurie (left), was his favorite musician and used to be “pretty widely considered the greatest clarinetist in the world.” Dr. Lurie is an accomplished concert pianist and says a career in classical music was a close second to oral radiology. (Photo provided by Alan Lurie)

He most likely has been at UConn Health longer than you have. Dr. Alan Lurie, professor and chair of the UConn School of Dental Medicine Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, recently was recognized for 45 years of service. UConn Health is the only place he’s ever worked full-time. He started as an assistant professor of oral and maxillofacial radiology and has been division chair for the last 28 years. Dr. Lurie lives in West Hartford with his wife, Dr. Susanne Shrader, who’s a UConn School of Medicine alum. They have three adult children and three grandchildren.

How has your role here changed over the years?

I was here for almost 20 years, most of that time spent being a scientist working on radiation cancer induction and interaction with chemicals. I did some teaching and clinic coverage, but I was mainly in the lab. And then in 1990, the person who had been the chair the whole time, Allan Reiskin, left the institution, and they asked me if I would take it over. I had to think about that, because when you do that you can’t be a lab scientist anymore. I accepted that, and I saw a shift in my research over to collaborative clinical and translational research, and then got involved with administration of research programs, of oral biology, of the DMD-Ph.D. program, and before that the residency Ph.D. program, then known as the dentist-scientist award. I shifted gears frequently.

Dr. Alan Lurie

Alan LurieFavorite book:
The Lord of the Rings

Favorite author:
David Brin

Favorite musical:
Tie between “My Fair Lady” and “West Side Story”

Favorite actress:
Kate Beckinsale

Favorite place to visit:
The Brazilian Pantanal

Person I’d most like to meet:
Barack Obama

Something about me that my younger self would never believe:
I like birding, and I have parrots living in the house with me: Prestwick (military macaw) and Ava (African grey parrot).

What would you say are the biggest changes that have taken place in the dental school over 45 years?

When I first came here, there wasn’t a CT (computed tomography) machine in the institution. I don’t believe there was one in the state. There’ve been so many big changes. CT shows up, MR (magnetic resonance) shows up, nuclear medicine shows up, PET (positron emission tomography) scans, molecular imaging, cone beam CT, all of these things didn’t exist, and they’re still showing up. You have to be very nimble to be in radiology because it’s advancing so rapidly, and I think that the advances over the next quarter of a century are just going to be astonishing.

When I arrived here, this dental school was unique in the history of dental schools. It was truly creating a physician stomatologist, scientifically based. The interaction between the medical and dental wings of this institution was very very close, very very intense. We were really in a partnership. It was very small. I arrived here after the first class graduated, and I think there were eight people; and then the next class, the first class I taught, I think there were 12 people, and the medical school was about 24 people. The faculty was small. Everybody knew everybody. It was very intimate, what today would be called evidence-based (back then it was called science-based) medicine and dental medicine. The student body has always been a powerhouse. We’ve always had a very strong faculty. We’ve almost always been on top of technological advances.

Probably we have been best known for our emphasis on the science behind imaging and the safe imaging of patients. We’ve had a lot of research on carcinogenesis and extrapolation out to risk, and what are the safest practices and how do you teach the safe practices. I think that’s had a fairly significant influence on the way radiology is taught and practiced.

When you first started in 1973, if someone told you that you’d be here for 45 years, how would you have reacted?

I can answer that in one word: disbelief.

For the first several years here, I was fully intending to return to my home state of California. However, over time, I really got entrenched in this area, and I became more and more committed to this institution, more and more committed to my personal health care providers, committed to giving my children a stable environment and school system and friends. I just got to like it more and more.

What motivates you to keep coming to work at the same place every day for as long as you have?

Great students, great residents, terrific staff and faculty colleagues, and an interesting job that’s quite variable in its texture. I can control its shifts from clinical activities to teaching to doing collaborative research and overseeing other people doing research and helping them, and participating in national activities. It’s quite variable and that keeps it interesting.

What are your plans moving forward?

I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I like it too much. I’m having too much fun. There’s something new happening in my field like every week, so I’m just waiting to see the next thing.

What makes the UConn School of Dental Medicine so successful and highly regarded?

It’s a variety of things. I think the smallness is a great strength, because it lets you be very selective in your student and resident selection. It also lets you be selective in your faculty. I think we always had a very strong faculty. We still have many close relationships with people in the medical school and in the hospital, and so there’s a good deal of interactive teaching in patient care and residency training. The science that’s coming out of the dental school is still a leader in the world. We have world-renowned scientists and leaders through the dental school, and I think with the addition of the Biomedical Engineering Department and the sharing between the schools and with Storrs has the potential to become something really tremendous, because that’s playing to our strengths. Interactions in imaging and in medically complex patients and in cancer patients and especially in bone and musculoskeletal, are ongoing major strengths of this place.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

I’m a serious classical pianist. I have been all my life. That was my other career choice. I was a guest artist in the Casals Festival in 2015. I run a chamber music trio (we’ve been together over 20 years now) and we play annually on commencement weekend here. Our name is The Noteworthy Ensemble; my wife plays violin and viola, and Gwen Winkel, the music director for the Simsbury school system, plays clarinet and ancient wind instruments. My parents were both professional musicians, so I grew up in a household of classical music, and I’ve been at the keyboard since I was 6.

I love golf. I’m a competent player. I used to be a pretty good player, but it’s hard to be good when you’re 72.

I’ve done quite a bit of birding around the world, in Japan, Europe, South America, the U.S., and in New Zealand (my daughter lives in New Zealand). I’ve led a few birding-based eco tours in Latin America. I love birds. There are a couple of birds that have been living in our home for over a quarter of a century.

I’m a big sports fan. My favorite team is the Patriots, and my second favorite team is – most people won’t know what it is –the All Blacks, the national rugby team of New Zealand, probably the greatest dynasty in the history of team sports. I like all sports, I’ll watch any of it.

The other thing I love is science fiction, movies and books. I’ve been a member of the Science Fiction Book Club since two years after it was founded in 1956. I’ve been a member for 60 consecutive years and I’ve read hundreds if not thousands of science fiction novels and seen an awful lot of science fiction movies. My favorite is Godzilla. I was interested in radiation from the first time I saw Godzilla, and I was only 8 when I saw it. I watched science fiction and horror movies as a kid, and almost all of them were radiation – making things big, making things small, making things blow up – but it was always radiation. And in dental school I found out that there was a real science of radiation. That headed me into being a radiologist.