Looking at Us

Looking at Us: Bryan Gran Elevates UConn Health’s Readiness

Do you know what to do in an emergency? Chances are, you don’t have the level of preparedness Bryan Gran has. Bryan joined UConn Health as our emergency management program specialist in December and oversees our emergency operations planning and programs to ready us to respond to hazards and emergencies. It’s a serious task for a serious man with a serious background that includes decades of service first in the military and then in the Connecticut Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Bryan Gran presents at an emergency operations training session. (Photo provided by Bryan Gran)

You come with an impressive background. How has your experience shaped you into who you are today?

I have to say, first and foremost, that my experiences as a husband and father have shaped me into what I am today. Without my wife, Carol, of 35 years by my side I would not be where I am today both personally and professionally. I have spent my life in service starting with the military which I joined in 1981, at the age of 18. Through my 32 years of military service I saw the roles and missions of the military change from a Cold War emphasis to counter insurgency, nation building and now to the global war on terror. When September 11, 2001, happened, everything changed. As a member of the Connecticut National Guard our mission was immediately focused on the home front and homeland security; securing key infrastructure and protecting the citizens of Connecticut. Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 and our mission scope included supporting emergency management efforts, something that has continued through hurricane Sandy and numerous other storms and hazards. For me it’s about the desire to protect and serve; my family, my country, the citizens of Connecticut and now UConn Health.

What is the most common step most of us could take to make us better prepared for an emergency?

Preparedness starts with you, the individual. First, when disaster strikes you may not be with your family so have a plan. Your plan should include communication methods, contact rosters, emergency meeting locations, medical information, transportation plans and other key information that will assist you and your families in times of disaster. Having a plan will also help you concentrate on your own safety if you are not at home but at work and active in life saving response operations. Second, make a kit. There is no standard for kits but there are a few things to consider including medications, flashlights, batteries, meals ready to eat, water, first aid kits, whistles, matches, personal sanitation items, seasonal clothing, maps, cell phone chargers, identification, passports, etc. Third, be aware of your environment and surroundings and get involved, so if you “See Something Say Something” and get involved at home and at work. Talk to your family, friends, neighbors and coworkers about what to do in disasters.

Bryan Gran

Favorite movie
“Black Hawk Down”

Favorite vacation spot
Lake Champlain, Vermont, for fishing
Paris for the food, history and art

Favorite delicacy
Foie gras and smoked beef brisket

Something about you today that your younger self would never believe
I’m a grandfather, and I like Broadway

Favorite sports
Fishing, hunting and shooting

Why are drills/exercises so important?

Training and exercises (drills are a form of exercise) are important to everything we do, especially when it comes to emergencies. Training teaches us what to do while exercises help us practice what we learned. The more we train and exercise the more proficient we become and the more our actions become second nature and instinctive, allowing us to react quickly and effectively in a disaster. The Emergency Management Preparedness Cycle sums it up; plan, organize, train, exercise, evaluate and improve….and then do it again.

What are some questions we should ask ourselves in the name of emergency preparedness?

What is your role in your departments emergency action plan? Do you know two ways out of the building you’re in? Where will your assembly area be? Do you know how to get there? What if you have to leave campus, where will you go? Take a few minutes and talk to your family and coworkers about what you would do during an evacuation, a lockdown or if you received a notification to shelter in place. It only takes a few minutes and can save lives.

Do you have a not-so-serious side? What’s something you enjoy doing that’s not work-related?

No, not really, or not at least until I became a grandfather – where I act like a kid with excitement when I am around my one-year-old granddaughter Maggie.


Looking at Us: Cliff Williams, Electrician of the Comedy Circuit

Spend enough time in a UConn Health building and there’s a good chance you’ll cross paths with a tall, lanky, bearded fellow in a tradesman’s uniform… and he’ll try to make you laugh. Known to many as “The Joke Guy,” Cliff Williams joined UConn Health 16 years ago for a job that, despite our comical encounters with him, is actually pretty serious. He lives in Farmington with his wife, Joan, who also works at UConn Health, as a business services manager in the UConn School of Dental Medicine.

Cliff Williams is an electrician who’s been known to share a joke or two with UConn Health colleagues on his way to or from a job site, like this generator room in the University Tower. (Photo by Janine Gelineau)

What is your day job?

My job here is not being the joke man, that’s for sure. I’m a QCW electrician. QCW stands for “quality craft worker”—I didn’t dream up the silly name. In electrical, we’re responsible for maintaining the reliability of the electrical system in the Health Center, all the buildings here, and the outbuildings. We have certain maintenance things we do on a regular basis and also sometimes we’re scrambling because there’s a problem somewhere that needs to be corrected. It could be lights not working, or outlets not working, and we also assist the plumbers and the HVAC guys when they have electrical problems with their equipment. There’s a lot of stuff here, and no matter how well you maintain anything, stuff can break. That’s why we’re here, to try to keep the lights on and the power flowing for all of the patients and staff here.

A lot of folks here recognize you not as the electrician but as the tall bearded guy who tells jokes. How did that come to be?

I think this has been going on for maybe the last five or six years. Most of my jokes are puns. I happen to enjoy puns very much. I could have gotten that appreciation from [Hartford radio legend] Bob Steele. I admired his sense of humor and he did not tell any what he called “parlor” jokes, and I always liked that. There are people who see me and want me to stop and tell them a joke. They know that I’m normally good for a joke.

One thing that’s interesting is, I have a colleague, George Kazimierczak, also a QCW electrician. Sometimes George has a beard, and he’s tall and thin, and people often confuse the two of us. From time to time, people are stopping George in the elevator or walking down the hall and they are demanding a joke from him. Sometimes they don’t want to believe that he’s not me.

And I should point out, my corny jokes, women seem to appreciate them more than men. I could be in the elevator, and a woman will look at me and say, “Well?” And I say, “Excuse me? Well what?” And she’ll say “Aren’t you The Joke Guy? I’m waiting.” So to some degree, sometimes I’m on the spot to perform.

I’ve told well over a hundred jokes, but I don’t remember the ones I used last week.

Cliff Williams

Favorite movie

Favorite author
John Steinbeck

Favorite vacation spot
Tulum, Mexico

Favorite delicacy
Corned beef with sauerkraut

Something about you today that your younger self would never believe
That I’m still alive!

What’s one of your favorite jokes from over the years, that you can remember?

What’s the difference between a well-dressed man on a unicycle and a poorly dressed man on a bicycle?


Does it ever happen that people see you and try to avoid you because they don’t want to hear a joke?

No… oh, wait a minute. There’s one doctor, a researcher, Ph.D., he sees me and tries to avoid me. There is at least one person who tries to avoid me.

When you’re not at work, what do you like to do?

We enjoy very much working in our garden. Joan enjoys her flowers very much, and I’m in charge of the vegetable garden. We enjoy our annual vacation to Mexico in the winter, because it’s very nice to get out of here, and it’s much too cold to do yardwork anyway. Tulum, Mexico, has been our favorite place for eight or more years. And I do speak a little German. I actually know three and a half German jokes that I can tell, for what that’s worth.

Do you have a joke you’d like to leave us with?

What do dogs do that people step in?


Looking at Us: Alexis Crean, Human Resources

Alexis Crean brings a positive attitude to her role as HR organization and staff development specialist. (Photo by Janine Gelineau)
Alexis Crean brings versatility and a positive attitude to her role as HR organization and staff development specialist. (Photo by Janine Gelineau)

If you’ve attended an employee recognition event, employee orientation, or a professional development course, chances are you’ve met Alexis Crean, organization and staff development specialist in the UConn Health Department of Human Resources. And, chances are her role runs counter to your preconceived notions about HR. Alexis has been with UConn Health for 23 years, the last 19 in HR. She lives in East Hampton with her husband and two teen daughters.

Q: What are some of your responsibilities in UConn Health HR that perhaps historically are not associated with human resources in general?

I know that this might sound cliché but I really do believe that Human Resources is about what we can do to help the organization, and its people, become more successful. I have been the lucky recipient of working for some great individuals who have helped me shape my career and that is why I choose to give back every chance I get. I have found in my 23 years with the organization that one of the best ways to do that is to build strong relationships. It’s about having a one-on-one conversation with the new manager who isn’t getting the most out of her team, and then helping her to get more out of that team. It’s about helping employees understand their role in the future and why “our” organization values them. Yes, we all have to make sure that we are abiding by the rules and regulations but as an HR professional I always keep the person I am serving front and center, giving him or her the best I can offer.

Favorite movie:
“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

Favorite musician:

Favorite place to visit:
I love going to NYC any chance I get

Famous person you’d most like to meet:
Coco Channel

Favorite delicacy:
Colombian Empanadas

Q: How do you make your unique role in HR your own?

My mom always told me, “Bien predica quien bien vive”—“Lead by example.” That’s why I always keep a look out for ways that we can show employees that Human Resources really does care and that it’s not just talk. So if I can make an employees’ experience that much the better by offering a meaningful recognition event, or providing compassion during a difficult time, I am your person. People often say, “I wish I had your job because it looks like so much fun,” and I respond, “Thanks so much for saying so, and know that it is done with much thoughtfulness and attention to detail,” because I enjoy giving back to a community that I respect so much.

Q: What is something about UConn Health HR that you think is generally misunderstood?

To employees, HR could be the person they see only when something goes wrong. Yes, we‘re there when someone gets fired, during exit interviews or disputes, so it’s easy to see why Human Resources is commonly misunderstood. In my experience, being an HR professional is a constant balancing act of being an employee advocate, maintaining compliance, and acting in the best interest of the organization, ensuring that employees get recognized and offering resources to assist in developing their work and life balance.

Q: What do you find most rewarding about your role?

I am especially proud of the gift I have of visual storytelling. From the age of 5 years old I have been telling stories through pictures. I never thought that my passion would transcend into my daily work. It is so rewarding for me to take people’s messages and create a presentation or a visual that inspires understanding, action and change.

Q: Anyone who’s worked with you knows you always bring such positive energy. How do you maintain that so consistently?

Thank you, that is very kind of you to say! I subscribe to the Positive Attitudinal Effect. Meaning, the greatest thing about attitude is that it is the one thing we all have the ability to control. It’s a choice. You could say that my positive attitude is my secret sauce. A positive attitude has a positive impact on my productivity, work quality, service, innovation, and the emotional bond I feel with my colleagues, customers and family. It’s what I am trying to teach my daughters to practice, every day.

Q: What’s something you like to do outside of work?

We love our community and proudly give back to it through our family charity, the Turkey Plunge, which has raised $166,000 over the last seven years for our local food bank. There is something very satisfying about bringing together people, have some fun and making a difference in people’s lives!

Looking at Us: Karen and Bruce Nelson, Children’s Book Authors

By day they help deliver care in the Calhoun Cardiology Center. But in addition to their clinical roles at work and parenting responsibilities at home, Karen and Bruce Nelson write children’s books. In fact, they’re working on a series of children’s stories, the first of which, Mortimer the Wise, Book 1, was published last year. Karen, a staff nurse, and Bruce, a cardiovascular technologist, both work in the cardiac catheterization lab and have been married for nearly eight years. Together they have a 5-year-old son, Brucie, and they live in Southington.

Q: How did you come to be authors of children’s literature?

Bruce and Karen Nelson say their son, Brucie (center), is the inspiration for their series of children's books. (Photo provided by Bruce Nelson)
Bruce and Karen Nelson say their son, Brucie (center), is the inspiration for their series of children’s books. (Photo provided by Bruce Nelson)

Karen: Our son is the inspiration.

Bruce: We were reading all these children’s books to him over and over, and I thought I could write a better book than some of what I was reading. We are working on what we hope will be a series of probably 10 stories, each with its own life lesson. Book 1 basically introduces all the characters, and Book 2 will be about sharing. But the life lessons are inspired by our son, as a 5-year-old who sometimes struggles to find his way in terms of listening, sharing, patience, conflict resolution—things he hasn’t quite mastered yet, but hopefully he will. We try to keep it simple: “This is the lesson, you can’t really miss it.”

Karen: We have a rough list of all the characters and all the lessons for each book.

Q: How do you work together to write these stories?

Bruce: I’ve written poetry and have had a few poems published.

Karen: I don’t really write, but I’m a good storyteller. I’m one of those people who will dream in movie form. He is a stronger writer than I am.

Bruce: And she has a better imagination, but I can put it down, I can write it. We actually work really well together, as far as making the stories work, both for this series and another project we have in the works.

What is your favorite restaurant?
East Street Eatery, Wolcott

What is your favorite vacation spot?
Woodloch Pines, the Poconos

What is your favorite holiday?
Karen: Christmas
Bruce: Halloween

What is your favorite movie?
Karen: “Ever After”
Bruce: “Caddyshack”

Who is your favorite musician?
Karen: Billy Joel
Bruce: The Beatles

Q: Describe your experience with the publishing process?

Bruce: We were kicking around the idea in January 2015, and actually started the process in April, putting the book in paragraph form to submit to the publisher. A woman we work with in the cath lab, Patty Fagan, her cousin owns a publishing company in Maine, Goose River Press. We asked Christy Meyer, who worked with us as the time, if she’d like to draw for us, and she was overjoyed—it turns out it was her life’s ambition to illustrate children’s books. It took another five months to put everything together, tweaking it, setting all the pages, putting the pictures together so they fit the story, things like that.

Karen: And it was funny, my daughter, who was 12 at the time, proofread it for us, which helped keep it simple and more understandable for kids.

Q: What have you learned from this endeavor?

Karen: It’s taught us to really focus our attention, instead of flipping out on the child, to, “What is the issue, what do we want the end result to be?” And we tailor our energies to altering the behavior rather than just yelling about it.

Bruce: The book has definitely been a lesson for the both of us too. It’s definitely taught us both patience for sure, me especially.

Q: Where do we find Mortimer the Wise, Book 1?

Bruce: It’s available online, but we prefer to sell it ourselves, so we can sign copies for people. We also sold a few copies to the Connucopia Gift Shop, so it’s available there too, both in the main building and the kiosk in the Outpatient Pavilion.

Looking at Us: Mark Koziol, Maintenance/Grounds Crew

Mark Koziol, maintenance employee, doing leaf clean-up in the center courtyard of the main building at UConn Health. (Photo by Janine Gelineau)
Mark Koziol, maintenance employee, doing leaf clean-up in the center courtyard of the main building at UConn Health. (Photo by Janine Gelineau)

Mark Koziol, 33-years old from Plainville, works on the grounds crew in the Maintenance Dept. He’s worked at UConn Health for 13 years, he’s married and the father of an 8-month old girl. This time of year, Mark and his fellow grounds crew workers are extremely busy with – you guessed it – cleaning up leaves. It’s an extremely time-consuming job considering the size of our campus which stretches 209 acres and includes our Munson Road, 195 and 400 Farmington Avenue locations. That’s a whole lot of leaves to get rid of.

Q: Other than leaf clean-up – what are some of your other job responsibilities?
It really depends on the time of year. We do landscape maintenance so in the spring and summer we’re mowing, tree and hedge trimming, mulching, planting flowers, and cutting the ivy – that needs to be done several times a year.

This time of year, it’s cleaning up the leaves and cutting down the day lilies and ornamental grasses. Then when winter comes – it’s a whole another story.  We have to remove the snow and spread salt on all the sidewalks, parking lots and roads here on campus and our nearby locations.  We also have to clear the snow from the garages, otherwise it’s too much weight. We plow the snow and then we find a designated safe place to dump it off the garage. That takes a long time.

I typically start my day at 6 a.m. but if we get a major snow storm we come in when we’re needed and work around the clock until all the snow is cleared. We stay overnight here if it’s necessary. Our department has couches or we sleep in our trucks. Depending on the storm, we can end up being here for a few days. Last year we were lucky so this year we’ll see what happens.

And then throughout the year, we’re in charge of the litter pick-up.

Who is your favorite actor? Robert De Niro

What’s your favorite junk food? Pizza

What’s your favorite sports team? Red Sox

What is your favorite holiday? Christmas

If you could meet someone “famous” who would you most like to meet? “Big Papi” David Ortiz

Q: Is littering a big problem on campus?
A:  Usually it’s the patients who are messy.  The employees really are not that bad.

Q: What job do you like the best?
Well, fall is my favorite time of year and I never seem to get tired of leaf blowing.

Q:  Overall, why do you like working here?
I enjoy working in this field and being outside. The people are nice, too.  I’ve met lots of nice people through the years.

I also like the variety.  Every season brings something different.  And this campus has changed tremendously since I started back in 2003. When I started, there was no MARB or Outpatient Pavilion. There was a greenhouse there. I remember the Butler buildings and Dowling North and South. The campus has really expanded for the better but then again, it also means we have a lot more work than we used to.