Fit and Fun: Corporate Challenge race winners extol the joys of running

The female runners from Upstate who won first place in the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge’s Syracuse division say they run for fun and for fitness. Winning is nice, too.

Mandy Brown, Meghan Dwyer, Ellen Furnari and Christina Phelan had a collective time of 1:36:08 in the 3.5-mile race, beating the second-place women’s team, from Crouse Hospital, by more than 3½ minutes. Brown left Upstate after the race, so Jenna Fronce will take her spot on the team when it competes at the international level next year.

The annual race attracted 7,864 runners, joggers and walkers in 2015, including 96 who work at Upstate. It’s held in June at Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool and benefits different local charities. This year it was Honor Flight Syracuse, the organization that flies local war veterans to see military memorials in Washington, D.C.

Here’s more about the Upstate runners:

Mandy Brown

Mandy Brown

Registered nurse Mandy Brown

Age: 33

Time: 23:00 minutes

Why she runs: “Because I can! For my health, and to be a good example for my children.”

Her start: “I started running when I was in fifth grade at our elementary district track meets. I did not like racing, though, so after that I just ran for fun. When I joined the Army was when I started racing for times again. “

Best running memory: “I have digestive tract paralysis, gastroparesis, and I registered for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Marathon in Columbus, Ohio. I struggled with symptoms restricting me to a liquid diet for almost three years and was only planning to just finish the race, as I loved high-fiving the patient champions at every mile. I ended up having a great race and qualifying for Boston. It was an amazing day that I will never forget.”


Meghan Dwyer

Meghan Dwyer

Occupational therapist Meghan Dwyer

Age: 27

Time: 24:57 minutes

Why she runs: “My running helps me maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

Her start: “I played lacrosse at Mercyhurst College.  Following graduation, I took up running in order to stay healthy.”

Her advice: “Everyone should take up running, because it has a positive impact on not only physical health, but mental health as well.  If running a mile seems impossible, try intervals of walking and running (run two minutes, walk one minute, repeatedly throughout the mile) until activity tolerance improves, and you’ll be churning out miles in no time. Anyone can do it.”

Jenna Fronce

Jenna Fronce

Registered nurse Jenna Fronce

Age: 24

Time: 26:19 minutes

Why she runs: “I run mainly to stay in shape. I do have a love for running and feel the best afterwards versus any other workout I’ve ever participated in.”

Her start: “I began running in ninth grade while training for field hockey, when I realized that even though I wasn’t in shape at all, running came naturally easy for me. I tried out for varsity track later that year and qualified for sectionals every season.”

Her advice: “I always hear people say, ‘I don’t have the body to run.’ That is so far from the truth. I’ve had runners who appear to be overweight pass me at the finish line.”

Ellen Furnari

Ellen Furnari

Administrative assistant Ellen Furnari

Age: 29

Time: 25:42 minutes

Why she runs: “It’s fun and allows me to be a part of a community of supportive, smart and fun folks.”

Her start: “I started running when I was 16. Before that, running was something that I did up and down the field with a field hockey or lacrosse stick in my hand or on the basketball court. I never seemed to feel tired, though, so I decided to join the track team instead of basketball that winter.”

Her advice: “I wouldn’t recommend registering for a marathon on a whim. However, if you put in the effort, take your time and stick to a plan — and maybe you have to walk/run in the beginning — that is OK — you will absolutely see a positive change. Remember, though: A lot about running is simply being comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Christina Phelan

Christina Phelan

Pharmacist Christina Phelan 

Age: 30

Time: 22:29 minutes

Why she runs: “It keeps me sane! It is my way to de-stress and also enjoy the outdoors. I love it when I can wake up and get my run in early before work, too. It starts the day out right.”

Her start: High school

Her advice: “Getting out the door is the hardest part! Once you’ve started, you probably won’t regret it. Plus, it’s a good excuse to eat a cookie or two.”

Biggest misconception non-runners have about running: “That you have to be fast, and be able to run for miles. Everyone has to start somewhere.”

Layout 1This article appears in the fall 2015 issue of Upstate Health magazine.



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Grateful patient gives back in honor of her ‘new life’ after transplant

IMG_20140818_081132_757 (3)

Michelle Mastropolo recovers from her kidney transplant in August 2014 with the support of her spouse, Carol Ann Davies.

When she was 22, Michelle Mastropolo learned she had polycystic kidney disease, an incurable genetic disease that took the lives of her mother and then her brother. Thirty years later, in early 2014, she was diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure. Mastropolo went on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.

Kidney chain Operation

Vaughn Whittaker, MD, during kidney transplant surgery.

“My kidney function was at 20 percent and dropping,” she explained. “By August, it was at 4 percent.” Waste from proteins was accumulating in her blood and making her feel sick. Her levels of creatinine, a product of metabolism, were hundreds of times what was normal. Yet, she was still trying to keep a normal life for her spouse, Carol Ann Davies, and daughter Julia. They were at a family party in Skaneateles when she received the call from the transplant coordinator, Ellen Havens: Get to Upstate, now. They had a kidney waiting.

“I had the operation at 2:30 that morning, and by 9 a.m. I was out of recovery and in the intensive care unit,” she recalled. The entire transplant team gathered at her bedside to celebrate what Mastropolo calls her miracle. “They were beaming, and we shared happy tears.”

Two days later she celebrated her birthday and began enjoying some things her illness made impossible. Simple things like chicken Parmesan for dinner (many foods are restricted with PKD as it can cause potassium to build up to dangerous levels) and being able to attend her daughter’s violin recital. Walking and then golfing again followed.

Mastropolo and Davies were inspired to plan and host a golf tournament as a way of saying thank you to her team at Upstate University Hospital. The 2015 tournament raised $10,000 and supports the Organ Donation and Transplant Fund, established at the Upstate Foundation, which helps post-transplant patients with personal expenses related to their health care needs.

“Organizing this tournament was our way of giving back for the extraordinary care and support I received as a patient. Thanks to this incredible team, I began my new life at age 53,” said Mastropolo. She and Davies are planning the second Transplant Tournament for 2016 (click here for its website).

About the transplant program at Upstate

Upstate University Transplant Services offers a comprehensive kidney transplant program for patients suffering from end-stage renal (kidney) disease, the final stage of kidney failure. Upstate surgeons perform nearly 50 kidney transplants annually (more than 4,100 transplants to date) making Upstate’s kidney transplant program one of the most experienced kidney transplant programs in the region.

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(From left) Whittaker, assistant professor of surgery and transplant program director; Mastropolo; Davies; and transplant social worker Tania Lyons at the check presentation. Mastropolo said that when a friend saw the check on Facebook for $9,875 — the proceeds from the golf tournament — she immediately made a contribution to bring the total to an even $10,000.


This article appears in the fall 2015 issue of Upstate Health magazine.Layout 1



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Recipe: Couscous With Cranberries, Mint and Pine Nuts

iStock_000015019497_LargeThis simple dish combines cranberries and toasted pine nuts with fluffy, protein-rich couscous (wheat granules or semolina), which is lower in calories than rice or other pastas.


1-1/2 cups dried cranberries

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups boiling water

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup couscous

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1/4 cup pine nuts


In a large bowl, combine couscous with cinnamon, cranberries, salt, oil and lemon juice. Add boiling water, cover bowl and let everything steam for 10 to 15 minutes.

Toast pine nuts in a medium-hot dry skillet until golden brown and do not leave unattended. Set aside until ready for use.

Separate the couscous with a fork and fold in the fresh chopped herbs and toasted pine nuts.

Nutritional information

This recipe yields eight 3/4-cup portions, each containing:

218 calories

4 grams protein

42 grams carbohydrate

5 grams total fat

zero cholesterol

80 milligrams sodium

3 grams fiber

— Recipe from Morrison Healthcare, food service provider for Upstate Medical University

Layout 1This article appears in the fall 2015 issue of Upstate Health magazine.

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Upstate duo earn International Citizen Awards for research

Arturo Barbachano-Guerrero, a doctoral student at Upstate, received the International Student Leadership Award. He is pictured at the International Citizens awards dinner with Mariana Nava, a doctoral student at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Arturo Barbachano-Guerrero, a doctoral student at Upstate, received the International Student Leadership Award. He is pictured at the International Citizens awards dinner with Mariana Nava, a doctoral student at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KAHN)

An Upstate student and an instructor — Arturo Barbachano-Guerrero and Christina Lupone, MPH — were recognized for their involvement in research on infectious diseases. Both were awarded for their work at the International Center of Syracuse’s annual dinner, held on November 13 at Upstate’s Institute for Human Performance.

Barbachano-Guerrero is studying the origin and development of dengue, a mosquito-borne viral disease, and Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpes virus. A doctoral student in microbiology and immunology, Barbachano-Guerrero works in the Upstate labs of Timothy Endy, MD, MPH, and Christine King, PhD, both of whom lead research teams on dengue in the Far East and South America. Prior to Upstate, Barbachano-Guerrero researched infectious diseases in a laboratory of the Mexico City Health Ministry and taught college students in the Mexican National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico City. He has published in a journal of the American Society for Microbiology and other scientific publications.

Upstate’s Christina Lupone received the International Educator of the Year award.

Upstate’s Christina Lupone received the International Educator of the Year award. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KAHN)

Lupone recruits students for ongoing global health research projects and medical internships. Currently, she is recruiting students for ongoing dengue projects in Ecuador led by Upstate’s Anna Stewart Ibarra, PhD. Students will likely spend two months this summer in Ecuador, dividing their time between taking a cultural and language immersion course in medical Spanish and doing research on how to reduce the transmission of infectious diseases.

Lupone is also recruiting students for short-term medical missions and placements in Nicaragua, in collaboration with the Center for Civic Engagement. She is director of global health education for Upstate’s Center for Global Health and Translational Science and an adjunct instructor in public health and preventive medicine. Lupone has a master’s degree in public health from the Central New York Master of Public Health program, a joint project of SUNY Upstate Medical University and Syracuse University.

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New drug for cystic fibrosis patients may reduce organ damage

ht_150706_orkambi_800x600Upstate patients with cystic fibrosis were part of the national clinical trial that led to approval of one of the first drugs designed to treat the underlying cause of the disease, an inherited life-threatening disorder that damages the lungs and digestive system.

The drug, called Orkambi, is for patients who have two copies of a particular genetic mutation, estimated to be more than half of the patients with cystic fibrosis. The genetic mutation at issue causes problems with a protein, which one of the two ingredients in Orkambi corrects. The other ingredient has already been used for select patients with cystic fibrosis, who have seen healthier weight and lung function and improved levels of chloride.

Orkambi, or a future drug combination like it, could potentially prevent the progression of organ damage many patients with cystic fibrosis experience. Physicians are hopeful that a drug like this could make it possible for people with CF to live full lives with fewer or no symptoms.

Orkambi is approved for patients who are 12 years or older. Some Upstate patients are involved in another clinical trial to see if the drug should be approved for younger patients.

Layout 1This article appears in the fall 2015 issue of Upstate Health magazine.

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Students, fall sunshine greet incoming president in courtyard

Photo by Leah Caldwell.

Photo by Leah Caldwell.

Incoming President Danielle Laraque-Arena, MD, had a chance to meet informally with Upstate students in the courtyard of Weiskotten Hall today during her visit to campus.

The students, all from New York state, include Meredith Petit, physical therapy ’17; Kousai Alikhan, physician assistant ’17; Donald Moore, medicine, ‘18; Emily Cotey, physical therapy ’17; and Colin Donahoe, physician assistant ’17.

Laraque-Arena’s appointment takes effect Jan. 14. She comes to Syracuse from Brooklyn, where she is chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Maimonides Medical Center and vice president of Maimonides Infants and Children’s Hospital. She also is professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University.

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Meet Upstate’s newest stroke experts

(From left) Hesham Masoud, MBBCh, Amar Swarnkar, MD, and Grahame Gould, MD, are colleagues at Upstate. (PHOTO BY ROBERT MESCAVAGE)

(From left) Hesham Masoud, MBBCh, Amar Swarnkar, MD, and Grahame Gould, MD, are colleagues at Upstate. (PHOTO BY ROBERT MESCAVAGE)

Physicians armed with skill and knowledge can be the difference between life, death and whether a patient recovers his or her abilities after a stroke. After completing medical school and residency training, these doctors spend additional years in specialized fellowships to become experts in stroke care and other neurological diseases.

These physicians take different paths that all lead to the bedside of a patient having a stroke.

They include the:

* Interventional neurologist. A neurologist with specialized training in stroke neurology and expertise in performing image-guided, minimally invasive procedures to treat diseases of the brain and spine, using endovascular techniques and a variety of other tools. Hesham Masoud, MBBCh, is a vascular and interventional neurologist.

* Endovascular neuroradiologist. A radiologist who has expertise in using minimally invasive procedures to treat diseases of the blood vessels of the brain, also relying on radiologic images. Amar Swarnkar, MD, is an endovascular neuroradiologist and director of Upstate’s neuroradiology program.

* Endovascular neurosurgeon. A neurosurgeon who has developed a particular expertise in working inside the blood vessels of the brain. In addition to open brain surgery for blood vessel disease, he or she diagnoses and treats diseases and conditions using tools that go through the blood vessels, relying on radiologic images during the procedure. Grahame Gould, MD, is one of only a few dual-trained neurosurgeons specializing in both open surgery and interventional procedures for the treatment of neurovascular diseases including stroke.

One of these stroke experts is always readily available at a comprehensive stroke center such as Upstate University Hospital, said Gene Latorre, MD, medical director of the stroke service.

The physicians collaborate as team members so that patients receive the individualized care they need from the physician with the most appropriate expertise for the patient’s condition. Depending on the type of stroke, some patients require rapid interventions or surgery that is available only at a comprehensive stroke center such as Upstate.

Some stroke-related terms

iStock_000009092809_Fullendovascular (en’ do-vas’ kyu-lar) – inside the blood vessel

interventional (in-ter-ven’ shun nal) – using radiologic image guidance to gain access beneath the skin to treat conditions that otherwise would require surgery

neuro (nur’ o) – relates to nerves or the nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord and the nerve fibers that extend into all parts of the body

radiologic (ra-de-o-lahj’ ik) – medical imaging techniques, including X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging and others

surgeon (ser’jun) – a medical doctor who practices surgery

hloa-art2Layout 1Hear Masoud’s radio interview about minimally invasive techniques for stroke care. Hear Gould’s radio interview about options for stroke surgery. This article appears in the fall 2015 issue of Upstate Health magazine.



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Smoke-free policy cleared the air, set standards, improved health

Upstate University Hospital was the first health care facility in New York state to kick the smoking habit by banning cigarettes in 2005. The campus was also the first within the State University of New York system to become entirely smoke-free.

Other hospitals and medical offices, colleges and universities followed the Upstate example.

Cancer Gold Standard logo_tmIn 2009, the Onondaga County Legislature enacted a law prohibiting smoking within 100 feet of the perimeter of property operating as a general hospital. And in 2012, Upstate strengthened its stance and became entirely tobacco-free, outlawing electronic cigarettes and other forms of tobacco.

The goal all along was to illustrate Upstate’s health care mission as well as clear the air of secondhand smoke exposure for staff, students, patients and visitors — and thus reduce the risk of cancer. At the same time, a Smoking Cessation Program was implemented, and is still in operation today, for Upstate employees and the Central New York community. (Find out more by calling 315-464-8668.)

This and other efforts helped Upstate earn CEO Gold Standard accreditation. This is an award from a nonprofit organization of chief executive officers called the CEO Roundtable on Cancer, founded by former President George H.W. Bush in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute. The Gold Standard calls for workplaces to evaluate their health benefits and corporate culture and take concrete actions to reduce the risk of cancer in the workplace.

cancercarefall15This article appears in the fall 2015 issue of Cancer Care magazine.

Hear a radio interview with Program Coordinator Cynthia Cary Woods and Theresa Hankin, both respiratory therapists and smoking cessation counselors at Upstate, who illustrate how education — including workplace efforts and school programs – and family support are keys to quitting smoking permanently. See a video about today’s Great American Smokeout and other smoking-related information.


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The return of the house call: urgent care to the patient’s home

Home Detached House Real Estate DrawingEmergency physicians and nurse practitioners from Upstate University Hospital now offer a new service that is centuries old: house calls.

665282_illustrationUpstate at Home began in September, providing urgent medical care to people who become injured or ill but don’t require a trip to the hospital and don’t want to leave their home. It’s available from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. in areas to the east of Syracuse. Christian Knutsen, MD, said the service could expand to other areas in the future.


Christian Knutsen, MD

The service is perfect for people who cannot get an appointment with their regular doctor and for visitors. A house call can eliminate taking the whole family to a clinic or hospital emergency room when one member is sick, driving in bad weather, sitting with other sick people in a waiting room, or having to leave a comfortable home when one is not feeling well. A nurse answers calls at 315-464-4646 and asks a series of questions to make sure a house call is appropriate.

Upstate at Home participates with most major health insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid. People with insurance will be asked to pay their co-payment over the phone. People whose insurance coverage cannot be verified are asked to make a down payment of $175, and they are billed for the remainder of charges after the visit.

Layout 1hloa-art2Hear a radio interview about house calls with Knutsen. This article appears in the fall 2015 issue of Upstate Health magazine.

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A ‘knife’ that fixes tumors without cutting

1266 Gamma Knife center

Kathleen Vincitore poses with her otolaryngologist, Charles Woods, MD, in the Gamma Knife Center at Upstate. (PHOTO BY ROBERT MESCAVAGE)

When Kathleen Vincitore, 69, of Liverpool learned she had a small tumor growing on the nerve between her right ear and her brain, she was relieved it was not cancer.

The retired teacher spends her winters in Florida. When she returned home in the spring of 2012, Vincitore went to her doctor. Her right ear kept plugging up, and she heard ringing. She wondered if she had swimmer’s ear, or a buildup of wax. After a hearing test raised concerns, revealing a decrease in her right ear, Vincitore went for a magnetic resonance imaging scan that would give doctors a view of the nerve. She was terrified.

“I’m claustrophobic,” she explained. The thought of lying still within a narrow opening of a big scanning machine worried her. So, one of the nurses offered to stay in the MRI room with Vincitore during the scan. “Just knowing somebody was there with me made all the difference in the world.”

A couple of days later, Vincitore got the results of the scan. A noncancerous tumor called an acoustic neuroma was growing on the main nerve leading from her inner ear to her brain. She got an appointment with Charles Woods, MD, an assistant professor of otolaryngology and communication sciences at Upstate.

Vincitore asked how he knew the tumor was not cancerous. He explained that acoustic neuromas usually arise from Schwann cells (see last paragraph, below), and it’s rare that they would become malignant. In any case, he assured her, the MRI scan revealed “smooth, round borders that show no signs of invasion.”

From Woods she also learned the tumor was slow-growing and that it had likely been there for quite a few years before it got large enough to impact her hearing and cause the other symptoms. They decided to monitor the tumor.

Vincitore continued with her usual routine, wintering in Florida and spending the rest of the year in Central New York. When she returned home last spring, she saw Woods again, telling the doctor her hearing was worsening.

After another MRI, Woods told her the tumor had grown larger. He recommended a treatment called gamma knife radiation that would halt the tumor’s growth. The gamma “knife” does no cutting. It’s a minimally invasive tool used to precisely target tumors in the brain and auditory canal with radiation.

Woods routinely treats patients with a variety of skull-based tumors using the gamma knife. Vincitore asked him what she could expect during the procedure.

“I have to know what’s going on. I’m fine — as long as I know what’s going to happen,” she explained.

When she had the gamma knife procedure in June, she recalled, “I had no fear because I knew exactly what was going to happen at every minute.”

The neuroma still has to be monitored, to make sure it does not start growing again. Vincitore knows she won’t regain her hearing on the right side – but she’s thankful for the simple work-around that allows her to hear what’s most important. Her grandchildren – ages 5, 8, 10 and 11 – all know to speak into her left ear.

What is an acoustic neuroma?

A noncancerous tumor that grows from the Schwann cells of the vestibular nerve, acoustic neuromas can cause permanent hearing loss, ringing in the ears, dizziness and balance problems. Usually they are slow-growing, but in some rare cases acoustic neuromas can expand to press against the brain and cause other problems.

Layout 1This article appears in the fall 2015 issue of Upstate Health magazine.

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