International Women’s Day, March 8th, is a day designed to celebrate women across the globe, recognizing their social, economic, cultural and political achievements while brining awareness for women’s equality. In 1911, International Women’s Day was recognized for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. It wasn’t until 1975 that International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time by the United Nations. 2011 marked the 100 year anniversary of the first IWD. In 2011 in the U.S., President Obama proclaimed March to be Women’s History Month. Since then there have been many charities and organizations developed across the world to support women and IWD each year. To learn about the full history of International Women’s Day, please visit the history page of the International Women’s Day website.
In honor of the day, StayWell has chosen to recognize a few of our leading women who are extraordinary. Don Thompson, CEO at StayWell noted that both the community and StayWell are stronger as a result of the daily contributions by these professional women, their commitment of the health of others, and tireless efforts. “As a father of 2 daughters, I know how important it is for them to see accomplished women such as those highlighted below, in their community and daily lives.”
Lule has been the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at StayWell Health Center since 1999 and is a member of the Executive Management Team. Lule provides leadership for planning and control of the fiscal, financial, accounting, procurement and budgeting efforts, billing functions, and IT operations at StayWell. She holds a Master of Science degree in Taxation, with a certificate in Corporate Tax and a Bachelor of Science in Finance. In addition to this, Lule is also a member of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, the Kappa Alpha Theta Society, and the Daughters of Penelope.
Before coming to StayWell, Lule spent eight years in banking and two years as the Chief Financial Officer at the Hispanic Health Council. She is currently an active member of the Greek Church in Waterbury, including philanthropic efforts such as fundraising and event planning. Lule and her husband have three children. She enjoys traveling, dancing, and gardening in her spare time.
When asked for a quote that inspired, Lule gave us two. “
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” said by Eleanor Roosevelt.
“The world needs strong women who will lift and build others. Who will love and be loved. Women who live bravely and strongly, both tender and fierce”. -Author unknown.
According to a study done in 2020, there are 201,117 dentists who are working in dentistry in the United States. Of that number, only 34.5% are women. StayWell is proud to employ not one, but two female dentists, Dr. Barbara Graham and Dr. Skye Zeller.
Dr. Barbara Graham
Dr. Barbara Anne Graham grew up in a quaint, rural town in upstate New York with her three sisters. Her parents always instilled the mantra that humility and focused determination are paramount to success. This upbringing encouraged Dr. Graham to excel in all of her academic subjects, as well as the hobbies she decided to take up.
During grade school, Dr. Graham involved herself in numerous extracurricular activities including the Presidential Honor Society, drama club, numerous sports, school choir, church choir, step team and various talent shows to name a few. Her multifaceted educational structuring earned her numerous accolades and recognition.
Dr. Graham is also very musically inclined. Her appreciation for the beauty and art form of creating music allowed her to excel at playing alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, lead guitar and piano. Her dedication to music also awarded her First chair in the jazz, concert, and marching bands. She was frequently asked to serve as a piano accompaniment for concerts, plays, church events, graduations, and regional performances. Dr. Graham was able to embark on these rewarding experiences while remaining at the top of her class and taking multiple advancement placement courses. Academically, her desire to obtain a well-rounded, multidisciplinary education did not go unnoticed. The state capital of New York nominated her as recipient of the Seth W. Spellman Achievement Award, which recognizes the academic excellence of multi-talented students of Native American/African descent. She obtained an Advanced Regent’s Diploma upon graduating from high school, along with several scholarships to assist on her journey to higher education.
Dr. Graham’s strong work-ethic transitioned to her time at the University of Albany. After a successful first semester, she was inducted into the honor’s College, which only admits 30 first-year students annually out of 17,280 freshmen. The Honor’s College allowed her to transcend beyond the standard curricula designated for a typical Biology major and take full advantage of the resources that the Research I university had to offer.
She received mentorship at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, the first institution in the world devoted exclusively to the development and deployment of innovative nanoscience concepts. Her dedication to developing a treatment for patients suffering from xerostomia (dry mouth) resulted in the culmination of her Senior Honor’s Thesis entitled “Bioengineering Tissue Constructs/Salivary Glands Using Elastic Alginate Hydrogels.” In 2010, she graduated with a BS in Biology and Music with honors. In recognition of her accomplishments, she was invited to speak at her Biology commencement ceremony. She then proceeded on to the next venture in her life, dental school in Pennsylvania.
Dr. Graham’s fascination with dentistry stemmed from a traumatic time in her life. When her sister was six years old, she developed a bulge protruding behind her left eye socket. Her parents took her sister to the pediatrician, optometrist and ophthalmologist. None of the doctors were able to determine the etiology. Later, during a routine visit with their family dentist, Dr. Miller, an abnormality appeared on her sister’s panoramic x-ray. Dr. Miller immediately referred her sister to an oncologist, who diagnosed a highly malignant rhabdomyosarcoma and successfully excised the tumor. If it were not for Dr. Graham’s childhood dentist, her sister would not be living in remission from cancer today.
Throughout the years following her sister’s treatment, Dr. Graham became more aware of the intricate skills required to carry out a dentist’s work. It was this, which allowed her to appreciate dentistry as a profession that concerns itself with treating the entire patient, not just the oral cavity. Dr. Graham’s dental research initiatives, coupled with her sister’s aforementioned experience, increased the fervency of her desire to pursue a career in dentistry.
Before her intensive dental curriculum began, Dr. Graham was selected as a Dean’s Summer Research Scholar in the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine’s Center for Craniofacial Regeneration. Through this competitive program, she expanded her understanding of bioengineering salivary glands and recruiting regulatory T-cells to treat periodontitis. She presented her research at several competitions and symposiums. She won grand prize at the SDM’s 11th Annual Spring Research Symposium and third place at the National SCADA Research Conference.
Before graduating from Dental School, Dr. Graham was awarded the Oral Biology Award. This accolade is presented to one senior dental student who made significant contributions to the advancement of oral biology and commemorates the student’s enthusiasm for research. Additionally, she was the recipient of the American Dental Association/Dental Research Recognition Award and the Herman H. Langkamp Award. On graduation day, Dr. Graham was honored when she was asked to sing the National Anthem with the Steel City Brass Ensemble.
After Dental School, Dr. Graham completed a rigorous General Practice Residency in a Brooklyn, New York hospital. She holds membership in the ADA, NYSDA, CSDA, CMDA, and AADR through SCADA. Currently, she works as a general dentist with StayWell. Here, she has the opportunity to deliver care to low-income patients in the greatest needs. She also works in a private practice providing care to pediatric and special needs patients.
When she is not working, Dr. Graham can be found visiting her parents in the New York countryside. She enjoys playing classical music on the piano, blues tunes on the guitar, and popular jazz songs on the saxophone. She also likes practicing Black Belt Taekwondo forms with her husband, and playing with Bruce Wayne, her energetic toy poodle.
“Dentistry is a noble profession which gives me the ability to combine my passion for science, art, and love of helping others. I am proud to be a part of community-based dentistry and elated to represent the dental profession as a whole.” – Dr. Graham.
Dr. Skye Zeller
Dr. Skye Zeller grew up in South Florida where she enjoyed the beach and the sunshine. She moved to New England in 2003 to attend Dartmouth College where she studied Molecular Biology. Dr. Zeller then found her way to Connecticut in 2008, where she earned both a Masters and PhD in Microbiology from Yale University. Following her graduate work, Dr. Zeller decided to pursue a career in dentistry, and began at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine in 2014.
At UCONN, Dr. Zeller was awarded the Academy of General Dentistry Senior Student Award, an award given to a graduating student who shows outstanding potential as a general dentist. She was also awarded the Northeastern Society of Periodontists award for a senior student who has excelled in predoctoral periodontics. Dr. Zeller has completed over 100 hours of training on airway health with high quality continuing education from Tucker Educational Excellence, Healthy Start/Ortho-Tain, The Breathe Institute and Airway Health Solutions.
In addition to running Dental Sleep Experts of CT, Dr. Zeller is a general dentist, working as an associate in Wolcott and with StayWell Health Center. Dr. Zeller is a member of the Academy of General Dentistry, Dental Society of Greater Waterbury, the American Dental Association and is a provider with the foundation for airway health.
Personally, Dr. Zeller is a mother of twin 5 year-old boys who keep her busy building, drawing, reading, and running around at all times. When not practicing dentistry or playing with her children, Dr. Zeller enjoys running, hiking, cooking and puzzles.
“The most important part of my job is engaging patients in their care by connecting with them one on one. Working in the community health setting can be best summed up in a quote from Anthony J D’Angelo “Without a sense of caring there can be no sense of community”. ”
Last bur certainly not least, we have chosen to highlight our Chief Medical officer, Dr. Tess Lombard.
Dr. Tess Kryspin Lombard
Dr. Lombard came to StayWell in August 2017 as our Chief Medical Officer. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Fairfield University in Biology with minors in Psychology and Economics. During her undergrad, she was elected Alpha Epsilon Delta, the pre-medical honor society.
Dr. Lombard attended medical school at New York Medical College where she was also elected to be Alpha Omega Alpha, the Medical Honor Society. She completed her internship and residency in Internal Medicine at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport CT.
Dr. Lombard went on to receive her Masters Degree in Business Administration at the University of Hartford where she was also elected a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Business Honor Society and was the recipient of the Edith Cartin Award.
Currently, she is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, the American Association for Physician Leadership and a certified Physician Executive. She is also a Fellow of the American Board of Quality Assurance and Utilization Review Physicians.
We asked Dr. Lombard to tell us a little about why she became a doctor and this is what she told us-
“When I decided to be a Doctor, I knew that being a “regular” Doctor wasn’t what I had in mind, but I didn’t realize how different parts of my life would mold my choices.
My best role model for a strong woman was my mom, who came over from Poland, on the Batory, a boat, by herself at age 13. Her Dad, my grandfather, was born in America, but was taken back to Poland as a child. Despite his citizenship status, men were not allowed out of the country due to WWII. He was supposed to come meet her in 1 month, but it was ten years before she saw her immediate family in person. Despite this challenge, she was able to graduate high school and raise a strong family.
Funny thing about her Dad, is that he was known as the “Village Healer”, so she was always proud of my career choice. She felt as though I was carrying on the tradition
I would also say my next mentor was a nurse, who became a doctor, and was at my hospital for 9 months. During that short time she mentored me, and gave me the inspiration to get my MBA. Despite the personal struggle of completing the work while employed full time, with two small children, I was able to move successfully into an administrative role.
My advice to anyone: do the task or learn the area that you may not have an interest in, or “isn’t my job”. An early focus on Quality in Medicine allowed me to be the recipient of a national award a couple of years ago, which really means that our patients are getting the best care possible. Completing my MBA is helping me with my current task of COVID vaccine inventory management. I hope that “rolling up my sleeves” gives me a different perspective on clinical work so I understand the challenges we ask our staff to face everyday.
I struggle with work/life balance, but am trying to get better at it – for anyone who walks by my office and hears the morning mantra chanting call I listen to. I am praying that with the end of the pandemic we can all take a well deserved deep breath.”
While we have only highlighted 4 of the strong women who work at StayWell, we have an incredible team of women working for us who go above and beyond to make sure our patients receive the high-level of quality care that StayWell strives for. To learn more about StayWell and who we are, please visit our About page.
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