South Jersey Superwomen: The Women Who are Changing the Face of Where We Live
…From the pages of South Jersey Magazine…
No woman has it all. No woman does it all. But the women we’ve dubbed South Jersey Superwomen give their all, all of the time—to their careers, their families and their communities.
On these pages, we celebrate the professional, personal and civic efforts of South Jersey women who make an impact for the better. They’re only human and they may not always succeed, but the impressive examples they set can be described as super, indeed.
Select photographs by Gary Mattie. Hair by Jen Rasp and Diana Roddy. Makeup by Andrea Cerini, Kelly Crossley and Sharon Pichoto, all of Suede Salon and Spa, Marlton.
Name: Riletta L. Cream Job: Camden County Freeholder Home base: Berlin Why she’s a Superwoman: Cream is synonymous with education in Camden. For almost 40 years, she was a teacher, supervisor, elementary school principal and, from 1972 to 1987, principal of Camden High. Since her “retirement,” she’s been elected Freeholder three times, has overseen the Camden County Library System and works with the local Board of Education. She has been honored for her efforts accordingly: The Riletta Twyne Cream Family School, on Camden’s Mulford Street, carries her name. How she keeps her life in balance: Despite being firmly rooted in Camden County, Cream’s a bona fide world traveler. “I’ve been practically everywhere,” she says. Her passport’s been stamped from visits to Cuba, the Mediterranean, Russia and South Africa, and she’s gearing up for a trip to Argentina and Chile later this fall.
Look up Riletta Cream in the February 1944 Camden High yearbook and read what it says. “It states that my goal was to become an educator,” she says. In fact, the born-and-bred Camdenite knew she would be a teacher since her earliest years, when, as a student at the then-segregated Whittier Elementary School, she saw a quality in her teachers she admired and wanted to emulate. After graduating from the New Jersey State Teachers College at Glassboro (now Rowan University), she taught at and ran area elementary schools until she was approached by Camden’s mayor to move up to the high school as principal.
“I didn’t want to go,” Cream says. “I never had any children of my own and didn’t know much about teens.” But the opportunity to return to her alma mater as one of the first women high school principals in the state proved to be too much of an enticement. “Those were exciting years,” she says. “I intermingled everywhere around that school, putting the kids on their best behavior. It was an element of disciplining they weren’t used to. When I meet my kids now, they always say ‘Thank you.’”
These days, the 82-year-old Freeholder is still stressing the importance of education. “I’m concerned that we don’t forget that public education has made this country great,” she says. “There’s not enough emphasis on understanding that public education got us where we are today.”
Name: Karin Elkis Job: Deputy State Director, Office of United States Senator Robert Menendez Home base: Haddonfield Why she’s a Superwoman: The woman who “gets more done in one hour than most people accomplish in a single day,” as Senator Frank Lautenberg once said, has been “the eyes and ears covering southern New Jersey” for the state’s three most recent U.S. senators: Lautenberg (before he retired and subsequently was re-elected), Jon Corzine (before he became governor) and, currently, Bob Menendez. How she keeps her life in balance: Going to her kids’ activities—she has three children and a grown stepson with kids of his own—seeing friends and taking in a show in Philadelphia. “My work is not everyday life,” she says. “I don’t need a high-action weekend.”
“Every phone call is different, every issue is different,” says Elkis, who, as point person in Senator Menendez’s Barrington office, interacts with countless constituents on a daily basis, keeping the senator informed and on top of what’s happening on the ground in South Jersey. “I’m talking with Washington constantly,” she says. If there’s a flood in a township that needs federal funding for the clean-up, Elkis is on it. If a local resident has a job interview in Belgium and needs help expediting a passport, Elkis is on it. If there’s a foreclosure clinic or stimulus workshop that needs implementing, Elkis is on it. “I’m a planner,” she says. “Logistics is what I do.”
To the government “manner” born—her mother, Nancy Elkis, was an elected official in Woodbury— Elkis is what she calls “an oddball in the system; senators come and go, and I’m still here.” Despite having traveled every inch of the state, she says she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
“My job has given me a deeper appreciation for the area,” she says. “I’ve witnessed the troops coming home to McGuire [Air Force Base], been to the wineries in Mullica Hill, canoed the pristine, preserved Pinelands, watched fall arrive in a cranberry bog, dug for oysters in the Delaware Bay. There are so many hidden gems in South Jersey, and I get to enjoy most of them.”
Name: Nan Ivins Job: Singer/Songwriter Home base: Deptford Why she’s a Superwoman: After raising three children, including a son with autism, and leaving a troubled relationship, Ivins has recorded her first full-length album and is donating a portion of the proceeds to charity. How she keeps her life in balance: Finding time to relax, and using music and yoga as creative, therapeutic outlets.
After ending what she describes as an abusive relationship, Ivins made it her mission to tackle two life goals: share her music and write a book about her childhood. This year, Ivins crossed the first achievement off her list with the release of her full-length album, Inside Looking Out. “Women really need to know that you don’t have to give up your dreams just because things come at you,” she says.
Ivins, 46, began writing songs in her teens after teaching herself to play acoustic guitar as accompaniment to the poetry she had written since childhood. “It’s all about wanting to share an emotion,” she says of her music. Behind rock beats, Ivins’ songs reflect what is happening in her life, from breaking off a relationship to dealing with anger to finding love again. Along with performing her music and covering songs by the likes of Sheryl Crow and Melissa Etheridge, Ivins hosts local acoustic concerts, singer/songwriter showcases and open-mic nights.
Ivins’ 18-year-old son, her youngest child, has autism. While she already advocates for people with disabilities, Ivins has pledged even more help: Through March 2010, she plans to donate the profits from her CD and song downloads to the American Red Cross Gloucester’s Camp Sun ’N Fun in Williamstown, a camp for kids with special needs that her son attends. “I just had this overwhelming desire to help them,” she says.
Name: Maria Rosado Job: Professor of Anthropology, Rowan University Home base: Mullica Hil Why she’s a Superwoman: In addition to raising two children, Rosado is the co-instructor of an innovative Rowan anthropology course that’s known as “Rowan CSI”. She also travels regularly with students to study in Chile. How she keeps her life in balance: Calling on her ace time-management skills and relying on a network of supportive family members, friends and colleagues who keep her grounded.
On the application for Rowan’s highest faculty honor, the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award, which she won last year, Rosado wrote about her favorite professional achievement: “That moment when you’re there with students and . . . the light bulb goes [on].”
Rosado chases that moment in a forensic anthropology course nicknamed “Rowan CSI,” which she teaches with Diane Markowitz. After studying the body and its bones, students are sent to identify a model skeleton buried near campus. Though the “murder scene” is professor-devised, Rosado’s efforts are educating anthropologists-in-training and future medical doctors. “We’re educating people, and it should be taken very seriously,” she says. “But [learning] also should be fun.” She regularly breaks out of the classroom to travel with her students to her native Chile, where they spend weeks studying remains of the country’s indigenous people. Under Rosado’s tutelage, the students later present their findings at professional conferences.
Rosado attributes much of her success to her family—the parents who instilled in her a love of learning; her husband, Victor, an aircraft technician who helped support her while she earned three advanced degrees from Rutgers; her son and young daughter. “It’s possible to be able to do all this when you have a support system,” Rosado says. “And when we are home, it’s family first.”
Name: Colonel Gina M. Grosso Job: 87th Air Base Wing Commander at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Home base: Fort Dix Why she’s a Superwoman: As the first Air Base Wing commander at the Department of Defense’s only joint base consolidating installations of the Air Force, Army and Navy, Colonel Grosso is doubly tasked. She provides installation support to more than 40 mission commanders at the joint base while also training mission-ready airmen to support joint and combined combat operations. How she keeps her life in balance: “I’m enjoying things so much I haven’t felt a need to take a break,” says Colonel Grosso, six months into her new command. “I’m only going to get this opportunity once, and I’m afraid that if I blink I’ll miss something.”
Colonel Grosso is making military history in our backyard, forging brand-new bonds among the Air Force, Army and Navy. “The three services are so strong and see the world differently,” she says of the challenge of overseeing daily Air Force operations at the first multibranch base in the United States. “But the goal isn’t to dilute the individual cultures [of the branches]; it’s to allow the taxpayers to spend less money while we maintain strong combat capability.”
Colonel Grosso entered the Air Force in 1986 as a distinguished ROTC grad from Carnegie Mellon University. But it wasn’t until 15 years later that she fully understood the depth of the oath she’d taken to support and defend the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. On September 11, 2001, Colonel Grosso was working at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense when the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 hit the building. “I had never internalized before what it meant to serve our country and wear the uniform,” she says.
During the course of her career, Colonel Grosso has been stationed across the U.S. and abroad, but she feels a special tie to Fort Dix, where her father, a World War II flyer, was demobilized. “This is a great place to live,” she says. “The local community is so good to us, inviting our airmen, sailors and soldiers to dinner, sporting events, the theater.” Colonel Grosso is also intent on reaching out to the base’s neighbors, through the mayors and chambers of commerce in Burlington and Ocean counties, the BurlCo Committee of Military Affairs and various veterans’ groups. “We’re mutually dependent,” says Colonel Grosso. “The community on the outside of our walls needs to be as strong as the community on the inside.”
Name: Lois F. Downey Job: Moorestown Municipal Judge Home base: Moorestown Why she’s a Superwoman: The first woman appointed to the municipal bench in Moorestown is a former member of both the Moorestown Township Council and the Burlington County Board of Social Services. She also teaches a political science course in American government and politics at Burlington County College. How she keeps her life in balance: “I have a kaleidoscope of interests and don’t seem to be happy unless I have a lot to do,” says Downey. She prefers to spend her downtime with her husband and three teenage daughters, “kind, socially engaged young women” who organize an annual cookie or chocolate-pretzel sale to support the USO.
At her very first job interview out of law school in 1987, Lois Downey was asked about her aspirations. Her response: “I’d like to be a judge.” This past June, she became one.
“Many people follow a prescribed linear path toward their professional goals, but for me the journey has included many divergent routes, which I think will serve to make me a better jurist,” she says. Along that road, Downey has been a trial attorney, a judicial law clerk, the in-house counsel for a daycare center that caters to medically vulnerable urban kids, the author of a Special Education Advocacy Council report on the transition process for Moorestown’s postgraduate special-ed students, a volunteer and coach for a variety of local organizations, and a WHYY citizen reporter investigating the issue of gun violence. Now that she’s on the bench, hearing 40 to 80 cases in a night—a task she calls “an exhilarating challenge”—Downey takes her role as “a face of Moorestown” seriously, striving to be sympathetic to the plight of both plaintiff and defendant, yet rendering judgments with “firm and direct fairness.” It’s an ethos she learned from one of her mentors, the late Charles R. Weiner, a senior federal court judge whose “unrelenting encouragement still guides me,” Downey says. “I [try to] honor him every time I sit on the bench.”
Name: Jessica Doheny Job: Actress Home base: Wenonah Why she’s a Superwoman: Along with performing in theater productions throughout South Jersey and, as her day job, acting as company manager and assistant to the managing director at the Walnut Street Theatre, Doheny teaches acting classes, directs local shows and sings in her church choir. How she keeps her life in balance: Playing in a tennis league proves a stress reliever and gives her a break from work and performance obligations.
If you’re a connoisseur of live theater in South Jersey, take a good look at Doheny’s headshot. You’re likely to recognize her as Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest, Kate McGowan in Titanic: The Musical, or Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway in A Few Good Men. An actress since her days at Gateway Regional High School in Woodbury Heights, Doheny has performed at venues throughout the region, including the Ritz Theatre in Oaklyn and with the Road Company Theater Group in Williamstown, where she starred in one of her favorite roles, Sally Bowles in Cabaret. The mezzo-soprano’s also a director, first taking the reins with a Haddonfield Plays and Players staging of Annie.
In 1995, Doheny met her husband, Michael, a high school music teacher, in a summer theater production of Guys and Dolls at Bethel Mill Park in Sewell. The couple now performs side by side whenever possible. For the past two years, they have appeared together in Cape May in Temperance Tantrums, a farcical musical piece.
Doheny’s day job at the Walnut Street Theatre has her playing something of a jack-of-all-trades, doing event planning, employee relations and more. Though she sometimes goes on-stage as an understudy there and has taught theatre school classes, Doheny’s work at the Walnut tends to require skills more along the lines of contract writing than belting to the balcony. But it all helps prepare her to achieve a long-term goal. “Ultimately,” she says, “I would love to manage my own theater.”
Name: Dr. Lara Bruneau Job: Internist/Pediatrician, Bruneau Family Care, Moorestown Home base: Edgewater Park Why she’s a Superwoman: Bruneau, a fellow of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, set a high bar for physicians dealing with domestic violence when she cared for and, ultimately, helped extricate a patient whose husband was horrifically abusing her, diligently documenting the injuries in such a way that the prosecutors had all the proof they needed for a slam-dunk conviction. How she keeps her life in balance: She spins, does Pilates, hangs out at the shore with her husband and two grade schoolers, and coaches her daughter’s soccer and softball teams.
Two years ago, Bruneau was in a patient consultation when she noticed a linear burn on the woman’s arm. “As a doctor, I’m trained to notice abnormal injuries,” she says, “so I asked what happened.” “I fell into the oven rack,” was the patient’s answer. Bruneau treated the burn, and two weeks later the patient came back with the exact same type of burn next to the first. “She had a weird, guarded affect,” recalls Bruneau, already suspicious. But it wasn’t until the fifth or sixth visit, after returning with more burns and an abrasion on her face, that the woman admitted the truth: Her husband of 20 years was burning her with an oven rack and throwing rocks at her.
Bruneau, who was loath to notify the police without her patient’s permission, admitted the woman to the hospital as often as possible “to give her a respite,” all the while documenting the abuse in pictures and reports with her electronic medical software. Eighteen months later, Bruneau was able to arrange for the patient’s California-based brother to come get her, and the husband was arrested, indicted, convicted as—in the judge’s words—“a domestic terrorist” and sentenced to 20 years in jail.
Bruneau’s photos, blown up to poster size for the trial, played a large part in the prosecution’s success, so much so that the Camden County Prosecutors Office presented the doctor with a Citizen’s Award for her efforts. Since then, Bruneau’s patient is forging a new life with her three children far from the scene of her torture, and the Camden County Domestic Violence Unit uses the case to educate doctors about how to handle domestic abuse. “Physicians don’t ask women enough, ‘Do you get hit?’,” says Bruneau. “They don’t ask kids, ‘Do you feel safe at home?’ It’s easy to take pictures, to dictate or type in the location of a wound, the type of injury,” says Bruneau. “It’s not hard to screen for domestic violence.”
Name: Gloria Cho Job: Owner, Ritz Seafood Home base: Voorhees Why she’s a Superwoman: Drawing on 30 years in the food business, Cho has turned a suburban strip-mall BYOB into a nationally praised seafood mecca for innovative Pan-Asian cuisine. Plaudits have come from the Food Network, Zagat, Philadelphia Inquirer restaurant critic Craig LaBan and, oddly enough, Sean Connery. How she keeps her life in balance: Cho energizes herself to greet diners six days a week by waking at 5:30 a.m., swimming and walking at the gym and playing golf. Between the lunch and dinner rush, she’ll often pop home to refresh herself with a quick nap. Because Ritz Seafood’s adjacent to the Showcase at the Ritz Center, she keeps up on what’s playing so she can recommend movies to her guests.
In 1998, when Cho opened Ritz Seafood as a takeout fish market with a 10-seat food-service counter, she never expected she would refurbish it a year later into a 40-seat restaurant that would eventually be featured on the Food Network not once but twice: Ritz has been named a “Best Seafood Restaurant” on the show Best Of, while its signature dessert, the Triple Coconut Cream Pie, was recently cited as an “Obsession” on The Best Thing I Ever Ate.
Along with Chef Daniel Hover’s cosmopolitan take on the traditional Korean dishes Cho grew up eating and cooking in Seoul, like charred Korean-style calamari with scallion pancake and sweet-and-spicy grilled rice gnocchi, the restaurant’s success can be attributed to the warmth Cho imbues in it.
“Chef Dan and most of my staff have been here since the beginning,” she says. “We’re a little family.” (Cho’s real family—husband/business partner Steven and their two grown children—have also all logged time working at Ritz.) “I treat my staff like kings and my customers like houseguests.” That includes Connery, who stopped by after playing a local round of golf, ate the Kobe beef and duck and, by all accounts, enjoyed the dinner immensely. “His plate was very clean,” Cho says, laughing.
Name: Linda Rosanio Job: CEO/Co-founder, The Star Group Home base: Voorhees Why she’s a Superwoman: No callous ad exec in the Mad Men mold, Rosanio has grown one of the region’s premier advertising/marketing agencies into a business with heart, emphasizing pro bono projects. As if that weren’t enough, she also co-owns Catelli Ristorante in Voorhees, Zagat-rated for its Northern Italian cuisine. How she keeps her life in balance: Spending as much time as possible with her two college-aged kids, who attend Villanova and Penn State.
“Creating business” is the mantra at the Star Group, the ad/PR firm Rosanio cofounded in 1986, which has since exploded into a marketing force with 310 employees in a half-dozen locations across the country, proving that the creative talent in South Jersey is just as potent as that in Manhattan.
An ad woman to her core—Rosanio worked at a direct-mail house through high school and has been ensconced in agencies since the age of 19—she places importance on building synergy, not only for her clients (including Coca-Cola North America, New Jersey Transit, Margaritaville Foods and numerous hotel/casinos) but also for her colleagues and community. That’s why she makes a special point of mentoring young talent and instilling a pro bono work ethic in her staff.
The Star Group has worked at no cost for, among others, the Pennsylvania Ballet and the American Red Cross. Rosanio was deeply involved with the capital campaign for the Red Cross House, where people who have lost their homes to fire can stay for up to three months. “We could promote gaming, the lottery and candy bars all day,” she says, “but these are the projects that are more meaningful.”
Name: Cheryl Betten Job: Law-firm administrator at Adinolfi and Goldstein, Haddonfield Home base: Haddonfield Why she’s a Superwoman: Betten has juggled the duties of raising four children and keeping a busy law firm running smoothly through good and tough times, notably while her husband spent a year in Iraq and battled cancer. How she keeps her life in balance: “I have a wonderful husband,” she says. “We are definitely partners.”
Betten was just starting her job with Adinolfi and Goldstein four years ago when she got the news that her husband, Shawn, a soldier in the Army National Guard, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Shawn had already served one tour of duty in Iraq and was training in Oklahoma at the time, while Betten was handling the day-to-day duties of raising the couple’s four children.
“It was right when I started this job. I had to go to Oklahoma for three weeks,” Betten says. “Everyone here was so supportive, and that’s when I knew I had come to work for the right firm.” Once Shawn recovered, he learned he was being deployed for a second tour of duty in Iraq. “It was a little easier than the first time,” Betten says. “But it’s still one day at a time. If I started thinking about where he was, that was bad.”
The organizational skills required for her job came in handy while Shawn was deployed, as Betten managed the busy schedules of her children Jenna, 22; Zachary, 17; Kyle, 8; and Jamie, 7. “I think organization is key,” Betten says. “You can’t just fly by the seat of your pants. I try to make a plan, even if it’s just for the next day, and go with it.” Not one to rest, Betten used the time her husband was away to earn her M.B.A. from the University of Phoenix. She was chosen to speak at her graduation ceremony—and Shawn arrived home just in time to see it.
Name: Jane C. Yepez Job: Vice President of Marketing and Public Affairs at Virtua Health Home base: Cherry Hill Why she’s a Superwoman: It takes a highly skilled communicator to present a seamless message about the services and events of a healthcare system that employs nearly 8,000 people and incorporates four hospitals, two outpatient surgery centers, one comprehensive fitness center and three other medical facilities across two counties. That’s what Yepez quietly does through advertising, marketing, PR and media relations, Web development, event management and speech writing. How she keeps her life in balance: Ballroom dancing and photography help her tap into her creative side. Yoga and meditation allow her to relax. And travel takes her away from the omnipresence of Virtua in South Jersey: “On my way to the supermarket, running errands, I pass something that’s Virtua,” she says. “I love my job, but you can’t be working all the time. A change of scenery’s good for the psyche and the soul.”
In the 10 years that Yepez has worked at Virtua, she’s played an important role in synthesizing what she says was “a group of disparate hospitals into a cohesive regional healthcare system.” Virtua places a high priority on community education and charitable/uncompensated care—spending in excess of $67 million in 2008 in this arena—and Yepez is at the forefront of letting people know about such efforts.
She went into the healthcare biz after stints in the marketing/PR end of publishing, insurance and education. What makes healthcare so appealing to her, she says, is that, unlike in many other industries, “at the end of day, what you’re doing really benefits people as opposed to benefiting the company you work for.”
Yepez is thankful for the support system she finds in her friends. “It’s important not to forget your girlfriends,” she says. “We’ve all done it—got caught up in our work and relationship and lost connections. It’s a different kind of support than you get from your significant other. Your friends will sustain you through bad times and good.”
Name: Patricia Pearlman Job: Founder and coordinator, Clare’s Cupboard Home base: Cherry Hill Why she’s a Superwoman: On top of her work as a staff nurse at Cooper University Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, Pearlman launched Clare’s Cupboard, a program that raises money to provide needy families with basic baby supplies. How she keeps her life in balance: Prioritizing. “I always remember that I am my husband’s only wife and my children’s only mother,” she says.
It was Christmas season in 2007 when Pearlman, a Cooper nurse for 21 years, received a call from a couple who had been regularly donating to needy babies since their own daughter, Clare, was born premature a decade earlier. Having recently moved to the region, the family, who wished to remain anonymous, decided to help babies delivered at Cooper. “This is just a wonderful sort of pay-it-forward scenario,” Pearlman says. The family donated $500, which purchased supplies for the newborn of a teenage couple from Cape May.
Inspired by that generosity and convinced others would donate to the cause, Pearlman launched Clare’s Cupboard, a program that raises money to provide needy families with baby supplies, including cribs, clothes and diapers. In fewer than two years, the charity has raised more than $30,000, including a $10,000 donation last year from the Moorestown Auxiliary, and helped more than 60 South Jersey families in need.
Pearlman—whose own son was born premature two decades ago—says the responses she receives from recipients of Clare’s Cupboard donations give her the greatest sense of accomplishment. “Every baby deserves the best shot they can get,” says Pearlman. “I want to make sure we can give them a healthy beginning.”
Name: Marlene Z. Asselta Job: President, Southern New Jersey Development Council Home base: Glassboro Why she’s a Superwoman: A successful businesswomen and registered lobbyist, Asselta has worked with New Jersey’s governors and state legislators on behalf of her organization’s 800 members, including colleges and municipalities, all while raising a family. How she keeps her life in balance: “Staying organized and keeping priorities straight is one way to juggle. This job doesn’t stop at 5 o’clock, so I find myself working towards growing a better organization seven days a week. I’m lucky to have a small but mighty staff that shares my view.”
Politics has been a lifelong love for Asselta. Even at the age of 14, she was busy stuffing envelopes to help a politician running for office. Today, as president of the Southern New Jersey Development Council (SNJDC), Asselta represents the needs and issues of each member organization, providing an economic way for a company to have its own personal advocate in both Trenton and Washington. That means the registered lobbyist must keep tabs on any potential new legislation floating around the statehouse, learning and writing about it quickly.
“I like the entrepreneurial aspect of the job,” Asselta says. “You have to take the initiative to get things to happen, to get things done.” Though she says the work can be hectic, the reward comes from helping members achieve their goals and being able to meet new people in the counties the SNJDC serves, including assisting people who are relocating to South Jersey.
Asselta has received numerous awards for her work, and was named one of the 25 most influential women in New Jersey by NJBIZ, a leading business publication, in 2003. “You get to meet very decent human beings who are ready to help,” Asselta says. “[In my business], you bump into people you never would have met in 100 years. To me, it’s not work—it’s a dream job.”
Name: Dr. Catherine W. Piccoli Job: Director of Women’s Imaging, South Jersey Radiology Associates Home base: Voorhees Why she’s a Superwoman: Area women are in good hands when their mammogram’s being read by Piccoli—a nationally known breast-imaging specialist who’s been cited by Medical Imaging magazine as being the best in her field—and her top-notch team of early detection detectors. How she keeps her life in balance: After many “go-go-go years of a lot of work and not a lot of play” working and raising three children, Piccoli’s adjusting to a newly empty nest by sailing and—in true Superwoman fashion—flying (planes, that is; she earned her pilot’s certification a year and a half ago).
Helping women stay healthy has always been Piccoli’s goal, but when she entered Harvard Medical School, she thought she’d do that by focusing on OB/Gyn. Instead, she found her calling in the field of radiology, earning a fellowship in cross-sectional imaging at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital that stood her in good stead later while working at Jefferson. “They needed someone to read mammograms,” she recalls. “I just fell into it, but it worked out well and fit my original goal.”
Though she says breast-imaging equipment has “somewhat lagged behind the technology for other parts and diseases,” Piccoli believes women should take heart in the advances that have been made in the two decades she’s been practicing. “These days, when I have to tell a patient that she has breast cancer, I’m able to say that in all likelihood it’s not going to kill her, that it’s a bump in the road and something to take care of. And it’s better to take care of it earlier than later—that’s the way I approach it,” she says.
Name: Jean E. Stanfield Job: Burlington County Sheriff Home base: Mount Holly Why she’s a Superwoman: Only the second woman sheriff in New Jersey, Stanfield has effectively cracked down on child-support shirkers, is working to prevent the spread of gangs in BurlCo and, as co-chair of the county’s Anti-Terrorism Task Force, has helped to shape a local Citizens Emergency Response Team of 700 volunteers trained to conduct triage, rescue and damage assessment in the wake of a disaster or crisis situation. How she keeps her life in balance: This grandmother of three is also a budding author. Stanfield finished a 50,000-word novel—“chick lit,” as she describes it—during last November’s NaNoWriMo (short for National Novel Writing Month), and she hopes to pen another book with mystery elements.
Ingenuity is important to the sheriff of Burlington County. While many think of law enforcement strictly as a by-the-book endeavor, Stanfield says that in order to “solve problems in a way that affects the community positively, I have to think creatively.” That’s especially crucial, she says, when it comes to finding money to implement programs.
Take, for example, the current push to keep gang members from outlying urban areas from seeping into the suburbs. Stanfield is not only looking for grant money to pay for extra officers to patrol the RiverLine, but she’s also setting up an anti-gang task force and engaging the help of social services agencies and chambers of commerce, among other steps. Her job is made easier by the excellent relationships she’s forged with the county Prosecutors Office—where Stanfield, an attorney by training, worked as an assistant prosecutor before her career path unexpectedly detoured from law to law enforcement. Area police chiefs in the county’s 40 municipalities have also showed their appreciation by presenting her with the Captain Gerald P. Drummond Career Re-cognition Award in 2007.
Though female sheriffs are thin on the ground in New Jersey, Stanfield says gender has never been an issue in her eight years on the job. “This is a great profession for women who like to help people,” she says. “At the end of the day, you feel good about what you’ve accomplished.”
Ellen Healey Founder, Gleneayre Equestrian Program, Lumberton When a child experiences a life challenge—be it a social struggle or an academic difficulty—Ellen Healey’s advice is simple: get back in the saddle. Her 15-year-old equestrian program pairs struggling children and teens with a horse from her family’s Lumberton farm. “A child who may be used to quitting when something doesn’t work the first time may be willing to try over and over and over again when they’re with a horse,” she says. Most participants visit the farm six days a week, ride their horses, shovel manure, wash barn windows, and set up feed at mealtimes. Tutors are provided for some participants, many of whom have learning disabilities. The labor, Healey says, helps encourage children facing life’s difficult moments to work through their struggles. Despite facing challenges, the dozen or so graduates of her program have stayed out of trouble with the law, gone on to higher education, and become engaged citizens.
Elizabeth Broderick Nurse, Taunton Forge Elementary School Last year Broderick, nurse at the Medford elementary school for 15 years, went beyond tending to the skinned knees and sniffles of her students. Inspired by accounts detailing the need for clean water in Sudan, Broderick led a district-wide effort to raise funds to build a well in the African nation. The nine-month effort garnered about $6,500—more than enough to build a well—and earned Broderick the district’s 2009 Humanitarian of the Year award.
Elizabeth A. Shrader Nurse Practitioner, Delaware Valley Institute of Fertility & Genetics As a nurse practitioner with a background in pediatric oncology, Shrader’s well prepared to hold the hands of the cancer patients she sees through the Semen, Embryo & Egg Depository & Storage (SEEDS) program, a process in which, prior to undergoing chemotherapy, women with cancer have their eggs harvested and cryogenically frozen so they can try to get pregnant after their course of treatment is complete. “Chemo greatly reduces a woman’s chance of conceiving,” Shrader says. “We’ve had several successful births through this process. The strength these women show is awe inspiring.”
Judith Roman President/CEO, Amerihealth New Jersey Judith Roman walks the walk. Not only does she pay close attention to her personal fitness and wellness, but she exemplifies the culture of volunteerism woven through the Amerihealth system. The healthcare company sponsors a variety of volunteer opportunities for its staff in support of the Ronald McDonald House, the United Way, the American Heart Association, and the Special Olympics, to name just a few. “We participate financially, by donating money; physically, by taking part in these events; and emotionally, by holding the kids’ hands when we walk in the Special Olympics Opening Ceremony, getting to know the same faces from year to year,” Roman says. On a personal level, Roman’s philanthropy has extended to the 6- and 9-year-old daughters of her best friend, who died of sarcoma at age 45. “I didn’t know what to do for them,” she remembers of the girls. Because of that, the sarcoma foundation she founded with her friend’s widower is now coupled with a program called Good Grief, where children who’ve lost parents cope by bonding with other kids in the same situation. “They just feel normal in that environment,” Roman says.
Maia Farish Chair, New Jersey Historic Trust For Farish, everything old really can become new again. As chair of the New Jersey Historic Trust, she doesn’t see what some may call old, abandoned buildings. She sees opportunity—a chance to revive historic structures, create jobs, and foster community growth and pride all at once. “Historic preservationists, I think, have not done a great job of explaining why preservation is good for the economy,” says the Woodbury resident, who has also led such efforts in Palm Beach, Florida and Nantucket. “Restoring old buildings creates more jobs than building something new.” The wife of Rowan University President Donald Farish also serves as the president’s liaison for university affairs. It’s a juggling act at times, with Farish balancing both positions while making face time at nearly every major university or alumni event. “Our days start early, and they often end very late,” Farish says. “You don’t really have time to think about it. You just do. We both love what we do.”
Patricia L. Wallace Helene M. Burns Kathryn Emrich Kennedy Health System Network There are three hospitals in the Kennedy Health System Network, so it seems apropos to single out three women whose TLC reaches from the company out to the South Jersey community. Patricia L. Wallace, vice president of performance improvement, has a Master's in nursing from UPenn and is a nationally renowned expert in redesigning systems of care within hospitals, receiving the Joint Commission's prestigious Codman Award in that arena. Helene M. Burns, who also has an M.S. in nursing, is the assistant vice president of clinical services at the Kennedy Memorial Hospitals-University Medical Center in Stratford, overseeing all aspects of nursing and clinical care at the 183-bed acute-care facility. And Kathryn Emrich, corporate director of medical imaging, is responsible for operational management and strategic planning of imaging services within the entire Kennedy system. These leadership positions within Kennedy touch people’s lives everyday, leading them on a path to good health and quality care.
Dr. Carolyn Bekes Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President for Academic & Medical Affairs, Cooper University Hospital When Carolyn Bekes became the first Intensive Care Unit director at Cooper in 1977, the field of critical care was so new that many people couldn’t tell the difference between the ICU and the ER. Bekes has long been at the forefront of advancing her specialty, including serving as the first woman president of the national Society of Critical Care Medicine. Though the Cherry Hill resident is now a member of Cooper’s executive board, she never forsakes the practice she calls “my true love,” offering to do weekend rounds in the ICU, enjoying her interface with patients and residents alike.
The women of Charny, Charny & Karpousis Divorce and Family Law Group The fact that the seven-woman Divorce and Family Law group at the Mount Laurel law firm Charny, Charny & Karpousis lacks testosterone was not intentional. “We didn’t set out this way,” says partner Judith S. Charny. “But as we [Charny and partner Karen Rose Karpousis] started hiring associates, we hired people we could relate to and mesh with—and they turned out to be women.” Those associates are Nancy D. Gold, Dawn Kaplan, Amy Smith, Erin Kolmansberger and Erika L. Goldberg. Far from the TV-driven stereotype of cattiness in a woman-dominated workplace, the group members get along famously. “We have a real camaraderie and a lot in common,” says Charny.
Laura Cheadle Singer/Songwriter From performing in her father’s choir for Persian Gulf War troops when she was 4, to teaching herself to play guitar at age 16, Cheadle has spent her life surrounded by music. Now the 23-year-old singer/songwriter is planning a national tour to promote her fourth album, Live On, which was released this year. Cheadle, who grew up in Pitman and now lives in Swedesboro, makes time for charity work, playing benefit concerts and performing for patients at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
Ann Baiada Director of Bayada Nurses Baiada—a registered nurse, certified rehabilitation registered nurse and director of Bayada Nurses—long a champion of the nursing profession—founded BayadAbility, the rehabilitation nursing program for Bayada Nurses. In turn, she’s had an award named for her, the Ann Baiada Award for Excellence in Nursing Leadership, and is the recipient of the Institute for Nursing in New Jersey’s Diva in Nursing Award. Recognized with honors from numerous charitable organizations for her compassion and sense of responsibility, Baiada was also named the 2009 Citizen of the Year by the Moorestown Service Council.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 6 Issue 7 (October, 2009). For more info on South Jersey Magazine, click here. To subscribe to South Jersey Magazine, click here. To advertise in South Jersey Magazine, click here.
Author: Cheryl Krementz with additional profiles by Christina Hernandez and Regina Schaffer