On July 7, the New York City Mayor’s Office will host Hometown Heroes, a ticker tape parade celebrating the Summer of New York City and thanking the essential workers who supported New Yorkers through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event, which is free and open to the public, will feature floats with essential workers from health care organizations, unions and other groups. EmblemHealth and AdvantageCare Physicians—part of EmblemHealth’s family of companies—are proud to support and attend the parade, which will feature seven of our own health care heroes.
For the past year, and every day, our more than 4,500 employees across EmblemHealth’s family of companies have worked diligently to support our members, patients and fellow colleagues. Read our seven heroes’ stories below and follow EmblemHealth and AdvantageCare Physicians (ACPNY) on social media for live updates throughout the parade.
To learn more about EmblemHealth and our family of companies, and to explore career opportunities, follow us on LinkedIn.
Paving the way to better health: Nicole Thomas Sealey, MD
When it comes to her passion for health care and helping those in need, Dr. Nicole Thomas-Sealey found inspiration from an unexpected source: insects. Starting at age 3, Dr. Thomas-Sealey would save small insects that she found in harm’s way, and her compassionate nature eventually led to a career as a health care provider. “I have never considered any other profession,” she says.
As Vice President of Clinical Training and Education and a practicing Family Medicine Specialist at ACPNY’s Forest Hills Medical Office, Dr. Thomas-Sealey’s approach to health care involves much more than simply treating the specific symptoms or conditions of her patients. Reflecting ACPNY’s core values, she believes it is a provider’s duty to empower their patients to make healthier choices going forward. These choices, she believes, can help impact generations, and positively influence the health of not only her patients, but their communities as well.
With the unprecedented scale of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of supporting the health and wellness of entire communities became more apparent than ever before – and Dr. Thomas-Sealey found herself prepared for the challenge. The virus unfortunately hit Dr. Thomas-Sealey close to home, as her father suffered from both COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome during the pandemic. “My hero is my father,” she says. “He is re-learning to walk and feed himself and does it with a smile.” To help her through this stressful time, Dr. Thomas-Sealey found comfort and motivation from her family. “Coming home to them every day gave me the strength to know I needed to stay strong,” she says.
Turning inspiration into action: Manish Chadha, MD
During his 12 years at AdvantageCare Physicians, Dr. Manish Chadha has dedicated himself to bringing the profession of health care back to its core roots, where a patient’s well-being comes before everything else. As an Internal Medicine Specialist at ACPNY’s Ronkonkoma Medical Office, Dr. Chadha has put this belief into practice by working tirelessly to make a positive difference in the lives of his patients.
Dr. Chadha was inspired to pursue a career in health care at age 11, when the diligent work of a doctor helped him overcome a debilitating hip bone infection that left him unable to walk for an entire year. “I learned humility, dedication, and an unrelenting commitment to your profession from him,” Dr. Chadha says.
Dr. Chadha credits much of his success to the collaborative work of his team, especially as they navigated the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic together. As both a team leader and a provider, Dr. Chadha finds inspiration in the life of Mahatma Gandhi, particularly in Gandhi’s selflessness, gentle approach, and empowering message. Dr. Chadha also regularly practices meditation to focus the mind and body during stressful times.
“My continuous quest for working selflessly, helping others, and collaborating with my team to help our patients is the main driver and motivation that keeps me going,” Dr. Chadha says. “To empower others to achieve what they desire and be endowed to selflessly provide for our patients is what I strive to do every day.”
Practicing resilience: Jennifer Santeramo
For the last 18 years, Jennifer Santeramo’s tireless work for AdvantageCare Physicians and EmblemHealth has been driven by one simple thing: the joy that comes from helping others. “I get immense satisfaction from knowing that a person is better emotionally or physically because of my input,” she says.
As a Care Team Associate at ACPNY’s Valley Stream Medical Office, Jennifer reflects ACPNY’s core values by treating every patient with the utmost respect, dignity, and compassion. Jennifer also understands that when it comes to achieving better health outcomes for patients, the commitment and focus of your Care Team is just as important as the quality of your medical care.
Resilience is another key component to succeeding as a heath care professional – something that Jennifer came to truly understand during the COVID-19 pandemic. “No matter what each day brought, I knew I could face it if I just concentrated on getting through the day-to-day routine,” she says. Tragically, this attitude was put to the test with the passing of a colleague during the pandemic, which Jennifer says helped her appreciate that life is very short. “The memories we leave behind and the lives we would have affected are really the most crucial of all,” she says.
To relax and decompress outside of work, Jennifer enjoys watching movies, drinking coffee, sharing jokes, and just spending time with her friends and loved ones. Jennifer credits her success and her resilient attitude to her mother, whom she describes as “a fighter all her life” who helped shape her into the strong, independent woman she is today. “I owe it all to her,” she says.
Finding joy amidst hardship: Heather Juman-James, RN
Heather Juman-James, RN describes her father as her ultimate hero. He told her at an early age that it’s important to help as many people as possible, and that philosophy stuck. Heather, who describes herself as a “kind and caring person,” felt she had what it took to become a nurse and answered the call.
Heathier is currently a Gastrointestinal Supervisor at AdvantageCare Physicians’ Flushing medical office. When COVID-19 tested everyone’s limits last year, Heather remained true to her calling and didn’t miss a beat when it came to providing quality, compassionate care, working diligently to create a safe environment for her patients. “When I saw the relief on their faces after they received the safe and competent care that they needed, this is what kept me going,” she says. “Nurses have the ability to bring understanding and peace during what can be a confusing or challenging time.”
Whenever Heather needs to decompress after long hours or caring for extremely ill patients, she finds comfort in baking, and often delivers her baked goods to patients and colleagues who need emotional support. Keeping faith has guided Heather a long way. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a rough journey, but Heather is ready to apply the many lessons she has learned when it comes to her future as a medical professional and in life.
“Resilience is key. I learned to appreciate life and my loved ones. I realized that I have unlimited potential to adapt and bring out the natural leader in me,” says Heather. “It’s necessary to be attentive and sensitive to patients’ needs and address those needs with the utmost concerned manner during those unprecedented times.”
Focusing on what matters: Chrysoula Kouvaros
Chrysoula “Chrissy” Kouvaros is an Ambulatory Care Pharmacist who has been working with EmblemHealth and the communities it serves for almost seven years. When asked what attracted her to a career in the medical field, she explains that like a lot of people in health care, she genuinely wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.
“Any time you ask a health care professional why they chose their career, you will get a similar response: wanting to help people. This is the exact reason why I chose to be a pharmacist,” says Chrissy. “I wanted to be there for people, to educate them about their health and to make a difference in their lives.”
When work intensified during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chrissy stayed motivated knowing that she was part of a group of determined, caring people who were determined to continue delivering high-quality, compassionate care. “What kept me going was knowing that we were all in this together, not only as health care providers, but as people,” says Chrissy. “Our patients needed us more than ever to make sense of everything that was going on, and they were extremely grateful for the support we were able to provide.”
Chrissy turned to her family to find solace, playing with her one-year-old and four-year-old and remaining physically active by going for walks to re-center herself. “I have learned to stop stressing the small stuff. There’s so much that’s out of our control, and so I try to focus on things that truly matter, and value things that I may have taken for granted before,” says Chrissy. “I’ll try to share this outlook with my patients as it puts life into perspective.”
Building strength through passion: Jahida Cruz
Jahida Cruz has wanted to pursue an altruistic career path for as long as she can remember. Two years ago, she had the opportunity to bring this dream to life when she joined EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care in Harlem, where she serves as a Customer Care Navigator. As part of her role, Jahida not only helps community members navigate and get the most out of their health care, but also empowers them to lead healthier lives.
At the height of the pandemic, Jahida turned to music to decompress, and she also stayed motivated by reminding herself that she was fulfilling her dream of helping people. “What kept me going is knowing that our members needed us. We still were able to service our members and provide them with the care they needed during the pandemic,” says Jahida.
The increase in COVID-19 vaccinations combined with declining infection rates have left many New Yorkers with much to be thankful for, as well as lessons to reflect upon. For Jahida, working through the pandemic has been an exercise in resilience and gratitude. “I’ve learned to adapt to changes. During this time everything seemed so impossible, but I learned how adjust and work in new creative ways,” says Jahida. “My heroes are doctors and medical staff who put their lives on the line to help others.”
Creating teachable moments: Jotir Ramnarine, MD
Compassion, duty, and curiosity are the core of Dr. Jotir Ramnarine’s values as a provider and in the way he approaches each patient. Dr. Ramnarine began his career at EmblemHealth in 2003 and eventually joined the AdvantageCare Physicians family in 2013 to become the Medical Director of ACPNY’s Harlem Medical Office.
Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Ramnarine found himself motivated not only by his passion for helping his community during a time of crisis, but also by his desire to truly understand the virus. Dr. Ramnarine says he was eager to learn as much about COVID-19 as he possibly could and share his knowledge with his colleagues and patients. As he sees it, understanding the virus and educating others is essential for taking necessary precautions, providing effective treatment, and bringing an end to the pandemic.
Dr. Ramnarine also found inspiration from the bravery of his Care Team, especially Rhonda Burgess, a nurse at his office in Harlem. According to Dr. Ramnarine, Rhonda demonstrated remarkable courage during the early stages of the pandemic by starting to test patients before the full details of the virus were truly known.
Ultimately, what keeps Dr. Ramnarine going through the pandemic and beyond is the sense of responsibility he feels to bring quality health care to all patients. “At the end of the day, managing a patient’s medical issues leaves me with the satisfaction that I have taken care of illnesses that can otherwise bring harm to someone,” he says.