Black & Gold Gala 2015 — Professional Achievement Award
College of Sciences

COS-Rosengren
College of Sciences Dean Michael Johnson presented the college’s 2015 Professional Achievement Award to James Rosengren, ’81.
James Rosengren, ’81 | Founder/Chairman/CEO, Heritage Health Solutions Inc.

The UCF Alumni Association and College of Sciences presented their 2015 Professional Achievement Award to James Rosengren at the annual Black & Gold Gala on Oct. 22.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in biology from UCF, Jim went on to earn his master’s degree in healthcare administration at Baylor University in 1991. 

Before becoming the chairman and CEO of Heritage Health Solutions Inc., he was the vice president of political and government relations for Health Net Federal Services Inc. He also served in the U.S. Army, earning multiple medals, the Legion of Merit Award and Congressional Veteran Commendation.

Jim is a fellow at the American College of Healthcare Executives, and is a member of several veterans and military organizations.

Learn more about Jim:

Black & Gold Gala 2015 — Professional Achievement Award
College of Nursing

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College of Nursing Dean Mary Lou Sole presented the college’s 2015 Professional Achievement Award to Thomas Weichart, ’04, ’14.
Thomas Weichart, ’04, ’14 | Clinical Nursing Director, ONI Medical Associates

The UCF Alumni Association and College of Nursing presented their 2015 Professional Achievement Award to Tom Weichart at the annual Black & Gold Gala on Oct. 22.

Prior to his current career ventures, Tom held various nursing positions, including the role of presidential executive nurse with the White House Medical Unit. He also served in the U.S. Army, with stints at Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg, N.C.; 86th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad, Iraq; and 240th Forward Surgical Team in Macedonia and Kosovo.

His education in the health-care field began in 1993 and continues to this day. He earned a BS in nursing from the University of Florida in 1995; an MS in health services administration from Central Michigan University in 1999; an MS in critical care nursing from UCF in 2004; a post-graduate health profession education certificate in 2004; an MA in theology/theological studies from Liberty University in 2010; post-graduate certificate as a family nurse practitioner from UCF in 2014; and is currently attending UCF for a nurse practitioner doctorate, scheduled to graduate next year.

Learn more about Tom:

Black & Gold Gala 2015 — Professional Achievement Award
College of Medicine

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College of Medicine Dean Deborah German presented the college’s 2015 Professional Achievement Award to Dr. Michael Makowski, ’80.
Dr. Michael Makowski, ’80 | Eye Physician/Surgeon, Tomoka Eye Associates

The UCF Alumni Association and College of Medicine presented their 2015 Professional Achievement Award to Michael Makowski at the annual Black & Gold Gala on Oct. 22.

Mike earned his bachelor’s degree in molecular biology/microbiology from UCF, then went on to earn his medical degree from the University of South Florida in 1984. He did his internship at Greenville Hospital System in South Carolina, and his residency at the Medical College of Georgia. 

He is an ophthalmologist and partner with Tomoka Eye Associates, Daytona’s largest and most popular ophthalmology group, with multiple subspecialists and the latest diagnostic technology. His focus is on cataract surgery, glaucoma, oculoplastics and corneal transplant. He’s a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Medical Association, American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons, Volusia County Medical Society and Flagler County Medical Society.

Mike received the Patients’ Choice Award in 2008, 2011 and 2014, and Compassionate Doctor Recognition in 2011 and 2014.

He’s married to fellow Knight Sandi (Wing), ’80, with whom he has two adult sons.

Learn more about Michael:

Space Coast Chapter Volunteers at Cocoa Beach Marathon

SpaceCoast-marathon-shoes SpaceCoast-marathon

By Angie Lewis, ’03

On Sunday, Oct. 25, members of the Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter (above) manned water stations and cheered on runners in the Cocoa Beach Half Marathon. They also collected used running shoes — 104 pairs to be exact! — to be donated to local charities. SEE MORE PHOTOS


In addition, the UCF Alumni Association’s own Shawna Duane (below), administrative assistant to Executive Director Julie C. Stroh, ran the half marathon (her first one), finishing in 2:54.39, earning her a miniature “I Dream of Jeannie” bottle (since the series took place in Cocoa Beach). “Jeannie” herself, Barbara Eden, was even in attendance to congratulate the runners. Way to go, Shawna!

Shawna-marathon-running Shawna-marathon Shawna-marathon-BarbaraEden

Students Who Use Wheelchairs Find Freedom on
Rock-Climbing Tower

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By Gene Kruckemyer
UCF Today

Inch by inch, participants pull themselves to the top of UCF’s adaptive-climbing rock tower, ascending high above their wheelchairs and achieving new heights that others sometimes think they can’t reach.

“It feels like a bit of freedom,” said Katherine Torres, a student majoring in health services administration who has a muscle weakness that doesn’t allow her to stand or walk. “I’ve always been one to challenge myself. And when a lot of people say I can’t do something — just watch. I didn’t know what to expect, but when I got half way there I thought to myself ‘I’m going to keep on going. I can do this.’”

Some other universities in Florida offer rock climbing to their students, but UCF is the only one to have an adaptive climbing wall, giving students with limited mobility a chance to climb, said Nathan Vink, assistant director of UCF’s Outdoor Adventure program.

This summer the Recreation and Wellness Center provided special training to eight staffers to jump-start its new adaptive-climbing program.

“This is a growing focus in recreation — to look beyond the able-bodied student and offer opportunities to all students, whether with physical or mental disabilities,” Vink said about the campus Student Assisted Workout program. “Our goals are also to try to reach the students who aren’t here yet, to open up opportunities. We have students who don’t have the same abilities, but they do have abilities.”

The adaptive-climbing program empowers students, whether beginners or experienced, to reach their potential on the 41-foot tower.

“They challenge themselves. They set their own goals,” Vink said. “We don’t tell them they have to reach the top. We’re supportive of what they want to achieve.”

The center trained staffers in the techniques of harnessing climbers in the equipment and controlling the safety ropes as the participants ascend. The climbers use a handlebar-style device that grips a rope and slowly ratchets them upwards as they repeatedly pull downward on the bar.

The ratchet system requires a quarter of the strength that other climbers would need to ascend the rope. There are different seat harnesses with various strapping and padding to help with pressure issues, and participants with prosthetic limbs can use the equipment in a way to help propel them up the rock face.

Torres, who also works in the Recreation and Wellness Center, said she heard about the campus climbing tower two years ago when she was a freshman, and has long wished she could somehow try to scale it — even if the prospect of ascending the tower was a little intimidating. And now with the staffers on duty to help, she has made the trip up twice.

Kristen Cioce, who uses a wheelchair because of a spinal cord injury, was hesitant at first to try the tower, but said she went up to fulfill a promise to one of her physical trainers — and it was an exhilarating experience that she’d do again if the opportunity came up.

“It was not something I was looking forward to doing. At first it was something I was trying to get out of,” said Cioce, who graduated last month with a master’s degree in social work. “But it’s an amazing opportunity that UCF offers.”

Vink said the staffers also talk with the climbers to allay any fears about heights or falling. And as the climbers ascend, staffers “belay” the safety ropes — or take up the slack to prevent slips.

“Every student is unique,” he said. “We just try to see how we can help them.”

Three students used the system during the summer, and now that the fall semester has started, Vink expects others to check out the adaptive-climbing experience.

What advice do the veteran climbers have for others?

“I highly recommend it to any student who has inabilities,” Cioce said. “Just follow your gut if you’re being led to do it. You don’t have to get to the top.”

And while people in wheelchairs usually feel smaller than others, Torres said, “This is a time to feel bigger than everyone. You can have a different perspective.”

For more information about the climbing program or to schedule a climb, visit http://rwc.sdes.ucf.edu/facilities/climbing-tower.

Alumna’s Capstone Project Turns into Reality at Nemours

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Call it a case of excellent timing.

When executive health services administration student Jennifer Hamilton, ’14, was provided with the final assignment for her capstone course, she knew exactly what she was going to do.

The assignment was to create a research project that would build upon all of the prior concepts and coursework covered in the executive HSA program. As luck would have it, Hamilton, who is the director of clinical support for Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, had just been asked to evaluate the cost of a new epilepsy unit for the hospital.

“I said to my teammates, ‘Hey, I was just assigned this [evaluation],” she explains. “I have the info at my fingertips. And that was how we decided.”

What started off as a task for work ended up as the final capstone project for Hamilton and her classmates, Chau Duong and Lori Galanida. That capstone project, in turn, became the business proposal for Nemours’ newest unit — the Sleep/EEG Center — which officially opened on July 17.

“It was pride and joy — so exciting,” Hamilton says. “I’m not a clinician, so everyone was saying, ‘Why is she so interested?’ But, it was a really big deal.”

The Sleep/EEG Center is not only a big deal for Hamilton and her teammates, but it’s a big deal for Nemours as well as its patients. The initial scope of the project was to determine the strategy for building an Epilepsy Monitoring Unit. As the trio delved deeper into their research, they discovered that the hospital didn’t just need an epilepsy unit. Physicians were also conducting electroencephalogram tests as well as sleep studies, and they were doing their work in a small, tucked-away area within the hospital with limited growth potential. What they needed was a new unit, within the ambulatory side of the facility that would be more accessible to patients and provide increased capability to service patients with neurological and/or sleep disorders.

“It wasn’t just ease of access,” Hamilton explains. “Some of these kids — sometimes just by the nature of their medical condition — were at risk of coding, and, in a few situations, did code. Prior to the Sleep Lab moving to the downtown facility, you would have to call 911, stabilize them, then take them to the emergency room. This served as the impetus for moving that service to the hospital, but we encountered other ramifications resulting from this location change.”

They also found that the hospital was not being reimbursed as much because the procedures are typically intended to be performed in an outpatient setting, as opposed to what was now considered an inpatient setting.

The project team, having researched cost benefit, proposed that the hospital combine EEG and sleep services in a shared setting. With that idea in mind, the executive HSA students decided to pitch their idea to executives at Nemours.

Hamilton says it’s been rewarding to see their work turn into a world-class center that will serve the thousands of children in Central Florida who are in need of the services this unit can provide. She credits her teammates, as well as the executive HSA program, for helping her turn her class project into a reality.

“It was worth taking those courses and being a part of the program.”

This story was posted Aug. 4, 2015, on the UCF College of Health and Public Affairs website. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article. 

UCF Student Entrepreneurs Take Art into Their Own Hands

Yuan Chang aims to introduce UCF students to healthier food options and fresher-quality ingredients. (Photo courtesy of Yuan Chang)

By Shanae Hardy
Digital Producer, Central Florida Future

Unlike most college students who see college as a time to study and party, some students are using their time to explore and cultivate creativity.

Since the launch of the Blackstone LaunchPad at UCF, many students have received help to facilitate their entrepreneurial ventures.

Although there are some students who walk into the UCF Starter Lab with ideas brimming the innovative pool in their brains, while others walk in unsure of where their entrepreneurial aspirations may lead.

From Garden to UCF
Hae Yuan Chang, a junior environmental science major, decided she wanted to provide healthier food options for students after being frustrated by the limited vegan and vegetarian options on campus.

“I’ve had experiences where I would be on campus for a long time, and I would have to eat some of the options we have on campus that were suitable for vegetarians, and it made me really groggy and not want to do anything, like not want to go to class,” she explains.

Inspired by the vegetarian Hare Krishna buffet offered at the University of Florida, Chang wants to introduce students to fresher-quality ingredients that will have similar flavors of a student’s acquired tastes.

“I definitely want to incorporate ethnic dishes such as curry and stir-fry,” she says. “I want to prove that vegan food isn’t just salad.”

Chang is currently working on her company with the help from UCF’s Startup Community. She is also testing out the flavors of her menu with her six roommates at the Peanut Butter Palace, a sustainable student co-op.

Learning how to completely adjust to a vegetarian diet by cooking and gardening with her vegan and vegetarian roommates, Chang hopes to teach students that it’s really easy to become environmentally aware and it can be beneficial.

Growing your own food lowers food costs and promotes healthy eating, she says.

Chang plans to set up a vegetarian food stand on campus, potentially named “The Beet Bar.”

Molding a Hobby
While developing an app for students to track the night life in Orlando, Cedric Lopez, a senior entrepreneurship major, accidentally stumbled into leather designing.

“One day I decided to make a wallet for myself,” he explains. “Then, I decided to make a laptop cover and posted it online. I got a surprising response from friends, and the orders started coming in. So, I had a hard decision to make: keep working on this app or invest all my time into leather working.”

He decided to brand his products with the help of Blackstone.

Cedric Lopez hand stitches and uses exotic leather for wallets, bags and key chains to make high-quality products. (Photo courtesy of Cedric Lopez)
Cedric Lopez hand stitches and uses exotic leather for wallets, bags and
key chains to make high-quality products. (Photo courtesy of Cedric Lopez)

Previously wanting to become an architect, he uses the same creative process he learned to incorporate into his designing.

“I could see the silhouette of a building, or a feature of that building, and be inspired to make something out of leather,” he says.

Lopez hand stitches and uses exotic leather for the wallets, bags and key chains he crafts, which makes for better-quality products to distinguish his brand.

Abandoning one idea for another has proved to be a challenge for Lopez, but he plans to maintain his brand through perseverance.

“I have learned to just get there and start something,” he says. “You’re going to make mistakes, but that’s when you learn what not to do. Fail fast and fail early.”

Musically Inclined
Turning his uncertainty into a brand, Brandon Nightingale, a senior history and writing and rhetoric major, launched his first mixtape, “Flight ‘n Friends,” in April after receiving encouragement and mentoring from Blackstone.

“Three months ago, I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I just released the project,” Nightingale says.

He utilized a community of music artists, designers and producers from UCF and his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., to help with his first music venture.

Brandon Nightingale launched his first mixtape, "Flight 'n Friends," and hopes it resonates with the UCF community. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Nightingale)
Brandon Nightingale launched his first mixtape, “Flight ‘n Friends,” and hopes it resonates
with the UCF community. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Nightingale)

Nightingale said he hopes his mixtape resonates with the UCF community even after he graduates.

“I think people will get the message to bring people together through music because people are moved through music,” he says.

Nightingale recently started performing at local clubs in Orlando and Jacksonville, and he is working on his second project, which will not have as many featured artists.

“Music is something I’ve always dreamed about. I just had to be told I could do it.”

This article appeared in a June 3, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original story.

UCF MedTalk Series Wraps Up for Spring

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Stephen Lambert, Ph.D., associate professor for medicine in the UCF College of Medicine, presented the first MedTalk, “The Cannibal and the Railway Worker’s Wife: Why Your Brain Gets Sick,” on April 22 at the Downtown Pour House. The series, a partnership between the UCF College of Medicine and UCF Alumni Association, will continue in the fall.

Since April, the UCF College of Medicine and UCF Alumni Association have partnered to host a monthly series of MedTalk events. These informal discussions allow attendees to hear about current and innovative issues in medicine, all in plain language and a casual setting, where a researcher or physician gives a brief presentation, followed by a Q&A session.

So far, the three MedTalks have included:

  • “The Cannibal and the Railway Worker’s Wife: Why Your Brain Gets Sick” (presented by Stephen Lambert, Ph.D., on April 22), which covered how our brains get sick and what we can do to maintain brain health, and what works and doesn’t work with some of the most debilitating diseases we face today as a society of people living longer than ever before.
  • “Wine, the Sun and Food: Keys to a Long Life” (presented by Dr. Sampath Parthasarathy on May 13), which covered what’s going on in laboratories around the world and answered the questions: Is all wine equal? Are there foods that can harm you? What can sunlight do?
  • “The Upshot of Viruses and Vaccines” (presented by Dr. Griffith Parks on June 17), which covered why viruses are among the most deadly known diseases of mankind, including smallpox, measles and the influenza virus, as well as what viruses are and why they’re hard to control, how vaccines are made and why you need to get them annually, and where all these new viruses are coming from.

All of the events are free and take place at the Downtown Pour House.

The series will pick up again in the fall.

Swinging for Scholarships

UCF alumna puts on her dancing shoes to help raise money for nursing students

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Joyce DeGennaro, ’03, practices with dance partner Tony Sterling for Femmes de Coeur’s “Let Us Entertain You” competition
to help raise money for UCF nursing scholarships. (Photo: Zack Thomas, UCF Foundation)

By Angie Lewis, ’03

When Joyce DeGennaro, ’03, decided to apply for the College of Nursing’s accelerated B.S.N. program, she needed some assistance to help ease the financial burden of pursuing another degree. After all, she was a little older, and had a 6-month-old baby and mortgage at the time. That’s when she discovered the Femmes de Coeur scholarship, for which she applied and was awarded, helping her to pay for tuition and books, and graduate without student-loan debt in 2009.

Femmes de Coeur (Women of Heart) is an Orlando-based, not-for-profit volunteer organization that regularly hosts fundraising events to support numerous local community projects, including nursing scholarships at UCF, Valencia College, Seminole State College and the Florida Hospital’s Adventist University of Health Sciences.

Becoming a nurse wasn’t DeGennaro’s original plan, however. She grew up thinking she wanted to become a counselor or forensic psychologist, which is why she earned her first UCF bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in criminal justice, in 2003. But, it was her work in Florida Hospital’s inpatient placement program that inspired her to go back to school to become a nurse.

Forever thankful for her opportunity to follow her passion, DeGennaro recently had the opportunity to participate in Femmes de Coeur’s annual dance competition, “Let Us Entertain You,” which raises money for exact scholarship that helped put her through nursing school.

She had no previous dance experience before the competition, but was in good hands with her 19-year dancing veteran and partner, Tony Sterling. The pair practiced twice a week since March, and took the stage June 14 in the ballroom at Church Street Station, dancing the West Coast Swing to Florida-Georgia Line’s “Cruise.” While they didn’t take the top prize, they did place third, which means about $10,000 in nursing scholarships for UCF.

JoyceDeGennaro-dance2

“It was my way of being able to give back to something that helped me.” DeGennaro says.

She also gives back daily, in a different way — helping to educate future nurses in the College of Nursing, where she was hired as a permanent nursing instructor in January.

Her journey from practical to practicum began while she was working as a nurse in the multisystem-transplant ICU at Florida Hospital South, where she became a certified preceptor and discovered a love for teaching. So, once again, DeGennaro re-enrolled at UCF — this time in the nurse educator master’s program, from which she graduated in 2013.

“I love being a nurse,” she says. “I love caring for people. [But,] as a nurse educator, I’m able to impart my knowledge and experience into my students. Every time they help or care for someone, I feel as though I’m a part of it. So, in essence, I’m able to touch more people’s lives than ever before!”

While she’s not planning to make a career out of dancing, DeGennaro is planning to continue her UCF education, beginning her Ph.D. in summer 2016, with plans to do research in critical care.

UCF Alumni Board Welcomes Three New Members

The UCF Alumni Association board of directors, led by its chair, Peter Cranis, ’84, welcomes three new members this summer. The board is made up of dedicated volunteers who share their time and expertise to strengthen programs and services that benefit alumni and students.

Angela CohenAngela Cohen, ’98, is president/co-founder of Cyon, an Orlando-based professional recruitment firm. Angela’s expertise includes strategic planning and Fortune 100 corporate management. She and Cyon are dedicated to providing educational scholarships to deserving students at UCF through the UCF Foundation and her namesake scholarship to an active member of the Kappa Delta Sorority.
Trish CelanoTrish Celano, ’10, is vice president/chief nursing officer for Florida Hospital. Trish specializes in nursing strategies, mentoring, coaching and outcome management. She was the recipient of last year’s UCF College of Nursing Professional Achievement Award.
SMITH Beth015Beth Smith, ’04, is the community relations manager for Orlando Health. Beth combines leadership and volunteerism to support fundraising activities for numerous community organizations, including UCF scholarships. In 2012, she was named one of the Orlando Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” nominees.

Learn more about the UCF Alumni Association Board of Directors.