November 6, 2019

Thriving Forward Podcast

In each episode we will speak with people involved in good works and projects in the Greater Rochester Area. We hope that by introducing you to these inspirational people and their stories, that you will be motivated to learn more about these amazing organizations in our region and the fabulous people who keep them working.


Megan Callanan Lasaponara, MD is a Pediatrician at Unity Hospital and Rochester General Hospital and the Founder and Executive Director of Kids Thrive 585, Inc.

Sarah Collins-McGowan, MD is a Pediatrician at Genesee Pediatrics and the Associate Director of Pediatrics Links with the Community at the Hoekelman Center.

Episode 1

In this episode, Sarah interviews Megan about Kids Thrive 585, Inc.

Episode 2

In this episode Megan interviews Mary Tiballi Hoffman the Development Manager for Blackfriars Theatre as they head into their 70th season of bringing local theatre to the Rochester area!

Episode 3

In this episode Megan Interviews Dr. Andy Aligne from the Hoekelman Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

  • Website:
  • Phone: (585) 273-3737
  • Fax: (585) 276-2566
  • Address: 601 Elmwood Ave, Box 777, Rochester, NY 14642

Episode 4

In this episode Sarah interviews Dr. Andrew Sherman, a local Pediatrician and Co-President of Net Life. A non-profit that works to prevent Malaria in Africa by working to address the barriers that exist to using mosquito nets.

  • Website:
  • Email:

Episode 5

In this episode Sarah interviews Dirk Hightower from The Children’s Institute. A. Dirk Hightower, Ph.D. is a Senior Associate at Children’s Institute. The mission of Children’s Institute is to equip and support those who work with children to ensure the success of every child.

Episode 6

In this episode Megan interviews Grandmaster Sung Kim of Master Kim’s Tae Kwon Do Institute. This local martial arts studio makes it part of its mission to do community service projects to give back to people in our area!

  • Website:

Episode 7

In this episode Sarah talks with Rebecca Russo, a supervising attorney at Legal Assistance of Western NY (LawNY), about the medical legal partnership model, where doctors and lawyers work together to help patients.

  • Website:

Episode 8

In this episode Megan speaks with Dr. David Topa, a local pediatrician and child advocate. He has helped to fund raise for multiple local organizations and often partners with the Children’s Agenda on causes he is passionate about.


Episode 9

In this episode Sarah interviews Alice McAdam, the Program Manager of the Parents as Teachers (PAT) program at Hillside Children’s Center. They are joined by Vanessa Lespier and Nicole Pope, two parents who are enrolled in the program.

  • To learn more about Hillside’s Parents as Teachers Program, you can contact Alice at: 585-436-0370, ext. 308

Episode 10

In this episode Megan interviews Shawn Brown, the Program Director for Teen Empowerment of Rochester. The mission of Teen Empowerment is to: employ, train, and empower youth to create peace, equity, and justice, in collaboration with adults.

Episode 11

In this episode Megan interviews Deb Rosen, the Executive Director of Bivona Child Advocacy Center. Bivona Child Advocacy Center delivers excellence in child abuse response, healing and prevention through collaborative service, awareness, education and leadership.


Episode 12

In this episode Megan interviews Jennifer Johnson. Many Rochesterians may recognize her from her work in local news for 17 years. She now works as the Director of Family and Community Outreach at Golisano Children’s Hospital at URMC.


Episode 13

In this episode, Sarah interviews Jackie Dozier from Trillium Health.

Jackie Dozier has a BS in Healthcare Administration, and currently manages the Women’s Prevention Program, Innovation Institute at Trillium Health. Jackie has many ties with the African American and Latino communities in Rochester. Jackie’s purpose is to raise awareness to women and their families on prevention of HIV/AIDS/STIs and High Blood Pressure, along with the other health disparities and social determinants of health in our communities. Jackie is the former Administrative Assistant to the late County Legislator, Willie Lightfoot, at the South West Community Center (SWAN) and is affiliated with numerous community and faith-based organizations.

Episode 14

In this episode Sarah interviews Erick Stephens, the Parent Engagement Coordinator for Healthi Kids at Common Ground Health.  In his role, Erick provides technical assistance and support to schools to strengthen and improve parent engagement efforts. He also works directly with parents training them on advocacy and connecting them to opportunities to impact policy, systems, and environmental change in schools.

Episode 15

In this episode Sarah interviews Dr. Jan Schriefer from the Department of Pediatrics at URMC.  As the Director of Quality Improvement (QI) for the Department of Pediatrics, Dr. Schriefer oversees and facilitates quality initiatives to improve processes of care and outcomes.  She is also the Quality Assurance Liaison (QAL), and as such is integrally involved in quality assurance efforts, helping to facilitate case reviews, serving on Root Cause Analysis teams, managing the daily event reporting system and better connecting QA and QI efforts. 

For more information, please visit:

Episode 16

In this episode Sarah interviews Katelin Pellett, the Vice President of Programs at Causewave Community Partners. Katelin leads a team that works with 200+ nonprofit partners on marketing and behavior change efforts in order to make the community a better place. She is also charged with partnership development, campaign and capacity building program development, strategic initiatives and organizational advancement.

For more information, visit:

Episode 17

In this episode Megan interviews Matt Fico, Community Outreach Coordinator at The Arc of Monroe.  Matt has been with The Arc since January 2019.  His job there is to provide information and drive community interest in The Arc’s Programs and Services. He works with area schools, care coordination organizations, community partners, families and people The Arc supports to educate and provide more details on programs, services and eligibility for enrollment.  Prior to his time at the Arc he was Independent Living Supervisor for The Regional Center for Independent Living in Rochester, and before that he spent 20 years in the corporate sector, in various positions. 

To contact Matt or learn more about The Arc of Monroe, email or visit:

Episode 18

In this episode Megan interviews Dr. Yvette Conyers, Assistant Professor of Community Health Nursing at St. John Fisher College’s Wegmans School of Nursing.

Dr. Conyers is a Family Nurse Practitioner who specializes in completing in-home risk assessments for Medicare Advantage consumers. She received her associate degree from Monroe Community College, her RN-BS completion degree from the University of Rochester, and her master’s in nursing education from Roberts Wesleyan College. Shen then completed her Family Nurse Practitioner certificate and doctorate of nursing practice from St. John Fisher College. Dr. Conyers received the Greater Rochester 40 under 40 African American Leaders award in 2011 and the Health Care Achievement Award from the Rochester Business Journal in 2019. Dr. Conyers is the first president of the Rochester Black Nurses Association, founded in 2018.

Episode 19

As part of the celebration of International Breastfeeding Month, Megan spoke with the outgoing Co-Presidents of the Rochester Regional Breastfeeding Coalition, Kate Lyness and Julie O’Hehir. They discuss the local options for breastfeeding support and the different levels of certification. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, check out this week’s episode!


Episode 20

Megan and Aaron discuss the Rochester Summer Meals program, its community partners, and changes in the era of COVID. Aaron Lattanzio is a senior program manager at Causewave Community Partners, Aaron has supported strategy, outreach and coordination efforts of the Summer Meals Partnership of Rochester since 2014. While working with the partnership Aaron has also worked on a variety of other youth-focused initiatives including student attendance in the Rochester City School District, youth nutrition and physical activity with Finger Lakes Eat Smart NY and GROW comprehensive health and development screenings with the Children’s Institute. As a former chef, Aaron has a passion for ensuring youth in our community have access to healthy and tasting food options.


Episode 21

In this episode Sarah interviews Dr. LeKeyah Wilson. Dr. Wilson is the Medical Director of School-Based Health Centers for Rochester Regional Health as well as a practicing pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist. The RRH School-Based Health Centers are located in the following schools: Charlotte High School, The Edison School, Freddie Thomas Learning Center, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School #9, and John James Audubon School #33.

To learn more about Dr. Wilson, go to:

To learn more about the RRH School-Based Health Centers, visit the website below and scroll down to “School-Based Health Systems”.

Parents who are interested in enrolling their child in one of the School-Based Health Centers can look for a form in their enrollment packet or contact the nurse’s office directly at their child’s school.

Episode 22

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Locally Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong provides phenomenal care for children and families dealing with cancer diagnoses. On this episode podcast we welcome Dr. Carol Fries from URMC’s Pediatric Hematology and Oncology group as well as Dr. Katie Rice, the Division’s Pediatric Psychologist. Dr. Rice specializes in helping children and teens with medical conditions. In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Fries is researching ways to provide more personalized therapy with fewer side effects to children diagnosed with Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

URMC Pediatric Hematology and Oncology:

Episode 23

In this episode Sarah talks with Dr. Sandy Jee, co-director of the Finger Lakes Children’s Environmental Health Center.

The Finger Lakes Children’s Environmental Health Center’s mission is to prevent, diagnose, and treat environmentally related conditions for families in their 15 county region.  Funded by NYS Department of Health, FLCEHC is part of the first state-based model for pediatric environmental health services in the country.   
For more about FLCEHC, check out:
Facebook –
Call Line – (844) 352-3420 (844-FLCEHC-0) for the public, community agencies, and healthcare providers

Dr. Jee is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester.  She received her B.A. in English from Yale University, her M.D. with Distinction in Research from the University of Rochester, and M.P.H. in Health Management and Policy from the University of Michigan.  She completed her pediatric residency at N.Y.U. and University of Michigan, and fellowship in Pediatric Health Services Research at the University of Michigan.  She has also completed a fellowship in Integrative Medicine from the University of Arizona.  In October 2020 she became Co-Director of the Finger Lakes Children’s Environmental Health Center (FLCEHC) at Golisano Children’s Hospital.  She is a practicing general pediatrician and teaches medical students and residents at the University of Rochester.  Her current research and clinical interests focuses on health disparities for children and promoting healthy living principles.

For more about Dr. Jee, visit:

Episode 24

In this episode Sarah interviews Lisa Nolan, Director of Prevention Education at Willow Domestic Violence Center, to learn about their services and how the pandemic has affected domestic violence in our area.

 To learn more about Willow, go to:

 Domestic Violence hotline: 585-222-SAFE (7233)

 Domestic Violence textline: 585-348-SAFE (7233)

Episode 25

November is Prematurity Awareness Month. On this episode of the podcast we welcome Carla LeVant. She has been a social worker at the Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong for 34 years and in the NICU for the past 15. Carla has a Bachelors in Social Work from Syracuse University and a Masters in Social Work from New York University.  Her graduate placement was at  NYU Medical Center on the Acute Pediatric Floor. She has an interest in Family Systems and a focus on Family Centered Care. She has co –facilitated the GCH Parent Advisory Council for 20 years and one specific to NICU issues for the past 15 years.

Resources for preemie parents:

Episode 26

In this episode Megan speaks with Deb Turner, Program Director for Fingerlakes 2-1-1 Lifeline.

211/LIFE LINE, a mission program of Goodwill of the Finger Lakes, and is an accredited program through the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems, American Association of Suicidology, and International Council for Helplines for Online Emotional Support. 

 211/LIFE LINE is here for everyone, every day, anytime. Community members get connected with experienced telecounselors by simply dialing 211 for free and confidential assistance connecting to vital services within the community. When you need help locating basic resources (like food, clothing, shelter) or need crisis stabilization for yourself or someone you know, we’re here to listen and here to help.


Episode 27

In this episode Megan interviews Otto Harnischfeger the Executive Director of The Pirate Toy Fund.

The Pirate Toy Fund is the only nonprofit organization in the country dedicated to distributing new toys year-round to children-in-need throughout the Greater Rochester region. Co-Founded by local children’s entertainer, Gary the Happy Pirate and Dave and Lorrie Simonetti, the Pirate Toy Fund has distributed over 250,000 toys since 1995 and continues to actively pursue new avenues to expand its mission. The founders were inspired by the extraordinary life of Christie Simonetti; daughter of Dave and Lorrie and special friend to Gary.


Episode 28

In this episode Sarah talks with Mitch Gruber, Chief Strategy Officer at Foodlink.  Mitch graduated from SUNY Binghamton and worked at ABC Head Start before joining Foodlink in 2008.  He earned his PhD in American history at the University of Rochester, focusing his dissertation on the decline of urban food access in Rochester.  He also serves as a Rochester City Council Member.

For more than 40 years, Foodlink has leveraged the power of food to end hunger and build healthier communities in Allegany, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates counties. Through good stewardship, innovation and collaboration, Foodlink mobilizes a diverse network of community partners to address both the symptoms and root causes of food insecurity.   

To learn more about Foodlink, visit:

Episode 29

In this episode Megan speaks to the Co-Owners of Hipocampo Books, Henry Ignacio Padrón-Morales and Pamela Bailie.

Hipocampo Children’s Books, LLC is an independent Woman/Latinx owned children’s bookstore in Rochester, NY! They are located in the South Wedge, close to downtown. They have a varied collection of books that represent the rich cultures and languages of western NY as well as toys and children’s apparel. They host children’s programs and classes, performances, author signings, and even opportunities for adults to share their love of children’s literature.

Check out their website for more information:

Episode 30

In this episode Sarah talks with Jennifer Muniga, the Executive Director of Cameron Community Ministries.  

Cameron Community Ministries is an Urban Outreach Community Center in the Lyell-Otis Neighborhood of Rochester, NY.  Their mission is to work with neighborhood residents and partners to create a vibrant and thriving community through empowerment and advocacy while meeting basic needs.  Program offerings include youth after-school and summer programs, a Teen Center, Peace Garden, a free hot meal program that serves lunch daily, an emergency food pantry, and a clothing house that serves community members in need of clothing and housewares.

Jennifer began her work at Cameron as the Youth Programs Director in 2011 and was named Executive Director in 2013. 

To learn more about Cameron Community Ministries, please visit:

Episode 31

In this episode Megan interviews her co-host, Sarah, about being a pediatrician during COVID, her work as Assistant Director for Pediatric Links with the Community, and her community work with Get Ready to GROW Rochester.

To learn more about Pediatric Links with the Community, visit:

To learn more about Get Ready to GROW Rochester, visit:

Episode 32

Dr. Brenda Tesini is an Associate Hospital Epidemiologist as well as an Adult and pediatric general infectious diseases doctor at URMC. She and Megan discuss the changes and challenges to her job since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic.


Episode 33

In this episode Sarah talks with Dr. Steven Schulz, the pediatric medical director for Rochester Regional Health’s Monroe County region and a pediatrician at Finger Lakes Medical Associates in Geneva.  Dr. Schulz talks about his efforts in helping to coordinate the pediatric community’s response to COVID including his work on the Finger Lakes Reopening Schools Safely Task Force.

Links from Dr. Schulz’s interview:
Finger Lakes Reopening Schools Safely Task Force
Rochester Regional Health
Success for Geneva’s Children
Geneva 2030

Episode 34

In this episode Sarah interviews Tonia Burton, Children’s Services Consultant for Monroe County Library System. They talk about the many programs the library system offers and the ways in which the library system has stepped up to meet community need during the COVID pandemic.

To learn more, visit:

Or look on Facebook for:
Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County NY
Central Library Kids Club Family Storytime

Episode 35

In this episode Sarah interviews Karen Zandi, President and CEO of Mary Cariola Center.  Mary Cariola Center provides services and support to individuals with disabilities and their families. 

To learn more about Mary Cariola Center, visit:

Facebook:  Mary Cariola Center

Facebook:  Mary Cariola Center “Proud Parents” group

Video about Mary Cariola:

Episode 36

On this episode of the podcast Megan interviews Dr. Elizabeth “Lissa” McAnarney.  Dr. McAnarney is a Distinguished University Professor and Chair Emerita of the Department of Pediatrics. She received the M.D. Degree and holds two honorary doctoral degrees. She completed her pediatric residency at the State University of New York (Syracuse) followed by a two-year fellowship at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.  Dr. McAnarney was Director of Adolescent Medicine for 22 years prior to serving as Chair of Pediatrics and Pediatrician-in-Chief at the Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong for 13 years. During her tenure as Chair, she oversaw the development of the Golisano Children’s Hospital and growth of the academic pediatric programs. She was Acting Dean of URSMD for nine months.


Episode 37

This episode is a special broadcast of the Anne E. Dyson Memorial Grand Rounds & Community Advocacy Forum, in which Megan and Sarah co-hosted discussions with two different groups of medical-community partners.

The Hoekelman Center’s 21st Anne E. Dyson Memorial Grand Rounds & Community Advocacy Forum
Topics Discussed: 

  • Puberty Education: Dr. Karina Vattana partnered with Atashia Walker from the Department of Recreation and Human Services and Jennifer Quick from Metro Council for Teen Potential to increase access to age-appropriate, accurate puberty education
  • Vaccine Hesitancy in the Plain Community: Dr. Tyler Stephen partnered with local Mennonites and Sara Christensen Deputy Director from the Yates Public Health Department to open a dialogue on vaccines in their community.

About Dr. Anne E. Dyson

A pediatrician and philanthropist, Dr. Dyson was the driving force behind nationwide efforts to refocus our attention on children in the community, especially those who suffer from violence, poverty, hunger and other social ills.

Under her leadership, the Dyson Foundation funded ten pediatric residency training programs, including the University of Rochester, to enhance training in community health and advocacy. The Anne E. Dyson Memorial Grand Rounds & Child Advocacy Forum celebrates her legacy and promotes the great work being done on behalf of children in the Rochester community and beyond.

Hoekelman Center Website 

Episode 38

Amy Albanese is the Community Relations Manager for Person Centered Services. Amy has a Bachelor’s Degree from Notre Dame College in Arts and Education with a concentration in mild to moderate intervention specialization for K-12 students. Before taking her current job, Amy spent three years as a teacher for children with autism in Ohio. She was the Director of Community Connections for Adaptive Recreation Services, now known as Abilities movement. She was the Community Resource Specialist at the Arc of Monroe for two years. She spent one year as an intake specialist at Person Centered Services before beginning her current role over two years ago.


Episode 39

Have you ever thought about how violence is steeped into so many aspects of our culture? It appears in the expressions we use, the movies we watch, the news stories we read, and the video games we play. In this episode Sarah interviews Kit Miller, the Director of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Non-Violence. At the Gandhi Institute their mission is to help individuals and communities develop the inner resources and practical skills needed to achieve a nonviolent, sustainable, and just world.

To learn more about the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Non-Violence, go to:

You can find them on Facebook or Instagram: @rocnonviolence

Other resources mentioned in this interview:
Harvard Implicit Bias Test –
Non-Violence news –

Episode 40

Meet Kilolo Moyo-White, passionate advocate for parents, antiracist educator, and champion for Rochester’s youth.  Sarah sits down with her in this interview to discuss her work with ROC the Future, The Antiracism Academy, and why it’s so important to empower parent and youth voice.

To learn more about ROC the Future, go to:

Find ROC the Future and PECAN on Facebook 

To learn more about The Anti-Racism Academy, go to:

Episode 41

Joseph Morelle, Jr. is a life-long resident of the Town of Irondequoit. He represents the Monroe County Legislature’s 17th Legislative District, which comprises the southern half of Irondequoit. He serves on the Legislature’s Ways & Means and Transportation Committees. 

Joseph is the VP of Student Housing Development for Wilmorite Management Group, LLC in Henrietta. A graduate of Eastridge High School, he holds a degree in business from SUNY Geneseo. 

On this week’s episode of the podcast, Megan and Joe discuss his passion for local politics, work in the county legislature that he is proud of, and the political divide as it currently stands.


Episode 42

This week on the podcast we are excited to welcome Ed Popil, the entertainer behind local drag superstar, Mrs Kasha Davis. During this episode we discuss the inspiration behind Mrs Kasha Davis, her upcoming project with Blackfriars Theatre, and the things that keep her grounded. This interview focuses on the man behind the woman and we hope you enjoy hearing it as much as we enjoyed recording it!


Episode 43

In this episode we discuss the many hats that Dr. Murray wears in our community, the COVID delta variant, provider advocacy and so much more!

Bivona Child Advocacy Center

REACH is a Referral and Evaluation service for Abused Children

American Academy of Pediatrics &

Episode 44

In this episode we meet Leah Hill, the Clinical Engagement Specialist for the Adolescent and Young Adult Program at Strong Recovery. She shares her passion for advocacy in the substance abuse recovery community locally. She also speaks to the array of services now available at Strong Recovery AYA. If you or someone you know is dealing with substance abuse and you are looking for support listen to this episode to learn more.

Strong Recovery AYA

Episode 45

The Rochester area is full of beautiful outdoor spaces, but the reality is those spaces are not available to everyone. In this episode Sarah talks with Lucienne Nicholson, the founder of Inclusive Woods & Us, a non-profit dedicated to making nature accessible to ALL people, especially traditionally marginalized communities.

To learn more about Inclusive Woods & Us, visit:
FB: @Woodsandus
IG: @woodsandus

Episode 46

When Rochester began talking about filling in the Inner Loop North, artist Shawn Dunwoody and activist Suzanne Mayer teamed up from the two neighborhoods opposite that part of the highway to form Hinge Neighbors.  Together they are working to involve, empower, and lift up the voices of the residents to create a cohesive neighborhood as plans to fill in the Inner Loop move forward.

Listen in as Sarah talks with Shawn and Suzanne about how their unlikely friendship came about and the importance of listening and showing up when working in the community.

To learn more about Hinge Neighbors, click or tap here.

Instagram:  @hingeneighbors
Facebook:  @hingeneighbors

To follow Shawn Dunwoody on Instagram:

Episode 47

Society for the Protection and Care of Children (SPCC) has a long history of championing children’s rights, from the time it was founded in the late 19th century, to its expansive programs and advocacy work today.  In this episode Sarah talks with Sarah Fitzgibbons, the Vice President of Programs & Practices at SPCC, as well as an Infant Health Mentor.  They discuss how SPCC works to support some of the most vulnerable children and families and exactly what the term “infant mental health” means.

Learn more about SPCC here.

Facebook:  The Society for The Protection and Care of Children 

Episode 48

At GiGi’s Playhouse, all ages are welcome, from pre-natal to adults. The positive and uplifting environment of GiGi’s Playhouse Rochester will empower those with Down syndrome and their families to reach their highest potential. GiGi’s Playhouse’s custom, research-based curriculum works towards advancing literacy, math skills, gross and fine motor skills, improving low muscle tone, building self-esteem, preparing for the workforce and more while fostering acceptance, awareness and networking resources for parents, siblings and the community. All programs are FREE of charge: cost will not be a barrier to achievement!

On this episode, we welcomed GiGi’s Playhouse Board Members Carrie and Katie this week. Carrie has Trisomy 21 and has benefited greatly from the support of her family and GiGi’s playhouse both in Rochester and Syracuse.  Carrie has written two children’s books about her experiences.

GiGi’s Playhouse:

Special Tomato:

Adaptive Mall:

Episode 49

Christine Callanan is a Rochester native and a career civil servant in the District Attorney’s offices in both Monroe and Wayne Counties. In this podcast episode she speaks to the role of the District Attorney’s office for victims of crimes, their families, the perpetrators of those crimes and the greater community.

Wayne County DA Office website: 

Contact us:

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