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Daily News

NORTHAMPTON — Following nationwide searches, Cooley Dickinson President and CEO Joanne Marqusee announced that two healthcare executives, Katherine Bechtold and Anthony Scibelli, have joined the organization’s senior leadership team.

Bechtold has been selected as Cooley Dickinson Health Care’s vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer.

“I am very excited to have someone with Kate’s depth of experience, clear commitment to quality care and service excellence, collaborative style, and ability to inspire staff at all levels join the senior leadership team,” Marqusee said.

Added Bechtold, “I am excited about this wonderful opportunity to lead nursing and patient-care services at Cooley Dickinson. I was impressed with the commitment to patient care that I heard from staff and medical staff alike and look forward to being part of the new leadership team that Joanne Marqusee is building.”

Most recently, Bechtold served as the senior vice president and chief nurse executive for MultiCare Health System in Tacoma, Wash., where she oversaw system-wide nursing and clinical policies, case management, social work, and quality care for the five-hospital system and its primary-care, urgent-care, and specialty clinics.

She also served for eight years as chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care at Centura Health Systems in Englewood, Colo., and Saint Anthony Hospital System. She counts among her accomplishments leading Saint Anthony Central Hospital to one of the highest scores in the nation for nursing quality indicators and significantly reducing nursing-management turnover rates.

Scibelli has joined Cooley Dickinson Health Care as vice president, operations and chief administrative officer. He will supervise a number of departments, including Facilities, Housekeeping, Transport, Security, Nutrition, Lab, Imaging, and Human Resources.

“I am very excited that a leader with Tony’s range of experience, dedication to service excellence, and ability to lead teams and promote teamwork has accepted this important position. He will add much to the new senior leader team we are building,” Marqusee said.

Scibelli has most recently served as senior vice president, Human Resources, Support Services, and Post Acute Operations at Mohawk Valley Health System in Utica, N.Y., which resulted from the affiliation of Faxton-St. Luke’s Healthcare and St. Elizabeth Medical Center. He oversaw a range of functions, including Human Resources, Facilities Management, Support Services, Home Care, and Long-term Care. Scibelli joined Faxton-St. Luke’s Healthcare in 2004 as vice president, Human Resources and was promoted several times there.

Before joining Faxton-St. Luke’s, Scibelli worked in the food industry, where he got his start at Big Y Foods in Springfield. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Worcester State College and master’s degrees from Lesley College in Cambridge and SUNY Albany.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — PeoplesBank announced the appointment of Christine Phillips as vice president, Human Resources. In her new position, Phillips will monitor and administer the bank’s human-resources policies and recruitment plan, oversee employee relations, administer employee benefits, and serve as the bank’s EEO/AAP officer.

“PeoplesBank is focused on top talent recruitment and employee engagement as a strategy for organizational success,” noted Janice Mazzallo, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at PeoplesBank. “Christine’s experience in human-resources management over a wide spectrum of job functions and organizations will be extremely valuable to us in our efforts to find, onboard, and keep the best associates in banking in this market.”

Phillips brings more than 15 years of human-resources experience including recruiting, performance analysis, and compliance. She not only helped a variety of organizations recruit top talent, she also helped operate a successful human-resources company.

A member of the AIM Human Resources Group, Phillips holds a bachelor’s degree from UMass Amherst. She is a member of the South Hadley School Committee, the PTA president of Plains School, and a board member of St. Patrick’s CYO Basketball.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. announced strong consolidated statutory financial results for 2014, including a substantial increase in earnings and net income, record sales in key businesses, and highest-ever levels of assets under management, statutory surplus, and total adjusted capital.

The company reported that, for the year ended Dec. 31, 2014, sales of whole-life insurance were $418 million, up 20% from the prior 12 months — representing the ninth consecutive year of record highs — while retirement-plan sales rose 23% to $9.1 billion, also a record. The net gain from operations before policyowner dividends and taxes — the company’s primary earnings measure as a mutual company — was up 27% to $2.2 billion.

Further, MassMutual’s highest-ever levels of statutory surplus and total adjusted capital — both key indicators of the company’s overall financial stability — were $14.2 billion and $16.4 billion, respectively, and continued to provide the company with substantial financial resources that help deliver long-term financial confidence and security to policyowners and customers.

“I am pleased to report that 2014 was another tremendous year for MassMutual,” said Roger Crandall, MassMutual’s chairman, president, and CEO. “By delivering record results, outpacing growth in our industry, and increasing our financial strength, we performed favorably against the backdrop of a U.S. economy that continued a slow but steady rebound in 2014. Our results further illustrate our powerful momentum and have positioned the company for another great year in 2015.”

He added, “through our people, products, and solutions, we continued to take steps to build a better company for our policyowners and customers, and deliver on our purpose to help people secure their future and protect the ones they love.”

While dividends are not guaranteed, MassMutual’s board of directors approved an estimated 2015 dividend payout of $1.6 billion, which reflects a dividend interest rate of 7.10% on eligible participating life-insurance policies, highest among its mutual competitors.

Also driving MassMutual’s 2014 success was its growing network of financial professionals, who help people gain confidence by bringing clarity and solutions to some of the biggest financial challenges they face. MassMutual expanded that network by 6% over 2013 to more than 5,500 financial professionals at the end of 2014, an all-time high.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield College Strength and Conditioning Graduate Program has again received acceptance into the National Strength and Conditioning Assoc. (NSCA) Education Recognition Program (ERP) for the next three years.

“The graduate strength and conditioning program provides challenging academic coursework combined with internship opportunities that in many instances lead to student employment,” said Tracey Matthews, dean of the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. “Dr. Brian Thompson has built a stellar program, and this achievement is evidence of the commitment and passion our faculty place in our graduate programs. We are extremely proud of this recognition. This further affirms the strength of our program.”

A new benefit of having ERP acceptance will be the opportunity for Springfield College to host an Exam Prep Live Clinic providing students a comprehensive review of information most relevant to the certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and the national strength and condition association-certified personal trainer (NSCA-CPT) exams. As a NSCA Exam Prep Live Clinic host school, Springfield College students would be able to take advantage of a discounted rate when registering for the exam, as well as discounted rates on all CSCS and NSCA-CPT exams.

Additional benefits for the college resulting from the ERP acceptance include a strong presence on the NSCA’s official website, a listing in the NSCA membership newsletter that is distributed to professional and associate members, and the opportunity for the college to receive up to three complimentary career postings on the nsca.com career-resources page for the three-year period.

The Springfield College Strength and Conditioning Graduate Program prepares students to work with athletes as strength and conditioning coaches in secondary-school, collegiate, professional, and private settings. Students develop the skills and knowledge needed to design physiologically sound programs that enhance athletic performance, as well as the coaching skills needed to implement the programs. Coursework is both practical and research-based, and all students will complete multiple field-work experiences.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Just four days after the birth of their son at Baystate Medical Center, Harold and Kristin Coles learned that Joe had mosaic Down syndrome and a blood disorder called transient myeloproliferative disorder found almost exclusively in newborn babies with Down syndrome. At age 2, Joe was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, which involved an aggressive treatment plan including chemotherapy lasting 72 consecutive treatments. It was during his care at Baystate Children’s Hospital that his appendix also burst, sending him into emergency surgery.

Joe’s story is just one of many to be heard during the often-emotional annual 94.7 WMAS Radiothon, benefiting Baystate Children’s Hospital, to be broadcast for three days beginning Thursday, March 5, and ending Saturday, March 7. There will also be a live Radiothon remote broadcast indoors at Holyoke Mall at Ingleside on March 7 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. During last year’s Radiothon, sponsors and listeners pledged $254,341 in support of local healthcare programs for children at Baystate Children’s Hospital.

“Joe and other children cared for at Baystate Children’s Hospital truly benefit from the generosity of those pledging their support to the only comprehensive children’s hospital in western Massachusetts,” said Jane Albert, vice president of Development, Baystate Health, and executive director of the Baystate Health Foundation.

On-air personalities at 94.7 FM WMAS — led by the Kellogg Krew of Chris, Dina, and Lopez — will again continue this year with their regular radio formats throughout the day, interspersed with live and taped interviews featuring young patients and their families, as well as community donors and staff from Baystate Children’s Hospital. They will be asking listeners to pledge their support by calling in donations to phone banks at the hospital.

Broadcast hours for the Radiothon will be from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Listeners will have an opportunity during the Radiothon to join the Miracle Maker Club, requiring a pledge of at least $15 per month on a credit card or a one-time donation of $180 or more. When listeners become a member of the club, a toy or game from Hasbro Inc. — the Radiothon’s Miracle Maker sponsor — will be delivered in their name to a young patient in Baystate Children’s Hospital.

Those wanting to become a Change Hero to raise funds for the Radiothon can create their own fund-raising web page by visiting www.baystatehealth.org/radiothon. Change Heroes who turn in their funds by March 31 and raise $100 or more will have an opportunity to win a special prize.

As for how Joe is managing today, some 10 years later, the good news is that he is flourishing. Joe is lovingly referred to as the “mayor of Baystate” and is a fixture at fund-raising events such as the upcoming Radiothon.

Baystate Children’s Hospital is one of 170 fund-raising Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. All money raised through the Radiothon goes directly to Baystate Children’s Hospital in Springfield, Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware, Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, and Baystate Visiting Nurse Assoc. & Hospice to support children’s health programs and services.

The presenting sponsor for this year’s Radiothon is Health New England. The Change Hero program sponsor is Pioneer Valley Credit Union. Giggle Break sponsors are Freedom Credit Union and Gleason Johndrow Landscaping. For more information on the Radiothon, visit www.baystatehealth.org/radiothon or call (413) 794-1486.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield (ACCGS) will present a Pastries, Politics, and Policy program on Tuesday, March 24 called “Riding the Rails: High-speed Rail Service from Springfield to Boston,” from 8 to 9 a.m. at the TD Bank Conference Center, 1441 Main St., Springfield.

State Sen. Eric Lesser and Tim Brennan, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC), will discuss Lesser’s recently filed feasibility bill requiring the Mass. Department of Transportation to conduct a study on the viability of high-speed rail access between Springfield and Boston. They will also address the need for this service and how it can positively impact Western Mass. economies.

While running for Senate, high-speed rail was the top priority in Lesser’s campaign platform, and, since being elected, has worked extensively on this issue. Brennan is an advocate for the high-speed east-west rail and, with the PVPC, is involved heavily in preparation for its possible implementation.

The program cost is $15 for chamber members, $25 for general admission. For more information, contact Sarah Mazzaferro at [email protected] or (413) 755-1313.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — The Small Plates Chef Fund-raiser to benefit the Gray House has been rescheduled to Monday, March 2. It was originally scheduled for Jan. 26, then Feb. 9, but was postponed both times due to a snowstorm. The Gray House is hoping “the third time is the charm,” said Dena Calvanese, executive director at the Gray House.

Chef Hubert Gottschlicht of the Munich Haus in Chicopee will hold a cooking class and demonstration at the Munich Haus from 6 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased through PayPal at bit.ly/1AciOLh. Tickets must be purchased in advance, as seats are limited. Participants can watch the master chef prepare several German delicacies and join in or sit back and enjoy the presentation. A light buffet will be provided in addition to a cash bar.

“This is a great way to enjoy a night out with friends and eat some fabulous food, all while benefiting a good cause,” said Dena Calvanese, executive director of the Gray House. “We’re planning on holding these events on a monthly basis, if possible, with different area restaurants. We held our first Chef Fund-raiser in November with Samuel’s Sports Bar at the Hall of Fame, which sold out quickly.”

The Gray House is a small, neighborhood human-service agency located at 22 Sheldon St. in the North End of Springfield. Its mission is to help neighbors facing hardships to meet their immediate and transitional needs by providing food, clothing, and educational services in a safe, positive environment.
 For more information about the Chef Fundraiser, visit www.facebook.com/thegrayhouseinc or call Calvanese at (413) 734-6696, ext. 100.

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank, a mutually owned savings bank serving the Pioneer Valley through nine branch locations, will host its fifth annual Adopt-a-Pet Day for Dakin Humane Society on Wednesday, March 4, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the bank’s main office lobby at 85 Main St., Florence.

Staff and volunteers from Dakin will be on hand at the bank for what Dakin Executive Director Leslie Harris calls a “meet and greet with animals” — dogs, cats, and possibly even a rabbit or two — all of whom are in need of good homes. Visitors can then complete the adoption process at the Dakin Adoption Center in Springfield later in the day. Florence Bank will also provide gift certificates toward the purchase of pet supplies for all who, that day, are approved to adopt.

“We have always had good luck with the adoption event at Florence Bank, not only with placing of animals through adoption but also raising awareness about the other animals available in Dakin’s adoption centers,” said Harris. “The opportunity to take our animals to the community is one that we love to do. Not only do people get to snuggle with some warm animals, and perhaps even find a new best friend, but it gives us the chance to tell people about the other things that Dakin does. That includes low-cost spay/neuter services, vaccines, dog-training classes, and more. We love meeting other people who love animals.”

Florence Bank has a history of partnering with and supporting Dakin. The organization has been a recipient of the Bank’s $5,000 Customers’ Choice Community Grant program, and has used the funds to support an effort benefiting pet owners who cannot afford to feed their dogs and cats.

“We always look forward to the Adopt-a-Pet Day with our friends from Dakin,” said John Heaps Jr., president and CEO of Florence Bank. They provide a great service for our region, and our customers tell us that they really enjoy the event. We encourage everyone to come by, whether you’re thinking of adopting a pet or just want to visit with a few.”

For additional information on pet adoption though Dakin, call (413) 781-4000 or visit www.dakinhumane.org.

Daily News

WILBRAHAM — FloDesign Sonics Inc. announced it has added Mike Harsh to its board of directors. Harsh served as vice president and chief technology officer for GE Healthcare until December 2014 and led its Global Science and Technology Organization.

“The addition of Mike to our board will have a profound impact on our company,” said founder and CEO Stanley Kowalski III. “Mike has personally been involved with the research and development of acoustic-based products in life sciences. He has the ability to get into the details while envisioning our global strategy. We are delighted to have him join our team.”

Added Harsh, “I am really excited to be part of FloDesign Sonics. Their entrepreneurial sprit is contagious, and the convergence of this unique and innovative application of acoustics to filtration will unleash a new tool in healthcare that can also be leveraged into other industries.”

FloDesign Sonics is currently commercializing its first products — a system to separate and clarify cell culture used in the manufacturing of protein-therapeutic drugs. FloDesign Sonics closed a $10 million Series A round in March 2014. It has also been awarded multiple grants from both the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Health totaling more than $2 million. It has used the proceeds to perform more than 100 trials with leading biopharmaceutical companies while building six prototypes.

Harsh led the global Science and Technology Organization for GE Healthcare, a $18 billion business unit of General Electric focusing its research on the development of innovative diagnostics, healthcare IT, medical imaging and information technologies, medical diagnostics, patient-monitoring systems, biopharmaceutical-manufacturing technologies, and technologies that facilitate new drug discovery.

Harsh began his career at GE in 1979 as an electrical design engineer in nuclear imaging, and subsequently held numerous design and engineering management positions with X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, patient monitoring, and information technologies. He was also the global technology leader of the Imaging Technologies Lab at the GE Global Research Center, where he led the research for imaging technologies across the company, as well as the research associated with computer visualization/image analysis and superconducting systems. He was named an officer of General Electric Co. in November 2006.

Harsh earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Marquette University, and he holds numerous U.S. patents in the field of medical imaging and instrumentation.

Daily News

AMHERST — Margaret Riley, an evolutionary biologist at UMass Amherst and pioneer in fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria, announced this week that she is partnering with a Chinese scientist to develop a new drug platform, pheromonicins. The Chinese government is committing $400 million per year to support the newly created Pheromonicin Institute of Beijing. Riley plans to open a sister institute in the Amherst area.

“At this point, I will be doing the work in Beijing,” Riley says. “Later, as we sort out details and opportunities for U.S. funding support, we may be able to bring some of the work to the Pioneer Valley.”

After trying unsuccessfully for years to find funding to study and develop a more effective method of treating catheter-related urinary-tract infections (UTIs) that are resistant to current antibiotics, she was contacted by Dr. Xiao-Qing Qiu, the inventor of pheromonicins, who asked if she was interested in collaborating with his government-supported lab. Riley now plans to collaborate with Xiu to develop his powerful new drugs there instead of in the U.S.

“I want to solve the problem, and if I have to fly to Beijing to do my animal trials, that’s what I’ll have to do,” she said.

The short-term goal is to focus on a new treatment for UTI, but the ultimate goal is to increase the number of effective therapeutic drugs and strategies to combat drug resistance in quickly evolving diseases such as HIV, TB, malaria, cancer, and cystic fibrosis. “One of the things that people don’t realize is how significant drug resistance is in the disease process. It’s only in the past 10 or 15 years we have begun to understand the way drug resistance arises at the molecular level,” Riley noted. “Drug resistance is at the core of many of these diseases, and their ability to stay ahead of and stymie our efforts at eradicating them is extremely serious.”

Antibiotics are the primary weapons against harmful bacteria like those that cause strep throat, but they have become less effective in recent years because the bacteria can evolve into ‘superbugs,’ new strains resistant to most antibiotics. A recent pledge announced by President Obama to give $1.2 billion across a half-dozen agencies to classify and monitor antibiotic-resistant bacteria, discover new antibiotics, and improve prescribing methods highlights the importance of such efforts.

“I think the president’s initiative is phenomenal and long overdue,” Riley said, adding that the biggest chunk of money allotted to the effort as part of the 2016 budget proposal, nearly $1 billion, will go to the Department of Health and Human Services, which will effectively double the agency’s funding over 2015 levels, she notes.

Many observers in recent years thought that new antibiotics would be discovered in time so doctors wouldn’t need to worry about resistance, Riley acknowledges. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that antibiotic-resistant bacteria now cause 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths a year in the U.S. Riley feels that’s a conservative estimate, and the real number of deaths is likely double or triple that. The economic price is high as well, she added, as much as $20 billion a year in healthcare costs and $35 billion in lost worker productivity.

Further, the antibiotics doctors employ now use a “shotgun approach,” she explained, that targets healthy as well as harmful bacteria. “With this method, when people take antibiotics, the drugs also kill beneficial bacteria in our bodies that we need for good health. This can do more harm than good, especially for children who take antibiotics while young and may carry long-term damage to their microbiome.”