Pittsburgh Magazine Honors 5 UPMC Nurses for Their Dedication and Commitment to Health Care

By: Keyshawn Shaahid and Sierra Lomax

Pittsburgh Magazine annually honors some of the greatest nursing professionals in the field regionally. Five UPMC nurses are award recipients this year and eight are honorable mentions. These UPMC health care professionals continue to set the stage for excellence and display their commitment to nursing and health care in the Pittsburgh area.

The UPMC award recipients and honorable mentions are:

Montanya Crosby, nurse manager, UPMC St. Margaret Bloomfield-Garfield Family Health Center Montanya Crosby developed a love for medicine in high school when she participated in the Medical Explorers program through the University of Pittsburgh. She went on to earn her Bachelor of Arts degree in biology from Edinboro University.

Montanya Crosby

After graduation, she began working at UPMC as a secretary in UPMC Shadyside Hospital’s surgical department, but soon learned she missed practicing medicine. “I love to meet new people and as a nurse you get to know the patient and that’s what drew me to the field,” Crosby said. She decided to continue her education, graduated from nursing school in 2009 and became a registered nurse at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital of Pittsburgh until deciding to move to an outpatient clinic.

“What I love about working in a community environment is that it’s a family setting. You can see patients and their families grow up and it’s wonderful to be a part of it,” Crosby shared. In 2018 she was promoted to nursing manager at UPMC St. Margaret Bloomfield-Garfield Family Health Center.

As a nursing manager, she is passionate about forming relationships with her patients as well as her staff. Her dedication to community outreach, her staff and patient care makes her an exemplary leader. In addition, she serves as co-chair on the membership committee for the Pittsburgh Black Nurses in Action, the local chapter of the National Black Nurses Association, and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in education. She is proud to work at UPMC and encourages young nurses to explore the field and to not be afraid to reach new heights.

Jill Demirci, researcher, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital
Jill Demirci became fascinated with pregnancy care and maternal-child health during a clinical placement at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital during her senior year at the University of Pittsburgh. After developing a special interest in breastfeeding as a postpartum staff nurse at UPMC Magee, Demirci was inspired to pursue a career in breastfeeding research, and she earned a Ph.D. from Pitt in 2012.

Jill Demirci

Now an assistant professor in the Pitt School of Nursing and co-director of the Maternal/Perinatal and Reproductive Health Research Hub, Demirci is focused on developing clinical and behavioral interventions to support breastfeeding.

“There is a lot of pressure on parents to succeed with breastfeeding, but they often struggle because support is lacking,” said Demirci. “My goal is to make things easier and lessen the burden for new parents as they are trying to do their best for themselves and their babies.”

In the future, Demirci plans to orient her research towards structural issues and policies that are helpful or detrimental to breastfeeding parents. She will also continue to develop technological approaches to provide breastfeeding education and care to parents such as virtual visits with lactation consultants and text message support. 

Brett Fadgen, advanced practitioner, University of Pittsburgh Physicians
Brett Fadgen, has been fascinated by medicine since he was a kid. He has a congenital disability and is missing part of his right arm. “I was exposed to health care at an early age due to my physical disability and always knew I wanted to help people,” said Fadgen.

Brett Fadgen

He began his first role in the health care industry as an emergency medical technician, then eventually became a paramedic. As a paramedic he served Erie County, Pa., and the North Hills of Pittsburgh, and eventually joined the critical care flight service. He had a passion for learning and wanted to do more, so he enrolled into Duquesne University’s nursing program, which led him to a job at UPMC Presbyterian. After working in UPMC Presbyterian’s cardiothoracic intensive care unit, he entered the University of Pittsburgh’s nurse anesthesia program. Fadgen loves working as a certified registered nurse anesthetist and hopes to continuously expand his career so that he can help provide opportunities for others.

“My ability to critically think in different facets and positively impact a patient’s life is what keeps me going in the health care setting,” said Fadgen.

His career at UPMC spans over 20 years and his goal is to become an advocate for those entering the health care field. He plans to dedicate his time mentoring individuals with disabilities and wants to encourage them to pursue their career goals without limitations.

Camellia Herisko, vice president of operations and strategy implementation, UPMC Western Behavioral Health
Camellia Herisko understood the importance of behavioral health at an early age after a few of her relatives struggled with mental health conditions. This understanding prepared her for how behavioral health could affect patients and their families.

Camellia Herisko

Herisko earned a degree in journalism and business at Duquesne University after high school but felt a strong pull towards nursing and quickly decided to return to school to obtain her nursing degree. While in nursing school, she took a part-time job at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital and is still there today. Herisko continued her education throughout her years at Pitt earning a master’s degree as a nurse clinical specialist in psychiatry, a second master’s as a psychiatric nurse practitioner and then a doctorate of nursing practice in 2012. In 2013, she was promoted to chief nursing officer and vice president of operations and patient care services at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital, with a recent promotion to vice president of operations and strategic implementation for UPMC Western Behavioral Health. Herisko’s goals for the future are program development and creating new models of care for behavioral health patients.

“I want to improve the care of people suffering from mental health issues and illness. I think there’s a lot of stigma around that still.” While she has accomplished plenty, she believes much of her success is due to her team. “I like to think that the things I’ve accomplished, I’ve had a lot of help with, and I’ve had a good team around me and with me on that journey.”

Herisko will continue to dedicate her career to the care of behavioral health patients and exemplify effective leadership at UPMC Western Psychiatric.

Linda Lakdawala, clinical instructor/educator, UPMC Shadyside
Linda Lakdawala decided to pursue nursing after she suffered a fractured arm at age 15. The compassionate nursing care she received during her treatment made a profound impact her. “I share that story with nurses and nursing students, that basic care and comfort will make the most impact on patient care. It is what they will remember long after their discharge. Show them that you want to be there.” Lakdawala said.

Linda Lakdawala

Lakdawala earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in science from Waynesburg University, and went on to earn a doctorate of nursing practice from Chatham University. She then taught nursing as adjunct faculty at three different universities. Her passion for education has allowed her to enjoy making memories like teaching nursing students, observing her students that are giving their first injection or ensuring comforting care is achieved.

As an advanced clinical education specialist at UPMC Shadyside, Lakdawala plans to continue to provide the best practice measures as an educator for nursing at Shadyside Hospital as well as continue to train nursing students for their clinical experience. Among many accomplishments at UPMC, Lakdawala is proud of her published work on a surgical sleep apnea screening tool and protocol. This research, along with her commitment, passion, and hard work, allows her to sleep comfortably, knowing that our UPMC patients are safely taken care of. Lakdawala continues to make suggestions for evidence-based care and remains devoted to UPMC. 

Honorable Mentions:

Brayden Kameg, assistant professor of nursing, Department of Health and Community Systems; coordinator, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner area of concentration, University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing; director, mental health nurse practitioner residency program, Veterans Administration Pittsburgh Healthcare System

Advanced Practitioner
Rob Bauer, co-director of APP Education, UPMC Department of Critical Care Medicine; associate medical director, Adult ICU, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital

Janet Leahy, supervisor APP, Palliative Medicine, UPMC

Christina Weiss, clinical business manager, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital

Emerging Leader
Erin Bernhardt, clinical manager, Inpatient Hospice, UPMC-Family Hospice

Sandra Rader, president, UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside

MaryKay Gill, program administrator, UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital

Judith Tinelli, programmatic nurse specialist, UPMC St. Margaret

Congratulations to all honorees.