Honoring doctors who impact patients’ lives inside and outside the hospital

Left to right: UPMC Passavant physicians Kiran Rajasenan, MD; Kevin Garrett, MD, FACS; James Boyle, MD; Kiran Mehta, MD, FACRO, FACR; and Joann Kim, MD, FCCP

A man suffering from a sudden and severe illness arrived at UPMC Passavant and immediately was admitted for diagnosis and treatment. Adding to the stress of being sick, he also was distraught over the fact that his daughter’s wedding was just days away and it was becoming clear that he’d likely miss the ceremony due to his hospitalization. His daughter considered postponing the wedding, but his doctor, James Boyle, MD, had another idea.

Dr. Boyle asked the patient’s wife if he could have a word with her. They strolled down the hall, ending up in the hospital chapel downstairs. He asked her how she liked this venue for a wedding.

“The whole family was over the moon,” Dr. Boyle said. “We arranged for the daughter to get married in the chapel so her father could be present. We were able to get the cafeteria to provide a dinner and wedding cake for a manageable number of guests in less than 24 hours.”

The doctors at UPMC never waver in their efforts to treat every patient with dedication, compassion, and expertise. Going the extra mile is a hallmark of UPMC Passavant physicians like Dr. Boyle, who has specialized in geriatric and internal medicine for the past 35 years and has served as Chief Medical Officer for the past 15.

“Our doctors are among the nation’s best. Add to that the fact that many of them go above and beyond what’s expected,” said Anthony R. Savannah, president of Passavant Hospital Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports UPMC Passavant by advancing health and wellness through education, outreach, and grant-making. “They work tirelessly to care for the whole patient and their patients’ families, as well. Many spend their precious free time volunteering in the community and helping the Foundation bring more health programs and state-of-the-art medical equipment to the North Hills.”

Kevin Garrett, MD, FACS, is a general surgeon, chair of the Division of General Surgery at UPMC Passavant and a clinical professor of surgery, mentoring the next generation of doctors. He supports a variety of charitable organizations, including Light of Life Rescue Mission, which provides a home and food for Pittsburgh’s homeless. He contributes to Bidwell Training Center, which provides classes and career training to underprivileged kids. And he’s an avid supporter of Passavant Hospital Foundation and its vital mission.

“I’m somewhat of a cheerleader and whenever a patient I’ve been involved with passes away, I make a donation to the Foundation in that patient’s name,” he said.

During the pandemic, Dr. Garrett piloted a program with Passavant Hospital Foundation to provide free meals for members of the operating room staff, who were working long, grueling hours. “There were many heroic efforts during Covid,” he said.

Joann Kim, MD, FCCP, is a pulmonologist and president of the UPMC Passavant Medical Staff. She took Dr. Garrett’s idea of providing free meals for the operating department staff and expanded it to include everyone throughout the hospital. “The pandemic has taken its toll on doctors and medical staff everywhere,” she said. “Staffing is critically low right now. Nursing staffs are burning out. Doctors are retiring in large numbers. Medical personnel are getting sick. Morale is at an all-time low.”

To perk up co-workers, Dr. Kim collected donations from the doctors at UPMC Passavant in order to provide free meals for the nurses, support staff, pharmacy staff, lab personnel and security, all of whom were working extended hours at the hospital under extreme stress and anxiety. She raised $10,000, which was matched by both the Medical Staff treasury and Passavant Hospital Foundation. The free meals, catered by Giant Eagle, will be offered on designated days, and will be on-going. “We do it to show our appreciation, and we’ll continue to do it until the money runs out,” Dr. Kim said.

While Dr. Kim’s typical work day is 15 hours long and runs the gamut from seeing patients for routine office visits to treating critical and emergency cases in the ICU, she still finds time to serve on the Board of Directors for the Passavant Hospital Foundation and volunteer for other causes.

Some of her favorite projects involve pre-teenage youth. “A lot of philanthropies are geared toward adults or young kids, but helping teens and tweens means a lot to me because the way they’re treated now could affect their lives later on,” she said.

She sponsors two children at MHY Family Services (formerly known as the Mars Home for Youth) through her church and regularly donates new toys and personal hygiene items to the organization through Passavant Hospital Foundation. She also donates items to the McCandless Police Department’s toy drive.

Kiran Mehta, MD, FACRO, FACR, treats between 30 and 45 patients each and every day as a radiation oncologist at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at UPMC Passavant. She typically reaches dozens more people through the free seminars and workshops she presents in partnership with Passavant Hospital Foundation. And, in another partnership with the Foundation, she volunteers at a Celebration of Survivorship event, which is held annually at the hospital and attended by up to 700 cancer patients and their families each year. It consists of dinner, live music, basket raffles, keynote speakers, breakout sessions and an opportunity for attendees to share their stories, tears, laughter, love and encouragement for one another.

“It takes a year to plan the event. The nurses and support staff run it. I get to do the fun stuff — meet and greet, serve food, play games. It means a lot to the patients to see their doctors outside the office. The whole event is very uplifting for them,” Dr. Mehta said.

A medical oncologist at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at UPMC Passavant and chief of the Hematology-Oncology Division, Kiran Rajasenan, MD, is humble when it comes to discussing his philanthropic contributions to society. He and his wife have established multiple scholarships to help alleviate some of the financial burden for students pursuing careers in health sciences. Dr. Rajasenan also spent many holiday seasons — from the time he was in medical school until the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020 — poised in front of a Salvation Army kettle, ringing a bell and encouraging people to donate money to help feed, clothe, house, uplift, relieve and support those in need within the community.

Yet, he is quick to point out the good works being performed by Passavant Hospital Foundation’s Patient Assistance Fund and Cancer Care Fund, which provide patients with monetary assistance to help them pay for basic needs during treatment, such as medicine, housing and food. “These funds have really helped my patients, and all I have to do is ask the Foundation for it. That’s what makes it so easy for me to support them,” he said.

Dr. Rajasenan and his wife frequently participate in Foundation fundraisers. In fact, they once opened their home to host a charity poker game for 50 doctors and their spouses as a way to raise money for the Foundation. “We have a freakishly large garage and a nice backyard for hosting such events,” Dr. Rajasenan explained.

He encourages everyone to think about what organizations they support and consider adding Passavant Hospital Foundation to their list.

“The Foundation truly helps the people in our community in so many ways,” he said. “They help educate people on relevant health issues, they assist cancer survivors, they increased awareness for preventative screenings, they offer support groups and patient assistance in general. It’s a one-stop shop and impacts so many areas.”

One particularly timely way people can donate to Passavant Hospital Foundation is to recognize National Doctor’s Day on March 30 as a way to thank physicians for their tireless service to others.

“Showing appreciation to your doctor — or any physician — on National Doctor’s Day can be as simple as jotting a note of thanks or honoring them with a gift to Passavant Hospital Foundation that will help fund projects that can ultimately help physicians improve or enhance the patient experience at the hospital,” Anthony R. Savannah said.

“I feel people have lost a lot of respect for doctors over the course of the pandemic,” Dr. Kim said. “We had to tell people things they didn’t want to hear. Patients believed things that weren’t true, and we couldn’t reach them. Doctors were, and are, burning out at an accelerated rate. We’re exhausted. So having this recognition is helpful. A simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way.”


Andrew Whitco, 8, and his mother, Emily, presented North Hills Community Outreach Executive Director Tom Baker with a donation of $2,450.

Elementary-school project provides lesson in giving

When Andrew Whitco’s second-grade teacher at Scott Primary School in Shaler assigned students a project in entrepreneurship, Andrew had visions of starting a business and raising enough money to buy himself a dirt bike.

He set up a makeshift table at a busy intersection in his neighborhood and sold cups of hot chocolate and apple cider.

He purchased the cider at a discount from Soergel Orchards in Wexford, bought to-go cups and thermal sleeves from Amazon, crafted signage to advertise his product, and rented space at the edge of a neighbor’s yard directly in front of the stop sign (which he paid for with a free cup of cider). He priced the beverages at $1 per cup and planned to keep 90% of the profits for his dirt bike. He would donate the remaining 10% to the North Hills Community Outreach (NHCO) food bank. 

Within the first 90 minutes, Andrew’s sales reached $90.

“People were so generous,” said his mom, Emily Whitco, MSN, CRNA, Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at UPMC Passavant. “So many people who were driving by or walking their dogs stopped to buy. They’d hand Andrew a $5 or $20 bill and tell him to keep the change.”

Andrew, 8, sold cider at the intersection once or twice a week for four weeks following Halloween. By the end of the month, he had raised $300. He set aside $30 of it to donate. Then it began to grow exponentially.

As friends and neighbors found out he was donating the money to NHCO, they matched it, raising his contribution to $225. Then, that $225 was separately matched by Tom Kramer, MD, of Greater Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Associates and two doctors at UPMC Passavant –– Wende Goncz, DO, MMM, and Christopher Hodge, MD.

Andrew’s family chipped in another $325 to increase his donation to $1,225. When Andrew’s story reached Passavant Hospital Foundation, the Foundation generously matched his donation, bringing his grand total to $2,450. “Andrew sparked a wave of goodwill among the community, and we were happy to be a part of it,” said Foundation President Anthony R. Savannah.

NHCO Executive Director Tom Baker agreed. “Andrew’s generosity led to changing the lives of our neighbors. His efforts show the incredible things that young people can do to be difference makers,” he said.

While Andrew was happy to raise all that money for a good cause, he, admittedly, was somewhat disappointed to fall short of raising enough to buy a dirt bike.

“No, no, all is good,” his mom says. “His hard work was noticed by Santa and it must have gotten him bumped up to Santa’s ‘Good List’ because he woke up to find a new dirt bike under the Christmas tree!” 


Purse & Tool Bash raised over $23,000 for Foundation

Nearly 200 participants virtually browsed through a variety of power tools and designer purses via Facebook Live and Microsoft Teams during Passavant Hospital Foundation’s 2nd Annual Purse & Tool Bash on Saturday, October 16, 2021.

UPMC Passavant physicians, hospital staff, and community members donated all the items, worth more than $8,000. Items included a Coach Prairie satchel, Kate Spade backpack, Furla Eve drawstring bag, Greenworks pressure washer, Craftsman reciprocating saw, Husqvarna chainsaw, DeWalt hammer drill, DeWalt miter saw, and more.

Over $20,000 was netted to benefit the Foundation’s Cancer Care Fund, which supports patients at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at UPMC Passavant by helping them offset costs associated with medication, food, transportation, and end-of-life care.

The next Purse and Tool Bash will be held on Saturday, October 15, 2022, via Facebook Live and Microsoft Teams. For details, go to PassavantHospitalFoundation.org

Passavant Hospital Foundation to offer free health and wellness education programs for the public

Passavant Hospital Foundation is partnering with CCAC North Campus to provide a variety of health and wellness education programs for the public. Each features physicians, clinicians, researchers and other experts on the specific topic. All programs are free, but registration is required by calling 412-788-7546.

Save Your Shoulder: Surgical and Nonsurgical Treatments for Shoulder Pain

Tuesday, March 8, 2022 • 6:30 – 8:30 PM • CCAC North Campus
John M. Richmond, MD, orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist with Tri Rivers Musculoskeletal Centers who was Fellowship-trained in Sports Medicine and Shoulder Surgery, will present the latest information on common shoulder conditions and injuries, non-surgical treatments and surgical advancements. There will also be an opportunity for questions and answers following the presentation.

Stop the Bleed

Tuesday, April 12, 2022 • 6:30 – 8:30 PM • CCAC North Campus
Join Megan Tomaino, PA-C, MPAS, UPMC Passavant Department of Anesthesia, PACU/APS, as she teaches basic bleeding control and tourniquet application to improve survival after trauma and prevent hemorrhagic death.

Passavant Hospital Auxiliary’s “Lights of Love” Tree captured the spirit of the season

In its 35th year, the “Lights of Love” Tree was displayed throughout December and lit on Friday, December 3, 2021 virtually on the Passavant Hospital Auxiliary Facebook page. Each light was designated in honor or in memory of someone, as was each dove ornament. Through donations of $5 per light or $10 per ornament, the Auxiliary was able to raise more than $2,200 for its mission and projects. Past donations have helped fund therapy equipment, valet parking for patients, and more.

Mark your calendars for these exciting upcoming events!

35th Annual Golf Outing — June 6, 2022
Enjoy a day of golf on Monday, June 6 at the pristine Treesdale Golf and Country Club course while helping the Foundation raise money for its mission!

4K & 8K Run/Walk — August 12, 2022
The 10th Annual 4K & 8K Run/Walk will be held in person on Friday, August 12 at the North Park Pool Loop and virtually throughout the entire month of August.

Legacy of Caring Gala — Sept. 22, 2022
This year’s celebration will be held on Thursday, September 22 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Pittsburgh–Cranberry.

Purse & Tool Bash — October 15, 2022
The Third Annual Purse & Tool Bash will be held virtually on Facebook Live and Microsoft Teams on Saturday, October 15. Be sure to join us to bid on a variety of power tools and designer purses, hand-bags and backpacks!

For more information on any of our upcoming events, call us at 412-748-6640.