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Women Of Distinction: Meet 30 remarkable leaders making a difference in our community


This month we salute 30 exceptional women — from the fields of business, education, health care, arts, public service, philanthropy, religion and sports — each one of them a leader who makes a significant difference in the life of our community.

They are Biree Andemariam, Melia Bensussen, Joanne Berger-Sweeney, Donna Berman, Jamie Brätt, Chris Dailey, J. Antonelle de Marcaida, Christine Finck, Rhona Free, Emily Germain-Lee, Gail P. Hardy, Karen M. Jarmoc, Susan Johnson, Carolyn Kuan, Antoinette Lazarus, Rebecca Lobo, Louise Loomis, Rebecca Corbin Loree, Karen S. Lynch, Bonnie Malley, Aida Mansoor, Judy Marks, Melissa McCaw, Brooke Penders, Bridget Quinn-Carey, Regina Rush-Kittle, Filomena Soyster, Amanda Stanton, Leslie Torres-Rodriguez and Kristen Zarfos.

Biree Andemariam

When Dr. Biree Andemariam, a hematologist, began at UConn Health in 2007, she found a “pain crisis” of young adults with sickle cell disease suffering from widespread bodily pain. Until the 1980s, she says, sickle cell was thought to be a pediatric disease, with about half of patients dying before the age of 18, but now 98 percent live to be adults.

“There was no good place for continuity of care, no good treatments,” she says. “There was significant suffering, and I saw the status quo being acceptable. To me that was unacceptable. I knew I had the requisite skills. I decided I was the right person to take up this challenge.”

She founded the New England Sickle Cell Institute at UConn Health in 2009, added a nurse in 2011, and now directs more than a dozen people on the team. She also serves as chief medical officer of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, and hopes that “the model we’ve developed here from the ground up can be a model for other programs to be developed around the country.”

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