Gala 2018 honorees
Learn more about 2018 honorees
Peter J. Danchak
Peter J. Danchak is the regional president of the Northeast PA market of PNC Bank. Mr. Danchak joined PNC Bank in 1984 and has held various positions of responsibility in corporate banking. He was named to his current position in January 2001.
Active in the community, Mr. Danchak currently serves as chairof the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine 10th Annual Golf Classic, co-chair of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Council Boy Scouts of America 2019 Annual Dinner, co-chair of the Scranton Plan and co-chair of the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission, to which he was appointed in 2008. He is a member of the Executive Leadership Council of Pre-K Counts in Pennsylvania. He is a member of the board of directors of the AllOne Health Foundation, the ARC of Northeastern Pennsylvania Foundation and the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business & Industry. He recently was awarded the Voice for Children Award by The Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children and received an Honorary Degree of Humane Letters by The University of Scranton.
Education is a cause close to Mr. Danchak’s heart. He frequently shares the story of the hard work and sacrifices he made to achieve his goal of receiving a college degree. As education transformed his life, he works tirelessly in support of causes and institutions that offer such opportunities to others. His leadership of Pre-K Counts has resulted in quality early childhood education for thousands of Pennsylvania children. On the opposite end of the educational spectrum, he has given energetic support to Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine since its founding and was instrumental in raising funds critical to the school’s launch.
In a recent commencement speech at an area university, Mr. Danchak urged new graduates to:
- appreciate things both great and small;
- pursue excellence;
- commit to community;
- have a special concern for the poor and oppressed; and
- never look down on someone unless you are helping them up.
These are words Mr. Danchak exemplifies in his role as a community leader.
Mr. Danchak previously served as a member of the board of directors of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, The Luzerne Foundation, the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute, the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, King’s College, Keystone College, Johnson College, Junior Achievement of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Bankers Association, the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce and Scranton Lackawanna Industrial Building Company. He also served on the Board of Trustees of Marywood University, Scranton Preparatory School and The University of Scranton Kania School of Management and on the President’s Advisory Council for Keystone College. He co-chaired the Northeastern Pennsylvania Boy Scouts of America 2018 Annual Dinner, was chairman of the United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties for the 2013/2014 Campaign and received the Boys & Girls Club of NEPA Champion of Youth Award.
Mr. Danchak received a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from The University of Scranton.
Bruce Saidman, MD, David Greenwald, MD and Steven Kafrissen, MD
Wellbeing is more than absence of a physical disease. The best doctors know that in order to address their patients’ wellbeing, they need to be concerned with the whole person – mental, physical, social and spiritual. At Medical Oncology Associates, Drs. Greenwald and Saidman not only adopt this approach personally; they are part of a family whose story of caring has been tightly woven into the fabric of their community for generations.
Drs. Greenwald and Saidman practice medical oncology together at Medical Oncology Associates (MOA) in Kingston. Long before the concept of "comprehensive cancer care" was mainstream, MOA dedicated itself to caring as much about the emotional and spiritual effects of cancer as it did about the medical aspects. MOA patients receive treatment in a sun-lit, homey environment that even supplies snacks and refreshments.
Beneath the comforting concern for physical needs, however, lies MOA’s bedrock support for emotional wellbeing. The practice is unique in that it offers counseling services to all patients without charge. Moreover, because of the doctors’ commitment to treating the whole person, their building on Pierce Street in Kingston has become a community gathering place where people coping with life’s most profound challenges can meet and bond. Through a variety of initiatives designed to support cancer patients and theirloved ones, MOA has created an atmosphere permeated with a family — rather than a clinical — feel.
Drs. Greenwald and Saidman also founded a "prescription assistance fund" that has become a source of financial support topatients with needs far beyond help with copays. Grateful patients and community members regularly donate to the fund and in October, MOA organizes a raffle on the fund’s behalf that Carol Saidman Greenwald says attracts hundreds of gifts from throughout Luzerne County.
Both doctors agree they owe their vision for holistic care of patients to Dr. Lester Saidman’s example. One of Dr. Lester Saidman’s passions was emergency care and for years he split his time among seeing patients in Noxen, at his home and in the emergency room. He is credited with bringing the concept of 24-hour around-the-clock emergency care coverage to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. Dr. Bruce Saidman is Dr. Lester Saidman’s son, and Dr. David Greenwald is his son-in-law. The medical partners, however, say they feel like brothers. Their devotion to the wellbeing of northeastern Pennsylvania will continue with another generation as Dr. Jakob Saidman received his MD from GCSOM in 2018.
Dr. Steven Kafrissen, Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association (DLFAPA), is a psychiatrist who has been a longtime advocate of people coping with mental illness. He came to the area through his work for the National Institutes of Mental Health, overseeing mental-health relief efforts following the devastation to the Wyoming Valley caused by Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Dr. Kafrissen is the founding medical director of Behavioral Health Services of Wyoming Valley (First Hospital, Choices, and Community Counseling Services), and was a driving force behind many of its innovations aimed at integrated care for people with mental illnesses and developing community mental health services. He is also a founder of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society and has served as psychiatry coordinator for GCSOM’s South Campus since the school’s founding. Most recently, Dr. Kafrissen was part of the team that developed the new psychiatry residency program at The Wright Center, a project that grew out of GCSOM’s Behavioral Health Initiative.
Dr. Kafrissen originally came to know Dr. Lester Saidman through his service on the board of Rural Health Corporation when Dr. Saidman was the medical director. Their paths later crossed more closely through Dr. Saidman’s daughter, Sheila. Dr. Kafrissen is inspired by Dr. Saidman’s legacy of caring for the people in the Wyoming Valley.
Robert E. Wright, MD
When innovation is coupled with caring, entire communities win. Such is the case with the inventive mind and compassionate drive of Dr. Robert Wright.
Dr. Wright graduated from the Temple School of Medicine and completed his residency at Temple, training in internal medicine. Ever drawn to new frontiers, Dr. Wright fulfilled a fellowship in hematology and oncology at the University of Washington, Seattle when the field was in its infancy. His colleagues expected him to stay in Seattle, but this native of Archbald believed his skills were needed at home, so he returned to Scranton to serve his own community. For more than four decades, he has treated patients and trained future physicians.
Dr. Wright elevated the standard of care in the region by bringing medical expertise closer to home. He founded the Scranton Temple Residency Program in internal medicine— now The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education. Dr. Wright served as president and designated institutional official of the program for the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) until his retirement.
Acting on his dream to see a medical college established in Scranton, he became founding chair of the Medical Education Development Consortium, then founding chair and member of The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC, now Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine) board of trustees. The road to establishing the medical school was not easy, but Dr. Wright took the advice of his friend and colleague, the late Richard Cooper, MD, from the University of Pennsylvania who served as co-chair of the Council on Physician and Nurse Supply and described the project as “the right thing to do, at the right time, in the right place.”
By the time Dr. Wright and the school’s other founders began to meet in 2004, the American Association of Medical Colleges, the American Medical Association and many medical educators were calling for expansion of present medical school enrollment and creation of new medical schools to prevent a significant national physician shortage. At the time, Dr. Wright wrote, “The country as a whole will be nearly 200,000 physicians short and the problem will be even greater in NEPA.” In addition, the Pennsylvania Medical Society issued a report that confirmed the idea that Pennsylvania was moving toward a critical shortage, particularly in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties.
The founders’ plan for a Scranton medical school was met with a great deal of skepticism; however, they persevered with feasibility study funded by the Board of The Scranton Temple Residency Program that supported the ideas and found that their goals, though lofty, were achievable. This initial encouragement was augmented by a grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which paved the way for further fundraising. In 2013, TCMC graduated its first class of medical students and has recently begun to welcome its alumni back to the area. Dr. Wright served as interim president and dean of TCMC and continues to guide its development as a member of its community advisory board.
In addition to the important impact on the region’s health that Dr. Wright’s innovations have had, an often overlooked but nevertheless significant contribution has been the increase in economic vitality of our region. The initial feasibility study that was so crucial to garnering early support for the school originally forecast GCSOM’s economic impact at $64 million. Ten years later in 2014 a study pegged the actual figure at $65 million.
Dr. Wright and his wife, Carole Cook Wright, belong to the School of Medicine’s Founders Society and continue generously to support the school through annual and endowed scholarships established in memory of their beloved daughter, Sarah.