We know that a health and wellness blog can mean so many different things to people. For us at A Healthier Upstate, it means sharing health and wellness expertise, news and trends for every phase of life—from fertility and pregnancy to raising kids to end-of-life issues, while creating a network of support. We hope our educational resources, know-how and practical tips will help readers become the best version of themselves.
Many of the blog articles are written by employees at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, a nonprofit health plan focused on the health of our community.
We look forward to growing a community of active readers who are excited to share in the journey to create a healthier upstate New York.
A western New York native, Joe is a retired Excellus BlueCross BlueShield marketing communications manager. His interests include travel, wine, classic film, hiking and sports. He grew up in the city of Rochester and currently resides with his family in Greece, Monroe County.
Joy lives in Ontario County with her boys (two sons and her hubby). She runs to stay sane and spends lots of time with her boys splashing in their creek and catching frogs and snails. She is a New England native who promises not to share her sports allegiances, although as an alumna of Syracuse University, she loves (loves) SU sports! Joy is a corporate communications manager at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.
Lindsay grew up in Rochester New York, and settled in Syracuse after graduating from Syracuse University in 2010. She now works as Community Health Engagement program manager for Excellus BlueCross Blue Shield, where she manages community based grants. Lindsay likes to try all kinds of fitness activities, but is currently enjoying doing barre workouts a couple of times a week. She lives in the Eastwood neighborhood of Syracuse with her husband Brandon.
Pat Bomba, MD, MACP, vice president and medical director, geriatrics at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, hails from a small coal mining town in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but has lived in Rochester since she did her residency at the University of Rochester. Board certified in internal medicine and geriatrics, Bomba is married, lives in Pittsford, and has two grown children, her daughter the doctor and her son the attorney. She enjoys cooking, baking, traveling, entertaining, but most of all spending time with her family, especially granddaughter Madison. She is a passionate social entrepreneur who leads New York’s MOLST and eMOLST programs.
Aida Byrne is originally from the Utica area and now lives in Central New York with her blended family of seven - six sons and one daughter. She and her husband, Tim, enjoy traveling to new states with their kids each season in their 12-passenger van; volunteering throughout the year for the Chittenango Central School District; and spending time making memories with friends and family each and every weekend. Aida is the director of communications for the eastern markets at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.
Ted was born and raised in Central New York and likes things that make him laugh, learn and appreciate. Those criteria first led to his once-thought-improbable marriage and are now fulfilled to overflowing with the addition of his two young children. Other earthly pursuits that contribute to those ends include music, camping, books and magazines, technology, comedy, playing lacrosse and watching professional ice hockey. Ted loves his aloof and standoffish cat. His dog loves her aloof and standoffish owner. Ted is the regional communications and community relations manager for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield in Utica.
Recently retired, Jan Caster is a transplanted Oklahoman living in a small Syracuse suburb. In her 15 year career with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, she formed relationships that will last a lifetime. Jan looks forward to visiting her kids, mom, sisters and other family, reading, watching her favorite PBS and Acorn series, practicing yoga, and volunteering. She plans to give meditation a serious go and hopes to live up to her newest mantra, “Kindness matters.”
Kyle Cataldo, born and raised in Buffalo, now calls Rochester his home. Kyle has passions for any type of game, reading, and Buffalo sports (Go Sabres!). A recent graduate of St. John Fisher College, he loves cats, endlessly refreshing his Twitter feed, and eating the best chicken wings that Roc has to offer.
Born and raised in Central New York, Bindy Dain is married and has two fabulous children. Bindy enjoys the great outdoors, regardless of the season or the weather! You will find her skiing, sailing, gardening and out on daily walks. She loves to read and has just started doing crossword puzzles. Bindy is looking forward to the day when, like her Mom, she can do the New York Times puzzle in PEN! Bindy is part of the Operations Audit Team within the Quality Office at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.
Lauren hails from Pittsburgh but now calls Rochester home. As one of the few people on the planet from the Steel City who doesn't follow professional sports, she enjoys flannel, bonfires and craft beer and firmly believes peanut butter cups should be added as a food group. Lauren currently works as an analyst with the Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Customer Experience team.
Shaquana P. Divers originally a Queens, NY native lived in Rochester, NY and graduated from Nazareth Academy before leaving for college. She earned her B.S. and Master’s from Hofstra University. After 12 years, Shaquana returned to upstate NY with her family and to raise her three children in Rochester, NY. Shaquana is Executive Program Manager for the Health Care Network Management Division within Excellus BCBS and volunteers extensively in the community. In addition to being sports, dance, pageant, and cheer mom, Shaquana loves being active and is a 2017 Spartan Finisher!
Sarah is a Rochester native currently enjoying life in the South Wedge. She is a Registered Nurse and public health graduate student at the University of Rochester. She is a former Health Research Intern at Excellus BCBS. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, spending time with friends and coaching field hockey.
Rachel was born and raised in Western NY and currently calls Rochester's South Wedge neighborhood home. After a brief stint living in the Southern U.S., she’s pretty sure she’s a Rochester lifer. When she’s not chasing her toddler around, you’ll most likely find her running, practicing yoga, or otherwise finding a few moments of quiet sanity.
A native New Yorker who spent 20 years in Michigan and Ohio, Ieva loves being back in her home state and living in Central New York. She’s always cooking for family and friends. Other interests include reading, taking her dog for walks and otherwise exploring the sights, sounds and experiences of Central New York with her husband and adventuresome thirty-something daughter. She is regional communications manager for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.
Shevah grew up in the Hudson Valley country side of Columbia County before moving to the Rochester suburbs 10 years ago. She enjoys travelling and exploring with her husband and two children and volunteering at her synagogue, with the PTA, and girl scouts. Shevah is a Marketing Communication Manager at Excellus BCBS.
When Nick isn’t working as a Corporate Communications intern at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, he’s probably watching an Edgar Wright movie or vehemently defending Tom Brady’s claim as the greatest of all time.His other interests include exploring the finest breweries and wineries Upstate New York has to offer with his girlfriend and transporting back in time with a great novel.Nick is a recent graduate of Syracuse University who will seriously reconsider associating with a Duke basketball fan.
A Rochester native, Karen is a regional communications manager at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. She and her husband live in Pittsford with their three children. Karen enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, music, and whenever weather permits, having coffee (or a glass of wine!) on her patio.
Alaina Galiano attended Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, studying Public Relations. In addition to her communications studies, Alaina has minors in English and Italian, and loves to read and write in her spare time. A native of New Jersey, Alaina enjoys going down to the Jersey Shore, as well as spending time at home with her three dogs.
Sue Garand has lived in Syracuse her entire life. For the past 25 years, she has worked at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, where she’s a compliance program administrator. She enjoys vacationing in the South and spending time with her family, especially her two granddaughters.
Julie Goonan lives in Brighton, NY, with her husband, son, newborn daughter and their dog. She’s a brand development manager at Excellus Blue Cross BlueShield, adjunct marketing instructor, LGBTQ ally, and now a passionate supporter of those on the journey to grow a family.
Ann Griepp, M.D., now retired, was the chief medical officer for Behavioral Health at Excellus BCBS. She hails from Michigan, but has lived in Rochester since she started her psychiatry residency and neuropsychiatry fellowship at the University of Rochester Medical Center.Griepp is board certified in psychiatry and by the American Board of Addiction Medicine.She is married, lives in Pittsford, Monroe County, and has two college age children and two pretty naughty dogs. Ann loves children, cooking, fencing, and always has a puzzle going in her office for stress-reduction.
Erika is a Syracuse native who lives in Rochester with her husband and daughter. She loves craft breweries, wooded parks and soft shirts. Erika is a health research analyst with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.
Kaitlin grew up in Rochester and is a graduate of St. John Fisher College. She loves to explore anything and everything including cities, the outdoors, and of course food. She especially enjoys hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, and camping. She also loves to read, write, and watch movies. Kaitlin works in Human Capital Management at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.
Sophie grew up in the Southern Tier, and now is a senior at Siena College. Sophie is a lover of cheesy reality TV, specifically Big Brother and Jersey Shore, and trialing new workout classes. She also loves exploring new coffee shops and cafes, and going on walks. She is guilty of going on a lot of impulsive trips, one being to Havana, Cuba. Sophie is a marketing and brand communications intern at Excellus BCBS in the Rochester region.
Saj is a former BBC News journalist who decided to hop over the pond to the USA in 2014 and since then has worked as a freelance media professional for CBS/NPR and local TV affiliates before transitioning to marketing content development. He has specialist expertise in digital technologies, politics, and commerce. His philosophy is to never underestimate the power of a well-brewed cup of tea, and don’t be afraid to take calculated risks after said cup of tea. Also, be nice to people who bring you tea.
Born and raised in Rochester, Brian is married with three beautiful children. He spends his time paddle boarding, taking his dog on long runs and living in the moment. He enjoys good conversation, a wide variety of sports and different exercises, and is always looking for the next adventure to take with his family and close friends. He was in clinical practice for 28 years as a chiropractor and for the last four years he’s served as a medical director with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.
Melissa lives in Vestal N.Y. with her husband and daughter and their naughty but lovable yellow lab, Molly. She only has one child but always has 3 or 4 more kids traveling with her to a fun event or most likely Starbucks.You might even see Melissa traveling throughout the neighborhood on her golf cart, wearing her Bryan Adams concert shirt, of course!Melissa is an Ithaca College Alum and visits Ithaca often to hike the falls or visit the farmers market. She is regional communications manager for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.
Allison Kompare is a graduate of SUNY Geneseo in Rochester. She loves reading, painting, camping and her dog. Allison has grown up in Rochester, New York nearly her whole life and loves all the opportunity the area has to offer. On the weekends you may find Allison on a camping trip in the Adirondacks, or lounging on her dock at Chautauqua. Allison loves all things kids and animals!
A Michigan native and current Canandaigua, New York summer resident, Haili Lanz is a senior at Cedarville University in Ohio studying Professional Writing and Information Design. Aside from being a former corporate communications intern at Excellus BCBS, Haili is also a small business owner of her wedding photography business and an aspiring writer. You can find Haili reading a book, watching Netflix or going on adventures with her husband.
Christine was born and raised in Greece, Monroe County. A lover of DIY projects, she’s an interior designer wannabe and can usually be found watching episodes of the TV show "Fixer Upper" or searching for a piece of furniture to refinish. She’s obsessed with iced coffee and any kind of dessert. Never passing up an opportunity for a thrill, her biggest adventure was parasailing over the Atlantic Ocean.
A country girl turned city dweller, Elaina enjoys exploring the treasures of Rochester and waking up to see the city out her window every morning. She’s caught the running bug, but still hoofs it out to the boonies for a weekly horseback riding lesson. When Elaina is not working as a Strategic Communications Writer at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, she finds joy in enticing her kitty, Zinta, with the Mouse on a String cat toy.
Hugh lives in Baldwinsville with his wife and two sons. He has been involved in analytics, information delivery, and computing at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and its merged entities since the late 1980s, with his most recent run beginning in 2015.In addition to working as an artist’s assistant, Hugh enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, and martial arts training in his spare time.
An upstate transplant, by way of NYC, Tim has fully embraced the country life in bucolic Honeoye Falls, NY and enjoys raising his kids, his chickens, and his neighbor's blood pressure (mostly when he works late into the night in his workshop tinkering with lawnmower engines and very loud power tools). When Tim isn't working, you may find him at a local rugby match or taking a deep breath of nature at any of the parks and hiking trails in Monroe County.
Ashwini Pratapwar lives in Clarence, NY with her husband and daughter. She is a Software Engineer at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. She loves cooking, internationally traveling while trying new foods, and spending time with her family.
A native New England-er, Bruce lived and studied in Massachusetts before making the move to Rochester, NY. He lived in Pittsford, NY with his wife, Cathy, and Wilson the cat, and enjoyed playing jazz guitar and spending time in the great outdoors. Bruce was a Medicare Marketing Communications Manager at Excellus BCBS. He passed away in 2018, but his spirit lives on in the articles he wrote and his love of nature.
A native New Yorker who grew up in Brooklyn, Dennis has lived in Oswego, N.Y., for the last 23 years. He enjoys traveling and camping and is an avid movie buff and eclectic music appreciator. His other interests include reading and watching sports. Dennis is an account service consultant for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield in Syracuse.
Pat lives in Oneida County with her husband. They enjoy traveling. She also enjoys cooking, physical activity, entertaining . . and any combination of the three things! Pat is a registered dietitian and a workplace wellness consultant at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. She absolutely loves the fact that her son - who used to complain about being deprived since he grew up with a dietitian mom - is now engaged to a vegetarian!
Colleen studied Media Management major at St. John Fisher College and is a former corporate communications intern at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. She grew up just outside of Lake George, but is happy to now call Rochester her second home. When she’s home, she loves spending time with her family in the Adirondacks hiking, skiing, going to the lake and eating an endless amount of ice cream. The rest of the time, she loves exploring Rochester with her friends and discovering all that her new home has to offer.
Michelle grew up in Fulton, NY. Before coming to Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, Michelle earned a bachelor’s degree in communications, an elementary teaching certificate and a master’s degree in reading education. She believes that family and friends are a very important part of her life. Together, Michelle and her wife, Karen, have one niece and two nephews, 13 grandchildren and one great grandchild to keep them very busy. They love to go camping, do outdoor activities, have barbecues, and participate in their local Cystic Fibrosis walks with family and friends. In her free time, Michelle loves to bowl, play softball, play cards with friends and read. She is a processor in the Child Health Plus department at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield in Syracuse.
John grew up on Long Island, but he and his wife have called Central New York home for the past 29 years. He has been with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield for more than 21 years.John loves outdoor activities such as biking, hiking and kayaking. He also enjoys spending time with his wife and two adult daughters taking in all that Upstate New York has to offer, especially our proximity to great locally owned restaurants, wineries and craft brewers.
A junior at St. Bonaventure University, Jeff is interning on the Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Corporate Communications team while pursuing a degree double-majoring in Journalism and English. A native of Perry, New York, he enjoys weightlifting and watching baseball, and is a country music fan.
A Canandaigua native, Emily VanDerEems is a junior at SUNY Geneseo, currently pursuing a degree in Communication with a concentration in Journalism and Media, and a minor in Psychology. At school, Emily is a pole vaulter on the Women’s Track and Field Team, a member of the Outdoor Club, and a John Mayer fan.
Born and raised in a small town near the PA border, Morgan van der Horst is now proud to call Rochester her home. A recent graduate of St. John Fisher College, she loves exploring Rochester especially the food scene. When she’s not out and about you will most likely find her reading, cross stitching, watching Netflix, or napping (probably napping).
Customer Care Advocate at Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield
Jane has lived in Syracuse (Fairmount and Liverpool) her entire life and has worked as a Customer Care Advocate at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield for more than 18 years. She enjoys taking cardio and strength classes at the gym, playing on an indoor volleyball league for the past 23 years and walking at Onondaga Lake Park and Beaver Lake Nature Center. She loves to be active and has climbed one of the Adirondack high peaks, Phelps Mountain. For the last five years (due to the encouragement of her twin brother, John), she has been seeing the benefits of eating a Paleo Diet. She is looking forward to her summer 2017 trip to Italy.
Kristen was born and raised in Rochester, New York and is currently interning for the digital strategy and insights team at Excellus BCBS. She is now a senior at the University at Buffalo studying business management and marketing. Kristen loves dancing, the outdoors, and exploring. She thinks the best things in life come from stepping outside of your comfort zone and just going with the flow.
Janette was born and raised in Rochester, and loves this city! She loves to travel with her boyfriend, Christian, and explore exciting places in Upstate New York. She's very close with her family and loves playing soccer and basketball with friends. She also developed a passion for racquetball in college after her dad introduced her to the sport. She loves the TV series, "The Office" and her favorite character is Michael Scott. She savors the warm weather in Rochester and dresses extra warm in the winter because she, admittedly, is always cold! Janette is a workplace wellness consultant at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.
Eileen is a Rochester native and lives in Greece, close to lifelong friends and family.She loves reading, practicing yoga and enjoying wine, although not necessarily in that order (or simultaneously). A career in health related non-profit organizations led Eileen to Excellus BCBS where she has been a Workplace Wellness Consultant for the past seven years.