WALLINGFORD — The Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce’s annual Women’s Achievement Awards ceremony will recognize the accomplishments of seven women who have improved the North Haven and Wallingford communities.
“We want to recognize outstanding achievers so others can look to them as examples that they can achieve the same,” said Gary Ciarleglio, the chamber’s senior director of sales and marketing. “And it’s important for us to connect the community with these leaders.”
A virtual awards ceremony is scheduled for Jan. 28 at noon and will feature guest speaker Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, as well as remarks from each of the seven recipients. Each of the winners will receive an engraved trophy from the chamber.
Nanette Pastore, president of Pearce Real Estate, was named the woman of the year by the chamber. Members of the chamber are eligible to name nominees for the awards and a committee weighs each of the contenders to determine the recipient.
The excellence in business award went to Sherri Helget, human resources director of C. Cowles & Company in North Haven; Avelyn Rossetti-Ryan, chief of outreach and access at Area Cooperative Education Services, received the excellence in advocacy award; and the excellence in healthcare award was given to Lorraine Cullen, senior director of clinical services at Gaylord Specialty Healthcare.
Emily Walter, childcare services director at the Wallingford YMCA, received the emerging leader award; Ann Collette, Masonicare’s vice president of strategy and business development was named the outstanding innovator; and Samantha Williams, owner of Sam’s Word LLC, received the community impact award.
The excellence in healthcare category was added this year in recognition of the response to the pandemic, Ciarleglio said.
Cullen said she was honored to be one of the recipients and is excited to be part of a ceremony showing women working in different roles, taking opportunities and setting examples. She’s worked at Gaylord Specialty Healthcare since 2012.
Throughout the pandemic, Cullen worked on increasing the number of hospital beds available at Gaylord to ease the burden on acute care hospitals and also created an infrastructure to loan ventilators to other hospitals. She also led the hospital’s effort to obtain enough N-95 masks at the onset of the pandemic and drew on prior experiences with masks to ensure that staff was fitted and trained.
“We had to quickly adapt to protect our staff because we were typically not a N-95 fit tested group,” she said.
Cullen has also continued her work on expanding the hospital’s research capabilities through the opening of the Milne Institute for Healthcare Innovation. As a member of the hospital’s research committee and Milne’s planning committee, she oversees trials, including spinal cord treatments, rehabilitation care, stroke care and COVID response.
Trained as a respiratory therapist, Cullen said she’s still working on her speech and hopes to inspire people to explore going into the profession.
“I think it's empowering. It shows people that women in various roles — especially with the lieutenant governor coming — are recognized and have a presence with leadership,” she said.