HOLMDEL, NJ: Everyone has a story. Sometimes that story goes beyond our expectations...way beyond. Everyday people doing the extraordinary. Just like the superheroes we see in the movies they can often be quiet and carry out their important mission privately. They don't want or need attention. However shining a light on their exceptional work and achievements can motivate and inspire others. Holmdel mom, Dr. Yvonne Giunta-Lambros is one of those everyday people that is truly extraordinary in the most unassuming way.
TAPinto Holmdel, had the opportunity to interview Yvonne and ask her a few questions about her personal and professional life. There is so much to capture with Yvonne's story, and TAPinto has highlighted some of the many remarkable things about her. From being an 'amazing mom,' and community volunteer, to traveling to underprivileged areas of other countries to offer medical services to poverty stricken children. Physically fit with challenging cross fit workouts and running 5K's, and all the while working full time as a pediatric emergency medicine physician, while also teaching medicine to doctors in training, all while putting her family first.
TAPinto: What type of physician are you and what do you find most rewarding about your job?
Yvonne: I am a pediatric emergency physician and the Division Director of the Pediatric Emergency Department at Northwell Health, Staten Island University Hospital. The most rewarding thing about my job is that, most of the time, I can make children feel better and I can reassure concerned families. Children are resilient and I can not imagine myself in any other specialty. Pediatric Emergency Medicine is the perfect fit for me.
TAPinto: When did you become interested in medicine and who or what were your main influencers?
Yvonne: I don't remember being interested in anything else for as far back as I can remember. As young as age 4, I knew what I was going to do. I was going to be a pediatrician. It wasn't until late in my residency that I decided to sub-specialize in pediatric emergency medicine. I found general pediatrics to be a bit basic for me and I wanted more procedures, more immediate care vs. long term follow up. I wanted to make the sick kids better as fast as possible. An influential experience I recall almost daily was an event that happened when I was about 11 years old. It was a life changing experience that solidified my career goals. My brother was 2 years old at that time. We had a party going on at my childhood home and my parents were inside the house. My brother had an oar in his hand and was walking the perimeter of our in-ground pool. The oar fell in and he fell into the pool trying to reach for the oar. I fortunately happened to be around the area when this happened. I very vividly remember jumping in and pulling him out of the water. Saving my brother's life from the pool that day is a memory I think about almost every day.
TAPinto: Tell us about your recent teaching achievement that you will be recognized for?
Yvonne: In June I received a Northwell Health, Outstanding Teacher of the Year award. I am very honored to have been nominated and for receiving this award. I teach pediatric emergency medicine topics, mostly in a case based format. I enjoy teaching mostly in the clinical setting but also in simulation or in a classroom. I teach residents, PA fellows, medical students. My favorite types of lectures are off the cuff, clinical scenarios. I really dislike power point presentations and much prefer standing in front of the room with a whiteboard and a marker. I like to make learning interactive. My favorite topics to lecture on are pediatric calculations, diabetic ketoacidosis, bone pain in children, pediatric orthopedics, rashes, etc. However I will teach about anything.
TAPinto: Share with us where you grew up and where you went to school.
Yvonne: I grew up in New York, mostly Queens and Long Island. I went to Catholic school in Jackson Heights, Queens until 4th grade during the time at which my twin sister and I were always in classes together. That changed once we moved to Kings Point, Long Island. We went to school at 5 yrs old only speaking Italian, as it was our first language, even though we were born in NY. My identical twin sister, Adrienne, is the perfect balance of being exactly like me but completely different. She is definitely the tougher and stronger personality. Fitting that she is an attorney today. My brother, Giancarlo, nearly 10 years younger is an Occupational Therapist.
TAPinto: Wow so you were bilingual since childhood. That is a gift. Where did you go to college? Your residency?
Yvonne: I am fluent in 3 languages; Italian, Spanish and English. The Spanish has helped me tremendously in my mission work. As for college, I went to Binghamton University, SUNY, with my twin sister. We shared a dorm room on campus and then shared a room in a house with 10 girls off campus. We were inseparable. The first time we were apart is when I moved on to medical school and she went to law school. For the first time in my life, at about 21 years old, I was apart from my sister and was no longer confused with her in my day to day interactions with people. A very strange experience for me. Until then, when I would introduce myself to someone as Yvonne, it was always clear that people could not tell us apart and never referred to us by our first name. For residency I went to Downstate in Brooklyn. I did a 3 year Pediatric residency at The Children's Hospital at Downstate/Kings County. Through there we rotated through several hospitals including Lenox Hill and Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH). I was then selected to do a one year Pediatric Chief year and was placed at SIUH. At that time I decided to do a 3 year fellowship in Pediatric Emergency Medicine which I did at Cohen Children's Hospital in New York. In total, I did 7 years of training and I am now double board certified in Pediatrics and Pediatric Emergency Medicine.
TAPinto: Tell us about your mission work that you just touched on briefly in response to the last question.
Yvonne: My mission work in South America has been through Healing the Children Northeast, Inc.(HTCNE) a volunteer non-profit, non-partisan organization that is dedicated to providing donated medical care to children in need. The purpose of HTCNEis to help children throughout the world receive free medical care unavailable to them due to a lack of medical and financial resources. I have been on missions to Zamora, Ecuador and Apiay, Colombia. The first time I was asked to join the team I was a pediatric chief resident. My Spanish, certainly came in handy. The trips are usually about 10 days long. The first day is dedicated to setting up our space and unpacking all our supplies. The next day or so we start screening the patients to make sure there are no concerns prior to whatever procedure they need to have done. The rest of the time is dedicated to the procedures themselves. Procedures performed on my missions have ranged from cleft lip and palate repairs, burn scar revisions, tendon transfers, web space release, jaw release, syndactlyrepair, etc. When our trips are announced, families travel by foot for days awaiting our arrival. In a span of 7-10 days we help hundreds of children in several capacities. Usually one day is reserved for the team to spend time together as a group doing something local and fun, such as hiking up a volcano, bareback riding, etc. These trips of helping poverty stricken children were some of the best memories in my career thus far and I look forward to going back one day. I will hopefully be able to take my children with me and show them how lucky they are and see how others live in other parts of the world.
TAPinto: Who are the people in your life that have inspired you the most?
Yvonne: Past and present-My mother, no question about it. There is no one else like her. She is the most independent, strong willed and determined individual I have ever met. There is nothing she can't do. She came from Italy to NY as a teenager and became a teacher in Astoria, NY. She taught mostly foreign languages, French, Italian and Spanish. She went on to become an assistant principal. Her passion though, among many things, is real estate. By literally saving every penny, my mother has accumulated an impressive collection of property. She always tells me, "It's not how much you make, it's how much you save that matters." She is her own landscaper, electrician, plumber and contractor. She learns fast and is not afraid to do anything on her own. She is an avid gardener and can literally live off her land. My mom is my hero and if I can be half the woman she is, I am in a good place. When people compare me to her I am more than honored.
TAPinto: What is your typical working day like? Take me thru a typical day.
Yvonne: Every day is completely different. I work days, nights, swings, weekends, holidays. People often wonder how I do so many things but yet I work full time. It's because I will rearrange my work schedule so I miss nothing in my children's lives. I will make it happen, even if it means no sleep. Typically when I am working clinically, my shifts range from 8-12 hours. I walk into the ED and see patients for the entire time. You never know what will come through those doors or what kind of day you will have. I also have nonclinical days where I do more administrative tasks, meetings, lectures, etc.
TAPinto: Any specific medical stories you would like to highlight?
Yvonne: My biggest fear, even til this day, is taking care of the child of a friend of mine if they are critically ill, and this has happened to me several times to date. In the Pediatric Emergency Department, you never know what you are going to get walking in those doors. Occasionally, my patient's are my friend's children. I have worked in Staten Island since 2002 so by now many of my colleagues have children. I have taken care of most of them in some capacity big or small. It's the sickest ones that scare me the most. Not because I don't know what to do but it's the ability to separate the emotional connection that is difficult. The fear of me possibly not being able to save a child is terrifying. When I know the family it's even more personally emotional. I recently had this scenario and thankfully the child is doing well. However, it was a difficult experience to resuscitate a child and cry at the same time. The parents were consoling me. It is an experience I will never forget. Another medical story that I will carry with me forever dates back to 2003. It was the night of the NYC Blackout, I was the Pediatric Senior resident on call for the Neonatal ICU at Downstate Medical Center. We were one of the only hospitals who's backup generators failed. I was in charge of a unit full of preemies who were intubated or on IV medications and we lost power. I published this story in a book, but needless to say it was a night I will never forget. It was the perfect teamwork I have ever experienced to keep a unit full of preemies alive by the grace of God and our 2 hands.
TAPinto: What do you love most about being a physician? What is the hardest/most difficult part?
Yvonne: The best thing about being a pediatric emergency physician is that, most of the time, I can really make a positive difference. Children are resilient and stronger than they are given credit for. I get to fix them and make them better. I can't imagine a better job than helping children. The hardest part of course is when you have a dying child come through those doors of the ED, or an awful trauma. Child abuse is especially hard for me to comprehend. Or, when I have to tell families that their child has a terrible diagnosis like leukemia, a brain tumor, new onset type one diabetes. I cry with families. I can't help it. I am human.
TAPinto: Does any specific advice standout from a supervisor or co-worker?
Yvonne: Yes "Maintain a little bit of fear every day." This has stuck with me through the years. Don't ever get too comfortable because at any moment anything can happen.
TAPinto: You mentioned being a twin, tell us your best twin story.
Yvonne: Oh boy! When I was sixteen, pre-cell phone days, I walked into the mall and was looking for my sister, my twin Adrienne. I finally spotted her down a few feet from me and called out to her. She didn't respond so I started waving at her. I suddenly realized I was staring into a mirror. People were staring. I turned around and left embarrassed.
TAPintoasked Yvonne's twin Adrienne for a quote about Yvonne and their unique bond.
Adrienne: "As her identical twin, Yvonne and I have not just shared most life experiences, we share every emotion experience together too. I would describe my relationship with my twin as being her conscience. When she confronts a difficult situation, whether serious or trivial, she often runs it by me to see what my perspective would be on how she should feel. As her identical twin, I can immediately put myself in her shoes and relate and give my most honest perspective. Yvonne's favorite flower is a sunflower and I think it is no coincidence because it perfectly represents her. Yvonne stands tall and is a bright light. She is often called upon, both personally and professionally for guidance. She dispenses advice and instruction effortlessly and patiently. Just like a sunflower in a sunflower field, she is often surrounded by friends and family because we all want to be around her."
TAPinto: Yvonne, how did you meet your husband? Where were you married?
Yvonne: Alex and I met at SIUHin 2005. We worked side by side in the ED. I was a pediatric chief resident at that time. We were together for 10 years before we got married. By the time we got married it was really just a technicality so we kept it as simple as possible. We got married on our 10 year anniversary which fell on a Wednesday that year. We went right to town hall in Holmdel and our 2 beautiful daughters, Julia and Brielle were our flower girls. We were married by Mr. Greg Buontempo, who was the Mayor of Holmdel at the time. I rented my dress from Rent the Runway, and we went to Drew's for dinner. My friend came to take some pictures and it was done! It was perfect. I am not at all a glamorous person. We are both very practical and don't like or need much attention. At that point in our life we really were just doing it so that I have the same last name as my girls. For some reason that matters to me. Nothing changes.
TAPinto: What do you and your husband Alex like best about one another?
Yvonne: Alex is so different than me so it's no wonder we are a perfect match. He had a very stressful childhood with his father dying when he was 15 and his mother dying when he was 22. He worried a lot. He is the youngest of 6 siblings. Being that we are both in the field of emergency medicine we see how short life can be and how you truly have to appreciate the little things because in the end, they are all that truly matters. I think we are both very good at appreciating the little things in life and knowing what our dreams are, and better yet, making them all come true, one at a time.
Alex commenting on his wife Yvonne: "Yvonne is perfect. Beautiful inside and out. The heart and soul of our family. This is no surprise if you know the family she comes from. Funny how so many people we both know frequently come up to me and say, “You are such a lucky man to have her.” After hearing this multiple times; one day I asked Yvonne, “I’m curious, does anyone that we know ever tell you how lucky you are to have me?” Her response with a confused look on her face was “No never, Why do you ask that?” She became more confused when I immediately started to laugh. Then I told her why. Truth is, I know I’m lucky. There is no better wife, mother, partner in life than her. Respected by ALL. By both friends and colleagues. Most of all, I love her honesty and loyalty. I know that she will always have my back and that I can rely on her. Everyone; friends, family, can and does rely on her. That’s Yvonne."
TAPinto: Have you had any significant hurdles in your life?
Yvonne: Thankfully I had a very stable childhood with few to no ripples. My siblings and I literally never had a fight. It seems unimaginable, but we just never have in our lifetime had a fight about anything. My biggest hurdle would have to be the loss of my father. It was hard to see him slowly get more and more ill and to not be able to help him.
TAPinto: What do you like/love most about Holmdel?
Yvonne: I am a New Yorker so when Alex, who was raised in Matawan, wanted to move me from NYC to Holmdel, I was hesitant. He would take me on day trips to HolmdelPark and drive me around the area to slowly convince me. In 2007 I gave in and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. We have now lived here for almost 11 years, and I can not imagine a better town to raise my children in. Aside from the obvious draws; the schools, the parks, etc., it's the people and the community feel that most impresses me.
TAPinto: What are your thoughts on being a mom and family life?
Yvonne: There is no better or more rewarding job in the world. I just want to raise my 2 girls to be good, kind and smart. I want to steer them in the right direction and keep them on the right path. I know how fast it all goes and I truly try to enjoy every moment. We don't have bedtimes in our house. If we did I would see my children less on days that I work. I never had a bedtime growing up. You just knew when you were tired you would go to bed. I never had a curfew. If you hang out with the right people, you make good choices. My parents never had to worry. I hope to raise my children the same exact way. I grew up being raised by my parents and extended family. We all lived on one block and had 3 separate houses on the same street. My aunt was/is like my second mother. We would just get in the car and go places for no reason. Often we went to the city just to walk around. No specific goal in mind. We may get a desert or pizza, but it was mostly just to be together and get out. I have very much maintained that get up and go do something stamina. I can't sit still. I am always looking for something fun to do with my family. We love LBI and that is truly our second home. Aside from that, we enjoy going to festivals, parks, doing races, just walking around Red Bank, going out for ice cream. Make every moment count. That is my personal motto.
TAPinto: What are your favorite day to day moments of family time shared?
Yvonne: We love to bake together or discover new restaurants or parks. Sitting in the living room and playing piano together makes me happy. We have a jar at the dinner table labeled 'Table Talk.' We each take turns pulling out a question and answering. We had a lot of nice conversations. I recently started a similar kindness jar. We each pull out of the jar and have to complete that kind activity for the day. For example, smiling at someone, holding the door open for someone, just saying thank you. And mostly, our favorite is just being in LBI together. That makes me happy.
TAPinto: Any Special recent family trips or getaways?
Yvonne: LBI, always! That is our happy place and we know all 18 miles of that island extremely well. We also had fun trips to Kiawah, SC and Lancaster, PA. Alex and I have never considered a vacation without our children. Neither of us want to spend vacation time without having them with us. We know that they are only little for a short time and value every moment with them. If, by the grace of God, we have a chance in the future, when they are grown, then we may travel alone. But for now it's all about the memories we make as a family that matter the most.
TAPinto: What’s a perfect date night?
Yvonne: We love trying new restaurants. When we want to spoil ourselves we go to Nicholas. We really enjoy going out with friends from the area. Alex and I are really not into drinking so you won't really ever find us at a bar. We have made a lot of good friends in the area and just hanging out with them is always fun for us. Alex is a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, so we have been to several of his concerts, shows, plays, etc.
TAPinto: What are your hobbies?
Yvonne:I love to take pictures and share them with people. It makes me happy to get a good shot and be able to send it to friends throughout the school day when they don't expect it. I know it makes them happy. I love to cook but I hate to go food shopping.
TAPinto: Always on the move...What’s your favorite sport?
Yvonne: If I had to pick a sport I guess I would have to say running. It is always my safety net. It's just something I have done for so long and I am comfortable doing. I love running and working out in general. I have always loved incorporating weights with my cardio. Over a year ago I joined a cross-fit gym, Cross-Fit Salus in Middletown, and I am truly enjoying that. It gives me the perfect balance of cardio and weight training mixed with gymnastics. It's a great environment where everyone supports each other and wants to lift each other up. What I love most about it is that the workouts change constantly so you never get bored. When I run with no phone, no music, no attachments. I listen to the sound of my own breathing. My most recent 5Ks were the NJ Sharing Network/Organ Donor and the Girls on the Run 5K. My goal is to do the 18 mile race in LBI in October.
TAPinto: Any particular volunteer groups/ charities that you are involved with?
Yvonne: I volunteer for anything and everything that I can. Mostly these days it's anything related to my children and their school. Next year I will be the Recording Secretary for the PSA. I have been the Historian in the past and I am always involved in taking pictures for the yearbook. I am recently coached a 'Girls on the Run' team at Holmdel Village School, along with two other awesome moms. This has truly been an amazing experience. Aside from that, I help any way I can with my daughter's Girl Scout Daisy and Brownie Troops. I have been asked to do the First Aid Badge for few troops in NY and NJ. I teach children about first aid, calling 911, using an EpiPen, basic wound care, etc.
TAPinto: Are you involved with any special work related activities?
Yvonne:As far as work related activities, I am an Assistant Professor for the School of Medicine at Hofstra University. I have lectured at Wagner College to physician assistant students. I am PALS instructor and teach a few times per year. I am the faculty adviser to the Resident Quality Collaborative Care Council. I am a Member at Large of the Medical Executive Committee at SIUH.
TAPinto: You accomplish so much and seem to manage time so well. Tips for all of us trying ??
Yvonne: My biggest tip is to keep organized. My planner is one of my most treasured possessions and my husband often refers to it as my "bible." I am lucky to have a career that allows me to work shifts so I could fit in everything that I do. I work full time but I don't ever let work get in the way of missing any important activity that my children are involved in. If it means no sleep, I will do it. I can function almost normally with little to no sleep at all.
TAPinto: Yvonne it has truly been a pleasure putting together an interview with you to share with my readers. Thank you so much.
Publisher's Note:The first time meeting Yvonne was while we were in a parent meeting at the Village Elementary School in Holmdel. What I noticed immediately about her was how comfortable she made everyone feel with her sincerely kind and gentle way she has about her. Her down to earth, warm and unassuming personality is refreshing. Through this interview process, I am now in awe of the multifaceted true leader Yvonne is. She lives by spreading kindness quietly, not bringing attention to herself, and gives to give. A true bright light, she seems to live every moment helping others in the workplace and in our community. We share the same objective for teaching our children kindness first. A great fit for our Leaders & Legends section.
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