Nurses Recognized with Prestigious 'Pillars of Nursing' Award

Six nurses from Albany Medical Center were honored during Nurses Week with the prestigious Pillars of Nursing Excellence Award, our organization’s highest honor for nursing. The award is based on nominations submitted by fellow staff members. This year, the winners were chosen by the Nurse Recognition Committee from nearly 50 nominations.

  • Marie Allan, RN, General Surgery & Trauma
  • Samantha Cleveland, RNC-NIC, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
  • Debra Levy, BSN, RN, Nursing Supervision
  • Jacob Paquette, RN, PCCN, Coronary Care Unit
  • Hemangini Sharma, RN, MSN, CGRN, Digestive Diseases Center
  • Sarah Swan, RN, Pulmonary

The winners were first surprised with the news in their units and then formally recognized during an emotional ceremony, where they heard their nominations read for the first time.

The nomination for Deb Levy, RN, was submitted by Nursing Supervisor, Sharon Habiniak, RN, who said, “Deb has a caring, confident approach and embraces our mission with a can-do attitude. Her non-judgmental approach to patients, peers, and others characterizes her ability to embrace diversity, and this defines a clear value system for all of us.”

“In my almost 43 years here, I’ve had a lot of opportunities that have been afforded to me, of which I’ve been very grateful—opportunities for myself to learn and to grow,” said Levy. “Thank you for this honor. I thank my Albany Med family. I thank my own family. I truly appreciate it.”

“We’re here to make a difference,” said Joanah Montojo, RN, who nominated Hemangini Sharma, RN. “Hema pays attention to details. Hema adheres to standards and promotes quality initiatives. Hema works collaboratively in a positive manner with others across departments to support Albany Medical Center. Hema, thank you for your dedicated service and commitment to making a difference in this organization.”

After receiving her award, Sharma said, “Being recognized for this prestigious award is very humbling and inspiring at the same time. It is an honor to receive this award, but to be honest, I go home with an award every day—an award of satisfaction and happiness from our patients and my team.”

The ceremony also included remarks from members of leadership.

“To our honorees, thank you for your exemplary service, your tireless dedication, and your unwavering commitment to excellence,” said Executive Vice President and Hospital General Director Jason Mouzakes, MD. “With a combined total of nearly 125 years of service at Albany Med, we are grateful for the difference you’ve made and continue to make in the lives of our patients, their families, your colleagues, and our community.”

“The Pillars of Nursing Excellence Award is an incredible culmination to our Nurses Week celebrations,” said Chief Nursing Officer Kevin Zeng, MSN, RN. “It’s my pleasure to take part in this long-standing tradition and recognize the nurses who have stepped up and stood out, just like the Pillars that stand tall at the front of the building.”

The Albany Med Health System has more than 4,000 dedicated nursing professionals across the organization, each with their own unique story. Let us be part of your story. Learn more about nursing careers and other opportunities at