Update, 11:12 a.m.
When it comes to wellness, these 19 young Pittsburghers are inspiring others to take control of their health and stay active.
In some cases, that’s in the CrossFit gym or Zumba class. For others, it’s promoting healing through yoga and art therapy. And for others still, it’s the cutting edge of medical research and care.
Meet the first Who’s Next class of 2019, nominated by Incline readers and selected by our newsroom to join the ranks of more than 400 leaders. Who’s Next, presented by S&T Bank, is The Incline’s way of celebrating the city’s rising stars in various fields.
Join us at a happy hour in honor of The Incline's Who's Next: Fitness and Health class. This event is for you if you're interested in wellness or are trying to break into the local scene. At this celebration:
- Meet honorees who were nominated by their peers and selected by The Incline's editorial staff.
- Enjoy food and beverages from Freshii, Blume Honey Water, Wigle Whiskey, Threadbare Cider House and Meadery, Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka, and Palate Partners School of Wine and Spirits.
Where: Beauty Shoppe, Pitt Building, 2nd floor at 213 Smithfield Street (Downtown)
When: January 30, 2019 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
How much: $25 for public | Free for Who's Next: Fitness and Health honorees
Desirée Alba has a lifelong love of Latin dance, but told The Incline that she stopped after she had her second child. Then a friend introduced her to dance fitness, and Alba never looked back. She’s been an instructor for nine years, and six years ago, she opened Alba Fitness. The Monroeville studio is a “place where you can be comfortable and enjoy becoming a better, healthier you — mind, body and soul,” and where women can feel empowered and strong, she told The Incline. She teaches multiple classes and oversees a team of seven instructors. Alba “does not pressure anyone, rather she creates an encouraging and welcoming environment for everyone at her fitness studio,” her nominator wrote. Outside of the studio, Alba is a Spanish teacher at Penn Trafford High School. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned undergraduate and graduate degrees, and lives in Plum.
A Pittsburgh-area native, Timothy Michael Burg is a physician at Rehabilitation Physicians of Pittsburgh in Forest Hills, as well as at The Children's Institute of Pittsburgh. At the Squirrel Hill rehab hosptial, Burg leads the integrative pain medicine program and develops holistic treatments for kids with chronic pain conditions. His nominator praised him “as someone who brings a smile and positivity to work each day, and as someone who genuinely cares about the amazing children and families he serves … He has this remarkable ability to connect with patients and his fun personality helps them feel at ease.” Burg is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. He lives in Penn Hills with Colleen, his wife, and their kids, Timmy and Marie Celeste.
Joel Antonucci, DPT, has spent more than 12 years in orthopedic and sports physical therapy and is currently the director of physical therapy for Legacy Medical Centers in McCandless, McMurray, and Irwin. He works with patients who have injuries, health conditions or are recovering from surgery and designs treatment based on each patient and their goals. Antonucci also works with area doctors, trainers and health care providers to provide coordinated care for patients. “He works with his patients extensively, giving them a voice as well as good treatment,” Antonucci’s nominator wrote. He is a graduate of Grove City College and earned his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at Slippery Rock University. Antonucci lives in North Strabane with Suzanne, his wife, and their three kids.
Morgan V. Fedorchak’s work revolves around sight — how to restore it and how to protect it for patients. An assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, she is also the director of its Ophthalmic Biomaterials Lab. Her nominator praised her for the national attention that her work — including developing ocular drug delivery systems — receives and the time she dedicates to mentoring graduate and high school students. Fedorchak founded the Graduate Women in Engineering Network at Pitt in 2013 and is the faculty director of the network. A native of Altoona, she is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. Fedorchak lives in Mars with her husband and two sons.
Albert A. Garcia’s career is an an opportunity to “make an impact on lives every day.” After struggling through undergrad, he applied to the University of Pittsburgh for his master’s degree, and he told The Incline that moving to Pittsburgh made all the difference in his career. As the head wellness guru for the city, he created the framework of the city’s wellness program and helped to make May “Physical Fitness and Sports Month” in Pittsburgh. Garcia is also an e-trainer with Case Specific Nutrition, working with clients online to create exercise programs. His nominator praised Garcia for the work he does with the city, as well as with clients and promoting wellness in the Hispanic community. He is a graduate of Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania and earned a master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh. Garcia lives in Shadyside.
Amber Lasure oversees up to 80 weekly group fitness classes, creates and maintains programming, and leads a team of fitness professionals and other staffers at Duquesne University, where she’s been assistant director of recreation since 2012. Lasure “has partnered with community organizations to provide free and reduced-price programming, as well as going above and beyond to create new programs and initiatives for the Duquesne's 9,400 students,” her nominator wrote. Prior to Duquesne, Lasure was the director of health and wellness for the New Kensington and Kiski Valley branches of the YMCA, where she oversaw staff, taught group exercise classes, developed new programs, and directed races and other events. She is working on a master of science in leadership at Duquesne University with a projected graduation in May 2020. Lasure is a graduate of Slippery Rock University and lives in Dormont.
As the executive director of Pittsburgh Ultimate, Christie Lawry works to make ultimate frisbee accessible to all ages, genders and skill levels. In her role since 2014, she leads a team of 10 staffers and more than 100 volunteers to develop programming and community relations initiatives, and she directs operations for tournaments, leagues and camps. Lawry is also the northeast regional youth director and regional girls outreach coordinator for USA Ultimate and coaches the University of Pittsburgh’s men’s team. Her nominator praised her for leading, coaching and playing in the ultimate frisbee community. “Christie rocks many hats and is always pushing to improve each of the worlds she has a hand in.” A graduate of Pitt, Lawry lives in Lawrenceville.
A Pittsburgh native and family doctor, Kirsten D. Lin was fed up with the red tape and high cost of health care, so she opened Family Matters Direct Primary Care in 2017. The Allison Park practice allows people who are uninsured or have high deductibles to keep costs down but to still have a personalized and less frustrating experience, Lin told The Incline. Since opening the practice, Lin has mentored other physicians who wanted to open similar practices. Previously, Lin was a family physician at Allegheny Health Network and the Heritage Valley Medical Group. Lin also plays the harp and performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 1997. She is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Lin lives in McCandless.
As an art therapist, Katie L. O’Connor helps patients heal through art. Since 2014, she’s worked in the Creative and Expressive Arts Therapies Department at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. There, she works with patients and their families as they cope with anxiety, grief, loss and trauma. O’Connor also leads art therapy groups, supervises interns in the department, and develops programming. In April 2018, she opened a private practice in Allison Park where she works part-time, offering outpatient counseling and art therapy services. A graduate of Washington and Jefferson College, O’Connor earned her master’s degree at Seton Hill University and lives Downtown.
Once a three-sport athlete at Woodland Hills High School, TaVahn O. Parker is now giving back to student-athletes at his alma mater. Founder and CEO of ParCore Athletic Apparel, Parker donates apparel to the Woodland Hills track team, which he coaches. He’s also a coach at Athletic Trauma Unit, which provides free, family-focused workouts across Pittsburgh. Through ATU, Parker is the lead mentor for Gwen’s Girls and Woodland Hills and Propel schools. “Parker is determined to save the world one body at a time or 10, or 20, depending on how big his classes are,” his nominator wrote. Parker is a graduate of California University of Pennsylvania and lives in Penn Hills.
Eddie Pavlick’s goal is to help others meet theirs. The California Cycle Path trainer told The Incline that he loves to inspire others through fitness. Pavlick is a fitness instructor and personal coach who started his fitness career by walking to lose weight. Now, he competes in Spartan Races and Tough Mudders. In 2018, he placed 13th out of 113 competitors in his age division at the Spartan Ultra World Championships. His nominator praised him for his dedication: “He’s traded cookies for protein shakes and binge watching TV for 5 a.m. workouts.” He’s inspired his students to ask “What Would Eddie Do?” when it comes to fitness and health, his nominator added. “Eddie has the kindest heart, the strongest arms and the toughest mind.” Pavlick works in manufacturing as a CNC operator and attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He lives in Allison Park.
This bio has been corrected to reflect Pavlick's education.
Renee J. Rogers, Ph.D., started her career in dance, performing and touring across the country, and choreographing, teaching, and producing theatrical and industrial productions. She later became a physical therapist, but left that career because she wanted to help people change the way they think about exercise, not just treat them after they were sick or injured. She’s now an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Physical Activity at the University of Pittsburgh and the director of health and wellness programming for the University Healthy Lifestyle Institute. Rogers’ work focuses on helping people find exercise that they love and making changes for a lifetime, as well as teaching the next generation of fitness and health professionals. At the Healthy Lifestyle Institute, she developed fitness programming for Pitt faculty, staff, and students, including “Be Fit Pitt,” which prompts physical activity breaks while doing desk work. An alumna of Youngstown State University, she earned her masters and doctorate degrees at the University of Pittsburgh. Rogers lives in Mount Washington.
Jason J. Rose, M.D., MBA is an assistant professor of medicine and bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh. Before teaching at Pitt, Rose was a clinical instructor of medicine at several UPMC locations, where he oversaw and managed teams treating patients in the Medical Intensive Care Unit. Rose is also the president and CEO of Globin Solutions, Inc., a startup focused on developing a treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning that he co-founded in 2017. Globin Solutions is focused on developing a treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning. He’s a graduate of the University of Michigan and Wayne State University School of Medicine. Rose earned an M.B.A. from Carnegie Mellon University and lives in Fox Chapel.
At Nazareth Prep in Emsworth, Cameron Saddler teaches students about health and exercise as a physical education teacher. He also helps students gain the skills for success in school, work and the community as a freshman leadership teacher. Saddler was also previously the offensive coordinator for Penn Hills High School football in 2017 and 2018 and Shaler Area High School football from 2014 to 2017. His nominator praised the impact he has on students. “Infusing all his interactions with energy and positivity, Cameron creates an environment in which students can blossom into the best versions of themselves. His influence is felt daily,” his nominator wrote. Saddler grew up in Braddock and attended the University of Pittsburgh on a full scholarship and was a team captain for the football team. Now an alumnus, Saddler lives in Monroeville.
Gregory Sinn wants to share his love of traditional martial arts with the Pittsburgh community. As an instructor at Shaolin Studios, he teaches martial arts classes for kids and adults and recently because part owner of the Regent Square studio. Sinn told The Incline that he wants to empower others through the practice. “He also is passionate about involving the youth of our Pittsburgh community in martial arts, especially the underserved who cannot afford lessons. … I believe leaders, especially those in the health and fitness industry need to lead by example, and Greg shows that in his lifestyle ranging from nutrition to fitness and mindfulness,” his nominator wrote. In 2016, Sinn hiked the 2,000 mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in six months. A University of Pittsburgh graduate, he lives in Wilkinsburg.
Sunny Y. Tao is an internal medicine resident at UPMC who is working toward a career in transplant hepatology, and her research focuses on the patient and healthcare factors that impact the outcome of liver transplants. In June, she’ll start a Gastroenterology/Hepatology fellowship at UPMC. Tao was named an emerging liver scholar by the American Association of the Study of Liver Diseases in 2018. While at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Tao was a class officer and director of the Mr. Pitt Med fundraiser to benefit Shoulder to Shoulder medical brigade in Honduras. A graduate of Vanderbilt University and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Tao lives in Shadyside.
After losing his father to a heart attack, Adrian Marie Van Balen III decided to make a career change and help people get healthy. Van Balen discovered CrossFit and fell in love with how the workout allowed him to also compete. He became a coach and later opened MET. Performance Lab. However, not long after the gym moved from Mount Washington to the South Side, Van Balen found out he had a large brain tumor — just before his daughter was born. Van Balen had surgery to remove the tumor, which re-appeared about a year later. At the same time, the gym continued to grow and offer more classes including BIRTHFIT South Pittsburgh, specializing in prenatal and postpartum education and fitness. Next, Van Balen said he wants to start a fitness program for those affected by cancer. “He's consistently been one of the most inspiring, positive, upbeat men I've ever met, despite overwhelming challenges personally and professionally. ... He celebrates the little wins and reminds you not to sweat the setbacks,” his nominator wrote. Van Balen attended Allegheny College and lives in Bethel Park.
Jhonphilipp Raguindin Yonan’s love of fitness and martial arts started at a young age. Growing up, he spent hours researching ways to improve his performance in martial arts, borrowing techniques from team sports such as football and track. He later earned certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine and others and worked as a personal trainer. In 2007, he started MÜV Integrated Physical Culture as an online training business and opened his East Liberty studio in 2009. MÜV offers physical training, muscle activation therapy, and group exercise classes. His nominator praised his creative approach to fitness and wrote “Jhon's expertise goes way beyond basic personal training. He brings a deep understanding of anatomy and body mechanics to his work, and also draws from diverse practices like Swedish gymnastics, qi gong, capoeira, and yoga.” Yonan attended the University of Illinois Chicago and lives in Highland Park.
At YOGAMOTIF, Alecia Dawn Young creates a space of “trauma-informed healing and self-love through yoga.” To do this, she completed a 200-hour, anti-racism yoga teacher certification through Yoga Roots on Location and founded YOGAMOTIF, a healing arts yoga studio, in 2017. There, she leads the studio and a team of five yoga instructors. She previously worked at Manchester Bidwell Corporation, where she still works as a part-time consultant. She also led artistic initiatives for the August Wilson Center for African American Culture and was a K-12 teacher. Young is a graduate of Alfred University in New York and has a master’s of arts management from Carnegie Mellon University. She lives in the North Side.