40 under 40 - Abigail Perham Sallila
How has having a Springfield College degree impacted you professionally?
Having two Springfield College degrees has greatly impacted my professional career. Our health care system is moving toward an integrated care approach. Springfield College has been preaching this motto since its inception, "Spirit, Mind and Body."
Springfield College has been educating the whole person, just as we should be caring for individuals in the health care system from this integrated approach. Because of my Springfield College education and experience, this transition to integrated care, treating the whole person, just feels natural to me because this is the approach in which I was taught at SC.
Additionally, I have learned to meet people where they are at, take a non-judgmental stance, and believe that people can make positive change. I have learned that a diagnosis should not define a person, the person and all their attributes need to shine through beyond their diagnosis. Person-first language is so important, particularly working with people with disabilities.
Who influenced you when you were a student at Springfield College and explain the role they played in your life?
Coach Dottie Zenaty had an incredible impact on my 6 years at Springfield College. She coached me as part of the varsity field hockey team for 4 years and I had the privilege to coach with the team for two years as I completed my graduate work.
Through her teaching, she pushed me to be the best player, leader, and person I could be. She not only taught me strategy and approaches about field hockey, she taught me life lessons I have carried with me today.
Coach Zenaty always made sure we understood how important it was to give back—give back to the team, give back to the school, and give back to the community. She also preached about the impact that you had on the world and how important it was to carry yourself where ever you are.
Coach Zenaty also taught me about how to push through adversity. I learned this on a team level but also on a real-life level. When I was a player, Coach Zenaty's husband Burt was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He was such a wonderful man and they were a dynamic couple. Despite the diversity that faced her, Coach Zenaty decided to use this difficult opportunity to educate the school community about this debilitating disease. When she was named the Humanics professor her energy became focused on educating individuals about Alzheimer's disease to raise awareness. And of course she did it with her never-ending energy, spirit and grace. I am truly blessed to have had Coach Zenaty as a coach and mentor through my 6 years at Springfield. We still keep in touch and I always look forward to her Christmas card each year!
Dr. Michael Accordino was my professor and mentor for the 6 years I was at Springfield in the Rehabilitation and Disabilities Studies Department. Dr. Accordino supported me in publishing my research project in the Journal of Mental Health Counseling, something I never thought I would do, and I know I could not have done without him. Dr. Accordino started as my professor and mentor and has become a colleague and a friend. I am so grateful for the experiences I had with Dr. Accordino!
Dr. Terry Vecchio also impacted me as a student at Springfield College. I was a part of a group of athletes on campus promoting education about alcohol and drug use, which was led by Terry. Terry was such a wonderful mentor to work with. She was knowledgeable, approachable, and of course had a great sense of humor. I am so grateful to have had this experience with her!
If you could share one piece of advice with today's current Springfield College student, what would it be?
Be a sponge and absorb everything you can! Take part in opportunities that you may never have the chance to do otherwise. Try new things and push yourself beyond your comfort zone—this is how change happens and new exciting things are discovered about yourself!
Who do you want to thank personally for the role they have played in your success?
I want to recognize my family—my mother and father who gave me the opportunity to attend this great institution. As an alum, my father introduced me to Springfield College knowing first-hand what a great experience it is. Thank you to my parents for supporting me and believing in me through my time at Springfield College and beyond.
Thank you to my siblings Lindsay, Chelsey, Hannah and Ross for supporting me through it all.
Thank you to the professional mentors I have been so lucky to have through my professional career, Rick Granahan, Candy Malina, Melissa Murphy, Beth Barto, Anthony Irsfeld and Nancy Borreani. Lastly, I want to thank my husband Matt whom I am so lucky to have had met at Springfield College and who has supported me through all my experiences.