Christina J. Seo, MD


Seo, Christina 1410472

Colon and Rectal Surgeon
Barash-White, MD, PA
Englewood Cliffs, NJ, USA
Industry: Health Care
Field: Minimally Invasive Surgery

Dr. Christina J. Seo knew from the age of 13 that she would pursue a career in medicine. Her parents, being involved in heath care themselves, encouraged her to follow in their footsteps. “This career was determined for me in utero,” Dr. Seo jokes. After high school, she went on to graduate from the New Jersey Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering. In 2001, she earned an MD from the New Jersey Medical School. Dr. Seo enjoys working with her hands and using new technology, which led her to open her own medical practice, Barash-White, MD, PA, where she serves as a colon and rectal surgeon.

Board-certified in colon and rectal surgery as well as general surgery, Dr. Seo would like to increase colon cancer awareness. “Colon cancer is preventable, and people need to become more aware of this,” she says. She is an expert in minimally invasive surgery, and as a colon and rectal surgeon, she performs surgeries and colonoscopies, handling 500 cases per year. She also oversees office procedures and admits that learning the business side of health care was challenging. “They don’t teach you the business end in medical school,” she says. However, over the past four years, she has become an expert in overseeing her medical practice while maintaining a good rapport with her patients.

To keep fresh on the innovations of the medical field, Dr. Seo maintains affiliations with ASCRS, the Catholic Medical Association and the American College of Surgeons. She was named VIP Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, and attributes her success to having good training and enjoying her work. Looking ahead, Dr. Seo hopes to become established as a successful surgeon specializing in minimally invasive and robotic surgery. Continue reading

Catherine A.Z. Gruener


Gruener, Catherine 1280687

Founder, Owner
Gruener Consulting, LLC
Elmhurst, IL, USA
Industry: Health Care
Field: Parenting Education

Hillary Clinton once said, “Home is a child’s first and most important classroom.” Sharing a similar belief, Catherine A.Z. Gruener founded Gruener Consulting, LLC, which offers in-person and online parenting services, including experiential classes, seminars and workshops on parenting and positive discipline. She notes that parents and educators have to first identify a child’s strengths in order to teach the child to use those strengths to tackle future challenges and solve problems.

Ms. Gruener holds a Master of Arts in Counseling from the Adler School of Professional Psychology, where she also became certified in teaching positive discipline. Additionally, she earned a Master of Arts in Neuropsychology from the University of Northern Colorado in 1995. Ms. Gruener has progressed professionally from participating in psychosocial-based scientific research and assessments, to implementing interventions that assist in the health and well-being of children, parents and families.

Aside from her professional endeavors, Ms. Gruener has been an active volunteer with causes related to the population of gifted children since 2009. This group has always been of significant interest to her, and she also conducts research and gives presentations on the social and emotional needs of gifted children. She is affiliated with several organizations, including the Illinois Association for Gifted Children, the National Association for Gifted Children and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She has been an associate member of the American Psychological Association since 1996 and a member of the American Counseling Association since 2009.

Ms. Gruener feels that her success thus far is due to her devotion to learning, listening to her intuition and pursuing her passions. She encourages other women to never give up, learn from their mistakes, and continue to pursue their own dreams and aspirations. Looking ahead, she intends to expand Gruener Consulting to include counseling services, workshops and classes for educational institutions. Continue reading

Sharon A. Burt


Burt, Sharon 1573246

Vice President, ERISA Compliance Manager
City National Bank
San Diego, CA, USA
Industry: Finance
Field: Retirement Planning

“To be successful, you have to be a good listener,” says Sharon A. Burt, vice president and ERISA compliance manager for City National Bank. Starting her career in the insurance field, where she handled retirement plans, Ms. Burt was given the opportunity to transfer over to the financial and banking industry. She joined City National Bank in October 1996 and has become an integral part of its success. Her dedication and passion for her position have enabled her to excel and successfully assist her clients in securing their financial futures.

Ms. Burt graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics. In her current role, she uses her previous experience and skills in retirement planning and compliance to oversee the ERISA compliance unit, handle the legal plan documents for retirement plans, consult on retirement plans, and report finances to governments on the retirement plans. Ms. Burt remains updated in her field through her affiliations with The Western Pension & Benefits Council, the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors, and the National Institute of Pension Administrators.

In 2011, to recognize her dedication to her employer, Ms. Burt was given the Highest Achievement Award from City National Bank. As the years progress, she looks to continue drawing on her experience, strong skill set and diverse knowledge of finance to work with clients around the world. Continue reading

Anita L. Merrill, BS/MT (ASCP)


Merrill, Anita 1795081Anita L. Merrill, BS/MT (ASCP) (Retired)
Chief Medical Technologist
The University of Georgia
Tifton, GA, USA
Industry: Education
Field: Laboratory Diagnostics

Anita Merrill has 48 years of professional experience, spending more than three decades as Chief Medical Technologist of the University of Georgia. Over the course of her career, she has established herself as an expert in chemistry and laboratory diagnostics. On a daily basis, she is responsible for serving as a technician for clinical pathology, chemistry, hematology, parasitology, endocrinology, urinalysis and cytology for veterinary patients.

Ms. Merrill stands out among her peers due to her strong upbringing. She completed an internship at Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta, where she met many influential mentors along the way. She takes it as a point of pride that she commits 100 percent of herself into everything that she undertakes. As such, Ms. Merrill considers her greatest career achievement to be her development of the veterinary clinical pathology department for the Tifton Veterinary Diagnostic and Investigational Laboratory, when she was hired in 1979. She had to start her work manually, beginning with hematology and urinalysis, before adding chemistry and several endocrinology programs.

Looking back, Ms. Merrill attributes her success to dedication and a strong work ethic. She became involved in her profession because she has always been interested in science. When a friend suggested that she go into the medical technology field, she knew that she had found her calling.

Ms. Merrill received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology from Barry University in 1966, and she became a registered medical technologist and an MTASCP within the following year. She is a member of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, the American Society for Clinical Pathology, and the American Society for Veterinary Clinical Pathology. In honor of her achievements, she was presented with a Staff Appreciation Award in 2007, and an Outstanding Research Award from the Tifton Sigma Xi Club in 1997.

Allen E. Brennecke


Brennecke, Allen 1444795

Allen E. Brennecke
Attorney at Law (Of Counsel)
Moore, McKibben, Goodman & Lorenz, LLP
Clemons, IA, USA
Industry: Law
Field: Business, Tax and Estate Planning

In 1959, Allen E. Brennecke was not only the first of his family to enter the field of law, but was also the first to finish college. Graduating from The University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, he went on to receive a JD from The University of Iowa College of Law in 1961. Throughout the course of his career, he learned that nothing could truly get in his way; he never saw anything as an obstacle. After serving for nearly 40 years as an attorney at law, Mr. Brennecke retired from the Moore Law Firm. While there, many of his days were spent speaking to other lawyers at continuing legal education meetings and at business meetings for farmers and farm owners.

Now retired, he considers being honored as the president of the Iowa State Bar Association and chair of the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association to be the highlights of his career. He is currently a Fellow of the American College of Tax Counsel and The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. In 1989, he was presented with the Award of Merit by the Iowa State Bar Association.

As a man who considers family top priority, Mr. Brennecke attributes his success to being blessed with a wonderful wife, five children and their spouses, 19 grandchildren, one great-grandchild, as well as good friends, and blessings from the Lord. A religious man, he also joined a men’s ministry called Promise Keepers approximately 15 years ago, which he describes as being “a great positive learning experience.” Looking toward the future, he hopes to continue to dabble in law. Continue reading

Liz A. Bratisax


Bratisax, Liz 305716

Manager of Analytical Services
Research and Development Department
Bimbo Bakeries USA
Greenwich, CT, USA
Industry: Leisure
Field: Ingredient Functionality

Liz A. Bratisax’s passion for food led her to a 30-year career in the food manufacturing industry, where she has worked with prominent food companies such as the General Foods Corporation, Kraft Foods, CPC, UniLever, George Weston Bakeries and Best Foods. For the majority of her career, she has devoted herself to her work for Bimbo Bakeries USA, a food distributor whose mission is “To nourish, delight, and serve America — every meal, every day.” As the manager of analytical services for its Research and Development Department, Mrs. Bratisax is instrumental to the company’s success in achieving this goal. In her current role, she utilizes her expertise in analytical testing and ingredient functionality when testing new ingredients and finished products, writing ingredient specifications, training personnel on testing procedures, and managing front end nutritional information for regulatory groups.

Mrs. Bratisax earned an associate degree from Farmingdale State College and a Bachelor of Science from the Long Island University’s C.W. Post Campus. She speaks at food safety seminars and chairs the annual company Miller’s meeting to ensure that she remains current in the wheat, corn, oat and rye milling industries. An active member of the Institute of Food Technologists and The Association of Official Analytical Chemists (Now AOAC International), she gleans inspiration from the legacies of her heroes Julia Child and Dave Thomas.

Bimbo Bakeries USA’s history in the United States began in 1994, when Grupo Bimbo began exporting and distributing its leading Mexican products into California and Texas. Since then, a diverse number of bread and tortilla bakeries have been acquired and today, this entire legacy has become Bimbo Bakeries USA. Mrs. Bratisax believes that she has been very successful in what is typically a male-dominated industry, and attributes that success to her dedication and strong sense of determination. Continue reading

Ann M. Krause-Hanson, Ph.D.


Krause-Hanson, Ann 1583933

Vice President of Academic Affairs
Mid-State Technical College
Plover, WI, USA
Industry: Education
Field: Educational Leadership and Development

An educator for nearly 40 years, Dr. Ann M. Krause-Hanson has one desire: to provide everyone with opportunities to learn. A lifelong learner herself, she believes that her constant desire to learn has been a key element in her success. She is currently the vice president of academic affairs for Mid-State Technical College located in Marshfield, Wis., where she is charged with overseeing all programs, faculty, institutional research and the library. She also provides marketing services for the school and presides over all workforce development strategies to meet the needs of admissions each year.

Earning a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, with a minor in psychology, from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 1974, Dr. Krause-Hanson began her career teaching mathematics at the K-12 level, a position she held for 16 years before transitioning into administrative roles. In 1990, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a Master of Education in Professional Development. Nearly two decades later, she earned a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a certified instructional supervisor, has a lifetime certification in mathematics, as well as a certification in vocational mathematics.

The field of education is constantly changing and Dr. Krause-Hanson is always looking for new bits of knowledge. In order to stay current, she maintains affiliations with the Wisconsin Association for Career and Technical Education (WACTE), and the Association for Career and Technical Education. She is also the president of Wisconsin Women in Higher Education Leadership. Additionally, she serves as a mentor and facilitator for The Chair Academy, an international academy that conducts leadership training for chairpersons, deans and vice presidents in higher education.

Dr. Krause-Hanson attributes much of her professional success to the mentorship and opportunities given by those around her. In 2012, she was given the President’s Award by WACTE, and in 2008, she was given the Region III Award of Merit by ACTE. As the years progress, she intends to continue working in a leadership position. Continue reading

Maureen M. Klees, MS


Klees, Maureen 906806

Health and Physical Education Teacher
Mountain View High School
Kingsley, PA, USA
Industry: Education
Field: Health and Physical Education

When Maureen M. Klees began in health education nearly three decades ago, she wanted a job that would allow her to be indoors and outdoors and spend time with her children. Unfortunately, some attitudes toward physical education were very discouraging. Teachers would say, “Who needs health classes?” As a health and physical education teacher at Mountain View High School, Ms. Klees believes the subjects should be main components of not only a student’s curriculum, but of their everyday life. “I think that physical education and health complement each other,” she says. The principles taught in these classes contribute to a lifestyle and habits that can improve one’s quality of life through adulthood.

Obesity in both children and adults has skyrocketed in the past 20 years. According to the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), “an estimated 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years are obese.” This alarming statistic has made Ms. Klees’ job that much more significant as she is charged with teaching the impact of proper nutrition and exercise to her students. She stresses to seventh-, ninth- and 11th-graders that the effects of poor practices can be endless, and that practicing good nutrition habits while they are still young will preserve their physical fitness. With nearly 30 years of experience in education, she is sometimes tempted by the thought of retirement, but the youthfulness her job provides is reason enough to return to work each day. However many obstacles she is faced with, she can always get through them by turning to her faith in God. She also attributes her success to her willingness and ability to recognize opportunity, and the support she receives from her parents.

Ms. Klees earned a master’s degree in health science from East Stroudsburg University. She has kept herself motivated in her field through holding memberships with the Mountain View Education Association; The Pennsylvania State Education Association; the National Education Association; the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance; and the American Public Health Association. She is also affiliated with the 20-20 Leadership Foundation, the American Red Cross, and the American Heart Association. An entertainer at heart, she has a passion for music and loves to sing. Some of her fondest memories include being a part of a traveling choir. Continue reading

Marilyn J. Branham


Branham, Marilyn 795080

Office Supervisor
State of Michigan
Industry: Government/Public Service
Field: Public Services

Marilyn J. Branham longed for a career that would enable her to serve others. As an office supervisor for the state of Michigan, she serves as the primary contact for customers in the accounts receivable unit and makes it her first priority to ensure customer satisfaction. Although dealing with members of the public, especially those who are frustrated, can be trying, she strives to understand her client’s needs, thus leading her to assess the situation and resolve their issues. When helping those who are less fortunate, to her it is a moral and social responsibility, not just a job.

Growing up, Ms. Branham was greatly inspired by her parents, who made many sacrifices to educate her and her sister and instill strong values in them. Being a young single parent, she cultivated in herself the determination and drive to provide for her own son. She feels that her experiences in raising a child alone made her a stronger person than she would have been otherwise. In addition to her parents, she gives credit to three of her teachers who always provided encouragement and expected excellence.

A certified social work technician, Ms. Branham has been working for the state for more than 37 years. Her responsibilities include assisting with the collection of monies owed to the department of state, which can be taxing. However, her greatest career achievement and source of gratification was helping clients to become self-sufficient. In fact, a former client of hers was interviewed on television for her accomplishments in a sheltered workshop. Ms. Branham has been recognized as an outstanding individual in public service with several awards. She has been bestowed a certificate of merit for her part with the Grand Idea Program, and an award for 35 years of service, both from the state of Michigan, in addition to being a four-time recipient of a certificate of appreciation from the Michigan Department of State.

A freelance musician since 1969, Ms. Branham teaches private lessons and performs at several venues. She earned a bachelor’s degree in music in 1971 from Western Michigan University. In order to perfect her craft, she holds memberships with the Grand Rapids Federation of Musicians and the American Federation of Musicians. She also is a volunteer for Saint James Church. In the future, she intends to continue performing, teaching, and serving the public. Continue reading

Edward J. McQuail III


McQuail, Edward 1438151

1) Educator (Retired), McDowell County Public Schools
2) Library Information Specialist (Retired), Tazewell County Public Schools
Bluefield, WV, USA
Industry: Education
Field: Library Information

When Edward J. McQuail III graduated from Beaver High School in 1957, he didn’t know what career path was ahead of him. Enthralled with the history of Bluefield, W.Va., where he was born and raised, it only seemed fitting to enter into the field of education. Nevertheless, he started work as a salesman at his father’s company. Mr. McQuail always had his heart set on being in education, however, and was not going to settle for being a non-college-graduate. More than 10 years after his high school graduation, he entered Concord University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Education in December 1970. He states that receiving his college degree was a dream come true, and he didn’t stop there; he also earned two master’s degrees: one in library science education from Marshall University, and the other in library sciences from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Through his passion to work with young people, Mr. McQuail became a library information specialist for the Tazewell County Public Schools and an educator for the McDowell County Public Schools. He enjoyed being there for the students and listening to any problems they wanted to share with him, whether personal or school-related. Now retired from these posts, he is dedicating more time to his hobby of collecting high school yearbooks, and hopes to expand his yearbook collection in the future. He has a constant desire to learn information about where he grew up and the people who live there. Since 2007, he has also served as the Bluefield High School historian and archivist, where he can put his skills to good use.

Mr. McQuail is a member of the West Virginia Secondary School Association and the American Library Association, the oldest and largest library association in the world. From 1983 to 2010, he also served as a volunteer at the Bluefield Regional Medical Center. Continue reading