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Rising Star 2023

Rising Star 2023

Rising Star - Henry Schein Medical Athletics & Schools

2023 Rising Star Award Winner, Gina Harris, MS, ATC, CES, Head Athletic Trainer, Bellport High School!

"Thank you to Henry Schein Athletics and my community for recognizing me as the 2023 Rising Star! I'm honored even to have been nominated, and I'm beyond proud to be given a chance to represent such a supportive community. Athletic trainers are vital to health care, and I'm looking forward to using this platform to help educate parents, coaches, athletes, and anyone outside of sports medicine or the allied health professions on the value of having an ATC on staff. I feel incredibly fortunate for the opportunity to make a greater impact and to be an ambassador for this astounding profession!"

- Gina Harris, MS, ATC, CES, Head Athletic Trainer, Bellport High School


  • From running rehabilitation programs out of the athletic training room, attending doctors' appointments with her athletes, or even purchasing food for students who may not have the means to access healthy options, Gina Harris is the foundation of athletics at Bellport High School. Running Sunday recovery for her athletes, she consistently goes above and beyond, volunteering her only day off to ensure they get back in the game as soon as possible.
  • Gina consistently updates procedures and adds screening programs to ensure the best level of care. She has established a cardiac screening day for 400 of her athletes, helping to detect cardiac abnormalities and saving them thousands of dollars out of pocket.
  • She is extremely active in the community and added a work-based learning program to the high school where students can shadow her, learning the athletic training profession. In addition to inspiring future athletic trainers, the program has helped many students graduate on time with the internship hours satisfying credit requirements in place of failed classes. Gina also offers free workouts in the summer to anyone in the community, meeting with them for weekly beach runs and offering her guidance and support.

2023 Rising Star Finalists!

John Sunchild - Henry Schein Medical Athletics & Schools

John Sunchild

Athletic Trainer, Rocky Boy Health Center

  • John Sunchild is committed to bringing athletic training services to Native Americans living on rural reservations. He established the first AT position on his home reservation, building the role from the ground up. Becoming a member of the NWATA Ethnic Diversity Advisory Committee, John has been instrumental in identifying and addressing issues faced by people of color as they pursue careers in athletic training. He is dedicated to helping underserved and underrepresented populations within the athletic training profession.
  • John also worked with the Montana Athletic Trainers' Association president to create an evidence-based design accreditation and certification for Montana and will serve as its first chairperson. Last year, he was recognized as the recipient of the 2022 Northwest Athletic Trainers' Association ElevATe Award.
  • "My proudest moment was bringing the profession to my homeland of Rocky Boy, helping to create the first athletic training position on the reservation. Our tribal youth deserve the opportunity to better themselves through education, health care, and sports, and athletic training can provide those opportunities with long-lasting positive effects on reservations and in rural health care. I'm excited to be named as a Rising Star finalist to set an example for Native American youth nationwide. If you are dedicated to a goal, you will achieve it no matter the obstacles."
Dillon Zarrelli - Henry Schein Medical Athletics & Schools

Dillon Zarrelli

LAT, ATC, Clinical Assistant, Carolina Family Practice and Sports Medicine

  • Dillon Zarrelli partnered with a fellow AT to resuscitate a spectator who collapsed during the City of Oaks Volleyball Challenge. While his colleague performed CPR, Dillon quickly secured an AED, administering shocks between compressions. The man's heart restarted, and paramedics were able to transport the patient. While Dillon was hired to care for the athletes, he did not hesitate to help a spectator and fellow human.
  • In addition to his regular job responsibilities, Dillon has signed on to help with a multi-site research study in conjunction with Children's National Hospital, attempting to expand the concussion symptom scale. He completed additional training to participate and will help contribute to the body of knowledge around concussion assessment and treatment for all health care professionals.
  • Dillon also helps with many community partnerships, spending extra hours before and after work to assist with pre-participation exams for our local middle school, high school, and professional athletes, including the Carolina Hurricanes, Carolina Courage, and North Carolina Football Club. He is active in the community, administering concussion baseline testing to hundreds of youth players. Dillon also takes the time to educate athletes and parents about the importance of baseline concussion testing, and his passion for the profession is evident in his work.
  • "I wake up every day knowing that I get to make a difference in someone's life – it's the best part of being an athletic trainer. This award shows that people recognize the value of ATs, and I feel deeply honored to have been nominated. Not only do I feel valued for my work, but it gives me a sense that my contributions are making an impact, even as a young professional."
Caitlyn Bucco - Henry Schein Medical Athletics & Schools

Caitlyn Bucco

Head Athletic Trainer, Half Hollow Hills High School East

  • Caitlyn Bucco recently performed a life-saving intervention at Half Hollow Hills High School East, using an AED and performing CPR to save the life of a student's parent who suffered a cardiac arrest during a basketball game. The individual survived and is alive and well today, thanks to Caitlyn's expert response. In addition to this event, she works tirelessly to ensure that her school district has enough AEDs that are easily accessible, identifiable, and serviced properly.
  • "I decided to become an athletic trainer after getting my first concussion. Knowing that a health care professional is there from the initial incident to the evaluation, treatment, rehabilitation, and eventual return to play is incredible – and I wanted to be that person! My ATs have aided in my recovery from countless physical injuries while also helping me cope with them mentally. I'm thrilled to be a Rising Star finalist and see the attention the profession is getting, and I feel extremely lucky to be in a career where I can help others!"
Brittany Cardone - Henry Schein Medical Athletics & Schools

Brittany Cardone

Athletic Trainer, Anahuac Independent School District

  • Brittany Cardone, or "Doc B" as she's known around her school, was the first full-time athletic trainer on campus at Anahuac ISD. Over the last several years, she developed a student-athletic training program, allowing many to explore various careers in the medical field and obtain hands-on experience.
  • "In college and high school, I was often the injured athlete. Behind every sprain, tear, or concussion were my amazing athletic trainers who dedicated their time and effort to get me back on the field. I looked up to them and was inspired to join the profession. I'm very proud to be an athletic trainer, and I absolutely love my job. Knowing that my students and community recognized my dedication and felt compelled to nominate me for this award is heartwarming!"
Nicole Rizzo - MS, LAT, ATC, Athletic Trainer, East Stroudsburg Area School District

Nicole Rizzo

MS, LAT, ATC, Athletic Trainer, East Stroudsburg Area School District

  • Nicole Rizzo is passionate about mental health and consistently works to break the stigma surrounding it. She advocates for her student-athletes and is working on an initiative to help create an after-school program for students facing mental health struggles. And because of her efforts, the school has already implemented a mental health employee assistance program (EAP).
  • Nicole has built excellent relationships with her athletes, understanding their challenges and advocating for them every day. She started and continues to host an ongoing equipment drive to support students who may not be able to purchase their own athletic supplies, affording them the opportunity to participate. Often working around the clock, she goes out of her way to contact parents anytime to check on injured athletes, offering her support and guidance.
  • "After a surgery left me spending countless hours with my athletic trainers, I decided I wanted to be someone other athletes could rely on in their time of need. Athletic training is so much more than helping someone recover from an injury. While we are qualified medical professionals, we often serve as friends, confidants, and our athletes' biggest fans. We want to see them succeed in their sport and in their personal lives. We push them to become the best version of themselves."

Meet Our Distinguished Recognition Committee

Members of this committee are charged with maintaining quality standards for the Henry Schein Medical Athletics & Schools Rising Star Award.

Brian Simerville - Henry Schein Medical Athletics & Schools

Brian Simerville
MA, ATC, Director of Athletic Training, University of Maryland

Jeff Smith - Henry Schein Medical Athletics & Schools

Jeff Smith
Senior Associate Athletic Director, University of North Texas

Valerie Herzog - Henry Schein Medical Athletics & Schools

Valerie W. Herzog
EdD, LAT, ATC, Chair and Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor, Rehabilitation Sciences Program Director, Weber State University

Christopher Pond - Henry Schein Medical Athletics & Schools

Christopher Pond
MS, ATC, Assistant Director of Athletics for Sports Medicine & Wellness, University of the Pacific

Denise Wujciak - Henry Schein Medical Athletics & Schools

Denise Wujciak
Director of Sports Medicine, Kean University

Rex Sharp - Henry Schein Medical Athletics & Schools

Rex Sharp
Director of Sports Medicine, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Access the Rising Star Award program guidelines here.

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