Toni started her professional career as an elementary school teacher, and after discovering Child Life, switched careers and became a CCLS in 1995, graduating with her Master of Child Life and Family Studies degree from Wheelock College. She immediately accepted a position at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio as a child life specialist in the ambulatory surgery unit and the pediatric unit. After a call from Mary Barkey, she then went on to an ambulatory surgery child life position at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, and shortly afterwards, was asked to step into the Child Life Director position. The child life department expanded for the next 10 years during Toni’s leadership, adding child life, art therapy and music therapy positions.
NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York City then called, and Toni became the Director of Child Life and Patient and Family-Centered Care. Within 8 years, the program expanded adding child life specialists, art and music therapists, a Family Resource Center and Health Librarian, and a Patient and Family Liaison position. A child life position was also created in the Radiology department specifically with this research project in mind. It was an amazing, collaborative project that solidified what child life specialists have anecdotally known- that preparation for MRI’s could reduce the need for sedation, resulting in improved efficiency while reducing recovery time and procedural costs without compromising the quality of the scan.
Toni’s next professional step at NewYork-Presbyterian was to become the hospital system’s first Vice President of Patient and Family-Centered Care, where she focused on improving the patient experience, mostly in adult units, and the resulting metrics of success across the multiple-hospital medical system.
An organizational restructuring let her follow her professional passion back to pediatrics and the ability to use her child life skills. Toni knew Project Sunshine throughout her time as the Child Life Director at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, and she shared their mission- to provide play opportunities for pediatric patients and their families facing medical challenges. She accepted Project Sunshine’s newly created position, the Director of Program Innovation, where she assesses, creates and implements developmentally appropriate, evidence-based programs for child life specialists to use with their patients and families.
Toni and her husband have been married for 36 years and are the parents of 2 adult children and grandparents to their 2-year-old granddaughter. They live in New York City.