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Nurse Anesthetists Donate $20,000 for Down Syndrome Care, Treatment

Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists


CONTACT: Kurt Knaus; P: 717-724-2866; E:

Nurse Anesthetists Donate $20,000 for Down Syndrome Care, Treatment

Matching grant will support colleague ‘running for Luca’ in Boston Marathon

HARRISBURG (Jan. 22, 2020) --- The Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists (PANA) is putting its money behind a former colleague who will run the Boston Marathon this year to raise awareness and ensure care and treatment for individuals with Down syndrome. PANA is providing $20,000 in matching grants to support the effort.

Maria van Pelt, Ph.D., CRNA, FAAN, has been a nurse for 28 years and a certified registered nurse anesthetist for 22 years. She worked in Philadelphia nearly her entire career, having served as Program Director of the University of Pennsylvania Nurse Anesthesia Program until 2012, when she moved to Massachusetts. She currently is Dean of the School of Nursing and an Associate Dean, Bouvé College of Health Sciences, at Northeastern University School of Nursing in Boston.

In 2014, van Pelt started running races for Luca --- and she hasn’t looked back since.

Luca’s mom, Denise Martin Zadeh of Voorhees Township, N.J., just across the river from Philadelphia, was a student who graduated from the Nurse Anesthesia Program in 2006 when van Pelt was Program Director at Penn. That’s where they met, and where Luca’s mom inspired van Pelt by her advocacy as a parent of a child with Down syndrome.

Van Pelt runs races for Luca as a way to advocate, support and improve the lives of individuals with Down syndrome, and she gives every medal she earns from the half marathons, marathons and ultramarathons she runs to Luca.

She will keep the tradition alive when she runs the Boston Marathon on April 20.

This year, PANA is giving something to van Pelt --- a $10,000 grant that she will donate in Luca’s name to the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, the premier source of Down syndrome information, advocacy and networking in The Bay State.

Additionally, PANA will provide a matching grant in van Pelt’s home state, giving $10,000 to the Trisomy 21 Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The program evaluates, treats and provides coordinated multidisciplinary care for children and adults with trisomy 21, also known as Down syndrome.

“I’m overwhelmed by the support and so honored PANA would join with me and Luca and his family to take on this challenge,” van Pelt said.

The matching grants were announced during the midpoint of CRNA Week in Pennsylvania, when patients, hospital administrators, health-care professionals, policy-makers, and others learn more about certified registered nurse anesthetists and the work they do to keep patients safe. The weeklong celebration runs in conjunction with the 21st annual National CRNA Week from Jan. 19 to Jan. 25.

“CRNAs universally share the same mission of helping families find peace of mind and comfort in difficult situations,” said PANA President Angela DiDonato. “CRNAs are patient advocates --- and Maria is the epitome of what it means to be an advocate. PANA stands with her as she continues her run for Luca.”

CRNAs are the hands-on providers of anesthesia care, operating safely in every setting where anesthesia is administered, including hospital operating and delivery rooms; ambulatory surgical centers; the offices of dentists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists, and plastic surgeons; pain management centers and more.

Pennsylvania’s ranks among the top draws nationally for certified registered nurse anesthetists and students, with 13 highly rated nurse anesthetist programs serving every corner of the commonwealth and helping to sustain one of the largest contingencies of professionals in its association in the country.

For more information about certified registered nurse anesthetists in Pennsylvania, visit or follow along on social media via Twitter at @PANACRNA or on Facebook at


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