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Event to honor chief of infectious disease and local philanthropist
Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center will welcome back its signature black tie gala, The Premier, after pausing the event in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The annual event, which traditionally hosts over 900 guests from throughout Western New York, will take place on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022 at the Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, 310 Fourth St.
Organizers said, “Each year, the Premier honors and recognizes individuals who have made a lasting impact on our community. Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world, and this year’s honorees are two individuals who continue to put others first and make a difference in the community.”
•Rajinder Bajwa, M.D., serves as Memorial’s chief of infectious disease division and has been part of the Medical Center team since 2013. A graduate of Government Medical College (Patiala, India), Bajwa completed a residency in radiodiagnosis at Dayanand Medical College & Hospital, Ludhiana, and trained in Internal Medicine at Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh. He then completed a fellowship in infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo.
NFMMC stated, “Dr. Bajwa has truly led the way in supporting and serving our patients, staff and community during the COVID-19 pandemic. His expertise, dedication and loyalty make him the ideal candidate for this recognition.”
•Russell Salvatore will receive the Nancy Gara Spirit Award, which is presented in memory of a banking executive and former NFMMC board member who was renowned for her positive attitude and personal commitment to serving the community.
NFMMC said, “A name recognized in households across Western New York, Russell J. Salvatore is the true definition of philanthropy. Salvatore has gifted millions of dollars to area hospitals to help them improve the patient experience and patient care, including a major gift to renovate Memorial’s welcome center in 2019. In addition to supporting area hospitals, he has also championed and supported higher education projects, including the Russell J. Salvatore Dining Commons at Niagara University.
Co-chairing the 2022 event are Ravinder K. Devgun, D.O., Sukhmender S. Saran, Bishop Darius G. Pridgen and Pastor Craig D. Pridgen.
Devgun has served as Memorial’s chief of anesthesiology since 2016 and has been a pediatric anesthesiologist with Great Lakes Anesthesiology for the past seven years. After receiving her bachelor’s degree at the University at Buffalo, Devgun later returned to UB for her anesthesia residency following medical school in Long Island.
She and her husband, Sukhmender, have spent most of their lives in the local community. They said they are thrilled to be a part of the Premier committee this year, and look forward to giving back to both Memorial and the community.
Bishop Pridgen is a mentor and community leader who serves as Buffalo Common Council president. He represents Buffalo’s Ellicott District. In addition, Pridgen serves as senior pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church in Buffalo. Though his teachings are heard worldwide, his heart is rooted in his community. Through the True Bethel Charities, Taste of Faith Food Pantry, True Bethel Clothes Closet and Nehemiah Arms emergency housing, Pridgen’s church provides resources to individuals who find themselves in need of a helping hand.
Much like his father, Pastor Craig Pridgen’s advocacy is seen through his work on a number of community boards, including Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. A native of Buffalo, Pridgen was ordained as an elder in 2002 and quickly led efforts in preparing inner-city youth for the workforce. In November 2010, he was sent to the newly opened True Bethel Niagara Falls location to carry out the vision and passion of the Buffalo location. In 2019, Pridgen was elected president of The Niagara Falls Ministerial Council.
NFMMC said, “With the goal in mind of advocating for those who have been misrepresented and forgotten, we are proud to have both Bishop Pridgen and Pastor Pridgen on our committee this year.”
Proceeds from the 2022 Premier will go directly toward NFMMC’s programs and services.
This event sells out early every year. For tickets and information on sponsorship and donation opportunities, call 716-278-4604.