Staff Bios

Thomas Riles, MD

Executive Director

Dr. Riles has been a practicing vascular surgeon at NYU Langone Medical Center since 1977. During his career at NYU Langone Medical Center, he has served as Chief of Vascular Surgery and Chairman of the Department of Surgery. Currently, he is the Associate Dean for Medical Education and Technology and the Frank C. Spencer Professor of Surgery. Dr. Riles has published more than 250 medical articles and textbook chapters and has served as President of the American Association for Vascular Surgery. Dr. Riles holds degrees from Stanford University (BA) and Baylor College of Medicine (MD).

Daniel M. Lugassy, MD

Medical Director

Dr. Lugassy is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine, he obtained his medical degree from State University of New York SUNY Downstate College of Medicine in Brooklyn, NY. After finishing a residency in Emergency Medicine at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, MD he completed a fellowship in Medical Toxicology at the NYU School of Medicine/New York City Poison Control Center. He has stayed on to be part of the NYU Emergency Medicine faculty since 2010, working clinically in the emergency departments of NYU-Langone Medical Center, Bellevue Hospital, the Manhattan Veteran’s Administration Hospital and is consultant to the New York City Poison Control Center.

Grace Ng, PhD, MS, CNM, RN

Health Professions Director

Ms. Ng has been an RN and certified nurse-midwife since 1998. During her career in healthcare, she previously served as a nurse-midwife at the Bellevue-Gouveneur Midwifery Service; an inpatient obstetrics RN at NYU Langone Medical Center; an adjunct faculty member at NYU College of Nursing; and a nurse educator for obstetrics at NYU Langone Medical Center; as well as an associate faculty member at the Center for Medical Simulation in Boston. She holds degrees from Cornell University (BS), Columbia University (BS, MS), as well as a Post-Master’s Advanced Certificate in Nursing Education from the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing at CUNY, with a focus on simulation education. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Nursing at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Joanne Choi, MPH

Administrative Director

Ms. Choi has more than 10 years’ administration experience in healthcare institutions in clinical programs including cardiology, heart transplant / ventricular assist devices, and endoscopy. She started her career at Columbia University Medical Center while obtaining her MPH in Health Policy & Management at the university’s Mailman School of Public Health. Her expertise revolves around the design, analysis, and implementation of minor and major program and business strategies, and facilities projects.

Sarla Santos, MS, RN-BC, NC-BC, CCRN

Assistant Director of Operations

Santos has been a Registered Nurse at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYULMC) for several years. During her career at NYULMC, she has been a staff nurse in the PICU, Nurse Coordinator at the Hassenfeld Children’s Center, and a Nursing Professional Development Specialist. Sarla is certified in pediatric critical care nursing, nursing professional development and integrative nurse coaching.

Sondra Zabar, MD


Sondra Zabar, MD is the Director of the Primary Care Internal Medicine Residency Training Program at the NYU School of Medicine. She is the Director of the Program for Medical Education Innovations and Research (PrMEIR), established in 2006 with the mission of advancing medical education scholarship at NYU and instituting best practices for patient-centered, evidence-based medical education through research, faculty development, and internal grants program.

Jeffrey A. Manko MD

Director for Graduate Medical Education


Deepak Pradhan, MD, FCCP

Faculty Educator

Dr Pradhan is Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine at NYU School of Medicine. He completed his B.S. at University of Delaware, his M.D. from Jefferson Medical College, Residency in Internal Medicine at Brown University in Providence, and Fellowship in Pulmonary/Critical Care at NYU School of Medicine. He is currently Associate Section Chief at Tisch Hospital, NYULMC, and Assistant Program Director for the NYU Pulmonary/Critical Care Fellowship. His focus is on bedside ultrasound, procedural skills, simulation, and education.

Tom Vongbandith

Senior Systems Analyst

Mr. Vongbandith has more than 15 years’ experience in the IT industry. At NYSIM he supports all technical aspects of the center, including the A/V equipment used for recording and reviewing simulation sessions; all computerized simulators; and the online educational management system. He started his career specializing in software training and support for companies in the retail industry, and has worked as a systems consultant for Avaya Communications, formerly part of Lucent Technologies. Prior to joining NYSIM, he worked as an IT customer support specialist for the Department of Surgery at New York University School of Medicine.

Gene Mamaril

IT Systems Analyst 1

Mr. Mamaril graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from New Jersey Institute of Technology. He has 3 years of experience in designing smart homes with theaters, media rooms, distributed video and music systems, and advanced automation controls for security and lighting. He also has 6 years of experience in medical simulation systems from Education Management Solutions. During these 6 years, he has designed, installed, and serviced the A/V behind the online component of these systems nationally and internationally. As an analyst at NYSIM, he is part of a team that supports the technology of the center, which include A/V, the control system, and advanced patient simulators.

Virginia Drda

Simulation Faciitator

Ms. Drda has more than 14 years’ experience merging the art of theatre with the art of medicine. At NYSIM, she is facilitator of NYSIM’s “standardized patients” program—in which trained actors play the roles of patients, a technique used to train medical students how to enhance their communication and listening skills when meeting with patients. Ms. Drda acted, directed, and managed educational theatre programs with Kaiser Permanente Health Maintenance Organization, where she co-wrote and developed live interactive encounters portraying both patients and medical professionals. She has also acted in an array of standardized patient and health care provider roles in the New York City area. She served as Associate Program Manager with the Clinical Competence Center of New York (C3NY), for 6 years before coming to NYSIM.

Alexandra Mack

Program Supervisor

Alexandra Mack had her first experience in the field of Simulation in Healthcare during high school when she was a Standardized Patient at Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine. She reconnected with Simulation in 2015, but this time taking a role from an operational side as a Simulation Operations Specialist at NYSIM. In her current role she is a Program Supervisor, overseeing the operations of the Standardized Patient Program at NYSIM. Prior to this working at NYSIM, Alex worked as an Office Manager at a private practice for a Integrative Oncologist and Primary Care Provider in Maine.

Crysandy Marte

Senior Simulation Operations Specialist

Mr. Marte graduated from Saint Michael’s College with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. He gained three years of managerial leadership while continuing education as a Graduate Assistant at Saint Michael’s College. During that time, he acquired pre-requisites in pre-health and worked at the Clinical Simulation Laboratory at The University of Vermont Larner College Of Medicine where he served as a Standardized Patient and Simulation Specialist for Immersive Simulations. Crysandy moved back to New York City and continued his journey in the field of medical simulation by joining the NYSIM staff in 2016. He is currently the Senior Simulation Operations Associate who supports the Assistant Director of Operations as well as the daily immersive simulation programs at NYSIM.

Maria Olivero

Administrative Assistant

Maria Olivero, B.S. (IONA College) has 20+ years of administrative experience. She joined the Simulation Center in December 2016 as an administrative assistant. She began her career at NYULMC Department of Radiology where she supported 3 Vice Chairs. She also worked in the Office of the Dean and CEO supporting the Chief of Staff, the Dean and CEO and the Vice President for Policy and Administration.

Soma Roy

Program Manager


Sidney Banson

Office Assistant

Administrative Assistant Sidney Banson has been with our team in the role of Admin asst. for 1.5 years. Before joining the NYSIM team, he completed his A.A.S in Criminal Justice at Onondaga Community College located in Syracuse, NY. and had previously worked for the Board Of Education in Long island City, serving as a liaison between Bus Vendors & charter Schools to ensure the best quality service for special needs children. Here at NYSIM he does a variety of general clerical functions such as providing support for reception area as needed; refers non-routine calls, issues, and questions. He also Mail distribution receives, sorts and performs simple screening of mail and send out dated materials and other documentation according to predetermined instructions. Sidney is a valued member of the team and we hope he continues to grow with us.

Porsche Wilder

Office Assistant

Ms. Wilder is an administrative professional with 7 years of experience coordinating administrative functions and supporting leadership. Prior to joining the NYSIM team, Porsche worked as an office administrator for a non-profit organization where she was responsible for general office and leadership support, preparing reports, creating and distributing correspondence, and creating graphic design work.

Rebecca Pertab

Simulation Operations Associate

Ms. Pertab, MPH joined the Simulation Center in March 2017 as a Simulation Operations Associate. She has a diverse background with over 5 years of experience in clinical office procedures, office administration, and research at NYULMC. She currently assists the Program Supervisor in supporting the Standardized Patient Programs at NYSIM.

Cynthia Reyes

Simulation Operations Associate

Ms. Reyes had professional training as a Licensed Practical Nurse and participated in specialized coursework in the field of nursing during her high school years. In 2014, she received her Bachelor of Art in Psychology at CUNY Hunter College. During her time at CUNY Hunter College, she had the opportunity to work as a Simulation Facilitator for Hunter’s Nursing Department. Working as a Simulation Facilitator allowed her to collaborate with nursing educators and prospective nursing students. She currently works as a Simulation Operations Associate who supports daily immersive simulation programs at NYSIM.

Ryan Zurich

Simulation Operations Associate

Ryan C. Zurich joined NYSIM in 2016 as a Simulation Operations Specialist. Ryan is currently pursuing their master’s degree in Psychology and Theology at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. They earned their B.A. from Hunter College in Psychology, Studio Art, and Religious Studies through the CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies. At NYSIM, Ryan supports daily immersive simulation programs, as well as standardized patient programs. Ryan is also currently active in developing NYSIM’s Basic Life Support (BLS) program in partnership with NYU Winthrop and the American Heart Association. Outside of NYSIM, Ryan works in Clinical Psychology research at Teachers College, Columbia University, is a practicing painter, and a life-long swimmer.


Organizational Table