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Margaret is one in 61,000

By Lauren Urban, Writer

Margaret Pellizzari has a special talent.

The program coordinator and assistant nurse manager of pediatric endocrinology at Cohen Children’s Medical Center is a passionate belly dancer. Whether solo or with her beloved dance troupe, you’ll catch Peggy (as her friends call her) showing off her dancing skills and outgoing personality in gorgeous, shimmering costumes with a giant smile adorning her face. 

“I’ve been a dancer almost all my life,” she said, recalling the years of taking tap and ballet classes as a kid. “As a woman, belly dancing has helped me appreciate my own self, accept that there are flaws, work my body and appreciate my body. I get to be myself, rather than mom, or wife or nurse. This is who Peggy is.”

Peggy also attributes dancing to helping her get through knee surgery, building her confidence, teaching her to relax more, and losing weight, especially after the birth of her children.

Her dedication to and love for her craft has afforded her the opportunity to perform at a range of venues, from local Long Island restaurants to charity events to the Jacob Javitz Convention Center in Manhattan. She also enjoys dancing at parties.

“I’m always looking to shake it up at a party. I like to get it moving, get the party started, have some fun and bring some life. I once performed at a friend’s surprise 70th birthday party, and it was just so appreciated by him, his family and the guests because it was different, it was exciting,” she said.

Party goers aren’t the only ones who appreciate Peggy sharing her passion for dance. Children and teenagers with diabetes at Cohen Children’s also appreciate it, as they look to Peggy as a source of inspiration and guidance.

That’s because she has the same condition they have. 

At age 13, Peggy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (previously known as juvenile diabetes), which means the body does not produce insulin, a hormone needed to get glucose (needed for energy) from the bloodstream into the cells. Only 5 percent of people with diabetes have this type. Peggy wears an insulin pump and glucose monitor at all times, even placing them strategically under her dance costumes. 

“I used to want to be a professional dancer and an actress,” she said with a laugh. “And I remember my mother saying to me when I was 18 years old, ‘You can’t do that. You need to pick a profession where you’re going to have an opportunity to get good medical benefits so that you can have the best diabetes treatments available.’”

She was drawn to nursing because she’s a “friendly person” who “enjoys taking care of people.” She originally served adults in several different facets of nursing, including nursing homes, dialysis and the Intensive Care Unit. Things changed after she experienced being a nurse for a diabetes summer camp.

“It was very interesting and satisfying to work with young kids,” she said. “It prompted me to make a change in my career and go full time into diabetes nursing and pediatrics.”

Now a diabetes educator and mentor within the health system and throughout the community, Peggy says, “When you open up to families and children, and they see like ‘Oh wow, she also has diabetes and it’s going to be OK’… It’s like a community of helping people and it’s a good feeling to help out.”

In her classes, Peggy always displays a picture of herself belly dancing in her favorite red costume at the Javitz Center. Her message? “Diabetes should never stop you from doing what you love to do. You find a way to make it work.”

Peggy has worked for Northwell Health for 13 years and received an employee recognition award in 2016. She and her team at Cohen Children’s care for about 800 children with diabetes each year. Their goal is to make life with diabetes more manageable, educate families to be their own advocates, and maintain good glycemic control aimed at prolonging life and preventing complications. Peggy is also a clinical research coordinator for pediatric diabetes studies.

Interested in joining the 61,000? Learn more about careers at Northwell Health.