Home-grown Valley values still guide North Charleroi native Tony Cosgrove
Strong parental guidance and other positive influences helped shape the life of Charles A. (Tony) Cosgrove.
Preparing to earn a master of education degree in the field of management/administration from Cambridge College in Northampton, Mass., Cosgrove wrote the following in the acknowledgements section of his dissertation:
“My mother and my father taught me that love, friendship and compassion should be applied in my daily activity and with those I am in contact with, and also to extend my hand to aid those less fortunate than I. Often I remember and hold close to me their love. I am forever grateful to Mom and Pop.”
Those parental values, and other positive lessons from teachers and friends, have directed Cosgrove through a successful career as an innovator and leader in health care and in other facets of life.
“I don't get back home as often as I would like to, but I will never forget what I learned and the guidance I received there,” said Cosgrove, 69, a longtime resident of Southington, Conn., located about 15 miles southwest of Hartford.
Cosgrove was born on March 20, 1944, in Pittsburgh, one of six children of Frederick E. Cosgrove Sr. and Mary Virginia Tompkins Cosgrove. His siblings are Frederick E. Cosgrove Jr., William T. Cosgrove, Robert D. (Dallas) Cosgrove, Doris Whitfield and Anna Maund.
“My dad was a riverboat pilot and captain and my mother, before marrying my father, had attended Carnegie Tech at a time when many women did not have opportunities for a higher education,” Cosgrove said. “They offered a loving home to my brothers and sisters and me.”
The family moved from Pittsburgh to North Charleroi, where Cosgrove spent his formative years.
He initially attended the then-new Monongahela Valley Catholic High School in Carroll Township and was a starting lineman on the Spartans' first football team in 1959.
He transferred to Charleroi High School, where his brother Dallas had been a member of the Cougars' 1959 WPIAL Class AA championship team, and graduated in 1962.
Tony Cosgrove gained honorable mention laurels on the 1961 All-Big Six Football Conference team and was named Athlete of the Year in North Charleroi by the Toast To Our Stars booster organization in 1962.
Cosgrove attended the University of Hartford in Connecticut and graduated from the St. Francis School of Respiratory Therapy in Hartford. He worked as a staff therapist and was promoted to supervisor at St. Francis Medical Center before returning to the Mid-Mon Valley.
As chief of respiratory care and pulmonary services and working closely with Dr. Arthur B. Varga, chief of anesthesiology, he helped establish the first respiratory care department at the former Charleroi-Monessen Hospital in North Charleroi. He also was instrumental in formation of the respiratory care department at Uniontown Hospital. While at the Uniontown facility, he worked with Howard Conn, editor of Conn's Current Therapy, a classic volume of medical therapies used by national and international medical communities.
Returning to New England, he served as chief of respiratory care and pulmonary medicine at Holyoke Hospital in Holyoke, Mass., for two years before accepting an appointment as supervisor of critical care at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.
“I served as a member of the open heart team at Rhode Island Hospital,” Cosgrove said. “In that capacity, I had the opportunity to participate in life-support research related to the use of ventilators for care. Our team was involved in a supportive role during the research and eventual discovery of surfactant, a missing substance in premature lungs.”
Cosgrove also conducted research on ways to monitor and detect inspiratory pressure and authored a medical journal article describing a method of detecting inspiratory effort in comatose patients.
It was during this time that he also received another diploma in respiratory care and successfully passed the National Board of Registration for Respiratory Care.
Subsequently, he returned to his position as chief of respiratory care and pulmonary medicine at Holyoke Hospital, where he and his staff developed a training program for certifying respiratory therapy technicians. He also was an instructor in the Allied Health Science section at Springfield (Mass.) Technical Community College.
“Working with the medical and anesthesia departments (at Holyoke), I instituted a training program for sampling and analyzing arterial blood gases as well as a skills development program to teach respiratory therapists and nurses the procedure for endotracheal intubation.”
The success of these courses led to numerous invitations for Cosgrove to lecture at regional and national seminars conducted by the American Association of Respiratory Therapists.
Cosgrove taught multiple courses on various aspects of respiratory and critical care for more than 20 years at Holyoke.
Trained as an emergency medical technician, Cosgrove also served as director of respiratory care and flight medicine for Physicians Air Transport.
During that time, he was active on the international level in providing critical care and repatriation for patients needing specialized care.
He helped develop equipment and technologies for application during medical air transport in travels to South America, Europe, the Middle East and all of North America.
In addition to his degrees in respiratory care, Cosgrove earned a master of education degree from Cambridge (Mass.) College in 1988.
This degree, while in education, had a strong emphasis on management and administration. The title of his thesis was, “Stress Reduction for Families of the Critically Ill – A Model for Caregivers.”
In 1984, he was honored as “Outstanding Respiratory Therapist of the Year” by the Massachusetts Society for Respiratory Care and was named a life member of the Western Massachusetts Council of Pulmonary Managers, a group dedicated to promoting education and supporting regional health care organizations.
“As a member of the American Association for Respiratory Care since 1965, I had the privilege of serving as a member of its publications committee and helped develop The AARC Times, a publication formatted to expand news relevant to our profession,” he said.
Cosgrove also was an elected office of the Rhode Island Society for Respiratory Care and a member of its House of Delegates, which advised officers of the American Association for Respiratory Care.
A charter member of the Massachusetts Society for Respiratory Care, he served as president and chaired multiple committees of that group.
He also has served on the board of directors and as vice president of the Connecticut Society for Respiratory Care and remains a member of that organization.
Cosgrove's career also has included responsibilities as a manager with the pulmonary laboratory, respiratory care department and the department of cardiology at New Britain (Conn.) General Hospital.
Cosgrove became regional director of operations for Sun Healthcare in 1995 and led the firm's provision of respiratory care services for long-term care facilities in Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
Because of his success in that area, he received acclaim at the national level.
That resulted in a corporate -level promotion to director of program development.
In that capacity, he was responsible for developing and implementing policies and procedures addressing the needs of residents of longterm care and sub-acute care facilities.
He also served as assistant to the vice president of quality assurance.
After five years of cross-country travel, Cosgrove opted to focus his clinical work closer to his home in Connecticut and became a clinical applications specialist for American Bio Systems.
“This enterprise provided a means for utilizing high-frequency chest wall oscillation, a technology for clearing airways,” he said.
“This is especially useful for treatment of Cystic Fibrosis and multiple diseases that affect the pulmonary system.”
The next seven years found him working in central and eastern Connecticut as a staff therapist in critical care and eventually to home care of patients, including life support, treatment of sleep apnea and multiple respiratory care modalities.
In addition to his clinical work, Cosgrove has volunteered with numerous health-related agencies, including the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society.
He also gave his time and talents to the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, which provides free clinical and social resources to Americans who have no or limited access to health care.
A youth football coach in Charleroi and Holyoke, he also served as an instructor and officer with the Holyoke Youth Hockey Association.
He also served as an advisor for the medical exploring program affiliated with Boy Scouts of America and on the Pioneer Valley Council of BSA in Springfield, Mass
He also was an assistant scoutmaster for the National Scout Jamboree at Fort AP Hill, Va.
In recognition of his commitment to scouting and distinguished service to youth, Cosgrove was the recipient of the Silver Beaver Award, one of BSA's top honors, and several other awards.
He also was elected to the Order of the Arrow, a select group that provides service for various scouting activities.
“I am deeply grateful for and humbled by those awards,” Cosgrove said.
“I have always felt that is important to give back to the community, to help young and old in any way possible. Many people played roles in my life growing up in North Charleroi and the Mon Valley and I recall many others who devoted their time and energy to champion causes that benefitted so many people. They are people anyone would do well to emulate.”
Cosgrove carries those ideals as he continues to work in health care and in his role as a husband, father and grandfather.
He and his wife, Nancy, have been married 25 years, are the parents of five children and have five grandchildren.
Their children are: Brian, a graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy who lives and works in Houston, Texas; Kellie, a graduate of Fairfield University and the University of North Carolina Law School who is an attorney with the Department of Homeland Security — she and her husband John and their children, Anne Leslie and Colin, live in Arlington, Va.; Katie, a graduate of Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. and Sam Houston University who is a school administrator in Houston — she and her husband Dennis are the parents of three children, Connor, Maeve and Liam; Andy, a network administrator currently working on a degree in multi media communications in Pueblo, Colo. – his wife is Chelsea; and Bob, a restaurant manager whose wife Julie is a pediatric resident at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass.
“I feel honored and privileged to have been able to care for patients around the world and also being able to interact and contribute with health care providers at all levels,” he said.
“Surrounding all of these activities is the absolute feeling of being blessed and privileged to have five children who have become kind, caring and responsible individuals that are making their own mark in the world.
“And the best part has been observing the same thing happening with our grandchildren. I have been, and continue to be, blessed in many ways.”
Ron Paglia is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.