Medical educators recognized for stellar contributions

Christopher Kogut, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, accepts the Program Director Award.
Christopher Kogut, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, accepts the Program Director Award.

Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine recognized beloved educators and prolific scientists for their contributions to higher education at the 19th annual Faculty Excellence Awards on Wednesday.

The awards are an expression of VCU’s commitment to its educators, said Peter F. Buckley, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine.

“This is a terrific event,” said Buckley. “[It] really recognizes not just the content of teaching, but both style and … aspects of leadership.”


Humanism in medicine

The Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award, presented by The Arnold P. Gold Foundation, recognizes a faculty member at participating medical schools. Harold F. Young, M.D., professor of neurosurgery and director of the Harold F. Young Neurosurgical Center, received this year’s award for his humanism in the delivery of care to patients and their families.

“This award is for the VCU institution, the medical school and especially for all of the physicians, nurses and administrators as well as the students, and all of the members of the Department of Neurosurgery,” said Young, who received a standing ovation. “This is a health care team that has always had a healthy respect and compassionate relationship with each other and their patients. During my 45 years here, I have daily seen attributes and behaviors that are sensitive to the values and cultural and ethnic backgrounds of others. Our Department of Neurosurgery has always fostered attributes of integrity, excellence in care, particularly in the scientific area, collaboration and compassion to relieve the suffering of others.”

Young has served on the Board of Directors of the MCV Foundation since 1994. In 1997, he received the University Award of Excellence, the highest honor that VCU bestows on faculty, and in 2014, he was honored with the VCU Presidential Medallion.


Teaching excellence

Kimberly W. Sanford, M.D., receives the Enrique Gerszten M.D. Faculty Teaching Excellence Award from Enrique Gerszten, M.D.
Kimberly W. Sanford, M.D., receives the Enrique Gerszten M.D. Faculty Teaching Excellence Award from Enrique Gerszten, M.D.

The Enrique Gerszten, M.D. Faculty Teaching Excellence Award was presented to Kimberly W. Sanford, M.D., associate professor of pathology. This award is presented to instructors who go above and beyond to connect with students and improve their course and department.

“Few educators have the ability as Kim does, to touch the minds so personally of a hundred students in a lecture setting, as if she were elbow-to-elbow, eye-to-eye,” said former student resident Catherine L.B. Palmer, M.D.

Sanford has received a Best Teacher Award every year since 2012.

The Educational Innovation/Educational Research Award recognizes an individual faculty member, a group or an academic unit for a significant educational innovation or educational research.

Sammy Pedram, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine, and Michael Joyce, M.D., assistant professor of emergency medicine, received this award for creating what one enrolled student  called “the coolest class ever.” The pair teaches a course in bedside ultrasounds for first-year medical students. Students attend small-group, hands-on training with experienced instructors using standardized patients. Students receive one-on-one teaching and immediate feedback about their technique, image acquisition and interpretation.



Alpha A. “Berry” Fowler III, M.D., and S. Murthy Karnam, Ph.D, received the Distinguished Mentor Award for their significant contributions to the career development of others, such as fellow faculty members, students and residents.

“I have had many mentors, and I have learned from many mentors,” said Fowler, professor of internal medicine and director of the VCU Johnson Center for Critical Care and Pulmonary Research. “Over those years, I realized that it was very important for me to pay it forward because it was then my responsibility to train the next generation, or generations, of physicians the way I was taught to practice medicine.”

Karnam, professor of physiology and biophysics, is known as a mentor with a big smile and gracious disposition, who always makes time for his students, said Charles Anderson Jr., Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. Anderson recalls starting to tire during his dissertation defense, which was otherwise going well. He was asked a question, and wearily picked up a marker to draw a diagram. Karnam rose from his chair, smiling.

“[He] knew I was flagging, took the marker from my hand, and said, ‘Andy, you’re going to get your Ph.D. You’re doing great,’” Anderson said. “When he placed that marker back in my hand, and patted my shoulder, I knew how to answer the question. And I smiled while I answered it.”


Professional excellence

Duane C. Williams, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, received the Irby-James Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching, in recognition of his patience, good will and ability to show students that being a doctor is a dedication to service.

"His kindness, his compassion, his willingness to sit with any parent any time, as long as it's necessary to assure that all questions are answered, teaches our residents and fellows by example what it is to be a physician," said Doug Willson, M.D., the John Mickell Professor of Pediatric Critical Care.

While a resident himself, Williams says he was fortunate to have educators who invested in his learning.

“It is a gift to be able to take care of people’s children and, therefore, we need to invest in those people who are going to take care of children and pay that forward,” he said. “And I thank those educators who invested in me.”

The Women in Science, Dentistry, and Medicine Professional Achievement Award was presented to Saba W. Masho, M.D. The award recognizes women who are successful role models for women faculty, display excellence in their area of expertise, show leadership qualities and demonstrate advanced teaching skills.

A popular mentor, Masho formally has mentored more than 80 graduate students, medical students, and medical residents, and 20 doctoral students as dissertation chair or committee member. She has received 11 teaching awards for teaching M.P.H, Ph.D., and M.D. students in epidemiology and in the M.D. curriculum.

“I would like to give a very special thanks to my students, mentees, as well as my team,” Masho said.

“Without their work, I wouldn’t be here. They make me come to work every day and I have a wonderful

time and so much fun and they enable me to do what I do in a very conducive environment. They

challenge me every single day and I learn so much from each one them.”

The MCV Physicians Distinguished Clinician Award was presented to Uma R. Prasad, M.D.,

associate professor of radiology. Sponsored by the Medical College of Virginia Physicians, this annual award recognizes clinical excellence among faculty at the VCU Medical Center.

“This year has a special significance,” Prasad said. “This is the first time in the history of this award that a

radiologist has been given a best distinguished faculty award, which is great news because radiology, in

spite of not being in the forefront, has become an integral part of patient care. I would like to share and

dedicate this award to all of the radiologists that work tirelessly to make a difference every day for every

patient that comes into the hospital.”


VCU/VCUHS Leadership in Graduate Medical Education

Cindi Phares, coordinator of the General Surgery Residency Program, receives the Program Coordinator Award.
Cindi Phares, coordinator of the General Surgery Residency Program, receives the Program Coordinator Award.

This collection of awards recognizes outstanding contributions to medical education by program coordinators, residency and fellowship directors. Recipients are as follows.

  • The Fellowship Director Award: John Christian Barrett, M.D., professor of internal medicine, for his work as the Hematology-Oncology Fellowship director, a role he has occupied since 2011.

  • The Program Director Award: Christopher P. Kogut, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, for his role as the director of the Residency Education Program within the Department of Psychiatry.
  • The Program Coordinator Award: Cindi Phares, coordinator of the General Surgery Residency Program, for working to improve the wellbeing of her colleagues, and ensuring they have a healthy balance between their work and their personal life.