The first annual Dean’s Faculty Awards were handed out with most honorees in attendance for the special ceremony at the Lois Pope Auditorium on October 4. The event honored 11 faculty members at the Miller School of Medicine out of 50 nominees for their outstanding work in clinical excellence, mentorship, citizenship, community engagement, diversity, education, and research.
“The last 18 months have been a time of great challenges, and during this time our faculty, students, and staff have worked diligently, with unflagging energy and with great accomplishments toward fulfilling our missions of education, research, clinical care, and community service,” said Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School. “Tonight, we are taking this opportunity to acknowledge and to celebrate the outstanding faculty we have here at the Miller School and the University of Miami Health System, honoring those who have excelled in support of our missions.”
Community Engagement Award
The award was given to Lisa Gwynn, D.O., M.B.A., associate professor of clinical pediatrics and public health sciences, for her commitment to the Miller School and the University’s effort to address and advance health equity in local communities for over 20 years. This year, Dr. Gwynn has been on the frontlines providing critical COVID-19 testing. This spring, she was able to offer free COVID-19 vaccinations to adult family members in the underserved areas of Miami-Dade County.
“For over a decade, she has led and championed our Pediatric Mobile Clinic, which exclusively serves uninsured children and adolescents throughout Miami-Dade County, as well as led our School Health Initiative for the last five years, bringing elevated comprehensive school health services to nine Title One schools in Miami-Dade County,” Dean Ford said.
Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award
Teshamae Monteith, M.D., associate professor of clinical neurology and chief of the Headache Division in the Department of Neurology, was honored for her display of outstanding and demonstrable commitment to advancing and supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion at UHealth and the Miller School.
“Dr. Monteith served as co-chair for the Curriculum Committee for Racial Justice Task Force that resulted in the development of several recommendations to identify and eliminate racial bias, to promote racial justice and equity in the Miller School curriculum, and to educate our students to effectively serve diverse communities,” Dean Ford said.
Dr. Monteith further created a department-wide statement and pledge to support diversity and inclusion while having her publication “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and Anti-racism Pledge sets the Foundation for Accountability and Action in a Neurology Department,” published in the American Academy of Neurology’s Journal of Neurology.
Excellence in Mentoring Award
Roberto Vazquez-Padron, Ph.D., professor of surgery, was the recipient for his demonstrated commitment to high-quality, effective mentoring at the Miller School. He has developed a reputation of success with his trainees as they have gone on to medical school, received pre-doctoral research grants, and have contributed to various areas of the medical field.
“Dr. Vazquez-Padron is the embodiment of what we stand for at the University of Miami,” Dean Ford said. “He has shown incredible tenacity and dedication to academic excellence, not only as a prolific principal investigator but also as a mentor to students of all levels and as a pillar of our diverse community at the University of Miami.”
Faculty Award for Citizenship
The award was given to Heidi Allespach, Ph.D., professor of clinical family medicine, for her extraordinary citizenship by participating in the mission of service to UHealth and the Miller School community. She has made herself available to all in need at the medical campus, as emphasized in her publication in the Journal of Graduate Medical Education, titled, “My Door is Always Open.”
“During the initial phases of the pandemic, Dr. Allespach’s role was vital,” Dean Ford said. “She participated in meetings with GME leaders and provided individualized assistance and support to many in our system. Although not part of her job description, Dr. Allespach volunteered to provide support to staff at JMH in radiology after the loss of a colleague. She served as a key liaison for patients admitted to JMH, communicating between families and patients, and continued to dedicate additional time to residents, fellows, and faculty alike.”
Senior Educator Award
For his high impact in various areas of educational excellence, Alberto Caban-Martinez, D.O., Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of public health sciences, was recognized for the award. Dr. Caban-Martinez’ continuous drive for excellence and innovative instructional methods were noted by his nominators, as well as his engagement with students in every aspect of public health.
“Dr. Caban-Martinez is a true leader in public health and medical school education,” Dean Ford said. “His tireless efforts and dedication are committed to his students both inside and outside the classroom.”
Senior Research Award
Two faculty members received the Senior Research Award for their display of outstanding commitment to advancing and contributing to high-impact research at the Miller School.
Alessia Fornoni, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine, chief of the Katz Family Division of Nephrology, and director of the Katz Drug Discovery Center was awarded for her pioneering work on insulin signaling, cholesterol metabolism, and sphingolipid-related pathways.
“A successful physician-scientist who has maintained a resolutely focused research program that has provided novel and seminal contributions to our understanding of the pathogenesis of kidney disease, Dr. Fornoni is truly at the top of her field, and her research is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, industry, and private foundations.” Dean Ford said.
Michal Toborek, M.D., Ph.D., professor and vice-chair of biochemistry and molecular biology, received the award for his diverse interdisciplinary research in HIV and leadership in various academic communities.
“Dr. Toborek’s research is highly interdisciplinary and at the intersection of neuroscience, vascular biology, and neurovirology,” Dean Ford said. “His main interest is related to the involvement of the blood-brain barrier in neurodegenerative disorders, especially in the context of HIV trafficking into the brain. In that regard, he established himself as one of the national and international leaders in the field of physiology and pathology of the blood-brain barrier.”
Faculty Awards for Clinical Excellence in Non-Procedural Specialties
The two-part award is given to a faculty member for exemplary clinical acumen, interpersonal and communication skills, professionalism, and innovation.
Alvaro Alencar, M.D., associate professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology, and a member of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center was recognized for his expansive knowledge in lymphoma and clinical skills.
Dipen Parekh, M.D., chief operating officer of UHealth, read from one of the nominations that said, “Our colleagues on the service have come to rely on his encyclopedic knowledge of the lymphoma literature. As a clinician, he is comprehensive, compassionate, and creative. Employing deep knowledge of both published and pending clinical results, he personalizes therapies for his patients in unique and highly effective ways.”
Monica Yepes, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Radiology and member of Sylvester, was the other recipient for her passionate advocacy for women’s health and imaging in the arena of breast cancer.
“Dr. Yepes has published extensively in the U.S. and Latin America, educating physicians and patients about radiologic approaches in the detection of breast cancer, new imaging modalities, and raising awareness of breast cancer screening,” Dr. Parekh said.
Faculty Award for Clinical Excellence in Procedural Specialties
Bruce Kava, M.D., professor of urology and director of men’s health, was recognized for his strong skillset and calm approach and exemplary professionalism in patient care.
“He is truly a surgeon’s surgeon and instills a sense of calm in the operating room,” Dr. Parekh said. “He is always prepared for whatever one may encounter, demonstrating his incredibly high level of experience handling complicated urologic problems.”
Faculty Leadership Award
The faculty leadership award went to Tanira Ferreira, M.D., chief medical officer for UM Hospital and Clinics, for demonstrating consistent leadership and collaborative skills in furthering institutional priorities, especially noted during the pandemic.
“Dr. Ferreira is a leader who goes beyond the call of duty and personifies all the strengths, aspirations, and general morality of not just a strong leader but an entire institution,” said Dr. Parekh. “She does this by educating trainees, mentoring other leaders, showing staff support, and accepting accountability for them all.”
For further information about the Dean’s Faculty Awards and the recipients, please visit the Miller School of Medicine Office of Faculty Affairs and Professional Development.