The UAMS College of Medicine is proud to honor the recipients of our 2021 Dean’s Honor Day Awards. The following team members were honored in a May 17 ceremony livestreamed to faculty, staff and guests from the Fred Smith Auditorium on the UAMS Campus.
The ceremony was capped with a surprise tribute to retiring Dean and Executive Vice Chancellor Christopher T. Westfall, M.D., who received the Distinguished Faculty Service Award for his service and leadership at UAMS since 1997.
Read more about Dr. Westfall and the ceremony in our 2021 Dean’s Honor Day main feature story.
Watch the video recording of the ceremony.
Staff Excellence Award – Education
Bailey Snellgrove, B.A.
Course Coordinator, Family Medicine Clerkship
Department of Family and Preventive Medicine
Bailey Snellgrove, B.A., is a steadfast champion for medical students who works tirelessly to advance the educational mission of UAMS and the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, where she has served as clerkship director since 2019.
Her nominator, Clerkship Director Leslie Stone, M.D., M.P.H., said Snellgrove has been instrumental in providing high-quality education.
“The Family Medicine Clerkship is unique in that students are required to travel to various locations throughout the state for their clinical experience,” Stone wrote in his nomination letter. “The housing and scheduling logistics of the clerkship can be daunting, but Ms. Snellgrove manages them with skill. She has been similarly adept at managing the disruption to our educational programs caused by the coronavirus pandemic.”
Stone praised Snellgrove’s dedication to medical education, noting that she “maintains a warm rapport with students and manages their clerkship experience with unshaking enthusiasm and professionalism.”
That commitment shines in Snellgrove’s own observations about the work she undertakes with her colleagues. “We truly put the “family” in Family Medicine,” she commented in a note of appreciation when informed of her award. “If we can show our students how much we care about them while they are in medical school, I am confident that they will graduate and become thoughtful and considerate in their own lines of work.”
Staff Excellence Award – Research
Aaron D. Warren, B.A.
Research Associate, Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases Center
Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism
Aaron Warren, B.A., has established an outstanding record of professional and personal excellence and “supreme dedication to the research mission” of UAMS during his 24 years of service in the College of Medicine.
Eighteen of those years have been in the UAMS Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases, where Warren, now a research associate, assumed a leadership role as a lab manager. “Much of the work of the Center is due, in part, to Aaron’s hard work at the lab bench and his dedication to the Center’s research mission,” wrote Stavros Manolagas, M.D., Ph.D., center director, in a nomination letter submitted jointly with Internal Medicine Chair Edward T.H. Yeh, M.D.
Warren is an author on five papers to date and is acknowledged in 28 publications and 65 American Society of Bone and Mineral Research abstracts. He has guided and mentored numerous other lab technical personnel, summer students, medical students, doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows from around the world.
“In all of his duties and responsibilities, he has displayed superb technical excellence, strong work ethics, an impeccable record of attendance (first to arrive in the morning and last to leave in the evening), an exemplary level of professionalism and unmatched dedication to UAMS and the success of its research mission,” Manolagas wrote.
Staff Excellence Award – Clinical
Laura Jones, APRN
Department of Pediatrics, Adolescent Medicine Division
Adolescent Medicine & Eating Disorders Clinic, Arkansas Children’s Hospital
Laura Jones, APRN, is passionate about providing exceptional, much-needed care for a vulnerable adolescent patient population in her role as the advanced practice provider for the Eating Disorders Clinic at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
“Laura’s commitment to taking care of these patients in unparalleled,” wrote her nominator, Sowmya Patil, M.D., section chief for General Pediatrics and interim section chief for Adolescent Medicine. Jones cares for patients from throughout the state in the Eating Disorders Clinic, as well as in the hospital for those who require inpatient care. Patil described Jones as a “fierce advocate” for those in her care.
“She spends countless hours with them even after working-hours in the hospital, just to connect with them better and offer mental support,” Patil wrote. Jones follows up with these patients at home to make sure they are following their prescribed nutrition plan. She also arranges ancillary care in the community such as mental health services and occupational therapy.
“What stands out about her is her work ethic, which is superlative,” Patil said of Jones. “She is a trusted friend and mentor to so many of her adolescent patients. Parents trust her completely with the care of their children, as her dedication and passion are palpable to them. I cannot think of anyone more deserving than Laura for this award.”
Staff Excellence Award – Administration
Shannon Giger, M.H.A.
Administrator, Department of Emergency Medicine
Administrator, Emergency Medicine Service Line
Shannon Giger, M.H.A., has had a pivotal role in the continued success and expansion of Emergency Medicine at UAMS for the past three years in her roles as administrator for the academic department and Emergency Medicine Service Line.
“Shannon is an irreplaceable member of our team who epitomizes the qualifications for this award,” Emergency Medicine Chair Rawle “Tony” Seupaul, M.D., wrote in his nomination letter. “She is a consummate professional who stays late, work weekends, and gets the job done with a high degree of excellence.”
Among many accomplishments, Giger helped successfully negotiate a four-year extension of UAMS Emergency Medicine’s contract with Baptist Health-Conway. She helped recruit, manage and enhance the department’s Clinical Decision Unit. She also worked closely with the recently established Division of Research and Evidence Based Medicine, which already boasts growth in extramural (external) funding, a research associate program, and a course directorship in the College of Medicine.
“Without Shannon’s support, efficiency and expertise, our trajectory would not be what it is today,” Seupaul wrote. “She has exceeded my expectations and helps me, along with our department, to achieve a high level of success in all of our mission areas. She has played an integral role in every key development in our department’s impressive growth over the past three years.”
Faculty Awards in Education and Research
Master Teacher Award
Sara Tariq, M.D.
Associate Dean for Student Affairs
Professor, Department of Internal Medicine
Sara Tariq, M.D., is a nationally recognized, award-winning leader in medical education in the College of Medicine, where she has served on the faculty since 2002. Among many leadership roles, she was named assistant dean for undergraduate clinical education in 2009 and was appointed to the newly created post of associate dean for student affairs in 2019.
Tariq has been integral to numerous educational initiatives in the college, including the development of clinical skills education programs, integration of clinical experiences in the first two years of the curriculum, creation of the college’s Academic Houses, and the highly successful annual “Teach the Teacher” conference for faculty development.
“Dr. Tariq is a consummate physician-educator who has dedicated the majority of her effort since she joined the faculty to superb education for our students,” wrote her nominators, Robert H. Hopkins Jr., M.D., chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine, and Edward T.H. Yeh, M.D., chair of the Department of Internal Medicine. “She has influenced the development of every UAMS medical student who has matriculated at UAMS during her tenure on the faculty.”
Tariq has been honored locally and nationally for her educational excellence, receiving the Herbert S. Waxman Award from the American College of Physicians, the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, and numerous student-selected awards including the College of Medicine’s Golden Apple, Gold Sash and Red Sash awards. Graduating medical students frequently select her to help them don their doctoral hoods at Honors Convocation and to deliver the keynote address from the faculty at the event.
“Dr. Tariq is a Master Teacher by any definition of the term,” Hopkins and Yeh wrote. “UAMS is incredibly fortunate to have her dedicate her career to the education of our current and next generation of physicians; and to helping our faculty to better educate these students as well.”
Educational Innovation Award
Riley Lipschitz, M.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine
Riley Lipschitz, M.D., was honored for her innovative work on a population health curriculum and efforts to bring social determinants of health to the forefront of medical education at UAMS.
“In just three years, Dr. Lipschitz has brought her creativity, her passion for population health and her expertise in health equity to UAMS,” wrote her nominators, Associate Dean for Student Affairs Sara Tariq, M.D., and Internal Medicine Chair Edward T.H. Yeh, M.D. “She has managed to create an enduring outside-the-box curriculum that markedly expands the way we at UAMS teach population health.”
A 2014 UAMS graduate, Lipschitz completed her residency in internal medicine/primary care at the University of Pennsylvania, during which she was named the Leonard Davis Institute Junior Fellow of Health Economics. She went on to earn a National Physicians Alliance Copello Fellowship in Washington, D.C., where she continued to learn about physician advocacy, health policy and health equity.
Lipschitz was recruited to the Division of General Internal Medicine at UAMS in 2017. She promptly placed her focus on caring for high-risk populations in Arkansas and incorporating population health principles into medical education.
She collaborated with a colleague at the University of Michigan to develop a novel Practical Population Health Curriculum, which was designed to provide students with a framework for using introductory concepts of population health, to risk-stratify a group of patients with chronic disease, and to identify evidence-based models for equitable health delivery. She created and directed an interdisciplinary clinic for high-risk patients, where she involved students in the patient-care process. In 2019, Lipschitz received a $30,000 grant from the American Medical Association to further develop the curriculum.
When the pandemic unfolded in early 2020, Lipschitz brought her expertise in population health and health equity to a team of educators that rapidly developed a virtual course for medical students on COVID-19. The course was soon expanded for medical residents and other learners throughout the state.
Excellence in Research Award
Tamara Perry, M.D.
Professor, Department of Pediatrics
Chief, Pediatric Allergy & Immunology
Tamara Perry, M.D., has distinguished herself in Arkansas and nationally as an exceptional physician-scientist, advocate for children’s health, and expert in asthma management, telehealth and health disparities.
Over her 16-year career to date, Perry has secured more than $17 million in extramural funding, served as principal investigator for five National Institutes of Health grants, and published more than 50 manuscripts. Her asthma research demonstrates the potential for telehealth and mobile interventions to overcome the gaps in access to care that many rural and underserved children with asthma experience. Her innovations have brought the expertise of specialists at Arkansas Children’s and UAMS to classrooms and homes throughout the state. She is currently leading development of a multistate clinical trial to bring these innovations in the delivery of asthma teaching and environmental coaching to children throughout the country.
“Dr. Perry is an exemplar of the importance of physician-scientists to the overall care of children in Arkansas and beyond, translating her research knowledge of telehealth to improved clinical telehealth infrastructure for all services,” wrote her nominator, Jessica Snowden, M.D., M.S., MHPTT, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease and vice chair for research in the College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics.
“Her leadership in the Allergy and Immunology Division has been longstanding but has reached new heights during her tenure as division chief, supporting growth in research funding among her faculty, increased publications, and national and international contributions on study sections, scientific advisory boards, and leadership councils,” Snowden wrote.
Other colleagues joined in lauding Perry. A faculty member in the Allergy & Immunology Division, Joshua Kennedy, M.D., is quoted in the nomination letter as describing her as “the consummate mentor who provides support to young investigators across the field of allergy and immunology and at home here in her own division. It is her vision for improving asthma in the state of Arkansas that makes me excited to come to work every day.”
Residency Educator Awards
Residency Educator – Program Director
Alice Alexander, M.D.
Program Director, Medicine-Pediatrics Residency
Associate Professor and Vice Chair for Education
Department of Internal Medicine
Alice Alexander, M.D., is a critical leader in resident education in the Department of Internal Medicine, where she has served as program director for the Medicine-Pediatrics Residency since 2017 and previously served for six years as associate director.
Alexander is also associate program director for the Internal Medicine Residency and, since 2019, has served as vice chair for education in the Department of Internal Medicine. “In each of these roles, Dr. Alexander is a supportive and accountable leader for faculty and learners,” wrote Robert Hopkins Jr., director of the Division of General Internal Medicine, and Edward T.H. Yeh, M.D., chair of Internal Medicine.
Alexander developed and continues to update the ambulatory education curriculum, a core educational experience for Internal Medicine and Medicine-Pediatrics residents that includes a quality-improvement curriculum and problem-based modules. She led the establishment of a dedicated clinic for Medicine-Pediatrics residents and recently oversaw redevelopment of the Medicine-Pediatrics and Internal Medicine housestaff (residents) office.
“As one of her residents, it is easy to respect her medical knowledge and leadership among her peers, to be thankful for the detailed care she takes for each of us in ensuring that we complete all core requirements, and to be humbled by this coming so naturally to her,” third-year Medicine-Pediatrics resident Barrett Burger, M.D., wrote in a letter of support that compiled comments from fellow residents in the program. Third-year Internal Medicine resident Zach Tilley was the nominating resident.
Residents described Alexander as an approachable and kind role model who is detail-oriented and committed to ensuring that they meet required benchmarks for training. Residents have selected Alexander to receive the George L. Ackerman Award for Internal Medicine Faculty of the Year multiple times.
Residency Educator – Program Coordinator
Wyvonne Ora, B.S.
Program Coordinator, NWA Internal Medicine Residency Program
UAMS Northwest Regional Campus
From Match Day in March each year – when graduating medical students learn where they will complete their residency training – Program Coordinator Wyvonne Ora, B.S., makes it clear to incoming residents of the UAMS Northwest Arkansas Internal Medicine Residency Program that they are now a part of her extended family.
“I will truly miss (being a resident) when my time with the program comes to a close, due to her genuine love and belief in the power of our community residency program,” Chief Resident Mikaila Calcagni, M.D., wrote in a letter of support. “Through her unparalleled communication and interpersonal skills, understanding and facilitation of ACGME (national) requirements and accreditation, promoting of program excellence, and personal leadership and mentorship of others, Mrs. Ora is the only choice in my opinion to receive this honor.”
Ora’s dedication to residents is just part of the reason Program Director Thomas K. Schulz, M.D., nominated her for the annual honor. Ora brings 35 years of experience in graduate medical education at UAMS to the program.
“Wyvonne has been a major driving force in the program since its conceptualization in 2011, demonstrating outstanding communication and interpersonal skills with internal and external constituents,” he wrote. When Schulz arrived in 2015, charged with leading a second application for the complex process of obtaining accreditation through the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), Ora had the “playbook” ready for what would become a successful effort.
“Since this initial accreditation, Wyvonne’s understanding of and facilitating excellence in the program’s ACGME accreditation processes have resulted in full accreditation with commendation for substantial compliance on our two-year site visit, and continuing to this year with our most recent review resulting in continued accreditation with commendation for substantial compliance – and no citations,” Schulz wrote.
Clinical Excellence Awards for Faculty
Excellence in Quality and Safety
Hunter Gibbs, M.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry
Medical Director, Psychiatric Research Institute Inpatient Services
Quality and Safety Officer, Behavioral Health Service Line
Hunter Gibbs, M.D., has strived to improve quality and safety in clinical care for mentally ill patients through many innovations in his roles as medical director for the Psychiatric Research Institute (PRI) Inpatient Services, quality and safety officer for the Behavioral Health Service Line and as a physician advisor to the chief medical officer at UAMS.
“In each of these roles, Dr. Gibbs has been key in establishing protocols and workflows that have improved the quality of the care for the acutely mentally ill on the UAMS campus,” wrote Chris Cargile, M.D., who nominated him in partnership with PRI Director and Psychiatry Chair G. Richard Smith, M.D.
Gibbs launched PRI’s first multidisciplinary inpatient leadership council to address quality and safety through performance improvement. The team has trained all clinical staff in crisis prevention intervention, including physical and verbal de-escalation techniques that reduce the frequency of physical altercations, staff assault and patient injury. Other initiatives have included implementing an effective standardized suicide risk assessment documentation tool (SAFET).
Gibbs’ leadership of all patient-harm event reviews has led to a number of impactful changes and improvements. Other initiatives included development of an intra-hospital transfer workflow and numerous standardizations for documentation and ordering.
Excellence in Service and Professionalism
Elena Ambrogini, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor (Associate Professor, effective July 1)
Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism
Elena Ambrogini, M.D., Ph.D., has earned a stellar reputation as a dedicated physician-scientist, endocrinologist and colleague in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism and the Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases at UAMS.
“Dr. Ambrogini has demonstrated a level of professionalism that is second to none,” wrote her nominator and Division of Endocrinology colleague, Spyridoula Maraka, M.D., Program Director for the Endocrinology Fellowship. “She sets the standard among all of the faculty I have worked with for compassionate, thorough and patient-centered care.”
Ambrogini’s clinical excellence is reflected in comments from many of her patients, who have praised her success in improving their quality of life and her willingness to spend ample time with them to ensure they receive the best possible care.
Ambrogini also has earned accolades from her colleagues. “Throughout the years, she has showed her altruism in so many ways,” Maraka wrote. “Covering inpatient service for sick colleagues without even asking for ‘payback;’ overbooking her clinic when there was a shortage of endocrinologists to ensure that patient needs are met; volunteering for COVID screening stations when UAMS leadership called for help; and continuing tirelessly in her clinic even when she had the opportunity to dedicate her time solely in research.”
Best Consulting Physician
Benjamin Tharian, M.D.
Associate Professor, Division of Gastroenterology
Department of Internal Medicine
Director, Advanced Endoscopy
Benjamin Tharian, M.D., provides expert advanced endoscopy services for UAMS patients and superior consultative services for fellow physicians at UAMS so that they may provide the very best care for their own patients.
“Dr. Tharian is a consummate consultant,” Robert Hopkins Jr., M.D., and Internal Medicine Chair Edward T.H. Yeh, M.D., wrote in the department’s nomination. “He makes himself immediately available for patient care and has widely disseminated his direct cell phone number to faculty so that he may be contacted directly for patient care needs.”
“He is respectful and pleasant regardless of the hour or the type of consultation request,” Hopkins and Yeh continued. “He communicates accurately and effectively with those who consult him for patient care procedures.”
Other colleagues and residents joined in commending Tharian for his excellence in consultations. “We had a mutual patient this week,” wrote Internal Medicine Chief Resident Michael Cross, M.D. “He was immediately available by phone and discussed the patient’s case with me. He was clear, concise and made things move more quickly when they needed to. He took great care of our patient and was, as he always is, very courteous.”
Clinical Collaborations and Teamwork
Benjamin Davis, M.D.
Assistant Professor, Division of Trauma and Acute Care
Department of Surgery
Director, Surgical Intensive Care Unit
Collaboration and teamwork are front and center for Ben Davis, M.D., in his work as a surgeon, educator and clinical leader.
“Dr. Davis is the true definition of a team player,” wrote his nominator, Mary Katherine Kimbrough, M.D., a colleague in the Trauma and Acute Care Surgery Division and Program Director for the General Surgery Residency and the Surgical Critical Care Fellowship. “He is an excellent communicator with learners of all levels and with patients, families, nurses and ancillary staff.”
Davis has founded several interdisciplinary groups to improve patient care, including the Acute Care Surgery Journal Club, which has established several important patient protocols, and the Fistula Board, which is developing effective plans of care for patients with complex cases.
Davis has served as director of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) for about two years. “Under his leadership, the SICU team is stronger than ever, as he has worked tirelessly to improve patient care, establish protocols, and work together with providers across multiple disciplines,” Kimbrough wrote.
“Dr. Davis’ excellence in team-building and collaboration has been most evident in the last few months as shown by his leadership in creating the UAMS Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) team,” Kimbrough continued. “His commitment to caring for the most critically ill patients in Arkansas has manifested in his successful efforts to create and lead an incredible team of physicians, APNs, nurses, respiratory therapists, and other support staff in the UAMS SICU.”
Rising Star Clinical Faculty
Zachary Lewis, M.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine
Co-Director, Emergency Ultrasound Fellowship/Pediatric Emergency Ultrasound Fellowship
Co-Director, Emergency Ultrasound Education
Zachary Lewis, M.D., has excelled in clinical care, education, patient advocacy and more in his three years on the faculty in the Department of Emergency Medicine.
“We are very proud of Dr. Lewis’ leadership in many areas, exceptional dedication to the educational goals of the department, and passion for improving the experience of patients and providers at UAMS,” wrote his nominator, Gregory Snead, M.D., vice chair and chief of the Division of Emergency Ultrasound. “We certainly see him as a ‘rising star’ at UAMS.”
“Zach has a way of finding simple solutions to address challenging problems in education and the clinical environment for patients and providers,” Snead wrote. “He is a vocal advocate who can help patients foresee and overcome many of the challenges that exist as they navigate complex care systems.”
“Dr. Lewis is an outstanding and compassionate clinical teacher frequently recognized by the residents for his use of evidence-based care and his patience in teaching many of the most complex procedural aspects of our specialty,” Snead added.
Emergency Medicine Chair Rawle A. “Tony” Seupaul, M.D., said Lewis stood out as exemplary while still a medical student and continued to impress as a resident and then ultrasound fellow. “Zach will likely be a full professor here at UAMS in the near future and will likely win more awards because he is that deserving. He is respected by everyone he works with, and everyone he educates.”
Physician of the Year
Jon Rubenow, D.O.
Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry
Medical Director, UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute – Northwest
Medical Director, UAMS Crisis Stabilization Unit
Jon Rubenow, D.O., has provided outstanding and compassionate mental health care for patients in Northwest Arkansas and around the state for over a decade. His commitment to clinical excellence was never more clear than in 2020, when he helped to ensure that assistance for Arkansans struggling with mental illness was only a phone call away.
In addition to his normal full plate serving as medical director for both the UAMS Crisis Stabilization Unit and the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute (PRI) Northwest clinic, Rubenow played a key role in establishing the state’s first virtual urgent care program for mental health issues, AR-Connect.
The comprehensive behavioral health treatment program provides assistance through a 24-hour-a-day call center and a virtual clinic. Arkansans who couldn’t otherwise find a provider or resources in their community – including health care workers and others with mental health issues brought on by the pandemic – now receive immediate expert care. (AR-Connect is supported with a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Arkansas Division of Aging, Adult & Behavioral Health Services (DAABHS).)
“For quite some time, Dr. Rubenow has been known within the Department of Psychiatry as a ‘doctor’s doctor,’ always garnering superior reviews from patients, and the consistent choice for many of our faculty as the go-to provider for their friends and family should the need arise,” wrote Behavioral Health Service Line Director Chris Cargile, M.D., who nominated Rubenow in partnership with Psychiatry Chair and PRI Director G. Richard Smith, M.D.
“Over the last year, however, Dr. Rubenow has gone above and beyond in leveraging his experience and expertise on behalf of the people of Arkansas,” Cargile wrote. “As the primary physician for AR-Connect, he has not only provided direct care to literally hundreds of patients in crisis around the state; he was also the primary architect for the policies and procedures related to the physician role, setting the stage for the program’s sustainability.”