The UAMS College of Medicine is proud to honor the recipients of our 2022 Dean’s Honor Day Awards. The team members highlighted on this page were recognized in a May 3 ceremony in the Fred Smith Auditorium on the UAMS campus.
Capping the ceremony, the 2022 Distinguished Faculty Service Award was presented to Billy Thomas, M.D., MPH, a professor of pediatrics who for the past 36 years has made his mark as a neonatologist and as a key leader in initiatives to ensure a diverse health care workforce for Arkansas.
Read more about Dr. Thomas and the overall ceremony in our 2022 Dean’s Honor Day main feature story.
Watch the video of the ceremony.
View a video tribute to faculty being promoted to associate professor.
View a video tribute to our faculty who are being promoted to professor.
Read about four faculty members who were promoted to distinguished professor.
Staff Excellence Awards
Staff Excellence Award – Education
Baylee Field, AA
Program Coordinator, Stroke Program
Institute for Digital Health & Innovation
Baylee Field, AA, quickly established strong relationships with rural hospitals after joining the UAMS Institute for Digital Health and Innovation (IDHI) as program coordinator for the Stroke Program in February 2020 – just before COVID-19 arrived in Arkansas. In the weeks that followed, many of those hospitals looked to her for help obtaining guidance on safely working with patients.
“Since her very first day, Baylee has become a common denominator in our educational and outreach efforts, which include outreach events, provider teleconferences and patient outreach activities,” Renee Joiner, RN, BSN, clinical program director in IDHI, wrote in the nomination letter.
“She immediately and seamlessly started coordinating educational efforts in our office and ensures our projects stay on time and on target,” the nomination letter continued. “While this would be a feat during any time, Baylee was hired at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Arkansas, throwing her into a whirlwind of dire healthcare provider educational needs.”
“Baylee’s educational leadership and contributions – but mostly her heart and her energy – compelled IDHI to nominate her for this College of Medicine Staff Excellence Award,” Joiner emphasized when presenting the award.
Staff Excellence Award – Research
Pamela Kahler, BA
Program Manager, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
T32 Training Program in Systems Pharmacology and Toxicology
HSIE Postdoctoral Training Program, Translational Research Institute
Pamela Kahler, BA, brings 28 years of experience in research and educational program administration at UAMS – and a ton of dedication – to multiple roles supporting researchers and research training programs at UAMS and beyond.
Since 2011, Kahler has worked in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, where Distinguished Professor and Chair Nancy Rusch, Ph.D., calls her “my partner in administering the department.” Rusch nominated her for the award in conjunction with Alexei Basnakian, Ph.D., Paul Prather, Ph.D., and Kevin Sexton, M.D., all of whom work with Kahler in multiple capacities.
“Pam is the ultimate multi-tasker with superb organization skills that enable her to be the program manager of two of the four NIH-funded training grants on campus for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, while still working hand-in-hand with me to administer the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology,” Rusch said in her nomination letter.
“She is critical to the success of our research training programs,” Rusch added when presenting the award. “She views delays in meeting deadlines as a personal affront, and she provides the glue that makes these programs run.”
Staff Excellence Award – Clinical
Jan Wall, MS, RD
Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator
UAMS Diabetes Program
Jan Wall, MS, RD, has been integral to the health and wellbeing of UAMS patients with diabetes for 28 years. While faculty and trainees have come and gone during that time, the diabetes clinic continues to thrive thanks in large part to her dedication and “pastoral heart.”
In their nomination letter, Joseph Henske, M.D., director of the diabetes program, and Elena Ambrogini, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Endocrinology, noted Wall’s ability to listen to patients and uncover barriers to the care they need.
“Every day, she works with patients living with diabetes who are frustrated and sick of being sick,” Henske said during the ceremony. “She treats them all with empathy and respect, and she gives them a renewed optimism that they can and will do better. She is encouraging and gently nudges them to take the next positive step in their lives.”
“Jan has consistently demonstrated positivity and passion, commitment and compassion,” Henske emphasized. “She is truly deserving of this award, and she is an example of the excellence that UAMS stands for and what we should all aspire to be.”
Staff Excellence Award – Administration
Chad Sievers, MSSW
Research Program Manager, ARBEST
Department of Psychiatry/Psychiatric Research Institute
Chad Sievers, MSSW, helped to build the Arkansas Building Effective Services for Trauma (ARBEST) program in the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute from the ground up while serving as research program manager for the past nine years.
“We are a legislatively funded program that focuses on improving mental health outcomes for children from across our state who have experienced trauma, ranging from child abuse and neglect to serious accidents,” nominator Sufna John, M.D., ARBEST co-director, said when presenting the award.
“So as you can imagine, these children deserve the best of what we have to offer,” John said. “ARBEST – and Chad in particular – has been really steadfast in his commitment to those families.”
“Chad was one of the program’s first hires,” John noted in her nomination letter. “As a problem-solver by nature, he quickly became the driver behind all of its innovative quality improvement efforts.” Initiatives included working with UAMS IT team members to develop the ARBEST WebPortal reporting system, providing a method for therapists across Arkansas to assess, track and address the mental health needs of children who have experienced trauma.
Residency Educator Awards
Residency Educator – Program Director
Mary Katherine Kimbrough, M.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Surgery
Director, General Surgery Residency
Director, Surgical Critical Care Fellowship
Mary Katherine “Katie” Kimbrough, M.D., is a critical and highly respected leader in resident education in the Department of Surgery, where she has served as program director for the General Surgery Residency since 2018, after four years as associate director, and as the founding director of the Surgical Critical Care Fellowship.
Kimbrough has led numerous innovations in graduate medical education, but her greatest contributions are reflected in the comments that were received with her nomination, Molly Gathright, M.D., vice dean for graduate medical education, explained during the ceremony.
“Her peers write that Dr. Kimbrough is a tireless advocate and mentor to young surgeons,” Gathright said. “She gives of herself freely for their benefit, selflessly rearranging her clinical, personal and professional schedule to accommodate life events of her residents. Her chair shares that Dr. Kimbrough loves her residents. She listens to them, respects them and treats them like family, putting their wellbeing above hers.”
“Furthermore, her nominators describe Dr. Kimbrough as the PD that every attending wishes they had in training, and that every medical student aspires to work for,” Gathright continued. “She models exactly those characteristics that we hope to cultivate in our future physicians and surgeons. She is the paradigm shift from ‘I suffered in training, so you will as well,’ to ‘Every generation can do better.’”
Residency Educator – Program Coordinator
Program Coordinator, Orthopaedic Surgery Residency
Darlene Clinton is known as a “pillar of strength” in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, where she has served as program coordinator for the residency program since 2008. Residents fondly call her “Mama Darlene.”
Department leaders, faculty and residents lauded Clinton for her superb knowledge of national graduate medical education requirements and her meticulous organizational and program coordination skills, which have allowed her to build, adapt and streamline processes for residents and the faculty who train them. She was described as innovative, creative and a role model of professionalism.
“Miss Clinton’s nominators wrote that what stands out most strongly as an example of her excellence are the many ways she goes above and beyond the requirements of her job,” said Molly Gathright, vice dean for graduate medical education, when presenting the award. “She is an advocate for her residents in helping them realize their academic, personal and professional goals.”
“Darlene is their go-to person, who is always kind, compassionate and ready to help,” Gathright said. “She is the heart of their training program.”
Faculty Awards in Education, Research and Humanism
Master Teacher Award
R. Dale Blasier, M.D., MBA
Professor, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
R. Dale Blasier, M.D., MBA, is so synonymous with orthopaedic surgery training in Arkansas that appreciative former residents espouse sayings – “Blasier-isms” – that they learned from him. Blasier has served on the faculty since 1989 and directed the residency program from 2003 to 2021.
“He has truly impacted our state, because every major (orthopaedic practice) group in our state has a resident that he has trained, and they all have Blasier-isms,” Professor and Orthopaedic Surgery Chair C. Lowry Barnes, M.D., said when presenting the Master Teacher Award.
Blasier has received numerous other teaching awards, including three Walter Selakovich Outstanding Teaching Awards in the department, five Red Sash Awards from medical students, and the College of Medicine Residency Educator Program Director Award in 2018. When the department established the R. Dale Blasier Residency Education Award for Orthopaedic Surgery faculty last year, many former residents shared comments on his impact, and Barnes noted several in his nomination letter. During the ceremony, he quoted one of them, Karen Hand, M.D., who graduated from the program in 2011.
“All of my best memories at UAMS involve Dr. Blasier,” Hand wrote. “I am so grateful for the impact and influence that he has had on my career and my life. He is one of the greatest teachers, mentors, friends, advocates I have ever had.”
Educational Innovation Award
Emily Kocurek, M.D., and Deepa Raghavan, M.D.
Assistant Professors, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine
Department of Internal Medicine
Emily Kocurek, M.D., and Deepa Raghavan, M.D., developed an innovative critical care medicine elective for fourth-year medical students to better prepare them for residency training and foster interest in the increasingly important specialty.
While data indicates that about 80% of students match into specialties that require critical care knowledge, critical care medicine has been largely absent from the undergraduate curriculum at most medical schools. Raghavan and Kocurek are working to change that at UAMS.
“The need for critical care providers was increasing even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and early exposure to critical care is needed to foster interest in an intensivist career,” the colleagues wrote in an overview of their course.
Kocurek and Raghavan created a four-week elective that uses a “flipped classroom” method emphasizing self-directed learning and hands-on engagement with simulation. The course culminates in an “Escape Room” style problem-solving game that incorporates all of the principles taught during the course. By the completion of the course, 75% of the initial students felt positive emotions in anticipation of their ICU rotations as interns, and 93% felt confident in management across virtually all of the clinical competencies that were assessed.
Educational Research Award
Sung Rhee, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
Director, M2 Cardiovascular Module
Sung Rhee, Ph.D., began using social media, audience-response systems and other innovative teaching methods to better engage sophomore medical students in the cardiovascular module. He later took on additional teaching duties in the renal module to systemically apply the new learning modalities and evaluate their effectiveness.
“Teaching and learning is a two-way street,” Rhee wrote in an overview of his educational research. “However, in the setting of large classes, 174 medical students per year at UAMS, it is challenging to effectively engage students and capture their voices. My educational research effort has been focused on improving the communication with students.”
In 2020, the pandemic added new challenges and opportunities in education. Rhee partnered with the renal module directors and academic affairs colleagues to apply the methods in virtual classroom and other online settings.
These efforts resulted in two senior-author articles for Rhee in medical education journals in the past two years and the preparation of a third senior-author manuscript detailing increased engagement of students and improvement in learning. For example, a Facebook discussion group was shown to foster better rapport with faculty, help with content learning, improve emotional wellbeing, and make students more comfortable with seeking academic help.
Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award
Presented by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation
Nicholas Long, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Pediatrics
Chief, Pediatric Psychology Section
Nicholas Long, Ph.D., began offering free parenting classes on his own time shortly after joining the Department of Pediatrics faculty in 1987. By the early 1990s, his efforts had grown into the Center for Effective Parenting, which continues to help families across Arkansas.
“For over 30 years, Dr. Long has been a state leader in the area of parenting education and has had an enormous impact on literally hundreds of thousands of families in our state,” said nominator Wendy Ward, Ph.D., Associate Provost for Faculty at UAMS.
Center for Effective Parenting classes and presentations are attended by 3,000-5,000 individuals a year, predominantly low-income parents. The center has developed over 100 parenting handouts in English and Spanish on topics selected by parents themselves. Long helped to develop modules for schools to improve connections between parents and educators. The center also supports a home-visiting program for low-income Hispanic families in Northwest Arkansas.
“It may seem that Dr. Long’s clinical and public health promotion activities keep him so busy that he has little time for developing trainees or faculty, but this is not the case,” Ward said. “Faculty in his section see him as a role model of professionalism and ethical decision-making, regularly seek his wise counsel as they make both clinical and career decisions, and seek his ongoing input as a mentor.
Excellence in Research Award
Hari Eswaran, Ph.D.
Professor and Vice Chair for Research, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Director of Research, Institute for Digital Health & Innovation
Hari Eswaran, Ph.D., has made significant advancements in obstetrics and gynecology and the field of digital health, with an emphasis on innovative technological approaches. One of UAMS’ top-funded researchers, he is passionate about research and mentoring.
“In our program, he is known as a ‘research machine,’” E.F. Pat Magann, M.D., professor and director of the Maternal Fetal Medicine Fellowship, said when presenting the award. Magann noted that Eswaran has been principal investigator or co-principal investigator on six current and 15 total federally funded grants, bringing in more than $52 million in funding.
In obstetrical research, Eswaran has devoted his career to developing techniques and tools to improve the assessment of fetal and maternal wellbeing. One of his early accomplishments was development of a first-of-its-kind, non-invasive fetal magnetoencephalography (MEG) system called SARA.
In the area of digital health, Eswaran leads two federally funded centers based in the UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation (IDHI) – the South Central Telehealth Research Center and the Rural Telehealth Evaluation Center.
IDHI Director Joseph Sanford, M.D., shared insights from several colleagues in his nomination letter. One team member described Eswaran as a “leader and constant mentor who turns ideas into actionable research studies.” Another noted that he is “an excellent researcher in his own right, but also an excellent leader of research.”
Faculty Awards for Clinical Excellence
Excellence in Quality and Safety
Simon Mears, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor and Vice Chair of Quality and Safety
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
Simon Mears, M.D., Ph.D., has driven numerous positive and sustainable changes to improve quality, safety and the value of patient care in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.
“Dr. Mears has continued to drive not only our attendings, but also our residents, to strive for quality to make sure we are doing the best that we can for our patients,” nominator C. Lowry Barnes, M.D., professor and chair of Orthpaedic Surgery, said when presenting the award.
Mears’ initiatives since joining the faculty in 2015 include making the department’s morbidity and mortality conference, a process in surgical departments to identify and learn from adverse outcomes involving errors, more data-driven. “This has markedly changed how faculty and residents view safety events and allows for a robust forum to make changes in coding and documentation,” Barnes wrote in his nomination letter.
“Dr. Mears is also a critical driver in the efforts made toward our application for JCAHO Center of Excellence as well as achieving the Healthgrades Joint Replacement Excellence Award in 2020 and 2021,” Barnes wrote.
Best Consulting Physician
Raghu Ramakrishnaiah, MBBS
Professor, Department of Radiology
Vice Chief, Division of Pediatric Radiology
Fellowship Director, Pediatric Radiology, Pediatric Neuro-Radiology, Pediatric Body Imaging
Raghu Ramakrishnaiah, MBBS, is a highly respected neuro-radiologist who is appreciated by faculty in the Department of Pediatrics for going above and beyond in the consults he provides.
Nominator Joana Mack, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, frequently crosses paths with Ramakrishnaiah in her care of children with hematologic and oncologic disorders. “My colleagues and I are always trying to make sense of imaging,” Mack explained. “Dr. Raghu takes the time to walk us through all of it, even if we just pop into his reading room unannounced.”
“He calls us immediately to discuss worrisome scans in order to get a better clinical picture,” Mack continued. “He coordinates scans to occur immediately, to help patients get answers quicker and/or to decrease the amount of NPO (no food prior to surgery) time. He goes above and beyond what is called of him, and he does it all in a respectful and kind manner.”
“Dr. Raghu is the best consulting physician,” she said. “He helps me do my job better. He helps patients get healthier today for a better tomorrow.”
Collaborations and Teamwork
Zachary Lewis, M.D.
Assistant Professor (Associate Professor as of 7/1/22)
Department of Emergency Medicine
Ultrasound Director, Emergency Medicine Residency Program
Zachary Lewis, M.D., is passionate about using emergency ultrasound to improve care for Arkansans – and deeply committed to teaching others how to make full use of the technology’s potential.
“Dr. Lewis has a real passion for education, particularly emergency ultrasound education, and this has led him to collaborate extensively,” said nominator Jason Arthur, M.D., assistant professor and assistant director of the emergency medicine ultrasound fellowship.
Lewis has collaborated with a wide range of clinical, IT and other support teams at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and beyond to broaden the use of point-of-care ultrasound for patients as well as in resident and fellowship training.
He also has been involved in pre-clinical teaching on the use of ultrasound in the College of Medicine. Aside from his work in ultrasound, Lewis has collaborated with IT and pharmacy teams to improve the electronic health record system, and with colleagues on the LGBTQ+ subcommittee of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to ensure that UAMS provides compassionate, patient-centered care to all members of the community.
Rising Star Clinical Faculty
Emily Kocurek, M.D.
Assistant professor, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine
Department of Internal Medicine
Emily Kocurek, M.D., has stood out for her clinical excellence, teaching and service to UAMS since joining the faculty in 2017, including her work as a pulmonologist in the throes of the pandemic.
Colorectal surgeon W. Contain Mustain, M.D., said in his nomination letter that he first became aware of Kocurek’s commitment to excellence when he referred a patient to the Pulmonary Clinic. Thoracic surgeon Matt Steliga, M.D., presented the award on behalf of Mustain, who was unable to attend the ceremony, and shared additional observations.
“Despite her busy clinical schedule, Dr. Kocurek has made time for numerous administrative roles and quality improvement projects,” Steliga said. “Furthermore, she has distinguished herself as an outstanding teacher across multiple platforms. Beyond her clinical and educational skills at the bedside, Dr. Kocurek has demonstrated a willingness to tackle system issues within the hospital. She has served on multiple committees and has extended herself in every way to serve our institution.”
“The only thing that’s brighter than Dr. Kocurek’s past accomplishments and her current excellence is her future as a rising star,” Steliga said.
Physician of the Year
Randy Maddox, M.D.
Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine
Director, Emergency Medicine Service Line
Randy Maddox, M.D., is widely respected in the Emergency Department and beyond for his expertise, hard work and professionalism. Service to the College of Medicine and UAMS has been the backbone of his career.
Presenting the award on behalf of the Department of Emergency Medicine, Joseph “Wes” Watkins, M.D., said Maddox hit the ground running after joining the faculty in 2007. He has been active in clinical care, research and education, winning several teaching awards. Maddox has directed the UAMS Emergency Medicine Service Line since 2020.
“Under his leadership, our department has had a successful EPIC (electronic health record system) launch, played a key role in obtaining American College of Surgeons Level 1 Trauma Center status, opened a Clinical Decision Unit, and initiated a physician-in-triage model, decreasing our leave-without-being-seen rate from 7% down to 3.5%,” Watkins said. “He has also navigated the COVID-19 pandemic and successfully implemented several other quality-improvement measures.”
“Dr. Maddox not only shines in leadership and teaching, but he does this while also carrying a heavy clinical schedule, leading through the pandemic, and seeing over 800 COVID patients,” Watkins said.