May 22, 2019

UAMS College of Medicine Celebrates Graduating Seniors – and their Educators

The UAMS College of Medicine graduated its largest class ever on May 18, but not before honoring their accomplishments and sending them on their way with some sage advice from college leaders and faculty mentors.

Speaker in regalia at podium

Matthew Quick, M.D., an associate professor of pathology, was selected by seniors to deliver the Faculty Address to the Class of 2019 at the UAMS College of Medicine Honors Convocation. [Click to enlarge any image in this story.]

“This is my charge to you,” said Matthew Quick, M.D., associate professor of pathology, who was selected by the Class of 2019 to deliver the keynote address from the faculty at Honors Convocation on the evening before the UAMS Commencement. “Keep it real, practice with passion, love your families and patients and stay true to yourself and your beliefs, and you will have the wonderful, fulfilling career in medicine that everyone in this room desires, hopes and prays that you will have.”

Two people assisting student put on regalia hood over gown

Kemmian Johnson dons his doctoral hood with the help of his family at the COM Honors Convocation ceremony.

Quick encouraged graduating seniors to “be there” for their professional colleagues as well as patients and their own families. He said they will face tough decisions about fellowships, practice decisions and more, and that “sometimes it takes courage to try to align your career with your passions.” In a final pointer, he urged the class to “not let the newfound power of the long white coat” go to their head.

“Remember your roots,” Quick said. “I’m a nerd from Little Rock; that’s me, that’s my roots. Every day I go into work and try to learn something new. I try to be a little better doctor than the day before. Even then, when I retire I still will only know a sliver of what medicine encompasses. Be humble – or medicine will humble you.”

Dr. Westfall at podium holding note

College of Medicine Dean and UAMS Executive Vice Chancellor Christopher T. Westfall, M.D., finds inspiration in a thank you note from a child who was a patient.

Christopher T. Westfall, M.D., UAMS executive vice chancellor and dean of the College of Medicine, challenged graduating seniors to consider what their patients will expect from them. He said that in his experience, there were three expectations: to have knowledge and embrace lifelong learning; to be worthy of patients’ trust; and to truly care about each patient.

“But here’s the interesting thing,” Westfall said. “These are not just obligations; they are also gifts. They are gifts from our profession to each of us.”

Student holding award, shaking hands with faculty member

2019 Class President Harrison Lowder is presented the Faculty Key Award by James Graham, M.D., associate dean for undergraduate medical education. The award is presented to the graduating senior who, in the opinion of the faculty, is the most outstanding student for the full four years of medical school.

Westfall, an ophthalmologist, read a thank you note from a child he had once treated, a note that expressed joy in the stickers she had received from her “favorite doctor” as well as gratitude for “fixing” her eye. “For me, that’s what it’s all about,” Westfall said.

Leaders including UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., praised the class for a number of achievements. The class was the college’s largest ever with 163 graduates, surpassing the previous record of 160 in 2016. The class also had the largest number of members matching to medical residencies, with every student who wanted a position obtaining one.

Faculty member presenting award to student

Caroline Chen is one of a record 21 recipients of the Roberts Key for maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average throughout medical school. Sara Tariq, M.D., associate dean for students, (left) presented the Roberts Key awards.

Among many awards presented to students, a record 21 seniors received the Roberts Key for maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average for the full four years of medical school. Other awards recognized excellence in scholarship in specific areas of study, leadership, ethical standards, humanism and compassion.

Student presenting plaque to faculty member

Graduating senior Nawar Hudefi presents Sung Rhee, Ph.D., an associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology, with the Senior Golden Apple award. He also received a Golden Apple from COM sophomores for the fourth consecutive year.

Students, in turn, honored numerous faculty members and a resident for their teaching. Student-selected awards are listed below. Faculty members also were recognized with Chancellor’s Awards during the COM ceremony and at the UAMS Commencement Ceremony.


Golden Apple Awards
Selected as the most outstanding teacher of the year by a vote of each class

Senior –  Sung Rhee, Ph.D., Pharmacology/Toxicology
Junior –  Lindsey Sward, M.D., Obstetrics/Gynecology
Sophomore – Sung Rhee, Ph.D., Pharmacology/Toxicology
Freshman – Alan Diekman, Ph.D., Biochemistry/Molecular Biology

Award presentation

David Davies, Ph.D., (center) received the Chancellor’s Excellence in Education Award at the COM Honors Convocation ceremony. Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., (left) and COM Dean Christopher Westfall, M.D., (right) presented the award. The other recipient of the award, Kevin Phelan, Ph.D., was unable to attend the ceremony. Davies, an associate professor, and Phelan, a professor, are faculty members in the Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences and co-directors of the Division of Clinical Anatomy. They have won multiple awards for their work in education.


Gold Sash Awards
Selected by students in all four classes

Noor Akhter, Ph.D., Neurobiology/Developmental Sciences
Jason Chang, Ph.D., Neurobiology/Developmental Sciences
David Davies, Ph.D., Neurobiology/Developmental Sciences
Alan Diekman, Ph.D., Biochemistry/Molecular Biology
Hakan Paydak, M.D., Internal Medicine
Kevin Phelan, Ph.D., Neurobiology/Developmental Sciences
Matthew Quick, M.D., Pathology
Sung Rhee, Ph.D., Pharmacology/Toxicology
Lindsey Sward, M.D., Obstetrics/Gynecology


Red Sash Awards
Selected by the Class of 2019

Award presentation to Dr. Kristie Hadden

Kristie Hadden, Ph.D., associate professor of medical humanities and director of the UAMS Center for Health Literacy, receives the Chancellor’s Award for Society and Health Education Excellence at the UAMS Commencement ceremony.

Matthew Spond, M.D.

Biochemistry/Molecular Biology
Alan Diekman, Ph.D.

Emergency Medicine
Rachael Freeze-Ramsey, M.D.

Family Medicine
Scott Dickson, M.D. (UAMS-NE)

Priya Mendiratta, M.D.

Internal Medicine
Eric Del Giacco, M.D.
Nicholas Gowen, M.D.
John Henley, M.D. (UAMS-NW)
Carrie Hyde, M.D.
Steven McKee, M.D.
Hakan Paydak, M.D.
Juan Carlos Rico, M.D.
Michael Saccente, M.D.
Thomas Schulz, M.D. (UAMS-NW)
Sara Tariq, M.D.
Toby Vancil, M.D.

Student presenting award to resident

Nawar Hudefi presents the Resident of the Year Award from her class to Hillary Williams, M.D., a fourth-year neurology resident.

Neurobiology/Developmental Sciences
David Davies, Ph.D.

Neil Masangkay, M.D.

Lindsey Sward, M.D.
Paul Wendel, M.D.

Ahmed Sallam, M.D., Ph.D.

Otolaryngology-Head/Neck Surgery
Jennings Boyette, M.D.

Jerad Gardner, M.D.
Matthew Quick, M.D.

Sung Rhee, Ph.D.

Faculty members in regalia, clapping

College of Medicine faculty members applaud the Class of 2019. Those wearing red sashes were among the faculty members voted by students as some of the college’s best educators.

Michael Angtuaco, M.D.
Katelyn Cushanick, M.D.
Eudice Fontenot, M.D.
Robert Pesek, M.D.
Vildan Tas, M.D.

Michelle Ransom, M.D.
John Spollen, M.D.

Avi Bhavaraju, M.D.
Janina Bonwich, M.D.
Ronda Henry-Tillman, M.D.
Jason Mizell, M.D.
Kevin Sexton, M.D.
J.R. Taylor, M.D.

Graduates seated at Honors Convocation

The College of Medicine Class of 2019 has a lot to smile about!

Faculty members Assisting with Honors Convocation

Sung Rhee, Ph.D., Pharmacology/Toxicology
Sara Tariq, M.D., Internal Medicine

Stage Marshal
Sung Rhee, Ph.D., Pharmacology/Toxicology

Faculty Marshal
Alan Diekman, Ph.D., Biochemistry/Molecular Biology