Medical Students Honor Outstanding Teachers at 2015 Paff Awards Ceremony

For Miller School medical students and teachers, the 2015 George Paff Teaching Awards Ceremony was a warm and memorable experience, punctuated by tears of joy, plenty of hugs and a baby’s cry.

Throughout the ceremony held April 27 at the University of Miami Hospital Seminar Center — co-chaired by medical students Alexandra Cocores, Class of 2017, and Houda Boucekkine, Class of 2016 — the award-winning teachers were praised for their ability to convey clinical and scientific concepts, while serving as role models who inspire students to pursue rewarding careers in medicine.

“We have many great teachers who elevate our students’ intellectual abilities, while being guided by our core values of integrity, creativity, compassion, teamwork and respect for diversity,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School, and CEO of UHealth, in his opening remarks. “By sharing their deep passion for medicine, they transform our students’ lives.”

Miller School students selected the 19 faculty members, residents and interns for teaching excellence, as well as the personal dedication, humor and communication skills demonstrated by George Paff, Ph.D., an anatomy professor who was one of the Miller School’s founding faculty members. Alex J. Mechaber, M.D., Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education and associate professor of medicine, called Paff an “enthusiastic teacher” and a “master showman.” He noted that Paff was also a scholar whose publications include the 1973 textbook “Anatomy of the Head and Neck.”

Three of the Paff Award recipients were double winners, and have also won Paff Awards in previous years:

Warren Kupin, M.D., professor of medicine, received awards from the M.D. Class of 2017 and the M.D./M.P.H. Class of 2017. One student said, “Dr. Kupin taught us about kidneys and ‘Dancing with the Stars.’” Another commented, “He can take a challenging concept and transform it into a fun experience.”

Amar Deshpande, M.D., associate professor of medicine and Assistant Dean for Medical Education and Competency Assessment, was recognized by both the M.D. Class of 2016 and the M.D. Class of 2015. “He motivated us through his great knowledge of medicine and inspired us to build exceptional patient-physician relationships,” said one student. Another added, “His dedication to students makes him an all-star of education.”

The other double winner was Marie-Denise Gervais, M.D., assistant professor of family medicine and community health, who shed a few tears as she hugged her students on stage. “She is a friend and mentor as well as a great teacher,” said one of the students about Gervais, who was honored by the M.D. Class of 2016 and the M.D. Class of 2015. “She has an unrivaled passion for teaching and serves as a great role model for physicians pursuing careers in primary care,” said another student.

The M.D. Class of 2018 honored Thomas Champney, Ph.D., professor of cell biology and anatomy (“an enthusiastic teacher who pushed us to become independent learners”); Carmen Gomez-Fernandez, M.D., professor of clinical pathology (“engaging, fun-loving and inspirational”); and Robert Levy, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology (“able to explain difficult concepts in a clear and simple fashion”).

The M.D./M.P.H. Class of 2018 honored Richard Myers, Ph.D., lecturer in biochemistry and molecular biology. “He is a brilliant scientist and engaging mentor, as well as a passionate teacher,” said one student.

The M.D. Class of 2017 recognized Matthias Salathe, M.D., professor of medicine (“he held us to the highest standards and expectations”) and Atil Kargi, M.D., assistant clinical professor of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism (“a calm and kind professor with a thorough and concise teaching style”).

Jorge Garcia, M.D., assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology, was the third teacher honored by the M.D. Class of 2016. As one student said, “He goes out of his way to know everyone, and is always available to us.” In response, Garcia said, “I am grateful every day for the opportunity to participate in your education.”

The M.D. Class of 2015 also honored Joseph Esterson, M.D., professor of medicine, and a previous winner, citing his “exciting and informative teaching style.”

Ellen Barrett, Ph.D., professor of neuroscience, received a standing ovation when she was recognized with the Temple Unsung Hero Award, named for J. Donald Temple, M.D., associate professor of medicine and Director of the William J. Harrington Medical Training Programs for Latin America. “She is a teacher with an unwavering commitment to excellence, who inspires us all,” said one student.

The Paff Intern of the Year award was given to Efosa Ogiamien, M.D., “a strong advocate for patients who is a role model for working collaboratively with all members of the care team,” as one student commented.

Chad Thorson, M.D., took the stage with his infant son MJ when he was given the Paff Resident of the Year award. “He showed me what it means to be a physician,” said one student, while another commented, “He inspired me to become a surgeon.”

The Janet Canterbury Award, given to a fourth-year female medical student, was presented to Kristy Whyte, who was called “a great role model and amazing leader with plenty of UM pride.” Canterbury served as Deputy Dean for Medical Education, Senior Associate Dean for Student Administration and Senior Dean for Special Projects in her 30-year career at the school.

Adam Crosland, who is graduating from the M.D./M.P.H. program in May, was honored with the Thomas Crowder Award, given to a fourth-year male student in honor of Reverend Thomas Crowder, Associate Dean for Student Affairs. As one student said, “Adam Crosland is the poster child for this program who has helped with every aspect of our education while spending most of his time at our Palm Beach County campus.”

In turn, Crosland called on today’s medical students to hone their teaching skills for the future. “Regardless of your career choice, there are teachable moments around you every day. So take advantage of those opportunities to help others learn.”

A gallery of photos from the Paff Awards Ceremony can be found here.

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