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Roseanne C. Berger, MD; Cindi Kozak and Omar S. Alibrahim, MD

Roseanne C. Berger, MD, senior associate dean for graduate medical education (left), with GME Award of Excellence winners Cindi Kozak and Omar S. Alibrahim, MD.

Graduate Medical Education Awards Honor Alibrahim, Kozak

Published June 5, 2017

The physician who directs the pediatric critical care fellowship and the administrator of the combined internal medicine and pediatrics residency program have been selected for UB Graduate Medical Education Awards of Excellence.

“Program directors and administrators have the awesome responsibility of shepherding undifferentiated doctors down the road to becoming competent specialists.”
Senior associate dean for graduate medical education

Omar S. Alibrahim, MD, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics and chief of the Division of Critical Care, received a program director award.

Cindi Kozak was honored with a training program administrator award.

A committee — which included one resident — chose the awardees based on nominations from supervisors, colleagues and trainees. The awards were presented during a May 16 ceremony in Hayes Hall.

Dedication to Prioritizing Needs of Trainees

“Dr. Alibrahim’s dedication to the trainees always makes him prioritize their needs, and he receives excellent scores and feedback from residents and fellows,” says Teresa Quattrin, MD, UB Distinguished Professor and chair of pediatrics, who nominated him for the award.

She says Alibrahim has contributed significantly to the pediatric residency program at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo and notes that his dedication to teaching resulted in him being recognized as “Attending of the Year” in the pediatrics department.

“He continues to mentor effectively trainees in their scholarly projects and collaborates in several research projects with colleagues in Buffalo and in other academic centers,” Quattrin says.

“Despite his large administrative and clinical responsibilities, he pays absolute attention to the detail of the PICU fellowship and its curriculum, and this has resulted in a stronger training program.”

Increased Research Output, Improved Curriculum

Third-year pediatric critical care fellow Nikhil S. Patankar, MD, says Alibrahim “is a great clinician with a strong emphasis on research.”

“Since he has become the program director, the research output in our division has significantly increased with great representation at national and regional conferences,” he says.

Patankar says Alibrahim is a great advocate for fellows and notes that under his leadership the educational curriculum for fellows has improved tremendously with its in-training exam scores being well above the national average across all three years of trainees.

“He has proved to be an exceptional role model for all fellows to learn the art and science of the practice of pediatric critical care,” he says. “He always leads by example and creates a collaborative atmosphere for learning. I could not have asked for a better teacher and leader for our program.”

Alibrahim’s leadership qualities and his dedication to training physicians and maintaining high standards provides the training program with a highly competitive applicant pool year in and year out, says Maria Prokop, the fellowship program’s administrator.

“His calm, open-minded demeanor, along with his open-door policy, allows anyone to discuss anything or seek guidance,” she says. “This practice only encourages everyone to know that they are heard and that he will make every effort to resolve any issue brought to his attention. This is vital to any successful training program.”

Constant Source of Support for Program Director

Kozak has been training program administrator (TPA) for the combined internal medicine and pediatrics residency training program for more than 20 years and has demonstrated extraordinary management and support skills in the areas of accreditation, human resources and education, says Michael J. Aronica, MD, associate professor of medicine and director of the residency program.

“I have heard numerous times, from residents and faculty, that she is one of the strongest resources in our program,” Aronica says. “She receives this praise by demonstrating compassion for all of our residents and residency candidates.”

Aronica says Kozak is involved with residency program improvement projects such as improving resident documentation, and she collaborates well with the TPAs in internal medicine and pediatrics.

“She is a constant resource and support for myself as program director as well as our residents and candidates,” he says. “I can think of no other person who is more deserving of this award.”

Integrity, Humanism Make Kozak Great Role Model

PGY-4 internal medicine and pediatrics co-chief residents Christina Padgett, DO, and Calsey Mischel, MD, note that Kozak helps to make the transition easy for new residents by keeping in frequent contact during the summer before residency to ensure paperwork is complete and required training is done.

“Cindi is a role model for other residency coordinators but is someone that everyone should look up to for her integrity and humanism.”

Elyse Ryan, internal medicine TPA, and Natahali Head, internal medicine resident coordinator, both say that Kozak is “caring and compassionate in all aspects of her role as a training program administrator and employee health coordinator.”

“In Cindi’s 20 years with the med-peds program, she has demonstrated hard work and willingness to improve both her own skills and the experiences of residents through GME. Her positive attitude and professionalism make her a great role model for other TPAs.”

Awards Recognize Those Who Go Above and Beyond

“Program directors and administrators have the awesome responsibility of shepherding undifferentiated doctors down the road to becoming competent specialists,” says Roseanne C. Berger, MD, senior associate dean for graduate medical education.

“They work as a team —  nurturing residents, providing constructive feedback on their behaviors, knowledge and skills — and keeping up with requirements set by accrediting bodies, juggling tasks related to formal assessment, documentation, annual program reviews and employment,” she says.

“The awards — based on peer nomination —  recognize efforts of those who excel at their work and their importance to graduate medical education.”

The Office of Graduate Medical Education gives the awards to one program director and one administrator each year.