Congratulations to Jason Stopyra, MD ’00, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, who was named 2016 North Carolina Doctor of the Year as part of the NC Doctors’ Day observance.
The award honors physicians who are experts in treatment and care, passionate about their patients and active in their communities.
In addition to practicing in the Emergency Department at Wake Forest Baptist, Stopyra serves as medical director of Emergency Services in Randolph County and as medical director of Emergency Services, medical director of the Health and Nutrition Center and medical examiner in Surry County.
Stopyra won the honor by receiving the most votes among 10 finalists—chosen from more than 300 nominees. The award includes a prize of $5,000, which he plans to donate in equal amounts to five families with members who have serious illnesses.
Stopyra earned his bachelor’s degree at Cornell University in 1996 and his medical degree at UB in 2000. He completed his residency in emergency medicine at Wake Forest Baptist in 2003 and joined the Medical Center in 2013 after working at Northern Hospital of Surry County in Mount Airy.
Eric Waffner, MD ’00, FACP, an internal medicine physician with Buffalo Medical Group, has been elected a Fellow of the American College of Physicians (ACP), the society of internists.
Waffner has been a member of the Buffalo Medical Group Primary Care Division since 2004 and is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame and his medical degree, cum laude, from UB in 2000.
Terry Thompson, MD ’01, medical director, Hospitalist Service, Centra Southside Community Hospital, Farmville, VA, writes: Doing great! Daniel, 22, is graduating from college and wants to study medicine. Madison is 14 and Makayla, 16. Melissa is doing great and owns her own gymnastics gym—Elite Athletics. Favorite memories: All my friends. What a great class. Some of the best years of my life! Miss everyone.
Suzette LaJeunesse, MD ’01, has joined Buffalo Medical Group’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Division and is treating patients in BMG’s new Orchard Park building.
A native of Western New York, LaJeunesse completed a bachelor of science degree with honors in biology from the Rochester Institute of Technology. After graduating from UB Medical School, she completed her residency at UB.
Prior to joining BMG, LaJeunesse provided OB/GYN care at another local private practice. She is board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and is a fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Her clinical interests include high-risk pregnancies, endometriosis, contraception and alternative treatments for menopause. She has a special interest in treating teenagers.
Craig Horbinski, MD, PhD '03, As a neuropathologist, Dr. Horbinski’s clinical specialty is molecular diagnostics of brain tumors. As a full tenured professor at Northwestern University, Dr. Horbinski directs the Neuropathology Division, the Nervous System Tumor Bank, and the Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center Pathology Core Facility. To date, Dr. Horbinski has authored over 230 peer-reviewed publications and has obtained extramural research support as a principal investigator from multiple sources, including the NIH. His NCI-funded brain tumor bank has supported over 100 intramural and extramural research projects. He has delivered over 110 invited talks and platform presentations on brain tumors, at a variety of national and international settings. In 2024 Dr. Horbinski was inducted into the American Society for Clinical Investigation. Murray Ettinger made Biochemistry engaging in a way that few could. That proved to be fortunate for me, because my career ended up focusing on brain cancer-associated mutations in a biochemical enzyme, isocitrate dehydrogenase 1.
Michael Gough, MD ’04, has been named system medical director critical care for Catholic Health. A pulmonologist and intensivist, Gough has been an integral member of the Catholic Health medical staff since joining Kenmore Mercy in 2010. He previously served as a medical director of the COVID-19 Treatment Center at St. Joseph Campus and, more recently, helped establish the COVID-19 Support Group at Kenmore Mercy Hospital. In his new role, Gough will provide clinical leadership for all Catholic Health and Trinity Medical critical care physicians and advanced practice providers through a physician-administrator partnership. As system medical director, he will not only have clinical responsibilities as a critical-care intensivist, he will also lead the development and execution of all critical care services according to evidence-based practices and patient-centric care models. For the past decade, Gough has worked in collaboration with James Fitzpatrick, MD, seeing pulmonary patients at the Kenmore Specialty Center.
Cassandra Williams, MD '05, writes, "After Residency in Internal Medicine in Baltimore, MD my family and I moved to North Carolina where I was a hospitalist for 12 years. I then moved back to Buffalo in the midst of the pandemic in June 2020. I currently work as the lead physician at Terrace View Rehab and Nursing Facility on ECMC campus. Dr Nielsen snd Dr. Milling were very helpful during tough times."
Ryan P. Bodkin, MD ’08, has been promoted to Residency Program Director in the Deparment of Emergency Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Bodkin attended Clarkson University and graduated with Highest Distinction in 2003. He received his MBA from Clarkson University in 2004. After medical school at UB, Bodkin completed his residency at the University of Rochester in 2011 and was Chief Resident from 2010-2011.
Jenna O’Neill, MD ’08, has joined the Buffalo Medical Group’s (BMG) Department of Dermatology at its new Orchard Park location.
O’Neill comes to BMG having completed her dermatology residency at Wake Forest Baptist Health, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she served as chief resident.
Her clinical interests include general dermatologic concerns, skin cancer and surgical and cosmetic dermatology, including the use of fillers and neurotoxins, benign and malignant lesion removal and treatment of photoaging. She also has a special interest in the treatment of hair loss.
John Taylor, MD ’09, MBA, completed his residency in psychiatry and a fellowship in psychosomatic medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. He has joined the faculty of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, where he is an attending psychiatrist, assistant training director for the adult psychiatry residency program, and project manager in population health management for the department of psychiatry.
James Mezhir, MD ’01, surgical oncologist
James J. Mezhir, MD ’01, assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Surgical Oncology and Endocrine Surgery at University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine, died Feb. 3, 2016, after a nearly two-year battle with gastric cancer. He was 42.
Mezhir, a native of Niagara Falls, devoted his life to cancer care and research. At age 15, while attending Grand Island High School, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He underwent 17 hours of surgery and 12 months of chemotherapy and remained cancer-free for 25 years.
Being cured of cancer as a teenager inspired Mezhir to enter medicine, something he wrote about in the spring 1999 issue of Buffalo Physician magazine. “It also helps me realize that there’s a big difference between reading a journal about survival rates for a disease and having to face the statistic yourself,” he wrote.
Mezhir earned a dual bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology from Canisius College and a master’s degree in psychology from UB. After earning his medical degree at UB, he completed his residency at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where he was senior resident and administrative chief resident.
He then served a fellowship in surgical oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and in 2012 was recruited to the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine. The college’s surgical oncology laboratory, which specializes in pancreatic cancer research, his area of expertise, has been named in his honor.
Always in search of new ways to help patients, Mezhir published prolifically. Colleagues credited his research with “novel discoveries in the biology of pancreatic and gastric cancer.”
Mezhir was named as one of Castle Connelly’s America’s Top Doctors in 2015 and received Teacher of the Year awards from the general surgery residents and the general surgery medical students at the University of Iowa in 2012.
Survivors include his wife of 10 years, the former Elizabeth “Priya” George; two daughters, Malinee Grace and Anjali Mary; his mother, Virginia Nanula; his father, James; three brothers, John, Timothy and Daniel; a sister, Brittany; and four stepbrothers, Philip Nanula, Steven Nanula, Paul Nanula and Anthony Nanula.