Faculty, Residents, Students, Staff Get Awards of Excellence

Published September 1, 2020

story by bill bruton

Faculty members, residents, medical students and a staff member were among the recipients of 2020 Awards of Excellence for promoting inclusion and cultural diversity at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.


The Office of Inclusion and Cultural Enhancement recognized individuals who work to create a welcoming climate of respect and inclusiveness for all at the medical school, at the University at Buffalo and in the Western New York communities.

Selections were made by a committee formed by previous Awards of Excellence awardees.

The following awards were presented:

Community Service Awards

Timothy F. Murphy, MD

Timothy F. Murphy, MD

An infectious diseases physician-scientist, Murphy is also director of UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), and led its two successful transmissions to the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences for a Clinical and Translational Science Award to UB (initial award in 2015 and renewal in 2020).

“It is our pleasure to nominate Dr. Murphy for his commitment to engaging all members of our community, in particular those who have been historically excluded from the benefits of participating in clinical research and access to the latest innovations in health care,” the nominators said.

Under the leadership of Murphy, the CTSI has partnered with the African American Health Equity Task Force (AAHETF) since 2015. They teamed up for a pair of successful “Igniting Hope” conferences that brought together community leaders and organizations, university leadership, faculty and trainees for events that received extensive press coverage.

The work of the AAHETF and the partnership with UB and the CTSI led to the launch of the UB Community Health Equity Research Institute on Dec. 12, 2019, with Murphy as director.

Murphy is a SUNY Distinguished Professor of medicine and senior associate dean for clinical and translational research.

Jennifer A. Surtees, PhD

Jennifer A. Surtees, PhD

“She has been a tireless force in raising the visibility of the Jacobs School and UB as a community leader in promoting diversity and inclusiveness,” said one nominator. “Jennifer has organized and led dozens of K-12 educational activities, outreach programs and community building events.”

The nominator said that much of the outreach has been directed at Buffalo City Schools, predominantly African American churches, and schools with large populations of Native American students in Cattaraugus County.

“Jennifer and her colleagues have both gone on site as well as welcoming the local community within the walls of the Jacobs School. She broadens what we normally define as the UB community to include its neighbors,” the nominator added. “These neighbors will be the future students, faculty and leaders of the school and UB.”

Surtees is an associate professor of biochemistry and co-director of the Genome, Environment and Microbiome Community of Excellence.

Staff Award

Anyango Dorothy Kamina, PhD

Anyango Dorothy Kamina, PhD

Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of pharmacology and toxicology and senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion, works with Kamina and has high praise for this year’s awardee.

“Dr. Kamina works tirelessly to increase and promote inclusion and diversity for undergraduate, master’s and PhD students, medical students and faculty,” Dubocovich said.

Kamina is the coordinator for the Early Opportunity Program in Medicine and for the Diversity Inclusion and Learning Environment (DIALE) Committee, whose goal is to support the Jacobs School in establishing a learning environment where all members are valued, respected and provided with equal opportunities to thrive.

She organizes the annual “Women in STEM Summit” and promotes diversity and inclusion in the general Buffalo community. She also works with the refugee and immigrant communities on female empowerment and cultural integration.

Kamina is a senior scientific workforce specialist for the Institute for Strategic Enhancement of Educational Diversity (iSEED) in the Office of Inclusion and Cultural Enhancement.

Medical Resident Awards

Fazeelah Ibrahim, MD

Fazeelah Ibrahim, MD

“Dr. Ibrahim is consistently noted to be a compassionate and caring physician who provides excellent care to her patients,” said Jennifer M. Corliss, MD, clinical assistant professor of family medicine and director of the family medicine residency program.

During the spring Thank a Resident Week, Ibrahim received several glowing comments, including:

  • “Fazeelah always has a positive attitude, is eager to learn, and is compassionate with patients.”
  • “Fazeelah is always smiling; she genuinely cares about those around her and takes the time to check in with everyone.”
  • “Dr. Ibrahim, thank you for your care for the patients at Jericho. You embody the qualities we value each and every day.” 

Ibrahim was a founding resident of the new Jericho Road Community Health Center/Buffalo General Hospital residency track. 

At Jericho Road, she works with families from different backgrounds, often through interpreters, to get them the care and services that they deserve and is known for her compassion and enthusiasm in tackling these cases.

As a member of the Family Medicine Resident Wellness Committee, she personally calls each resident in the program to check in on their well-being during the pandemic. 

Ibrahim is a second-year resident in the family medicine residency program.

Omolara Ann Oluloro, MD

Omolara Ann Oluloro, MD

“Dr. Oluloro is an amazing chief resident in the obstetrics and gynecology residency program with a passion for mentoring,” said Susan M. Orrange, PhD, assistant dean for education and resident services in the Office of Graduate Medical Education.

Oluloro also serves as education chief for the residency.

“The department is very proud of Ann’s leadership,” said Tova S. Ablove, MD, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the obstetrics and gynecology residency program.

Oluloro has shown herself to be very organized and concerned with inclusion of residents and medical students in education.

She constantly reaches out to minority students and participates in various volunteer opportunities to promote diversity inclusion at UB.

Last year, she initiated and implemented a three-part miniseries titled “The Road to OB/GYN Residency” and this year transitioned the series to a virtual format with the goal being to provide mentorship specifically throughout the application process and to improve UB medical student match rates into OB/GYN.

“We are so thankful to Dr. Oluloro for sharing her time and talents,” Orrange said.

Medical Student Awards

Shawn Gibson

Shawn Gibson

“Shawn has put in countless hours to encourage diversity and welcome students from different backgrounds,” one nominator said of Gibson.

When he served as Student National Medical Association (SNMA) chapter president, he grew the support to where there were monthly general body meetings to promote more diversity and inclusion for all students at the Jacobs School. He is also a member of the DIALE Committee.

Gibson is a third-year medical student.

Melissa Sloley

Melissa Sloley

Sloley is the 2019-2020 chapter president of the SNMA.

“As president of SNMA, Melissa strongly believes that the promotion of inclusion, diversity, access and equity is critical to harnessing the full range of human innovation and creativity,” were the comments of one nominator. “Her initiatives and leadership aim to create an environment where all members are heard, valued and respected.”

Sloley organized the RX for Success, a program that provides hundreds of undergraduate students in the community an opportunity to experience being a medical student in the Jacobs School.

Sloley is a second-year medical student.

Lewis Wong

Lewis Wong

Wong is the founder of Love Listens, a Western New York volunteer organization dedicated to improving the well-being and health of vulnerable elderly members in the community through compassion, kindness and friendship. Through the organization, volunteers serve as friends and advocates for nursing home residents and empower them to be heard and respected.

“His vision for this program is that the empowerment helps residents to live purposeful lives that are elevated by dignity and security,” one nominator said. “His passion for alleviating the growing issue of loneliness and isolation in nursing homes is clear in the way he teaches his volunteers to listen actively, ask questions and engage the residents in their community beyond the bounds of their room.”

In response to the COVID-19 shutdown across New York State, Wong saw an immediate need to pilot a new program through Love Listens — called COVID Companions — which connects volunteers to the geriatric community by bringing them to the facility virtually.

He is also an active volunteer at the local Lighthouse Community Clinic, City Mission Cornerstone Clinic and the Doctors Back to School educational program.

Wong is a fourth-year medical student.

PhD Student Award

Jamal B. Williams

Jamal B. Williams

“Jamal is known for, and continues to promote, diversity and inclusion through his involvement with local and Jacobs School communities through his leadership, mentorship and events/programming creativity,” one nominator said of Williams.

Williams is president of the Neuroscience GSA, is a Schomburg recipient, and a mentor for CLIMB UP summer undergraduate research and local high school students.

He serves as a student member of the DIALE Committee and is a student member of the Council on Inclusion in Medicine and Sciences Medical and Graduate Trainee Recruitment and Development Committee.

He also serves as a panelist for the annual McNair Scholars Research Conference to share his journey in STEM.

Williams is a fourth-year doctoral student of physiology and biophysics in the neuroscience program

Clinical or Basic Sciences Faculty Awards

Rabheh Abdul Aziz, MD

Rabheh Abdul Aziz, MD

“Dr. Aziz works with the community to increase awareness about rheumatic disease and successfully conducted two arthritis walks in 2018 and 2019 with proceeds of $5,700 and $17,000, respectively, to benefit rheumatology patients,” a nominator said of her.

“In addition, since Dr. Aziz’s primary language is Arabic, she has been helping Arabic refugees who have underlying rheumatological diseases to adapt to the U.S. medical system and treating their primary disease appropriately,” the nominator added.
Aziz is a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics.

Paul R. Knight III, MD, PhD

Paul R. Knight III, MD, PhD

“If you know Paul, you will recognize his lab is one of the most inclusive learning environments within our campus. He sees the good in all and values the contributions each member of his team provides,” one nominator said. “He encourages every member of his team to work together and help make our Western New York community a better place to live.”

Another nominator talked of Knight’s outreach when he served as chair of the Department of Anesthesiology.

“Dr. Knight was instrumental in directing African American residents to academic positions in which they rose through the ranks — one of whom became chief of the VA at the University of Michigan. A number of underrepresented residents trained in research with Dr. Knight, and this tradition continues to the present day,” the nominator said.

“Throughout the years of his research mentoring, I have never seen him waver from his enthusiastic approach to teaching his trainees, no matter what their background or initial knowledge level of the issue at hand,” another nominator said.

Knight is SUNY Distinguished Professor of anesthesiology.