Medical School Faculty, Staff Recognized for Excellence

Published June 11, 2021

An expert on neuropsychology and multiple sclerosis and others who have made significant contributions to their fields and to the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences were honored with 2021 Faculty-Staff Recognition Awards.

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The following awards were presented during a June 1 event:

2021 Stockton Kimball Award

Ralph H.B. Benedict, PhD

Benedict received the award “in recognition of a professional career of consistent academic accomplishment, a national and international recognition for scholarship, and significant research contributions,” noted Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, who presented the award.

“Dr. Benedict is widely recognized for his impactful research on the altered psychological, behavioral and cognitive consequences of multiple sclerosis (MS),” Cain added. “His work has had a major impact in the development of groundbreaking neuropsychological tests, and defining the correlation of brain pathology detected with MRI imaging to cognitive dysfunction in patients with MS.”

Benedict’s novel and innovative research on cognitive dysfunction in MS has led to new understanding and the means to quantify this understudied aspect of the disease.

He is also a consultant to the National Hockey League and the National Football League for neuropsychological dialogue pertaining to head trauma.

Benedict will deliver the Stockton Kimball Lecture in 2022.

Dean’s Award

Sandra K. Drabek

This award recognizes an individual who has provided extraordinary service to the school and has gone above and beyond the call of duty to make a difference.

Cain said that Drabek “is an invaluable asset for all of us in her roles of overseeing our school’s Offices of Human Resource Affairs and Financial Resources.”

“Sandy works tirelessly each day to ensure our faculty, staff and students have the resources they need to fulfill their responsibilities. She is a keystone in our efforts to have a workplace environment free of bias and harassment. She cares for each of us, looks out for each of us, and represents us on numerous school and university committees,” he said.

“Throughout the year, Sandy and her team superbly manage and operationalize a very complex budget. They do this strategically and tactically, and they do it with aplomb. Sandy is instrumental to the success of our budget meetings with campus and university leadership. There is no one better than Sandy that I would want to take with me to a budget meeting.”

Cain added: “We are most fortunate to have her at the Jacobs School.” 

John P. Naughton Award

Sofia A. Tangalos accepts the John P. Naughton Award from Michael E. Cain, MD.

“Sofia is an invaluable assistant who exhibits professionalism and is exceptional at establishing rapport with staff and faculty alike. She contributes boundless energy and creativity in completing projects,” Cain said.

Among the most notable of her many contributions is her work on the dossier preparation process including working with faculty and staff.

“Sofia is an exceptionally reliable, dedicated and innovative member of the staff of the Jacobs School who invariably assumes ownership for the successful completion of tasks to which you are assigned,” he added. “She always exceeds expectations, is an effective problem solver, and is courteous and professional. She is always more than willing to put in the extra effort to finish projects in a timely manner.”

The Naughton Award was established in 1999 to recognize outstanding staff members who are often the unsung heroes of the school’s evolution and forward movement, individuals who contribute significantly to the advancement of the school and to the fulfillment of its mission.

The Robert S. Berkson, MD, Memorial Award in the Art of Medicine

Akash Parashar, MD, left, shows his Robert S. Berkson, MD, Memorial Award in the Art of Medicine, while posing with Alan J. Lesse, MD.

  • Akash Parashar, MD, clinical assistant professor of medicine

The award is presented to a volunteer faculty for his or her ability in patient care and teaching and in recognition by peers for his/her current medical knowledge and patient care reputation. It is named for a Buffalo internist and medical school alumnus who was actively involved in teaching medical students and residents.

Volunteer faculty were nominated by the faculty and staff of the Jacobs School.

“This year’s winner had wonderful testimonials, especially in regard to his willingness to teach in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cain said.

“Akash Parashar really stepped up during COVID and helped with virtual rounds while students were off clerkships, even while continuing his inpatient clinical practice,” said one nominator.

Another nominator noted: “Akash Parashar stepped up during COVID to engage students in virtual rounds. His teaching abilities are superior and he is very well liked. He has been one of the most responsive and responsible attendings. His care for not just the students’ learning but also their well-being is very evident in his interactions. Our awardee graduated from our residency program and has made us all proud by being a role model for students and residents.”

Joseph Robert Love Scholastic Leadership Award

Adetayo Oladele-Ajose, ’23

Olatoyosi Olafuyi, ’23

Dolapo Olawunmi, ’23

Melissa Sloley, ’24

Nina Vazquez, ’23

  • Adetayo Oladele-Ajose, ’23
  • Olatoyosi Olafuyi, ’23
  • Dolapo Olawunmi, ’23
  • Melissa Sloley, ’24
  • Nina Vazquez, ’23 

A group of five medical students were awarded the inaugural Joseph Robert Love Scholastic Leadership Award, which recognizes inspirational leadership for groundbreaking service and dedication to advancing the Jacobs School’s commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity and social justice.

Joseph Robert Love, MD, was the first African-American graduate with a medical degree from the University at Buffalo, and was a teacher, a physician, a priest, a politician and an activist.   

“This award is presented as a way to inspire our students and to honor Dr. Love’s lifelong commitment to social justice, equality and fairness,” Cain said.

Cain said the inaugural award winners are being recognized for their inspiring commitment to integrity, inclusion and social justice, best exemplified by their pioneer work reflected in the 2020 Students’ Resolution.

The resolution was written in response to the acts of race-based violence against Black people nationally that followed the killing of George Floyd in the summer of 2020. The resolution document called for enhancement in efforts by the Jacobs School to address racial inequities in the overall educational experience.

“The work that followed has already impacted and enhanced our commitment to excellence by addressing diversity, racism, equity and social justice at all levels of our school community,” Cain said.

Awards of Excellence for Promoting Inclusion and Cultural Diversity

The Awards of Excellence for Promoting Inclusion and Cultural Diversity are presented on behalf of the Office of Inclusion and Cultural Enhancement and the vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School.

The Awards of Excellence recognize that a diverse and inclusive campus community enhances excellence in research and academic medicine by broadening and strengthening teaching, learning, scholarship, and service to the community that are key to the school’s mission.

A committee formed by previous Awards of Excellence recipients selected the 2021 Awards of Excellence. These awards are presented in recognition of exemplary work to create a welcoming climate of respect and inclusiveness.

Faculty Award

John C. Panepinto, PhD, received the Faculty Award of Excellence for Promoting Inclusion and Cultural Diversity.

Panepinto transformed the application review and interview processes for the PPBS by reducing potential bias and increasing cultural competency among members of the review committee, thus increasing recruitment of underrepresented students, according to Cain.

In addition, Panepinto distinguished himself last summer by creating the “Underrepresented Voices” journal club, a conversation and discussion forum aimed to build an inclusive workspace and actively maintain an anti-racist environment.

As one of his nominators indicated, “Dr. Panepinto exemplified the university’s commitment to foster a respectful and supportive environment, both in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and within the medical school as a whole.”

Staff Award

Michael Lamb, MD, received the Staff Award of Excellence for Promoting Inclusion and Cultural Diversity from Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion.

  • Michael Lamb, MD, research assistant professor of surgery and director of surgical education

Lamb is credited for the success of the social justice and anti-racism event that featured the Department of Surgery’s inaugural Endowed Lectureship on Health Equity & Social Justice.

He supported the establishment of the Underrepresented in Medicine mentorship program for first-and second-year medical students and for working with students and residents to form a selection committee for the Department of Surgery summer research scholarships for URiM students. 

His nominators indicated, “Dr. Lamb’s commitment to social justice, diversity and antiracism is palpable and reflects really well on this university.” 

Medical Student Award

MD-PhD student Megan Conrow-Graham, left, was presented with the Medical Student Award of Excellence for Promoting Inclusion and Cultural Diversity, by Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD.

Conrow-Graham is currently completing research toward the PhD award.  

She is a Lighthouse Clinic volunteer, a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, the co-founder of the new Biomedical Graduate Student Government program and the co-host of the podcast Reclaim the Bench, which has a special emphasis on bringing awareness of misrepresentation of women and people from underrepresented backgrounds in science and medicine. 

Conrow-Graham uses her skill set to mentor medical, graduate and MD-PhD students with an emphasis on pushing for more women and people of color to enter the rigorous, but often homogenous MD-PhD program, her nominators said.

Medical Resident Award

At left, Frances “Frankie” Uwechue, MD, is the recipient of the Medical Resident Award for Excellence in Promoting Inclusion and Cultural Diversity. 

Uwechue is a graduate of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Her nominators stated that “Dr. Uwechue rotates through seven different Buffalo hospitals, building a reputation for stellar patient care and quiet surgical prowess. Leading by example, Dr. Uwechue not only founded the Department of Surgery’s Anti-Racism and Health Equity Task Force, but she is raising awareness about the nationwide dearth of Black women in surgery.”

Service Awards

50 Years

40 Years

30 Years

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