Graduating students and faculty recognized in annual awards ceremony


UPDATE:  Check out the video here.

Ahead of the Class of 2021’s graduation on May 7, the College of Osteopathic Medicine held its annual Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, April 28 to recognize and celebrate outstanding graduating students and faculty.

Over 140 graduates, faculty, staff, friends and family members logged on to cheer on these excellent physicians and educators, a prime example of the extensive support network so many students applaud for their success in persevering through medical school. (A handful of students on an international rotation in Malawi even logged on at 1 A.M. in their local time to attend!)

“This event is truly meaningful to celebrate this chapter with one another and to reflect on the last four years of work and accomplishments,” said Deanna Ingrassia Miano, the Class of 2021 president. She, along with Ryan Hodgeman (VP-East Lansing), Megan Carrillo (VP-Detroit Medical Center), Kyle Sugg (VP-Macomb University Center), and staff members Beth Miller Courey and others, spent countless hours organizing the tribute event.

Dean Amalfitano commended the students on their resiliency, stating that “Despite it all, through the rigors of medical school and life and the pandemic, the Class of 2021 has really shown that it is dedicated to this cause of becoming osteopathic physicians. Even in times of great stress, they came to the table with the ability to meet the challenge and exceed it.”

The recipients were selected through nominations and a voting process involving the college’s scholarship committee, Class of 2021, and professional associates. These leaders are recognized for their outstanding academic achievement, service to the community, lifelong devotion to patient care, leadership within the osteopathic profession, and more. To create an atmosphere of award show suspense, gift packages were delivered to both nominees and winners for each category and opened live during the Zoom event. The winners received a commemorative plaque and small inscribed token. A monetary prize accompanied some awards.

Check out the video here.

Congratulations to the following students on their well-deserved recognitions:

  • Codi Alexis Sharp, D.O., swept three awards:
    • The Richard L. Alper Memorial Award for distinguished service to the community, earned for her extensive engagement with Spartan Street Medicine.
    • The Family and Community Medicine Achievement Award for Clinical Performance for exemplifying excellence in family medicine.
    • The Fred L. Mitchell Sr., D.O., FAAO, Memorial Award for exceptional achievement in osteopathic manipulative medicine.
  • Matthew Masaru Mayeda, D.O., took home two awards:
    • The Dean’s Recognition Award for demonstrated leadership and advocacy for the college and the osteopathic profession, earned for his representation of the college as the Vice President of the National Student Osteopathic Medical Association and his tireless push to improve health policy, including passing a resolution declaring food insecurity a health issue. He is also admired for showing compassion and a willingness to help classmates and mentor underrepresented students, and for volunteering to deliver holiday meals to families in need.
    • Excellence in Public Health Award (awarded by the Physician Professional Advisory Committee of the United States Public Health Service) for advancing public health thanks to his career-long work addressing chronic disease interventions and direct patient care and advocacy. He is described as a “‘machine of goodness’ who never stops moving to help other people.”​​​​​​​​​​​​​
  • Eli Benchell Eiseman, D.O., Ph.D., also took home two awards:​​​​​​​
    • The Fred L. Mitchell Sr., D.O., FAAO, Memorial Award for exceptional achievement in osteopathic manipulative medicine, which he dedicated to his first OMM instruction at the college. He finds the award very meaningful because his father and grandfather are both OMM practitioners.​​​​​​​
    • The Paul S. McCord, D.O., Memorial Award and scholarship for commitment to community service, primary care disciplines and service to medically underserved areas.
  • The Kerbow Family received two awards:
    • Christa E. Kerbow, D.O., was one of two recipients of The Annette Kabara Family Endowed Award for parents who faced special challenges. Christa excelled in all her “motherhood, military, and medicine commitments,” raising four children (two of whom were born during medical school) while actively serving in the military. A first-generation college graduate, she took board exams while pregnant, and carved out time to participate in Detroit Street Care. She received a scholarship along with the award.
    • Justin Kerbow, spouse of Christa Kerbow, received the The Donna Jones-Moritsugu Award for exemplifying the role of a professional partner. “Our families put up with a cosmic shift,” said Ryan Hodgeman, who introduced the category. “There’s a saying in the military that the whole family serves, and I think the same is true when you’re going through med school and residency. Partners are saints—they put up with so much, including relocation.” Justin was recognized for being a supportive husband and father, also actively serving in the military and earning a master’s in public health while Christa attended medical school. He used his military background to train Detroit Street Medicine volunteers in situational awareness to increase their safety.
  • Robert D. Edwards, D.O., Lauren Elizabeth Friebe, D.O., and Trevor Alexander Nessel, D.O., each received The Carnegie Medal for Academic Excellence for placing at the top of their class with best overall academic scores from non-clinical courses. This award came with a monetary reward.
  • Deanna Ingrassia Miano, D.O. , received the Dean’s Recognition Award for demonstrated leadership and advocacy for the college and the osteopathic profession.  She is commended for her exceptional leadership as class president, volunteering at the test center, and showing initiative in seeking research internships even while completing clinical rotations.
  • Alphonso Franklin Bond III, D.O., won The Annette Kabara Family Endowed Award and scholarship for parents who faced special challenges. He is said to always have a smile on his face while juggling medical school and raising several small children.
  • Jaclyn A. Israel, D.O., won The Paul S. McCord, D.O., Memorial Award and scholarship for her commitment to community service and service to medically underserved areas. She went above and beyond in every community service opportunity, developed deep connections to the community, and paid it forward through her leadership, policy work, volunteerism, and focus on global and environmental health.
  • Mackenzie Robert Fountain, D.O., won the Osteopathic Profession Service Award for promoting the college and the osteopathic profession through public service and community engagement. He was an American Academy of Pediatrics trainee and created a Street Medicine Institute Student Coalition.
  • Amber Rose Vocelle, D.O., Ph.D., received the Veronica M. Maher – J. Justin McCormick DO/PhD Award for exceptional scholarship and academic achievement as a physician-scientist and demonstrated leadership and advocacy. She has won several awards and her research has been published in many professional outlets. She received her Ph.D. in physiology in 2018.
  • Trevor R. Evans, D.O., won the Michigan Association of Osteopathic Family Physicians (MAOFP) Student of the Year Award for showing leadership and dedication to osteopathic family medicine. He was a mentor with MAOFP, a student leader with the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians, and president of the LGBT and Allies in Medicine group.
  • Rebecca Anne Gorz, D.O., received The Michigan Osteopathic Association Outstanding Graduating Senior Award for her involvement in MOA public policy writing that’s changing the future of medicine. She also excelled academically and made significant extracurricular contributions to the college through a poster presentation and by going on international medical trips.
  • Kelsey R Lawrence, D.O., is the winner of the Walter C. Mill, D.O., FACOS, Award for Excellence in Surgery, earned for her research and collaborative work in South Korea and her exemplary work in anesthesiology.
  • Nina B. Odish, D.O., won the Fred L. Mitchell Sr., D.O., FAAO, Memorial Award for exceptional achievement in the field of osteopathic manipulative medicine. She was deeply involved with the student OMM clinic, served as a TA, and organized an auction to raise funds for students to go to the American Academy of Ophthalmology convention.
  • Ryan Skowronek, D.O., earned The Clinical Neuroscience Award for showing the most promise in didactic training and clinical skills in neuroscience.
  • Kelsey A. Crowell, D.O., and Renee Mary Hanna, D.O., are both recipients of The Judith K. Weiswasser Memorial Award for academic, professional, and personal excellence. These students are commended for continuing to change with the medical field. Renee received a 2019 national research spotlight award from SOMA and volunteered with a large project providing health screenings for over 2,000 underserved people. She is currently working on putting together patient stories to give to new patients who are living with amputations from disease.
  • Maria Hanelin, spouse of Tristan Daniel Cooper-Roth, D.O., won The Donna Jones-Moritsugu Award for exemplifying the role of a professional’s partner. She showed understanding, care, and appreciation through challenging times. She is a great friend, wife, student, and advocate, and also completed a master’s in public health and worked with the college admissions and student life department.


Faculty Awards

In addition to student awards, the night included several faculty awards, voted on by the Class of 2021. “We would not be where we are without you. You set the tone for us from the first day of anatomy lab. You got us here. Thank you,” said Ingrassia Miano when introducing the awards.

Congratulations to the following faculty and staff for providing exemplary training and support to our future osteopathic physicians.

  • Paul Kowalski, M.D., assistant professor of physiology, won two awards:
    • Clinical Science Faculty Award for being the best role model and instructor of clinical medicine. He is described as “very enjoyable and extremely informative…an MSUCOM treasure.” “I feel blessed and privileged to do what I do,” Dr. Kowalski says.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
    • Distinguished Lecturer Award for clear, coherent, instructive and well-presented lectures. His nomination letter included hisundeniable talent for medical education, passion in every lecture, transparent expectations, guided detailed lecture materials, and ability to make mundane material exciting.”
  • ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Shawna-Marie Nantais, M.S. specialist, microbiology & molecular genetics, won the Basic Science Faculty Award for demonstrated excellence in teaching basic science and integrating basic science education with clinical medicine. She was nominated for her “magazine-style course packs” and “amazing ability to make things digestible.”
  • Stephen DiCarlo, Ph.D., professor of physiology, received the Dedication to Teaching Award for demonstrated dedication to excellence in teaching integrated clinical science in system courses with his unmatched energy and enthusiasm.
  • Terri Steppe, D.O., Jake Rowan, D.O., Mark Gugel, D.O., and Lori Dillard, D.O., all assistant professors of osteopathic manipulative medicine, won the Osteopathic Faculty Award for excellence in the teaching and practice of osteopathic manipulative techniques. Dr. Steppe is “always willing to go the extra mile for students with a witty sense of humor and giant smile;” Dr. Rowan helps students improve their OMM and serves as clerkship director; Dr. Gugel was dubbed the “King of OMM” and a great advisor, mentor, and guide in helping students hone their medical skills; and Dr. Dillard was praised for “going above and beyond to make sure students understand OMM academically and how it will be used in future specialties.”
  • Diane G. Hristova, M.D., assistant professor of radiology; Brooke-Lynn Vij, M.Ed., advisor, academic and career guidance; Bill McMillan, academic specialist, division of human anatomy, radiology; and Beth Courey, director, student engagement and leadership, admissions and student life, all received the Student Support Award for going above and beyond the call of duty to provide support and assistance to individual students or student organizations.

In a final reflection of the night, Dr. Paul Kowalski said, “I’m seeing a theme of service tonight. Service to patients or the military or the community. There’s an element of service you can engage in, be it as a leader or volunteer or a specialist. For many of them you will not win an award. It’ll be things you do in regular life to make sure people get what they need or that an organization has support. There’s going to be a lot of areas where you can contribute.”