MSUCOM faculty earn prestigious community awards


Two faculty members of Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSUCOM) have received high praise from Michigan State University Outreach and Engagement for their community engagement efforts.

Clare Luz, Ph.D., earns 2023 Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Service

Clare Luz, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and founding director of both MSU AgeAlive and IMPART Alliance, received the 2023 Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Service. This recognition honors her work with the City of East Lansing Prime Time Seniors Program.

“I am honored to receive this award, not for myself, but on behalf of everyone who has been involved with AgeAlive and made it as vibrant as it is today,” Dr. Luz said. “We have been fortunate and privileged to receive support from the MSUCOM, countless volunteers and dedicated leadership council members, many of whom have substantially contributed to our work since the beginning.”

AgeAlive is dedicated to elevating aging-related research, teaching and outreach across MSU in partnership with community, to promote well-being for people of all ages and abilities. One vital community partner is the City of East Lansing Prime Time Seniors Program, a nationally accredited program that serves to enrich the lives of community members who are over 55.

In 2019, the two groups teamed up with the MSU Social Science Scholars Program to develop the Senior Ambassadors Program, which matches MSU students with isolated seniors at risk for loneliness. Matched pairs develop mutually rewarding friendships through weekly Zoom meetings and consistently report positive results.

Other initiatives led by AgeAlive include the bi-weekly Town & Gown Lecture Series, community butterfly gardens, an annual research forum and MSU’s designation as an Age-Friendly University.

“This award is validation that we are meeting our goals, promoting relationships and well-being for the common good,” she said. “We are adding value to MSU by reflecting the university’s prioritization of diversity and inclusivity, responding to major societal issues and serving as a catalyst for positive change in the world.”

This recognition also helps broaden the reach of AgeAlive among a wider audience, which makes new partnerships and opportunities possible. Dr. Luz hopes to continue “marshaling resources to creatively solve challenging problems and to celebrate the experiences and wisdom of older adults.”

Dr. Luz appreciates AgeAlive members, volunteers, partners and supporters, along with the college. “Support from MSUCOM has been critical to our growth and success. Our missions are closely aligned. MSUCOM researchers, faculty, staff and students are also committed to excellence in promoting good health and well-being for all people, the art of care and public service,” she said.

Carolina Baraldi A. Restini, Ph.D., Pharm.D., earns 2023 Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Teaching

Carolina Baraldi A. Restini, Ph.D., Pharm.D., associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, received the 2023 Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Teaching. This award recognizes her efforts in developing community-based services and research that generate benefits for the community and osteopathic medical students (OMS) while leveraging health sciences, social initiatives and evidence-based knowledge.

This particular program is a set of outreach activities that enrich the educational experiences of high school students in Southeast Michigan, while allowing OMS to serve as educators and strengthen connections to their communities.

“I am fortunate to share that the brightest facet of these projects is the collaborative aspect,” Dr. Restini said. “It would not be possible without the support and participation of my peers, the administrators and staff of MSUCOM, and the students. The students are the key players!”

According to Dr. Restini, the sustainable program is founded on three community-engaged learning strategies. Osteopathic medical students (1) share their experiences to becoming medical students, promote health care and inspire high school students to pursue medical careers; (2) teach basic sciences via clinical case discussions and research protocols to high school students taking advanced placement classes; and 3) provide instruction in substance abuse awareness and prevention. The goal is to empower high schoolers to utilize their newfound knowledge to make informed decisions.

While these types of projects make it possible for MSUCOM students to serve communities in Michigan, it also brings realistic scenarios to the classroom, which can then be embedded into the medical curriculum, she said. It represents possibilities to leverage research and scholarly activity for both students and faculty.

“Since all the projects are IRB-approved and highly structured following scientific methods and ethics, medical students are being offered the opportunity to embark on research projects early in their medical education,” she said, referring to Institutional Review Boards. “In addition, our faculty are invited to participate and bring their expertise and mentorship skills, which enhance our curriculum's integrative aspects and strengthen the faculty’s professional experiences.”

To Dr. Restini, this award is an inspiration to continue opening pathways for students to learn while interacting with the community and enhancing their communication and clinical skills. She said the most successful projects are executed with teamwork, and credits the “outstanding” faculty and staff at MSUCOM for providing support and expertise.

“I am humbly thankful to the team who selected me qualified,” Dr. Restini said. “I feel deeply honored because the award represents an opportunity to bring all the people involved in this endeavor together to be recognized.”

She intends to continue strengthening research possibilities and engaging students in scholarly outreach activities and associations. She also hopes to grow the chain of partners who want to provide expertise and mentorship and collect fruitful collaborations and grant opportunities to expand the projects.

“As a college, we can help the next generations of D.O. physicians amplify the concept of humanized health care,” Dr. Restini said. “This is an opportunity to work as a team by valuing teaching and learning experiences to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in an ascending trajectory.”

About the awards

The Distinguished Partnership Awards are university-wide recognitions for highly engaged and scholarly community-based work that positively impacts both the community and scholarship.

“I’m proud that two of this year’s awardees are faculty in MSUCOM,” Dr. Luz said.

Both awarded projects are working on interconnected sides — while Dr. Luz’s work focuses on improving the quality of life for aging adults, Dr. Restini’s work empowers and educates younger learners, who will be the next generation to care for seniors.

The 2023 MSU Outreach and Engagement Awards Ceremony are from 4:30- 6:30 p.m., March 2, 2023 at the , Lincoln Room in the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. Learn more and register today.