GW Academic Medical Community Takes a Bow at the Bicentennial Excellence Awards

Faculty and staff were recognized for their service, commitment to the institution and achievements.

January 25, 2024

SMHS Dean Barbara Bass

SMHS Dean Barbara Bass addresses members of the GW medical community during Bicentennial Excellence Awards. (Photos: Sarah Miknis)

To start the spring 2024 semester and kick off a yearlong 200th anniversary celebration, the George Washington University Academic Medical Enterprise gathered in the University Student Center Grand Ballroom to honor faculty and staff achievements during the Bicentennial Excellence Awards event.

The evening, said Barbara L. Bass, RESD ’86, professor of surgery, Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, vice president for health affairs, dean of SMHS and CEO of The GW Medical Faculty Associates (GW MFA), “recognizes our faculty and staff who have done so much to enrich our organization on so many fronts—education, service, research and community engagement.”

To open the bicentennial year, Bass debuted a video highlighting the school’s identity that has been crafted over two centuries of providing frontline care, education and unparalleled scientific discovery in the heart of the nation’s capital. 

“The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences was founded on a mission rich in clinical care, education and deep experiential learning,” she said. “If you think about our missions today—education, research, clinical care and population health and health equity—those are the core pillars of our strategic plan and the missions we live every day. I think we should really be proud of that as we move into that first year of our third century.” 

The dean then turned to the awards portion of the event, presenting the staff awards to 10 members of SMHS and GW MFA, whose titles ranged from lab managers to registration associates and data analysts. Nominated by their peers, Bass said recipients “really have exemplified the mission and vision of our academic medical enterprise with just simply outstanding performance.”

Next, Yolanda Haywood, B.S. ’81, RESD ’87, CERT ’04, senior associate dean for diversity, inclusion and faculty affairs, and associate dean for student affairs, presented this year’s faculty honors, beginning with the Distinguished Teacher Awards. 

“This evening, we are honored to celebrate three members of our faculty for being innovative in their teaching,” said Haywood. “They have demonstrated exceptionable ability in all of the following five areas: communicating information to advance learning; inspiring, motivating and stimulating learners; being innovative in their teaching; demonstrating a sustained commitment as an educator; and establishing and maintaining a positive learning environment.”

This year’s Distinguished Teacher Awards went to Amir Afkhami, M.D. ’03, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral health, and of global health; Susan LeLacheur, Dr. PH. ’08, M.P.H. ’89, professor of physician assistant studies; and Ahdeah Pajoohesh-Ganji, Ph.D. ’05, B.S. ’97, associate professor of anatomy and cell biology.

Receiving this year’s Distinguished Service Award for his exceptional service and citizenship to the SMHS community and the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, was Alberto Bosque-Pardos, associate professor of microbiology, immunology and tropical medicine.

The W. Scott Schroth Mentor Award was presented to Kofi Essel, M.D. ’11, M.P.H. ’17, clinical associate professor of pediatrics. The winner is nominated each year by members of the graduating class M.D. program for excellence in mentorship and professional development of scholarly concentration students. 

The final faculty honor was the Diversity and Inclusion Award, recognizing the sustained support for advancing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Winners, Haywood explained, have raised awareness of workplace diversity and inclusion issues and served as a catalyst for change regarding workplace diversity and inclusion. This year, the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Tropical Medicine was selected to receive the honor. 

Bicentennial Staff Excellence Awardees with Dean Bass.
Bicentennial Staff Excellence Awardees with SMHS Dean Bass (far right).

Alison Hall, interim senior associate dean for research, took the stage to present awards recognizing faculty across the academic medical enterprise who are excelling in research and discovery.

Leading off the honors was the presentation of the Elaine H. Snyder Cancer Research Award, given to a GW researcher who has made an outstanding contribution to cancer research over the past 12 months. This year, Katherine Chiappinelli, assistant professor of microbiology, immunology and tropical medicine, received the award for her research in cancer immunology. 

The next two honors recognized investigators who are making significant contributions while still in the early stages of their careers. The awards went to Nathan Cohen, assistant professor of neurology and rehabilitation medicine, and of pediatrics, for his research on drug resistant epilepsy; and Hui Lu, associate professor of pharmacology and physiology, who received the Early Career Basic Scientist Research Achievement Award for her contributions to the study of brain circuits and behavior.

The final research award was the Distinguished Researcher Award, recognizing a member of the faculty for the quality and significance of their biomedical and health sciences research. This year Brandon Kohrt, RESD ’13, Charles and Sonia Akman, Professor of Global Psychiatry and director of the Center for Global Mental Health Equity, received the award for his extensive work in global psychiatry.

Christopher T. Smedley,  who joined the GW MFA in May 2023 as the chief clinical affairs and strategy officer, presented the Pillars of Excellence Awards. For the inaugural award presentation, 25 members of the Academic Medical Enterprise were chosen for their support of the four mission pillars: education, research, clinical care, and population health and health equity and for advancing institutional culture as defined in the strategic plan.

“We have so many heroes who really pull us along,” Smedley said, as the inaugural list of winners was announced. “They raise the bar and show us what’s possible. They don't see the barriers. They see how to work through them or run through them, and they bring us with them.”

To read the full list of Bicentennial Excellence Award winners, visit the SMHS Bicentennial website.