Educators and trainees in spotlight
Open the different sections below to view the educators, trainees and alumni who have been recognized in the past year for their exceptional contributions to MD Anderson and/or their specialty.
Distinguished Alumnus Award
The annual Distinguished Alumnus Award & Lecture is sponsored by the MD Anderson Alumni Association and was established in 1980 to recognize a prominent alumnus who has made distinguished contributions to his or her respective field. The recipient of this award is selected from nominations received by the Alumni Association. Candidates must have completed an MD Anderson-based program or received a degree or certificate from an MD Anderson school.
Jean-Claude ZenKlusen, Ph.D., was born in 1964 in Visp, Switzerland. He earned a Master in Sciences (Biochemistry) from the University of Buenos Aires in 1990. He received his Ph.D. in Cancer Biology & Genetics from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Houston Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (formerly known as The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston) in 1995. In 1996, he took a postdoctoral position at the National Genome Research Institute, where, while participating in the Human Genome Project, he cloned two novel tumor suppressor genes. In 2003, he joined the National Cancer Institute as the senior staff scientist at the Neuro-Oncology Branch, directing the Glioma Molecular Diagnostic Initiative and its companion data portal, Rembrandt. In 2009, he became the scientific program director of the Office of Cancer Genomics, where he oversaw a variety of large-scale projects.
In August 2013, ZenKlusen was named director of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), the largest-scale cancer genomics project to date. Under his leadership, the TCGA collaborated with more than 700 scientists across the country to develop the “TCGA PanCanAtlas,” which was published in a series of papers in Cell and its sister journals in 2018. His team earned the 2015 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, a People’s Choice Award, and the 2020 American Association for Cancer Research Team Science Award. In addition to TCGA, he also provided outstanding leadership for the International Genome Cancer Consortium Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes project, leading to the publication of a series of papers in Nature and its sister journals in February 2020. Internationally recognized as an expert in genomic research and genomic technologies, ZenKlusen has over 150 peer-reviewed publications, including many featured in Cell, Cancer Cell, and Nature.
Click here to see a list of previous MD Anderson Distinguished Alumnus Award recipients.
The University of Texas Kenneth I. Shine, M.D., Academy of Health Science Education
The University of Texas System (UTS) Kenneth I. Shine, M.D., Academy of Health Science Education recognizes educators across the UT system who have implemented an innovative project or program with proven success.
Robert Bast, M.D., professor, Experimental Therapeutics, has taught and mentored more than 140 graduate students, fellows, physician-scientists and clinician-investigators over the last three decades. With colleagues from MD Anderson and UT Health, he established the Clinical and Translational Sciences track within the Cancer Biology Program at our Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, where he developed and continues to teach a course in Translational Cancer Research and initiated the Cancer Research Administration and Management certificate program for staff. In the physician-scientist program which Dr. Bast coordinates, more than 50 young faculty have been awarded dedicated research time to earn their first major grant which more than 80% of graduates have accomplished. In the K12 Calabresi Scholar program which Bast has led, more than 30 clinician-investigators have developed programs of clinical research. Over the years, graduates of this program have led 13 practice-changing studies resulting in FDA approvals and changes in national guidelines. “It has been an incredible privilege to work with so many talented young scientists and physicians,” Bast relates.
“For physician-scientists, laboratory efforts must address important gaps in knowledge or unmet clinical needs. The path should be clear to clinical application of knowledge acquired in the laboratory,” he notes. “Clinician-investigators must not only learn how to design and complete individual clinical trials, but build programs of studies designed to personalize treatment, discover new applications for families of drugs, overcome drug resistance or treat the heterogeneous spectrum of malignancy at a given disease site.”
Clifton Fuller, M.D., Ph.D., professor, Radiation Oncology, works directly with students and trainees at many levels to help bring complex concepts such as cancer imaging, statistics, and informatics into clinical and scientific application. He is core faculty in our ACGME-accredited Radiation Oncology program, working with residents, as well as a faculty member of our graduate school, where he supervises graduate students and teaches courses within the Medical Physics, Quantitative Sciences and Clinical-Translational Oncology Programs. Additionally, he serves as co-PI on R25 fellowship and T32 postdoctoral training grants, where he teaches multiple didactic and practical courses for those involved.
“As an informaticist, there is a stark difference between “data”, “information”, “knowledge”, and “wisdom’, denoting a move towards complexity and context. In the educational setting this has meant that, always, I have striven to more than just teach data and information, but to provide practical context so that learners may move from memorization and vocabulary rapidly to mental manipulation and guided implementation,” he says. “I derive great joy from the bright trainees I have and seeing their success, and I would be remiss if I did not mention that the best part of my week is often the time I spend teaching and interacting with them. They continue to inspire me to grow and develop with each new cohort, as I aim to match my own mentors’ lifelong commitment to improvement in educational efficacy.”
Tanya Moseley, M.D., professor, Breast Imaging and Breast Surgical Oncology, is committed to teaching at all levels and on topics ranging from anatomy and physiology to diversity, equity and inclusion. She redesigned and streamlined our breast imaging residency and fellowship curricula. Even though she is a well-known teacher around the world, she has given hundreds of talks in the Houston community about health care and breast care, including to schoolchildren and the general public. She also created the Moseley Summer Program for Undergraduates from Multicultural/Minority Backgrounds so that they could meet doctors of color and be inspired to work in health care.
“I am a teacher because I have a deep-seated faith in the reciprocal nature of education. Knowledge should be shared rather than kept to oneself. Shared knowledge endures. Knowledge that is not shared is lost, and it provides no advantage to anybody else,” she notes. “When I teach, I try to remember what it was like to be in the student's position. I tailor my teaching to the student's preferred learning method to meet the trainee at her or his current level of comprehension. I try to make everything I do, including teaching, a source of joy and happiness for everyone around me. Patience, respect, empathy, and kindness go a long way in helping students to learn. I treat the trainees as I would like to be treated.”
Toma Omofoye, M.D., associate professor, Breast Imaging, is being recognized for her work with students, trainees and health professionals on a local, national and global scale. In addition to serving as Strategic Director of Education within the Breast Imaging department, she lectures at our School of Health Professions and at numerous multidisciplinary conferences, as well as serving as a member of our Global Oncology Programs’ Committee to partner with multiple institutions to bring radiology education, equipment and infrastructure to Low to Middle Income countries around the world.
“My role as a physician is inseparable from my work as a teacher. I find it a great privilege to teach students, peers and patients. According to Winston Churchill, “The most important thing about education is appetite.” Curiosity is the best gift I have ever received- it keeps me up reading late into the night so often that I frequently read over 100 books a year. It drives me to connect with others to see what they know, and how we can synthesize new ideas,” she says. “When I am faced with interested learners, patients or students, I find their passion invigorating. Engaging with them molds me into a better teacher and learner.”
Click here to see a list of previous members inducted into The University of Texas Kenneth I. Shine, MD, Academy of Health Science Education.
Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award
The Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award is a pretigious teaching excellence award that recognizes outstanding faculty members across both academic and health institutions within the UT System.
Phyu Aung, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor, Pathology, is the director of our Oncologic Surgical Pathology Fellowship program, the largest ACGME-accredited surgical pathology fellowship in the country with 14 fellows, and she is site director for our rotation program which hosts around 40 rotators per year. She’s recognized by peers and trainees as a dynamic mentor and educator. She is also the current Chair of Mid-Career Faculty Committee at MD Anderson.
During her first two years as program director, she focused on obtaining funding for fellows’ research projects, securing 15 intramural and extramural grants to support their work, which led to over 50 peer-reviewed publications and more than 75 presentations at national and international meetings with her mentees. She’s also focused on improving the fellowship experience, including revising educational requirements for surgical pathology fellows and working to safely implement a digital pathology-based training model in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She also cofounded the Asian Society of Dermatopathology. Her teaching philosophy incorporates clear communication with her fellows and an open-door policy, taking advantage of digital pathology advances and promoting excellence in the fellows beyond competency.
“My proudest moment as a teacher is when I see my fellows successfully established as independent physicians, educators, and scientists around the world,” she says. “It pleases me to know that they are in turn providing excellent healthcare and teaching others and that I contributed to their education. It is a true honor and a privilege to be one of many teachers who were able to inspire, challenge, and nurture our fellows so that they can go on to providing the best possible healthcare.”
Daniel Epner, M.D., works to incorporate teaching into all aspects of his work mindfully, whether it be during his clinical practice while caring for patients or in more formal interactive workshops or larger seminars and presentations. Over the course of his career, he’s developed a large portfolio of formal teaching activities, including innovative curricula and enduring education resources. His first book, “Empathy: Real Stories to Inspire and Enlighten Busy Clinicians” was published this year, featuring clinical stories with practice points at the end of each chapter to help clinicians refine their empathic practice.
His educational philosophy is to teach in the psychosocial domain, working in a humanist practice and focusing on relational skills for patient interactions. He encourages those he teaches to focus on communication skills, with an emphasis on the importance of words and meeting patients and colleagues on their level. He works to meet learners’ individual needs through simulation sessions and keep learners engaged to improve their retention. His seminars and workshops, including “Difficult Conversations” for oncology fellows and “Clinical Leadership Rounds” for palliative fellows, are always highly reviewed and well-attended.
“I consider the psychosocial domain the inner sanctum of medical practice, the sacred space that healers will always occupy,” he notes. “While I waged the War on Cancer, the sound of humanity whispered ever more loudly in my ear. The human connection has always been central to medicine, and it remains so now.”
Click here to see a list of previous Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award recipients.
The William Randolph Hearst Foundations Faculty Achievement Award in Education
The William Randolph Hearst Foundations Faculty Achievement Award in Education recognizes faculty members who’ve made significant, original contributions in education, while enhancing the institution’s international reputation.
Shine Chang, Ph.D., professor of Epidemiology, received this award in 2023.
Click here to see a list of previous recipients of The William Randolph Hearst Foundations Faculty Achievement Award in Education.
Julie and Ben Rogers Award for Excellence in Education
The Rogers Award recognizes one employee who consistently demonstrates excellence and dedication to MD Anderson's mission to end cancer. The award rotates among the institution's four mission areas, so this award is given once every four years to a faculty or staff member who works in the area of Education.
Monica Johnson, program director, Patient Experience, was the recipient of the 2020 Julie and Ben Rogers Award for Excellence in Education.
Click here to see a list of previous Julie & Ben Rogers Award for Excellence in Education recipients.
Emil J Freireich Award for Excellence in Education
This Emil J Freireich Award for Excellence in Education is an annual award that recognizes faculty members who have made exceptional contributions to education at MD Anderson.
Phyu Aung, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor, Pathology, is the director of our Oncologic Surgical Pathology Fellowship program, the largest ACGME-accredited surgical pathology fellowship in the country with 14 fellows, and she is site director for our rotation program which hosts around 40 rotators per year.
Dr. Aung is described by her trainees as a role model and tireless advocate who radiates enthusiasm for teaching, fosters an engaging learning environment and shapes the lives of her trainees through leadership, innovative teaching methods, design of new curricula and mentorship. She is an associate professor in Anatomical Pathology, current chair of the Mid-Career Faculty Committee, director of the Oncologic Surgical Pathology Fellowship Program – the largest ACGME-accredited surgical pathology fellowship in the country – and site director of Pathology fellowship programs. Dr. Aung also focuses on the educational and career development activities of junior faculty in the Anatomical and Translational Pathology departments and graduate students at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
Dr. Aung has mentored more than 100 trainees and is actively involved in national and international education and mentoring efforts. This is the fourth award Dr. Aung has received since October 2022 acknowledging her excellence in teaching, including the 2023 Distinguished Faculty Mentor Award – Clinical, the 2022 University of Texas System Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award and the 2022 Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award from the Interdisciplinary Translational Education and Research Training (ITERT) program.
Click here to see a list of previous Emil J Freireich Award for Excellence in Education recipients.
Faculty Educator of the Year Award
The Faculty Educator of the Year Award honors faculty members who demonstrate excellence and innovative practices in education.
Naveen Pemmaraju, M.D., associate professor of Leukemia, who is himself a product of our education programs as a graduate of our hematology/oncology fellowship program, uses his experiences and expertise to support our current fellows. He takes the time to actively mentor a variety of trainees, including residents, fellows, medical students and pharmacy trainees, and ensures that his mentees are included in his research and featured as co-authors and first authors on his papers to help them further their own careers as cancer researchers and physician scientists.
In addition to his work with our trainees, Pemmaraju serves our Cancer Network as director for Leukemia. In this role, he provides educational opportunities and outreach to members. He has organized annual hematology retreats and co-founded or led the organization of national and international conferences to create collaborative spaces and new opportunities for research and scholarship. He also pursues new avenues of education, such as through social media. Using Twitter, Pemmaraju shares with his more than 13,000 followers information about his research and rare diseases. He has published more than 10 papers on the use of Twitter in hematology, particularly for medical education.
Click here to see a list of previous Faculty Educator of the Year Award recipients.
Staff Educator of the Year Award
The Staff Educator of the Year Award acknowledges employees who demonstrate dedication, originality and enthusiasm for education.
For more than 25 years, Katherine Mishaw, nurse educator, Cancer Network, has exemplified the best qualities of a nurse educator at MD Anderson. In her role as nurse educator for our Cancer Network, she supports our five partner sites, 16 certified member sites across the nation and those which we engage with internationally. Mishaw is a lifelong learner who uses current evidence-based practice and a variety of learning styles to meet the oncology education needs of interprofessional teams in the Cancer Network. Recently, she has been developing a comprehensive educational platform to provide resources that Cancer Network member staff can tailor to meet their educational needs based on their learning preferences. Additionally, she is leading the development of comprehensive stem cell transplantation educational materials for the entire interprofessional transplant team, partnering with nurse educators across the network to create foundational content related to malignant hematology and stem cell transplantation.
Click here to see a list of previous Staff Educator of the Year Award recipients.
Distinguished Mentor Award
Every year, the Distinguished Mentor Award is presented to an MD Anderson faculty member who demonstrates exceptional mentoring of their postdoctoral fellows.
Ken Chen, Ph.D., professor, Bioinformatics & Computational Biology, was named the 2023 Distinguished Mentor during Education Week 2023.
“Dr. Chen is an extremely supportive mentor who genuinely asks his trainees about their goals for the future and offers constructive advice about how they can reach their goals," Dr. Chen’s nominator Merve Dede, M.D., Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow, Bioinformatics & Computational Biology, wrote, “Dr. Chen has offered so many different research directions to me that I was not aware of before and has certainly influenced my future directions.”
GME Trainee Awards
Each year, the Office of Graduate Medical Education recognizes excellent work performed by MD Anderson residents and fellows in Professionalism, Teaching and Teamwork.
Resident/Fellow Award for Excellence in Professionalism
Helen Johnson, M.D., Breast Surgical Oncology fellow, received the honor of the 2023 Clinical Award for Excellence in Professionalism. Known for her integrity and collaborative nature, Dr. Johnson is recognized for her outstanding clinical care and communication skills. She promotes fairness and teamwork and is noted to be dependable, trustworthy and empathetic.
Irtiza Sheikh, M.D., Pediatric Hematology-Oncology fellow, also received the honor of the 2023 Clinical Award for Excellence in Professionalism. Dr. Sheikh is described as an inspiring role model. His respectfulness, exemplary teamwork, attentiveness, ingenuity and compassion are why he was selected to receive this award and named Chief Fellow.
Resident/Fellow Award for Excellence in Teaching
Volha Lenskaya, M.D., Anatomical Pathology fellow, received the honor of the 2023 Clinical Award for Excellence in Teaching. Dr. Lenskaya is dedicated to excellence in teaching and is known for being respectful and approachable. She also uses innovative teaching approaches and conveys complex materials in ways others can easily understand.
Shlermine Everidge, M.D., Breast Surgical Oncology fellow, also received the honor of the 2023 Clinical Award for Excellence in Teaching. Recognized for her excellent teaching of technical skills and clinical decision making and for fostering a collaborative environment, Dr. Everidge extends her teaching to the entire team, asking thoughtful questions that engage faculty, advanced practice provider and nursing colleagues.
Resident/Fellow Award for Excellence in Teamwork
Brian De, M.D., Radiation Oncology resident, received the honor of the 2023 Clinical Award for Excellence in Teamwork. Dr. De is the true embodiment of teamwork. He is recognized by his leaders, peers and mentees for his collaborative nature and willingness to help others.
Emily Rav, M.D., Pediatric Hematology-Oncology fellow, also received the honor of the 2023 Clinical Award for Excellence in Teamwork. Described as an effective and passionate advocate for patients and trainees, Dr. Rav is recognized for the support she gives to junior trainees as well as her ability to bring pieces to a cohesive whole.
Clinical Education Awards
Each year, the Office of Graduate Medical Education recognizes two faculty members and two administrative staff members for their outstanding dedication to education at MD Anderson.
Outstanding Program Director Award
Uzondu Osuagwu, M.D., program director for the Pain Medicine Fellowship Program and assistant professor in Pain Medicine, is one of two faculty members honored with the 2023 Outstanding Program Director Award. Known for his caring spirit, Dr. Osuagwu was recognized not only for his dedication to teaching and the enhancements he has made to the fellowship program but also for his passion for diversity and inclusion.
Mediget Teshome, M.D., program director for the Breast Surgical Oncology Fellowship Program and associate professor in Breast Surgical Oncology, also received the 2023 Outstanding Program Director Award. In addition to the personal attention and support she gives each trainee, Dr. Teshome was recognized for her dedication to continuing education by completing professional development opportunities and seeking feedback and making improvements to the fellowship program.
Outstanding Program Administrator Award
Justin Moore, program manager for several fellowship programs in Pediatrics, received the 2023 Outstanding Program Administrator Award. Moore is recognized for his positive outlook, welcoming personality, eagerness to spread happiness, work ethic, professionalism and innovation. He ensures his programs are up to date on standards and is proficient in organizing everything from schedules to conferences. Focusing on innovation, Moore created a semi-automatic board review course that was presented at The University of Texas Kenneth I. Shine, M.D., Academy of Health Science Education conference and Association of Pediatric Program Directors annual meeting.
Sarah Fike, program coordinator for Clinical Neurophysiology, also received the 2023 Outstanding Program Administrator Award. Fike is known for her responsiveness, thoroughness and going above and beyond for the fellows in her program. She takes extra steps to find answers and provide fellows with the resources they need to have a great experience.