‘Scholarship that makes a difference’: 2017 GHD graduates win commencement awards

The University of Michigan Medical School’s commitment to global health was on full display during the recent commencement ceremony for the class of 2017.

UMMS Graduate Sarah Bell receives her diploma from Executive Vice Dean for Academic Affairs Carol Bradford. Bell was among several GHD students honored with Dean's or department-level awards as part of the 2017 commencement ceremony.

Ten of the students recognized with Dean’s or department-level honors as part of last month’s graduation hailed from the medical school’s unique Global Health and Disparities (GHD) Path of Excellence program.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our GHD students and their recognition, which is well deserved.  Remarkably, much of the students’ work was over and above that required by the GHD Path,” said Brent Williams, MD, Director of the GHD Path of Excellence. “These are committed, skilled innovators destined to do good work during their careers.”

Many of the students recognized with awards traveled overseas during medical school for clinical work or research in places like Peru, Ecuador, Uganda and Sri Lanka. Graduate Sarah Bell, recipient of the OB-GYN Department’s Warner/Goldberg Women’s Health Program Award, conducted women’s health-related research in both Ethiopia and Zambia as a student.

“I feel fortunate simply to have had the opportunity to get involved in global health as a medical student,” Bell said. “Those offerings played a big role in why I wanted to come to U-M for medical school in the first place. U-M’s OB-GYN department does so much in global health, so the fact that they selected me for the award was an honor.”

Chelsea Tafoya, who earned a Dean’s Commendation for Excellence in Clinical Skills and the Art of Medicine, visited Kenya in 2013 on a faculty-led project and returned to Africa in 2016 for a research project helping to train Ghanaian Emergency Medicine residents in the latest ultra-sound techniques.

“It’s wonderful to be recognized, but I really just appreciate getting to be part of this kind of work,” said Tafoya, who is headed for a residency at Oakland California’s Highland Hospital. “For me, being involved in GHD was awesome because it exposed us to so many different options and career paths to explore. The funding and mentorship along the way was amazing.”

GHD, the first Path of Excellence option established for medical students in 2011, remains the largest. Of 24 2017 graduates who completed Path experiences, 20 were GHD students, and they accounted for nearly one fifth of the commencement awards bestowed among 2017 graduates. A GHD faculty advisor, Associate Professor of Surgery Jonathon Finks, MD, was recognized as well.

“Their contributions represent not only good scholarly work, but scholarship that makes a difference. The projects led to real change among disadvantaged populations, with impact that will not end at publication,” said Dr. Williams. “This is what GHD is all about. It was great, though a bit sad as always, to see another group of GHD students heading off to make a difference in the world.”

See below for a full list of GHD Path graduates recognized with awards.


Dean’s Commendation for Excellence in Clinical Skills and the Art of Medicine

Given to 10 percent of senior students, based on top Comprehensive Clinical Assessment (CCA) scores and clinical grades from the required junior clerkships, for outstanding skills in verbal communication with patients, interviewing, counseling, and physical diagnosis.

M4 Chelsea Tafoya

M4 Rashmi Patil


Puneet “Ashu” Ailawadi Memorial Award

Dedicated to Dr. Aliawadi’s family and presented annually to a senior medical student who has demonstrated a commitment to serving underprivileged and underserved populations.

M4 Evan Gil Martin


Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA)

Graduate Rashmi Patil during a research experience in Sri Lanka in May.

The only national honor medical society, AOA recognizes professionalism, academic excellence, service, and leadership within the profession.

M4 Olivia Joy Killeen

M4 Stephen Thomas Lichtenstein

M4 Rashmi Patil

M4 Alana Nicole Pinsky

M4 Eytan Yoel Shtull-Leber  

M4 Elizabeth Fitzgerald Yates


Warner/Goldberg Women’s Health Program Award for Excellence and Commitment to Women’s Health

Given to a graduating senior for outstanding academic achievement and commitment to the ideals of its sponsor, the University of Michigan Center of Excellence in Women’s Health.

M4 Sarah Bell


Robert Wilson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Obstetrics and Gynecology

For outstanding performance in OB/GYN.

M4 Alana Nicole Pinsky


Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Faculty Award

Honoring one faculty member who best demonstrates the ideals of outstanding compassion in the delivery of care and respect for patients, their families, and health care colleagues, as well as demonstrated clinical excellence.

GHD Faculty Advisor Jonathan F. Finks, MD