Four physicians are being recognized by the AMA Foundation for showing an extraordinary commitment to leadership, community service and care for those in need—each with decades of service that run the gamut from Ebola research to primary care. Find out who has been awarded this year’s honors.

Serving underserved international populations

The AMA Foundation presented this year’s Excellence in Medicine Awards to  physicians June 10 at the 2016 AMA Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Jennifer A. Downs, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the Center for Global Health at Weill Cornell Medical College, is equally comfortable in Ithaca as in her small concrete home in Tanzania.

When she went to that country years ago as a rotating resident, she didn’t suspect she would develop a heartfelt commitment to caring for its people.

“But now I love this country,” said Dr. Downs, “and it is difficult to imagine not working here.”

She is the recipient of this year’s Dr. Debasish Mridha Spirit of Medicine Award, which recognizes a U.S. physician who has demonstrated altruism, compassion, integrity, leadership and personal sacrifice while providing care to marginalized populations.

Dr. Downs’ first days working with the underserved population of Africa led to an epiphany: “I took care of women younger than I was who were dying of AIDS,” she recalled. “It was haunting. And I knew then that I wanted to come back and work to address the problem.”

Dr. Downs, who has learned the local language and become enmeshed in the culture of Tanzania, teaches, mentors and carries out clinical care. She makes the care and education of women a priority.. A $2,500 grant will be given to the Center for Global Health in her name.

Adam Levine, MD, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, is the recipient of the Dr. Nathan Davis International Award in Medicine. It comes with a grant of $2,500 to the International Medical Corps.

The award recognizes Dr. Levine for outstanding international service. He has responded to humanitarian emergencies in Haiti, Libya, South Sudan and Liberia, and has led research and training initiatives in Zambia, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

He currently serves as the emergency medicine coordinator for the USAID-funded Human Resources for Health Program, helping to develop the first emergency medicine training program in Rwanda. He serves as the primary investigator for the Ebola research team of the International Medical Corps, a disaster and humanitarian relief organization, and as director for the Humanitarian Innovation Initiative at Brown University.

Dr. Levine also is editor-in-chief of Academic Emergency Medicine's annual Global Emergency Medicine Literature Review. His research focuses on improving the delivery of emergency care in resource-limited settings and during humanitarian emergencies.

Providing care for U.S. patients without access

This year the AMA Foundation recognizes two recipients of the Jack B. McConnell, MD, Award for Excellence in Volunteerism, honoring senior physicians who provide treatment to U.S. patients who lack access to health care.

Charles Clements, MD, a family medicine specialist in Huntington, W.V., helped found the Marshall Medical Outreach, a medical screening and treatment program for the local homeless community. The program provides an average of 35 patients a day with family medicine, internal medicine, ophthalmology and dermatology treatment. Many patients are referred to Recovery Point, an addiction treatment facility.

Dr. Clements plans to spend his summer with a group of medical students on his seventh trip to treat underserved villages in Honduras. He and his students will examine and treat more than 1,500 people, providing perhaps the only medical attention they receive this year.

His award comes with a grant of $2,500 to Marshall Medical Outreach.

The second McConnell recipient, Rafael A. Zaragoza, MD, is a urologist who lives in Delaware. His award comes with a $2,500 grant to the Delaware Prostate Cancer Coalition.

Dr. Zaragoza formed the Volunteer Ambulatory Surgical Access Program to provide free low-risk outpatient surgery to the uninsured in Kent County, Del., who cannot afford private pay and are not eligible for Medicaid.

Participating surgeons and nurses volunteer their time, and use of operating rooms is free to patients. He also launched the Hope Clinic, which provides non-emergency medical care to the uninsured.

 

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