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AMA Foundation Excellence in Medicine Awards

Excellence in Medicine

Excellence in Medicine Award recipients Samuel A. Cassell, MD, Deborah A. Frank, MD, and Darryl C. Hunter, MD, Colonel, USAFR, pictured with Debasish Mridha, MD, and AMA Foundation Past President Edmond Cabbabe, MD.

Every year the AMA Foundation honors a select group of physicians and medical students who exemplify the medical profession's highest values: commitment to service, community involvement, altruism, leadership and dedication to patient care. The inspirational stories of these awardees demonstrate the enormous impact that one person can have in his or her community.

The 2015 awards celebration will be held on June 5, 2015, in conjunction with the 2015 AMA Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Read about our 2015 Excellence in Medicine Award winners and the 2015 Leadership Award winners.

The 2015 AMA Foundation Excellence in Medicine Awards program is supported by:

Owen Garrick, MD, MBA

"Receiving the Leadership Award confirmed that we are not alone in our passion for excellence in medicine. We, as physicians, can stand together through the AMA Foundation to promote pride in the profession, whether that be through innovative research, policy impact, or caring for the underserved."
—Owen Garrick, MD, MBA

Pride in the Profession Award

Aiding underserved U.S. Patients

The Pride in the Profession Awards honor physicians whose lives encompass the true spirit of being a medical professional: caring for people. By practicing medicine in areas of challenge or crisis, or by devoting their time to volunteerism or public service, these physicians serve as the voice of patients in the United States who otherwise might not be heard.

2015 Recipient :  J. Emilio Carrillo, MD, MPH, New York

At New York-Presbyterian Hospital Dr. Carrillo leads a population-based program that addresses the health care needs of a large urban immigrant community by incorporating cultural competency, using information systems, and coordinating care across the continuum.

Dr. Carrillo’s research and collaborations have laid the foundation for patient-based cross-cultural health care. He designed and collaborated in the implementation and application of a cross-cultural medicine curriculum that has been adopted by many medical centers around the nation and internationally, and has helped to define the fields of cultural competency and cross-cultural communication.

Dr. Carrillo has inspired generations of Hispanic medical students and co-founded an organization that evolved into the Latino Medical Student Organization. He has also pioneered in community health through research, program innovation and launching the Journal of Latin Community Health and the Journal of Multicultural Community Health. He has served in many state and federal advisory councils, as well as advisory groups to the Governors of Massachusetts and New York State.


To qualify, nominees must:

  • Promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of the public health
  • Embody the values of the medical profession through leadership, service, excellence, integrity and ethical behavior
  • Enrich patients, colleagues and the community through dedicated medical practice or service
  • Offer better access to quality health care for an underserved patient population in the U.S.

A $2,500 grant will be given to the institution or organization with which the recipient works. The recipient will also receive travel expenses and accommodations to attend the Excellence in Medicine Awards ceremony.

Dr. Nathan Davis International Award in Medicine

Improving health care globally

Named for the founder of the AMA, the Dr. Nathan Davis International Award in Medicine recognizes physicians whose influence reach the international patient population and change the future of their medical care. By treating, educating and counseling patients beyond the U.S. border, the physician’s work is having a positive impact on health care in the global arena.

2015 Recipient :  Kent Brantly, MD, Fort Worth, Texas

Dr. Brantly worked as a medical missionary at ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, from October 2013 to August 2014. That summer, Dr. Brantly joined the front lines of the battle against the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history when Samaritan’s Purse took responsibility for clinical care of all Liberian Ebola patients. Dr. Brantly was appointed medical director for the only Ebola treatment unit in southern Liberia. On July 26, 2014, he was diagnosed with Ebola Virus Disease and several days later received the first dose of the experimental drug Zmapp before he became the first American evacuated for treatment in the United States at Emory University Hospital. He donated plasma to help others recover from Ebola, including Dallas nurses Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, fellow ELWA Hospital physician and SIM missionary Rick Sacra, MD, and cameraman Ashoka Mukpo. Dr. Brantly feels it his privilege and duty to speak out on behalf of the people of West Africa who continue to suffer from the scourge of Ebola.


To qualify, nominees must:

  • Have improved dramatically medical practice, medical education or medical research outside of the United States
  • Embody the values of the medical profession through leadership, service, excellence, integrity and ethical behavior
  • During a lifetime of service or in a current initiative, has benefited the health and well-being of a specific patient population

A $2,500 grant will be given to the institution or organization with which the recipient works.

The recipient will also receive travel expenses and accommodations to attend the Excellence in Medicine Awards ceremony.

Jack B. McConnell, MD Award for Excellence in Volunteerism

Senior physician volunteerism

The Jack B. McConnell, MD, Award for Excellence in Volunteerism recognizes the work of senior physicians who provides treatment to U.S. patients who lack access to health care. After a full career of practice, these physicians remain dedicated to the future of medicine through the spirit of volunteerism.

2015 Recipient :  Sean G. Palfrey, MD, Boston

Dr. Palfrey has dedicated his life’s work to improving and advocating for children’s health. He founded the Immunization Initiative of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics in the early 1990s. Dr. Palfrey has worked closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Boston Public Health Commission, the Massachusetts State Legislature, and many other organizations on maintaining Massachusetts as a universal distribution state for all recommended vaccines as well as programs on environmental health and safety, universal insurance coverage for children, obesity prevention, and other child health initiatives. He wrote and shepherded a bill through the state legislature to create a public-private trust to fund the purchase, administration and management of all vaccines for all children in Massachusetts, as well as the maintenance of a state vaccine registry.

Additionally, Dr. Palfrey and his pediatrician wife, Judy, have worked with underserved and immigrant populations and children with special health care needs. They have helped to develop medical homes and integrated networks of programs and services.


To qualify, nominees must:

  • Have volunteered a significant portion of their medical services while over the age of 55.
  • Demonstrate their commitment to health care access by assisting underserved U.S. patients.

A $2,500 grant will be given to the institution or organization with which the recipient works.

The recipient will also receive travel expenses and accommodations to attend the Excellence in Medicine Awards ceremony.

Dr. Debasish Mridha Spirit of Medicine Award

Selfless Elimination of Human Suffering

The Dr. Debasish Mridha Spirit of Medicine Award recognizes the work of a U.S. physician who has demonstrated altruism, compassion, integrity, leadership, and personal sacrifice while providing quality health care to a destitute, distressed, or marginalized population in an impoverished community.

2015 Recipient :  Mark Lachs, MD, MPH, New York City

Dr. Lachs is an internationally-recognized expert in the field of elder mistreatment and the disenfranchised elderly. He has published and lectured widely in the areas of elder abuse and neglect, adult protective services, measurement of functional status, ethics, and health care finance. Dr. Lachs’ service to community and country includes prior membership on an Institute of Medicine Committee to address the training needs of health professionals in family violence, a National Institute on Aging Academic Leadership Award, and a Paul Beeson Physician Faculty Scholar Award in Aging. He has testified before the United States Senate Committee on Aging on the subject of elder abuse, sits on the Board of the American Federation for Aging Research, and has served as an advisor for the World Health Organization on matters related to aging. In addition to training medical students, residents, and fellows in geriatric medicine, Dr. Lachs maintains an active clinical practice caring for older adults.

Dr. Lachs was formally trained as a clinical epidemiologist in the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at Yale, so his mentoring expertise extends well beyond the content area of elder abuse. He is frequently sought out by trainees both at his institution and elsewhere as a research methodologist in diverse areas of aging.

Learn more of the Spirit of Medicine Award.


To qualify, nominees must:

  • Have a U.S. medical license, but may practice anywhere in the world.
  • Demonstrate their commitment to health care access by assisting underserved patients and communities.

A $2,500 grant will be given to the institution or organization with which the recipient works.

The recipient will also receive travel expenses and accommodations to attend the 2014 Excellence in Medicine Awards ceremony.

Past Award Recipients

2013 Pride in the Profession Award

Mary Brennan Wirshup, MD, West Chester, PA

Mary Brennan Wirshup, MD, is the Vice President of Medical Affairs at Community Volunteers in Medicine (CVIM) in West Chester, Pennsylvania, a community-based nonprofit organization that provides medical and dental care to low-income, uninsured individuals.  Dr. Wirshup coordinates the efforts of approximately 150 volunteer physicians, nurses and specialists, and serves as a mentor to hundreds of pre-med and medical students that come to CVIM for highly-desired internships and clinical rotations. Her efforts helped CVIM greatly improve the effectiveness of its Diabetes Clinic and Diabetes Self-Management and Education Program. Dr. Wirshup is a Fellow of the Academy of Family Practice, and serves as a Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Practice at Temple Medical School. Dr. Wirshup was also the recipient of the 2008 Nurse Practitioner Advocate of the Year Award from the State of Pennsylvania.

2013 Dr. Nathan Davis International Award in Medicine

Mark L. Jacobson, MD, MPH, Arusha, Tanzania

Mark L. Jacobson, MD, MPH, has been building public health capacity in East Africa for more than 30 years.  Dr. Jacobson spent two decades transforming a small dispensary in the outskirts of Arusha, Tanzania into the Selian Lutheran Hospital, which now encompasses 10 buildings, 250 employees and 12 physicians. Through the Selian Hospital, Dr. Jacobson has provided care for thousands of marginalized and disabled people, as well as the nomadic Maasi people, including specialized care for women suffering from obstetric fistulas, children with orthopedic problems and individuals living with HIV/AIDS.  Dr. Jacobson developed a school for educating Assistant Medical Officers, and under his guidance scores of young doctors, nurses and techs have received training.  In 2005, Dr. Jacobson spearheaded the fundraising and planning efforts to build a second hospital, the Arusha Lutheran Medical Center, which now offers inpatient and outpatient services to Arusha’s urban population. Dr. Jacobson attended medical school at the University of Minnesota and was honored as a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow three times over the course of his career.

Rebecca Morsch, MD, MPH, Kudjip, WHP, Papua New Guinea

Rebecca Morsch, MD, MPH, is the Director of the Community Based Health Care program of the Nazarene Health Ministry in Papua New Guinea, which trains community-chosen Community Health Volunteers and Village Birth Attendants in one of the United Nation’s designated Least Developed Countries. Dr. Morsch’s training curriculum focuses on prevention and provides culturally-sensitive health education about childbirth and childcare, hygiene, waste management, injury prevention and sexually transmitted diseases.  Dr. Morsch also helped organize Papua New Guinea’s array of community-based health organizations into the Effective Development Empowering the Nation (EDEN) Network. After working as a social worker for more than 15 years, Dr. Morsch changed course and entered medical school at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, and went on to earn a Masters of Public Health degree from Loma Linda University.

VK Raju, MD, FRCS, FACS, Morgantown, WV

VK Raju, MD, FRCS, FACS, is the Founder and Medical Director of the Eye Foundation of America (EFA), a charitable organization that provides eye care in 21 developing countries to combat avoidable childhood blindness. For more than 30 years, Dr. Raju has led the EFA in providing free and subsidized treatment in remote areas, and engaging in health education, practitioner training and research efforts that have advanced the visual health of 1.7 million people. Dr. Raju is also a Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at West Virginia University, and has lectureships in various universities across the United States.  He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and of the American College of Surgeons, and has written more than 300 papers, 100 publications and 12 book chapters.

2013 Jack B. McConnell, MD Award for Excellence in Volunteerism

Matthew B. Mandel, MD, Stockbridge, MA

After retiring from a 20-year career as an Anesthesiologist, Matthew B. Mandel, MD decided to shift gears by taking a leadership role in the creation of Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires (VIM Berkshires), a free health care clinic for uninsured and underinsured low-income residents. Prior to retiring in 1997, Dr. Mandel was the Chairman of the Department of Anesthesia at Providence Hospital in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Dr. Mandel has recruited 55 volunteer doctors and clinical providers, as well as 18 off-site specialists. Today, almost 2,000 patients have received treatment at VIM Berkshires over the course of 16,000 visits, and more than 400 patients have received free specialist referrals. Dr. Mandel also serves as a trustee of several other organizations, including the Board of the Community Access to the Arts, the Stockbridge Bowl Association and the Executive Committee of the Berkshire County Medical Society.

View the 30 outstanding 2012 Leadership Award recipients.

View a list of previous Pride in the Profession, Dr. Nathan Davis International and Jack B. McConnell, MD Award recipients.

View a list of previous Leadership Award recipients.

View photos and videos from past award programs on the AMA Foundation Facebook page

Leadership Awards

Developing leaders in medicine

An exceptional medical professional goes beyond the medical practice to positively influence health care. Through organized medicine and community activities, individuals from each stage of the physician lifecycle can—and do—make a difference in the quality of health care and the medical environment.

Read about the 20 medical students, residents and young physicians honored with the 2013 Leadership Awards.

The Leadership Awards are presented to approximately 30 medical students, residents/fellows and early career physicians to recognize their strong, nonclinical leadership skills in advocacy, community service and/or education.


All Leadership Awards are self-nominated, with applicants responsible for submitting all appropriate materials and documentation.

To qualify, applicants must demonstrate outstanding leadership in the areas of advocacy, community service, public health and/or education and be either:

  • A medical student enrolled in an accredited medical school
  • A resident physician enrolled in an accredited residency program, or a fellow physician enrolled in a fellowship program
  • An early-career physician under the age of 40 or in his or her first eight years of practice following residency/fellowship

Recipients will attend the Excellence in Medicine Awards ceremony. Award recipients will be invited to attend leadership development training on February 11 and 12. This training will strengthen leadership skills and result in a greater effort to advance health care in America. Airfare and lodging accommodations are provided, in addition to a nominal reimbursement to help defray travel-related costs.