The University of Kentucky College of Medicine is pleased to announce the faculty, staff, and learner winners of the inaugural Mission, Vision, Pillar, and Enabler Awards.

These awards are new for the college and recognize individuals in the college who have made exceptional contributions that embody the overall mission, vision, and purpose of the college’s current strategic plan, COMMITS, which encompasses excellent education, patient-centered clinical care, transformative research, diversity and inclusion, community engagement, and enabling the success of each.

The following individuals were nominated and awarded for their outstanding achievement in the aforementioned areas.


Loor Alshawa, MD | Learner Awardee
Chief Resident, Internal Medicine

Dr. Alshawa exemplifies the College of Medicine’s mission through her roles as a physician, medical educator, and mentor for residents. This is evidenced by her glowing reviews from trainees and faculty, her innovative curricular developments, excellent seminars for the department of internal medicine, and her continued efforts to advance her training as a physician-scientist. “Perhaps no other resident contributes more to building a foundation for providing equitable health care than Dr. Alshawa,” according to her nomination. She built a curriculum for diversity, equity, and inclusion for the internal medicine residency program that has addressed health disparities, cultural competence, and efforts to create a more inclusive environment at UK.

Michele Staton, PhD, MSW | Faculty Awardee
Professor, Behavioral Science
Faculty Associate, Center on Drug and Alcohol Research

Dr. Staton’s work at the College of Medicine has been mission-focused through community engagement, excellent education, and transformative research, which over the last two decades has made an impact on one of the major health challenges for Kentuckians, substance use disorder. She has worked to increase access to evidence-based treatment for individuals who use drugs, particularly rural Appalachia, and help find solutions for individuals in high-risk environments who do not seek necessary treatment because of stigma or other challenges. Dr. Staton is a national expert who has authored more than 150 peer-reviewed publications, three books, and 13 book chapters, along with over 250 presentations. Her research has also provided training opportunities for undergraduate, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars.


Amy Meadows, MD | Faculty Awardee
Director, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Assistant Professor, Pediatrics and Psychiatry

According to Dr. Meadows’s nomination, “her vision for the future of health care is unparalleled.” With a background in pediatrics, psychiatry, and child psychiatry, she is a dedicated researcher and compassionate physician who approaches her patients with warmth, thoughtfulness, and clinical expertise. As director of her division, she has increased inpatient services to children, improved systems, adapted services to accommodate patient surges, and furthered plans to expand and move the inpatient child and adolescent unit, which will open earlier than expected. Her involvement with the College of Medicine and UK HealthCare includes serving on multiple committees at Kentucky Children’s Hospital and in her department, as vice president of the Kentucky Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and on two committees for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, including chairing their triple board committee. Additionally, she maintains relationships with learners of all levels, sharing her clinical expertise through clinical work and didactic lectures.

Gabriella Pugh | Learner Awardee
PhD Candidate, Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics

The vision of the UK College of Medicine is to serve as a national leader in solving the challenges in health care through transdisciplinary and transformational research, education, and advanced clinical care. As a “natural leader both in the lab and throughout all aspects of her life,” Gabriella embodies this vision, not only through her own research in diabetes, obesity, and immunology, but also by effectively sharing her knowledge with the next generation of scientists. According to her nomination, Pugh is a visionary “in her research, her ideas to educate others, and her desire to produce interdisciplinary research that is immediately applicable in a clinical setting.”


Sandra Batsel-Thomas, MD | Faculty Awardee
Associate Professor, Psychiatry
Director, Psychiatry Residency Program

Through her various leadership roles in the College of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, Dr. Batsel-Thomas prioritizes excellence in education. During her time at UK, she has focused on recruiting Kentucky applicants, particularly those who have an interest in rural medicine and training in Kentucky, for Kentucky. Those who train at UK have benefited from Dr. Batsel-Thomas’s efforts to improve in-training exam and psychiatry board exam scores, call schedules, quality of supervision, and wellness opportunities. She has also been vital to the expansion of the College of Medicine’s educational offerings by creating a clinical scholars track, a "child track," and a combined internal medicine/ psychiatry residency program to address the need for comprehensive psychiatric care. “She has elevated the status and quality of education,” her nomination reads, “and furthered the mission to promote quality physicians throughout our state.”

Brandy Lawson | Staff Awardee
Accreditation Manager Senior, Office of Medical Education

Brandy “is the Education Pillar personified” for her instrumental work in upholding the ongoing educational success of the College of Medicine for nearly 18 years. As accreditation manager she helps the College of Medicine stay on top of the evolving accreditation standards of the Liaison Committee on Medicine Education (LCME) and is responsible for overseeing the preparation, documentation, and timely submission of LCME requirements, compliance processes, and continuous quality improvement (CQI) initiatives. Lawson also goes above and beyond to help with other college initiatives including the review of committees and guidelines and hiring processes. According to her nomination, Brandy “always has at heart the best interests of the college's pursuit of educational excellence.”


Thomas Curry Jr., PhD | Faculty Awardee

Professor and Vice Chair, Obstetrics and Gynecology
Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) Program
Director, Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) and UK Center for Appalachian Research in Environmental Sciences (UK-CARES) Pilot Project Program

With over 30 years dedicated to the University of Kentucky, Dr. Curry has built an expansive portfolio of exceptional mentorship and groundbreaking research, which has been “significant and influential to the field of scientific discovery.” His research in reproductive endocrinology has focused on understanding key regulatory pathways in the ovary. Understanding such pathways could potentially improve fertility or, conversely, be targets for contraception. His research has created plentiful learning opportunities for undergraduate students, professional students, graduate students, medical residents, and postdoctoral fellows. In addition, Dr. Curry trains junior faculty in women’s health research through his role as research director and principal investigator of the former NIH Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) in Women’s Health program (2000-2010) and the NIH BIRCWH program (2000–present). The BIRCWH program has trained 32 young investigators in women’s health who have received over 100 extramural grants and contracts. Dr. Curry also assists the research careers of faculty across the UK campus as the director of the pilot programs for the CCTS and UK-CARES, supporting the next generation of team science-oriented translational science projects. 

Tanya Myers-Morales | Staff Awardee
Scientist, Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics

After nearly 25 years at UK, Tanya has demonstrated her commitment to advancing research through external funding, published papers, and an overall “collaborative spirit that makes research at UK successful.” She has worked with multiple research teams to tackle basic science questions on human pathogenic bacteria, including Yersinia pestis, Listeria monocytogenes, and the Burkholderia cepacia complex. According to her nomination, Tanya approaches her responsibilities “with integrity, efficiency and a genuine love for science.” Through these efforts, she makes her entire department “a better place to work.” She currently serves on her department’s diversity, equity, and inclusion committee, and engages in the community through volunteer work.

Clinical Care

Joseph Kim, MD | Faculty Awardee
Chief, Division of Surgical Oncology
Professor of Surgery

In line with the College of Medicine’s mission of compassionate clinical care, Dr. Kim helps patients and families at Markey Cancer Center navigate the most difficult times in their lives. He coordinates and delivers multidisciplinary care to ensure patients’ needs are met throughout treatment, and that compassionate delivery of care impacts the next generation of physicians and scientists. Cancer is a prevalent disease in the Commonwealth. When standard practices fail, as is often the case for difficult-to-treat cancers, Dr. Kim initiates and promotes clinical trials so patients can explore new treatment options. “His ability to translate basic science and evidence-based medicine into practice in a timely fashion is helping Kentucky cancer patients improve their outcomes,” reads his nomination.

Erica LeMaster | Staff Awardee
Clinical Services Technician, Internal Medicine

Erica goes above and beyond to ensure her team’s patients in the department of internal medicine are cared for and appreciated, which is instrumental to the college’s mission of providing patient-centered clinical care. She connects with patients and gets to know them and their families. She has purchased diapers, food, and clothes for patients in need and knits blankets for new mothers. Erica has counseled patients and provided them with resources to help them navigate the legal processes in domestic violence cases. “She is invested in the health and well-being of children in particular, but shows kindness and compassion to my patients of all ages,” her nomination reads. “I literally do not know what I would do without her.”

Diversity and Inclusion

Ariel Arthur | Staff Awardee
Program Manager, Center for Health Equity Transformation

Ariel’s work toward diversity, equity, and inclusion involves the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students. She established the first cohort of the Students Participating as Ambassadors for Research in Kentucky (SPARK) in 2019, an undergraduate health equity research training program through which she recruited diverse students, provided health equity training, increased participation, and secured additional funding for a third cohort. Ariel also supports the department of behavioral science’s White Coats for Black Lives fellowship, and she contributes significantly to activities that advance health equity research and training by supporting efforts of communication, budget, programming, and research subcommittees for the UK Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET). According to her nomination, she “is a health equity professional who takes her commitment to equity very seriously. Her passion contributes to her work ethic, which benefits faculty, staff, and learners in the College of Medicine.”

Ima Ebong, MD, MS | Faculty Awardee
Director, Diversity and Inclusion, Neurology
Assistant Professor, Neurology

Dr. Ebong’s works diligently to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion in both her department and the College of Medicine as a whole. Her commitment was demonstrated early at UK as a student when she established the University of Kentucky Medical Education Program (UKMED), an annual recruitment event for underrepresented medical students. As director of diversity and inclusion, she has been influential to the success of the department of neurology’s efforts such as implementing inclusion, diversity, equity, antiracism, and social justice strategies (IDEAS), engaging with local high schools, and establishing an IDEAS book club. Nationally, she graduated from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Diversity Leadership Program and has served on the AAN Antiracism Workgroup, the AAN Diversity Officers Workgroup, and the AAN IDEAS Subcommittee. Dr. Ebong recently was recognized for her outstanding work with the inaugural Catalyst Award presented by the UK Martin Luther King Jr. Center.

Jennifer Torres Yee, MD | Learner Awardee
Resident, Internal Medicine

In her role at UK, Dr. Torres Yee’s goal is to create a representative, equitable, and welcoming environment for faculty, staff, and learners of all backgrounds. She embodies this mission through her clinical role as she completes training at the University of Kentucky Medical Center which she plans to continue doing at the Markey Cancer Center during her fellowship training. She forms meaningful relationships with patients and families, studies cancer disparities, and identifies social determinants of health in vulnerable communities, including those with limited-English-proficient (LEP) patients. Dr. Torres Yee has worked to identify social gaps that negatively affect the delivery of oncological care in disadvantaged Hispanic communities such as language barriers and financial burden. She is “deeply devoted” to providing high-quality health care to anyone in her community with current focus in Kentucky and the Appalachia region. "No person should die from a curable cancer." Her commitment to service — caring for both patients and colleagues — is a defining aspect of her character.

Community Engagement

Bodie Stevens | Staff Awardee
Administrator, Rural Physician Leadership Program, Office of Medical Education

As a vital staff member of the UK College of Medicine Rural Physician Leadership Program (RPLP), Bodie has established and maintained relationships and partnerships in Morehead, Ky., and the eastern Kentucky region. These relationships include staff and leadership at St. Claire Regional Medical Center and Morehead State University, two key partners who helped establish the college’s training in Morehead. Bodie is chair of the Morehead Rowan County Chamber of Commerce Board, district chair for the Rowan County Extension Board, treasurer for Domestic Violence Emergency Services (DOVES) of Gateway, and treasurer for the Eta Gamma Alumni Association of Theta Chi Fraternity. Bodie also has a close connection to the Northeast Area Health Education Center staff. As someone who “truly believes in the value of rural medicine,” the work he does to build partnerships and help RPLP students is his way of advancing health in the Commonwealth, particularly underserved rural populations. After students graduate, he supports them and shares their successes with current students to demonstrate the impact they can make as physicians in their communities.

Hilary Surratt, PhD | Faculty Awardee
Associate Professor, Behavioral Science

Dr. Surratt’s accomplishments in community-engagement are reflected in her research on substance use disorders, her community-facing service, and the educational activities and events she has established with community stakeholders. As a Kentucky native with a passion for working in underserved communities, she has forged successful bi-directional partnerships with rural Appalachian county health departments to undertake critical harm reduction research in areas of the Commonwealth devastated by the opioid epidemic. She partners with the department of obstetrics and gynecology to evaluate best practices for delivering prenatal education and medication treatment for pregnant women in Kentucky communities heavily impacted by opioid use disorder. She also has been a key member of the community engagement faculty team on the KY HEALing Communities study led by Sharon Walsh, PhD. Dr. Surratt “has embraced the opportunity to build research programs that support community strengths, to collaborate with communities implementing leading-edge harm reduction programs, and to share the transformative work at the national level.”


Angela Dearinger, MD, MPH | Faculty Awardee
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, Well-being and Professionalism
Assistant Dean for Accreditation, Graduate Medical Education
Associate Professor, Internal Medicine

Dr. Dearinger has brought immense value to the College of Medicine as a leader in promoting wellness for learners. This year, she implemented the Mayo Clinic’s well-being index, an online tool that allows students to track their own wellness and gain access to personalized support resources suggested for them. Dr. Dearinger also collaborates with the Woodland Group to provide counseling resources for learners, and because of her work, participation has increased. In addition, she has implemented well-being rounds for upper class students to have a safe place to go to process difficult or emotional patient experiences, as well as a series building realistic expectations to life as a physician by having physicians share their own stories. Dr. Dearinger also leads the student professionalism group, Committee on Advocacy for Professionalism and Ethics (CAPE), and the Salvation Army Clinic – both which play an important role in the future success of responsible doctors.

Stephen Welch
Manager, Academic and Research Technology, UK HealthCare and UK College of Medicine

Stephen has dedicated more than 20 years to information technology, with most of those years at the UK College of Medicine. According to his nomination, he is “an undeniable asset” by serving as the information technology lead on several projects, including the establishment of both regional campuses in Bowling Green and Northern Kentucky. Through his role he completes user interface design, code reviews, and programming projects to improve efficiency; however, during the COVID-19 pandemic, he went above and beyond to lead and assist his team in transitioning the medical school curriculum delivery to fully remote/hybrid. Described as a team player, his nomination says that he “effectively leads the team to ensure the college's mission is accomplished. It is an honor to be his colleague, witness his leadership, and learn from him.”

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