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Celebrating Excellence: UTGSM's 2023 Welcome Dinner and Faculty Awards

The University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine (UTGSM) recently held its 2023 Welcome Dinner and Faculty Awards, marking an evening of celebration, recognition, and appreciation. Hosted by the Office of the Dean, the reception took place on June 22, 2023, at the elegant Bridgewater Place in Knoxville, TN. The gathering brought together the new residents and fellows joining UTGSM, along with esteemed faculty members, to commemorate their collective dedication to medical education and research.

The 20th annual UTGSM Faculty Awards were presented by Dr. Robert M. Craft, Interim Dean, to recognize faculty for their extraordinary efforts in education and discovery. These awards, representing various aspects of UTGSM's mission, play a vital role in honoring those who have gone above and beyond in their respective fields.

GSM Spirit Award

Rajiv Dhand, MD
Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs
Department of Medicine Chair

This annual award recognizes a faculty member who exemplifies the spirit of the GSM by upholding and promoting the GSM's mission to colleagues, residents, students, staff, and the community. Dr. Dhand’s service and commitment to the GSM embodies the intent of this important award.

Dr. Rajiv Dhand is the Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs and Chair of the Department of Medicine for the GSM. He has made a significant impact on our academic and medical community since joining the GSM eleven years ago. Prior to his arrival, Dr. Dhand had established himself as an accomplished academic physician, attaining the rank of tenured Professor at the University of Missouri. Despite taking on the role of chairing a large department at UTGSM, he has consistently maintained an impressive pace in his clinical work, teaching, research, and service. Dr. Dhand has delivered over 175 visiting professorships and invited lectures, published 76 peer-reviewed journal articles, secured total career extramural research funding of $3.4 million with $1.6 million obtained since joining UTGSM, and chaired a NIH study section. With numerous editorial appointments, books, book chapters, and executive-level committee roles, Dr. Dhand's commitment to excellence and dedication to his field are evident.

Dr. Dhand's impact on the GSM campus extends far beyond his individual achievements. Through his exceptional leadership, mentorship, and vision, he has developed his department into the cornerstone of our academic medical center. While maintaining his own clinical expertise, teaching engagements, and research endeavors, Dr. Dhand has effectively led, supported, and strengthened his department. Under his guidance, the department has witnessed substantial academic growth, transitioning from a focus solely on clinical education to a broader emphasis on scholarly activity and academic excellence, while still upholding its clinical strengths. Moreover, he has fostered the addition of three fellowships within the department, demonstrating his commitment to nurturing and expanding academic opportunities.

"Dr. Dhand has maintained a remarkably steep slope of scholarly activity since he was conferred his MD degree 45 years ago, and his impact on our campus over the past 11 years cannot be overstated. His calm, contemplative and persistent leadership has been literally transformative for his department and our institution," said Interim Dean Craft.

Excellence and Leadership in Basic Science Research

Michael Karlstad, PhD
Department of Surgery

This award is given to outstanding investigators who display excellence and leadership in basic research over their career at the GSM. Michael D. Karlstad, PhD, this year’s recipient, joined the University of Tennessee Medical Center in 1987 and served as the Assistant Dean for Research from 1997 to 2001 after which he collaborated with two departments while working extensively in the fields of trauma and nutrition.

Dr. Karlstad has published over 60 manuscripts, authored multiple book chapters, and presented nearly 100 abstracts at scientific meetings. His dedication to education and mentorship is evident through his impressive list of trainee students and fellows who have benefited from educational experiences in his laboratory.

Additionally, Dr. Karlstad's remarkable funding record includes grants from foundations, the National Institutes of Health, and private industry. Over the past three years alone, he has secured nearly one million dollars in research funding from private industry sponsors to advance the evaluation of therapeutic omega 3 fatty acids' distribution and delivery.

Dr. Karlstad's sustained success establishing meaningful collaborations, training students, and attracting funding make him a truly deserving recipient of this award. His contributions to the field of basic science research, as well as his dedication to training the next generation of researchers, have made a lasting impact on the scientific community.

Excellence and Leadership in Clinical Research

Jill Maples, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

This award is given to a faculty member who demonstrates commitment to the clinical research mission at the GSM. Jill Maples, PhD, this year’s recipient, joined the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2018 as a senior research specialist and was rapidly recognized as a critical resource and leader in clinical research for the department. Now, as an Associate Professor, she serves as the director of departmental clinical research and co-director of the department’s applied physiology lab.

Dr. Maples' remarkable achievements and dedication to the field of Obstetrics and Gynecology have positioned her as a rising leader in clinical research. Her research on physical activity and metabolism, with implications for women in various age groups, including adolescence, pregnancy, mid-life, and cancer, has solidified her position as a trailblazer in the field of clinical research. During these studies, she has helped train faculty, residents, fellows and students in all aspects of clinical research, including working with the IRB, compliant and ethical practices, and working effectively with human subjects.

Further evidence of the inspirational nature of her work can be found in the fact that when a family directing an estate gift recently surveyed the GSM, they landed on her lab as the most appropriate single recipient of the funds. In total, her contributions have been essential to her department’s growing national reputation.

Drs. Larry C. Kilgore and Nikki B. Zite stated in their nomination letter, “Dr. Maples' exceptional commitment, expertise, and significant research endeavors have made her an invaluable asset to our department and the Graduate School of Medicine. Her outstanding contributions in the field of Obstetrics and Gynecology, particularly in the areas of Exercise Science and Bioenergetics, have had a profound impact on advancing evidence-based clinical research."

Excellence in Teaching

Kyle L. Kleppe, MD
Assistant Professor
Department of Surgery

This award honors faculty who exhibit a strong commitment to teaching while serving as a role model to students, residents, and colleagues. This year’s recipient, Kyle L. Kleppe, MD joined the Department of Surgery in 2018 after completing his residency training at the GSM in 2017 and his fellowship training in Advance Gastrointestinal and Minimally Invasive Surgery at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in 2018. In addition to extensive didactic (25-30 didactics per year!) and Socratic teaching to both medical students and residents, this year’s awardee also leads the training for his department in the Center for Advanced Medical Simulation. With respect to the quality of his teaching, he has received 3 departmental teaching awards, as well as induction into the Gold Humanism Honor Society as a resident for his humanism and excellence in teaching on the recommendation of the UTHSC Medical Student class of 2017. Dr. Kleppe has also demonstrated scholarship through publication of peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, as well as presentation of posters and invited lectures.

Dr. Michael B. Freeman, Surgery Chair, wrote in his nomination letter, " The medical students have commented that he gives the best lectures, with one recent comment that they wished he gave all the lectures since they were so insightful and presented in an understandable manner. Dr. Kleppe is an outstanding example of a teacher dedicated to training the next generation of surgeons. His passion for teaching and his ability to effectively educate and inspire students and residents make him truly deserving of the Excellence in Teaching Award."

Excellence in Teaching (Volunteer)

Anton M. Allen, MD
Clinical Associate Professor
Department of Radiology

Recipients of this award are recognized for excellence in teaching by giving their own time and effort to enhance the learning experience of residents, fellows, and students without compensation. This year’s recipient, Anton M. Allen, MD, joined the Department of Radiology in 1994, advancing to Associate Professor in 1999 and working clinically full time until 2020. During that period, he received the departmental teaching award on five separate occasions and the UTGSM Excellence in Teaching Award for regular faculty in 2009. Unlike some faculty members who have transitioned from full-time to volunteer status and reduced their lecture schedules, Dr. Allen has maintained a lecture schedule equal to or greater than many of his full-time counterparts. Dr. Allen's passion for teaching and his unwavering commitment to staying current in his subspecialty have made him a true role model in the field.

According to Dr. Jeffery Peeke, Radiology Chair, who wrote his nomination, "When in the department, his routine is to teach throughout the day despite the fact that this consistently results in him finishing his workday many hours after his colleagues. Dr. Allen has been a tremendous educator and mentor for our residents for many years and exemplifies the self-sacrifice often required to maintain an environment that prioritizes resident learning.”

This annual event brings together the UTGSM community, highlighting the remarkable achievements of its faculty members and welcoming the next generation of medical professionals. Through this event, UTGSM endeavors to foster a culture of collegiality and excellence, while highlighting the past, present and future of medical education and research on our campus.

Regarding the evening, Interim Dean Craft said, "After a pandemic-induced 4-year hiatus, the opportunity to bring our campus together was a welcome respite, and the event was the perfect forum to properly welcome our new residents and appropriately recognize our outstanding faculty."

Posted July 3, 2023


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