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2020 AOA Awards

Top Honors

AOA recognizes shining stars of the osteopathic medical profession

Awards honor osteopathic physicians, medical students and affiliate organizations for contributions during the past year.

October 16, 2020

Each year, the osteopathic medical profession joins to celebrate all of the inspiring and influential work being contributed by DOs, medical students and affiliate organizations across every facet of the health care community and beyond. In the video above, AOA Immediate Past President and Chair of the Committee on Awards Ronald R. Burns, DO, presents the following AOA awards:

Distinguished Service Certificate

The AOA’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Certificate, recognizes outstanding accomplishments in the advancement of the science and art of osteopathic medicine, education, philanthropy and other fields of public service. This year’s Distinguished Service honoree is James Lee Valentine, DO, an osteopathic family physician who has dedicated his 40-year career to promoting the practice of osteopathic medicine in his home state of Mississippi. After joining the Mississippi Osteopathic Medical Association (MOMA) early in his career, Dr. Valentine served as MOMA president from 1999-2001 and 2009-2011.

One of his most significant contributions to the growth of osteopathic medicine in the state was his role in establishing the first rural family medicine residency training program in Meridian, Mississippi.

In recognition of receiving this distinguished honor, Dr. Valentine provided the following comments:

James Lee Valentine, DO

To President Ely, Immediate Past President Burns, Committee Chair Tursi, the Mississippi delegation, and the entire AOA House of Delegates, I am so honored that you have selected me as the recipient of this award. I don’t really feel that I deserve it, but I will accept for all of the osteopathic physicians who came before me, with me, and after me to the southern states to practice Osteopathic Medicine and try to make it a household word.

The osteopathic profession gave me the opportunity to do what I have wanted to do since I was 12 years old. People like the late Dr. Henry Pace, Former Kansas City Dean Dr. Wilbur Cole, and the then Kansas City College of Osteopathic Medicine helped give students from the south the opportunity to become Osteopathic Physicians and return home to make a difference in the healthcare of their communities.

I had the privilege and the opportunity to spend four medical school years with leaders like Karen Nichols, DO, Bob Juhasz, DO, and Bill Mayo, DO. Bill and I were good friends even before traveling to Kansas City. It would have been really hard not wanting to step up for the profession when one has them as role models.

I am truly honored that you felt I was worthy of this great award. Thank you so much. And thank you for all of the great work the AOA, the AOA Board of Directors, and the House of Delegates do to support physicians like me. May God bless you and the osteopathic profession. Again, Thank you.

Mentor of the Year

The AOA Mentor of the Year award honors physicians who help shape the future of the profession through involvement with osteopathic medical students, resident physicians and new physicians in practice. This year’s Mentor of the Year is Drew D. Lewis, DO, professor and interim chair of the Department of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine at the Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

As a gifted physician educator and mentor, Dr. Lewis has made a considerable impact on the future DOs who enter his classroom. “Dr Lewis is the model osteopathic physician that I aspire to become, He taught me how to be a better mentor, lecturer and listener and has effectively shaped how I will approach patients, problems and hardships in the future,” wrote one of the former students who nominated Dr. Lewis for the award.

Dr. Lewis provided the following remarks upon receiving the award:

Drew Lewis, DO

First and foremost, I would like to thank the AOA for creating the Mentor of the Year Award; and in doing so, recognizing the efforts that so many DOs put into training the next generation of physicians. While the countless hours and days spent mentoring often go without any financial or other recognition, the experiences are absolutely invaluable to the students who are training by our sides. 

To be considered for this award is a great honor and privilege. 

I wanted to thank just a few of the many mentors who have imparted their passion for teaching to me: Dr.’s David Boesler, Adrian Woolley, Joe Figueroa, Kenten Wang, Brad Klock, Michael Wieting, and Paul Rennie – to name just a few. 

Last and definitely not least, to my extremely supportive family.  My wife has carried our parenting duties solely on her shoulders for far too many evenings and weekends while I worked on preparing a lecture, covered a community event, or travelled for professional development.

Finally… for those who have nominated me – I sincerely hope that you are able to be as blessed as me to mentor our future osteopathic physicians. Thank you so much for this wonderful recognition!

COVID-19 Initiative Award

A new awards category established this year, the COVID-19 Initiative Award recognizes members of the profession who are selflessly serving patients on the front lines of the pandemic or selflessly serving patients in other ways. Awards were issued in the following categories:

  • Physician in Practice: Martin McElya, DO
    As a solo family physician at Neighborhood Medical Center serving the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, Dr. McElya took swift action to develop a COVID-19 testing strategy for his practice at the earliest stages of the pandemic. Keeping his practice open seven days a week and often seeing up to 200 patients per day, Dr. McElya has tested more than 14,000 patients, many of whom used his “Car Doc” drive thru testing service.
  • Resident Physician: Sara Murphy, DO
    Dr. Murphy was completing the fourth year of her emergency medicine residency training in two New York City hospitals when the pandemic hit peak crisis levels.
  • Osteopathic Medical Student: Zach Mitchell, OMS I
    A student at New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University, Mitchell traveled to New York during the peak of the pandemic, volunteering to run 911 calls on an ambulance in the Bronx, one of the hardest-hit areas of the city.
  • Organization: Maine COVID Sitters
    At the start of the pandemic, this group of five University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine students began an initiative to provide free child care, pet care and household services to assist workers on the frontlines. In a matter of weeks, more than 65 additional students across a variety of health care disciplines joined the effort.

STAR Awards

Each year, the Strategic Team and Recognition awards recognize significant contributions made by state, specialty and regional affiliates, colleges of osteopathic medicine and non-practice affiliates that have advanced the osteopathic profession through support of the AOA’s strategic plan. The following organizations were selected for STAR awards this year:

  • American Osteopathic Board of Family Physicians (AOBFP)
    Nominated by the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians, AOBFP was honored for the development and launch of the AOBFP Early Entry Initial Certification program, which allows physicians to complete requirements for AOBFP initial board certification while still completing residency training.
  • New York Institute of Technology Center for Global Health
    Since its founding in 2007, the Center for Global Health has worked to advance and elevate the profile of DOs around the world. Contributions include offering a Certificate in Global Health as a component of the DO elective curriculum, hosting monthly Global Health Grand Rounds to discuss emerging solutions for global health challenges and presenting at national and international conferences to highlight the work of DOs.
  • Missouri Association of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons (MAOPS)
    With the primary goal of developing osteopathic leaders at the state level, MAOPS developed the Wetzel Fellow Program, which graduated its first three fellows this year. An additional outcome of the program is raising awareness and interest at all levels of organized medicine, laying the groundwork for participants to stay engaged with the profession throughout their careers.
  • Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA)
    As the largest independent osteopathic medical student organization, representing more than 15,000 members, SOMA plays a critical role in engaging students within the larger osteopathic community. Notable contributions this year include collaboration with the AOA’s Osteopathic Advocacy Network to advance policy focused on student loan forgiveness and involvement with nomination of the first student commissioners to serve on the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation.

George W. Northup, DO, Medical Writing Award

This year’s Northup Award is granted to the article “Empathy in Medicine National Norms for the Jefferson Scale of Empathy: A Nationwide Project in Osteopathic Medical Education and Empathy (POMEE), which was published in the August 2019 issue of the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. The study’s authors are: Mohammadreza Hojat, PHD; Stephen C. Shannon, DO; Jennifer DeSantis, MEd; Mark R. Speicher, PhD; Lynn Bragan; and Leonard H. Calabrese, DO.

DOCARE Ernest A. Allaby Founder’s Award

The Allaby award recognizes recipients who have demonstrated commitment to serving medically underserved populations through participation in DOCARE outreach. This year’s award posthumously honors the life and legacy of DOCARE friend and longtime supporter, Donald E. Jarnagin, OD, who passed away in March 2019 while treating patients on a medical mission trip in Guatemala. Dr. Jarnagin embarked on his first DOCARE trip in 2007 and participated almost annually from that point on, providing eye care and thousands of pairs of donated glasses to patients in need.

For more information on all this year’s award winners, view the video linked at the top of this article.



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