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Black-tie gala celebrates outstanding educators in the KU School of Medicine

January 24, 2019

By Greg Peters

Dr. Gronseth
Rainbow Award winner Gary Gronseth welcomes a young visitor.

The contributions of educators who significantly influenced the lives of students from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City, Salina and Wichita were celebrated during A Grand Affair, the annual black-tie gala, honoring educators and mentors from the last year.

The event, presented by the Medical Student Assembly and the Office of Student Affairs, took place Jan. 19 in the Kay Barnes Grand Ballroom of the Kansas City Convention Center. The Student Voice Award winners are celebrated at the event, highlighted by the presentation of the Rainbow Award, Sunflower Award and the Ad Astra Awards. This year, a new honor recognizing the outstanding mentor from each campus was added to the lineup.

"A Grand Affair shines a spotlight on the best of teaching and mentoring at the University of Kansas School of Medicine," Robert D. Simari, M.D., executive dean of the University of Kansas School of Medicine, told those in attendance. "We celebrate our students' commitment to and passion for their chosen profession. And we deeply appreciate that our students devote this evening to honoring our faculty as outstanding mentors in the science and art of medicine."

A Grand Affair 2019 Program

Rainbow Award: Throughout its history, the practice of medicine has been handed down through the generations by experienced physicians, who were well-versed in their craft. The Rainbow Award honors this tradition by recognizing educators who exemplify professionalism in the practice of medicine and share these qualities with their students. Students nominate candidates whose integrity and respect for others inspire them to have same character qualities in their practices some day.

This year's Rainbow Award was presented to Gary Gronseth, M.D., professor and interim chair of the Department of Neurology at the KU School of Medicine-Kansas City. Gronseth joined the School of Medicine faculty in 2002 after retiring as a colonel from the United States Air Force. In addition to his roles in the Department of Neurology, Gronseth also serves as co-director of the neuroscience course for second-year medical students.

"It's an honor and a thrill. I'm living my professional fantasy every day," Gronseth, who was awarded a Chancellor's Club Teaching Professorship in 2017, told the gathering at the gala. "Teaching is something that is not work. Teaching, working with students, taking care of patients, working with the faculty and administration - it's not work. I'd like to thank the students for all they do and the way they look at things. It's a wonderful experience, and I look forward to many more years of it."

The other finalists for the Rainbow Award were Stepheny Berry, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Surgery; Carrie Francis, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Otolaryngology; Kari Jerge, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Surgery; and Muhammad Nashatizadeh, M.D., clinical assistant professor in the Department of Neurology.

Sunflower Award: The Sunflower Part-Time Faculty Award has expanded to recognize the outstanding work of part-time physician-educators, especially those who excel on the Salina and Wichita campuses. This year's recipient was Therese Cusick, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at the KU School of Medicine-Wichita.

Ad Astra Award: The Ad Astra Outstanding Volunteer Physician Award honors a preceptor who displays excellence and professionalism in the practice of medicine, while giving of their experience, knowledge and time to mentor students from the KU School of Medicine. For many years, preceptors from throughout the state have welcomed students into their communities and practice. Each experience helps educate the physicians of tomorrow. This year's recipient was Scott Coates, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Surgery/General Surgery, Ashley Clinic, Chanute, Kansas.

Bridge Award: Medical school is a time of great transition for most students, whether it's donning their white coats for the first time, celebrating their residency locations on Match Day, or graduating and heading out to begin their careers as doctors. During their time in medical school, KU students often experience major life transitions outside the classrooms and labs, such as marriage, the birth of children, or becoming United States citizens.

So, it was fitting that the Bridge Award, emblematic of the transitions incurred by medical students on their way to becoming physicians, was added this year to honor the mentors who helped guide the students on their paths to becoming doctors. Fourth-year students nominated the mentors who supported them throughout the transition to becoming physicians. One recipient was chosen from each campus.

This year's awardees were Timothy Fields, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in Kansas City; Karen Drake, assistant director of academic affairs for the KU School of Medicine-Wichita; and Laura Easterday, Phase I and student service coordinator for KU School of Medicine-Salina.

A moment of silence was observed for James L. Fishback, M.D., professor emeritus of pathology and laboratory medicine, who died Jan. 13. The crowd rose for a standing ovation when Fishback was honored posthumously with the Outstanding Lecturer Award. Timothy Fields, M.D., Ph.D., accepted the award on Fishback's behalf.

Last modified: Jan 25, 2019