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2021 ACMSF Award Winners

The annual Allegheny County Medical Society Foundation (ACMSF) awards recognize outstanding efforts by physicians, health care professionals and others who have significantly advanced patient care, contributed to improving the health of the community, served the medical profession, provided exceptional leadership, or enhanced the quality of patient care and safety. Due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, ACMSF was unable to present these awards in 2020, so this year we will have a double celebration. The 2020 and 2021 award recipients will be honored at the first ACMSF Virtual Gala Thursday, October 7, 2021. We hope that you will join us electronically, from the comfort of your home, as we pay tribute to these highly deserving award recipients. 

To view the full article honoring each of our awardees, click here.

The following are the 2020 ACMSF award recipients:

Ralph C. Wilde Leadership Award

Brad W. Butcher, MD, Fellow-elect, ACCM, is the 2020 recipient of the Ralph C. Wilde Leadership Award, which recognizes a physician who demonstrates exceptional skill in clinical care of patients and dedication to the ideals of the medical profession as a teacher or profession leader. It is presented to a physician who exemplifies the personal and professional characteristics – physician, teacher, leader and human being – of the late Ralph C. Wilde. This award is considered the most prestigious of the ACMS awards. Ralph C. Wilde was the chief of general surgery at Allegheny General Hospital and was serving as president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society at the time of his death from leukemia in 1974.

Dr. Butcher is the co-director of the medical-surgical intensive care unit at UPMC Mercy Hospital and the director of the Critical Illness Recovery Center, which he created in 2016. The Critical Illness Recovery Center (CIRC) is a follow-up program that is designed to serve patients who have spent a prolonged time in the ICU receiving treatment for life-threatening conditions. “These patients have survived, but their recovery can be complicated by a constellation of disabilities – physical, psychiatric, cognitive and social – which impair quality of life for them and their families,” Dr. Butcher said. “They often experience depression, anxiety and PTSD. An ICU admission is a profound, life-altering experience, and these patients have post-ICU syndrome; they recover and leave the ICU to be cared for by their PCPs and specialists who may not be fully aware of the impact of the ICU experience.”


Benjamin Rush Community Organization Award

Brother’s Brother Foundation is the recipient of the Benjamin Rush Community Organization Award for 2020. Ozzy Samad, president, will accept the award on behalf of the organization. This award recognizes a community institution or organization that is successfully addressing a public health issue. Benjamin Rush (1745-1813) was a physician and one of the most prolific medical professors of his time. He is credited with curing the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793. He was also a social activist, an advocate for the abolition of slavery, for scientific education for the masses, including women, and for public clinics to treat the poor. Because of his devotion to public health, the Benjamin Rush Community Organization Award was established in 1947 and is given each year to a community organization in appreciation of outstanding contributions to public health.

Brother’s Brother Foundation has a long, noble history and a mission to promote international health and education through the efficient and effective distribution of donated medical, educational, agricultural, and other resources. Founded in 1958 by anesthesiologist Robert Hingson, MD, and originally called the Brother’s Keeper Foundation, Brother’s Brother Foundation has a unique origin. Dr. Hingson was an innovator who developed a new method to conduct needle-less immunizations in underserved countries using a “jet injector” device. This instrument enabled mass inoculation against diseases such as smallpox, polio, tetanus and others. It became known as “the peace gun” and it had the capacity to treat 1,000 persons per hour with multiple vaccines. Dr. Hingson recruited his physician colleagues to accompany him across the globe to immunize millions of people in developing countries, and that was the beginning of the Brother’s Brother Foundation. From 1958 to 1980, the Foundation immunized 10 million people.


John G. Krah Executive Leadership Award

Mark DeRubeis, MBA, chief executive officer of Premier Medical Associates, is the 2020 recipient of the John G. Krah Executive Leadership Award. This award, established by the ACMS Foundation in 2014, recognizes an individual who has demonstrated exemplary leadership and advocacy for physicians.Over a sustained time, the recipient shall have displayed administrative guidance to physicians to support their ability to improve the lives and health of the people of our community.

Mr. DeRubeis has been with Premier Medical Associates since 2001, when he joined the organization as chief operating officer. Francis R. Colangelo, MD, who nominated Mr. DeRubeis for this award, said that he immediately demonstrated an exceptional ability to listen to physicians and understand their concerns. “Mark is an outstanding leader and change agent who became CEO in 2004 and guided PMA through many transitions, including its reorganization as a separate, independent entity. Mark led a lean administrative team that focused on making PMA a financially sustainable and eventually profitable organization. He developed what became known as the ‘Premier culture’ – accountable and excellent patient care at a lower cost than that of competitors. Under his direction, PMA developed a reputation for delivering the highest quality and most cost-effective care in the region.”


Benjamin Rush Individual Award

Maren L. Cooke, PhD, is the recipient of the Benjamin Rush Individual Award, which recognizes a non-physician who is making a positive impact on community health. Dr. Cooke is a scientist, educator, activist, master gardener, wife, mother, artist and musician. “Maren is living proof that one individual can have a profound and even transformative effect on others,” said Edward Wrenn, MD, who nominated her for the award. “Maren is an inspiration and role model. She has taught me that if you see something that’s not right, that is inconsistent with your values, you must act on it.”

Dr. Cooke has a BS in physics and astronomy, (and most of a BA in studio arts) from the University of Rochester, and a PhD in planetary science from Cornell University. She completed a post-doctoral fellowship at MIT in science education and formerly worked for NASA. She moved to Pittsburgh in 2000 and quickly became involved in the Group Against Smog and Pollution, or GASP, a non-profit citizens group founded in 1969 to serve Western Pennsylvania as a clean air watchdog, litigator, policymaker and education resource. She helps lead 350 Pittsburgh, Pittsburghers Against Single-Use Plastic and ReImagine Food System. Dr. Cooke co-founded a school garden and school outreach program with Frick Environmental Center and serves as an urban ecosteward with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, and as a Tree Tender with TreePittsburgh. She organizes the Sustainability Salon, a monthly environmental education forum and community gathering.


Kurt Richard Weiss; MD; Hip and Knee Orthopedic Surgery; Orthopedic Oncology; Department of Orthopaedic Surgery; consent signed; portrait; NPI 1164625380;

Richard E. Deitrick Humanity in Medicine Award

Kurt R. Weiss, MD, is the recipient of the 2020 Richard E. Dietrick Humanity in Medicine Award. This award honors a physician who has improved the lives of patients by caring for them with integrity, honesty and respect for their human dignity, and has served as a role model for other physicians. Dr. Weiss was nominated by Mark Goodman, MD. “Kurt is a cancer survivor who has dedicated his career to the treatment of orthopedic cancer patients,” Dr. Goodman said. “He has empathy beyond what most doctors can muster. He is available to his patients and their families beyond surgical care. He helped to found Pittsburgh Cure Sarcoma, a 501c3 that raises money for sarcoma research. He himself is a well-respected sarcoma researcher in his own right. He also started the Kurt Weiss/seven eleven scholarship for post Make a Wish participants.” Pittsburgh Cure Sarcoma raises awareness of childhood and adult sarcoma and funds sarcoma research in Pittsburgh and beyond.

Dr. Weiss began his affiliation with the UPMC Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in 1994 when he performed basic science research in the Ferguson Laboratory as an undergraduate student. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1997. During medical school at Jefferson Medical College, he performed one year of bone cancer research at the National Cancer Institute as part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute/National Institutes of Health Research Scholars Program. He completed his residency in orthopaedic surgery at UPMC, and his fellowship in musculoskeletal oncology at the University of Toronto. Dr. Weiss was recruited back to his hometown of Pittsburgh in 2010, and established the Department’s Musculoskeletal Oncology Laboratory. Dr. Weiss specializes in the care of adults and children with musculoskeletal tumors.


Nathaniel Bedford Primary Care Physician Award

Jonathon Weinkle, MD, FAAP, is the recipient of the 2020 Nathaniel Bedford Primary Care Physician Award, given by the Allegheny County Medical Society since 1975 to honor a primary care physician who has demonstrated long-term dedication to the physical and psychological well-being of his or her patients. Nathaniel Bedford is believed to be Pittsburgh’s first practicing physician; he located to the region in 1784 and was a founder of the Pittsburgh Academy which eventually became the University of Pittsburgh. “Dr. Weinkle is a general internist and pediatrician who has worked since 2008 as a primary care physician in the Squirrel Hill Health Clinic, where a large portion of his patient population are recent immigrants to Pittsburgh,” said Mark Goodman, MD, who nominated Dr. Weinkle for this award. “He teaches courses in end-of-life care at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, as clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics, and serves as medical director of the Physician Assistant Studies Program at Chatham University.”

In 2018, Dr. Weinkle published a book, “Caring for People Not Patients: Creating Authentic Relationships in Modern Healthcare.” The book is based on his experiences building relationships with patients, with emphasis on the encounter between the one who seeks healing and the one who offers healing. The book is used to instruct medical students and other healthcare workers.


Physician Volunteer Award 

Justin J. Vujevich, MD, FAAD, is the recipient of the 2020 Physician Volunteer Award, established in 2001 to recognize a physician for the donation of their time or talents for charitable, clinical, educational or community service activities, domestically or internationally. Dr. Vujevich is being recognized for his leadership and longstanding commitment to the Pittsburgh community and the field of dermatology. In 2003, Dr. Vujevich founded a dermatology clinic at the Birmingham Clinic in the South Side of Pittsburgh; the clinic offers free health care to homeless, uninsured and medically indigent individuals. “Since starting the clinic, Dr. Vujevich has helped with its organizational structure, including fundraising initiatives, and continues to volunteer seeing patients and teaching UPMC medical students and residents,” said Christie Regula, MD, who nominated Dr. Vujevich for this award. “Since 2011, Dr. Vujevich has served as committee chairman for the Angel’s Fund, a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance to children and families with exceptional medical needs. In partnership with Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, The Highmark Caring Place, and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, The Angel’s Fund helps families with non-medical expenses associated with outpatient medical care.” 

Dr. Vujevich is co-founder of the non-profit Sun Smart Pittsburgh. This 501(c) (3) organization was started in 2016 with the mission to promote sun protection and skin cancer awareness through the installation of public sunscreen dispensers in local parks. To date, 28 sunscreen dispensers have been installed in public parks, running trails, playgrounds, and tennis courts as well as at community events. Dr. Vujevich also is involved in volunteer activities through local and national societies. A former president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology, he continues to be involved in their mentorship program, furthering the education and professional development of dermatology residents and early-career dermatologists. Dr. Vujevich has impacted the community not only through his participation in volunteer activities but also by creating opportunities for others to serve.


The following are the 2021 ACMSF award recipients:

Nathaniel Bedford Primary Care Award

John T. Wisneski Jr., MD, is the 2021 recipient of The Nathaniel Bedford Primary Care Award, which recognizes a primary care physician for exemplary care of patients.

The Nathaniel Bedford Primary Care Physician Award, given by the Allegheny County Medical Society since 1975, honors a primary care physician who has demonstrated long-term dedication to the physical and psychological well-being of his or her patients. Nathaniel Bedford is believed to be Pittsburgh’s first practicing physician; he located to the region in 1784 and was a founder of the Pittsburgh Academy which eventually became the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Wisneski has specialized in internal medicine and geriatrics throughout his 35-year career. His practice, Prime Care Medical Associates UPMC, is located in Aspinwall, Pa., near UPMC St. Margaret Hospital, where he serves as director of medical services; chair, department of medicine; and chair, quality assurance/care management. Dr. Wisneski also is an associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He was nominated for the award by his colleague, Thaddeus Osial, MD, who said, “John is a long-term conscientious care provider who has been a vocal and reliable spokesperson for the patient. John believes in holding care providers to the highest standards of care. He has championed the cause of quality care in multiple positions.”


MD; consent signed;

Richard E. Deitrick Humanity in Medicine Award

Terrence W. Starz, MD, is the recipient of the Richard E. Dietrick Humanity in Medicine Award, which honors a physician who has improved the lives of patients by caring for them with integrity, honesty, and respect for their human dignity, and is a role model for other physicians. The award was established in 2012.

Dr. Starz was nominated by three colleagues: E.J. Donnelly, MD, Edie Shapira, MD, and Mark Schmidhofer, MD. All three were residents on Dr. Starz’s teaching service when he was a new attending at Montefiore Hospital in the early 80s. All three were inspired by his example, and all three chose him to be their personal and family physician. “Terry is a superb physician, powerful role model, teacher, researcher, colleague and community servant,” Dr. Shapira said.“He excels in both rheumatology and general internal medicine, and always has time to thoughtfully and compassionately listen – at the bedside, in the office and on the phone. He is deeply grounded by both the current medical literature, by common sense rooted in years of practice and by enormous kindness.”


Ralph C. Wilde Leadership Award

 

 

John S. Rozel MD; Psychiatry; Department of Psychiatry; consent signed; portrait; NPI 1033151543;

John S. Rozel, MD, MSc, associate professor of psychiatry, adjunct professor of law, and Medical Director of resolve Crisis Network, is the recipient of the Ralph C. Wilde Leadership Award for his outstanding contributions and leadership in the field of emergency mental health, both locally and nationally. Reshma Paranjpe, MD, who nominated Dr. Rozel, says that in the years since they attended medical school together at Brown University, her friend’s compassion and dedication have only blossomed and grown.

The Ralph C. Wilde Award, established in 1975, is considered the most prestigious ACMS award. It is presented to a physician who exemplifies the personal and professional characteristics – physician, teacher, leader and human being – of the late Ralph C. Wilde. It recognizes a physician who demonstrates exceptional skill in clinical care of patients and dedication to the ideals of the medical profession as a teacher or profession leader.

Dr. John “Jack” Rozel has been working in emergency mental health for more than 25 years and has been the medical director of the resolve Crisis Network since 2010. He completed his general psychiatry residency and child and forensic psychiatry fellowships at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC. He is president of the American Association for Emergency Psychiatry, a national organization dedicated to the improvement of compassionate, evidence-based care for people with psychiatric emergencies. Dr. Rozel has served as an incident commander for mass shootings and been involved in the behavioral health response to several mass casualty events. A major contributor to the National Council for Behavioral Health’s 2019 report on Mass Violence, Dr. Rozel is working with a team to develop best practices for violence risk screening for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network and was appointed to the Pennsylvania Governor’s Special Council on Gun Violence.


Benjamin Rush Community Organization Award

Women for a Healthy Environment (WHE) is the 2021 recipient of the Benjamin Rush Community Organization Award, which recognizes a company, institution, organization, or agency that is successfully addressing a community health issue.  

In 2007, more than 2,000 local women showed up when the first Women’s Health and The Environment conference, sponsored by The Heinz Endowments and Magee Women’s Hospital of UPMC, took place in Pittsburgh.  The unexpectedly enthusiastic response stunned the conference planners, recalls Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, executive director of WHE. “The conference was a gathering of scientists, government leaders and healthcare professionals who shared concerns about environmental exposures and women’s health,” she said. “No one was expecting such an overwhelming response. We knew something important was going on.”


Benjamin Rush Individual Award

Victoria S. Humphrey, MD, is the 2021 recipient of the Benjamin Rush Individual Award, which recognizes a person who is not a practicing healthcare professional but devotes time, skill or resources to helping others and contributes to the advancement of healthcare. Dr. Humphrey is a June 2021 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who has recently begun a residency in internal medicine at the University of Miami JFK Medical Center. She then plans to move to Boston for the Harvard Combined Dermatology Program. Dr. Humphrey is passionate about her choice of medical specialty: “I love the mix of medicine, internal medicine and psychiatry that is dermatology. We see so much manifestation of systemic disease in dermatology. I am especially interested in skin of color dermatology because there are few dermatologists of color; it’s the second least diverse medical specialty. I am an advocate for increased diversity in the field.”

Advocacy is a way of life for the Tampa Bay native, who founded a school snack program in 2014 after learning about the gap in education quality based on zip codes in Florida. She understood that food insecurity put children at a great disadvantage, academically and developmentally, and she was moved to act. Apples 4 Education was the result: It’s a program that distributes healthy breakfasts to children attending underfunded schools. Seven years later, the program is still going strong. “Victoria’s passion is making certain that everyone is afforded an equal opportunity,” said her friend, Ronald Henri, who nominated her for the award. “When she came to Pittsburgh for medical school, she and a classmate created a similar program called Snacks for STEM. They would go into classrooms to discuss STEM careers and pass out healthy snacks. She believes that it’s empowering for children to see people like herself who are striving to achieve their goals.”


John G. Krah Executive Leadership Award

Freddie H. Fu, MD, is the 2021 recipient of the John G. Krah Executive Leadership Award. Dr. Fu is the David Silver Professor, Division of Sports Medicine, distinguished service professor, and chair, department of orthopedic surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; head team physician, department of athletics; professor of physical therapy, School of Health and Rehab Sciences; professor of health and physical activity, School of Education; and professor of mechanical engineering, Swanson School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Fu was nominated for this award by Mark A. Goodman, MD, who credits Dr. Fu’s superlative leadership as orthopedic department chair for advancing orthopedic surgery and transforming sports medicine in Pittsburgh. “Dr. Fu founded the department of sports medicine in 1986, and his leadership and clinical innovation have brought international attention to Pittsburgh,” Dr. Goodman states. “His executive leadership has raised funds and awareness, producing the UPMC Sports Medicine facility and the Pitt/Steelers practice facility on the South Side. In addition, he has spearheaded the building of the Lemieux Sports Facility in Cranberry. Due to his pioneering leadership, Pittsburgh has become a world leader in sports medicine and concussion care.”


Physician Volunteer Award

Carlos M. Perez-Ruiz, MD, is the recipient of the Physician Volunteer Award, which was established in 2001 to recognize a physician for the donation of their time or talents for charitable, clinical, educational or community service activities, domestically or internationally. Dr. Perez-Ruiz is currently completing an Interventional Pain Medicine fellowship at Allegheny Health Network.

Dr. Perez-Ruiz is a man who has one foot in his native Puerto Rico and one foot in his adopted home, Pittsburgh. The two locations were already linked in his life, long before he came to Pittsburgh to continue his medical education. One of his heroes is Roberto Clemente, a man who embodies the Puerto Rico-Pittsburgh connection. Clemente’s legacy of helping and caring are alive and thriving in Dr. Perez-Ruiz. As an anesthesiology resident at AGH, he became involved with Light of Life Rescue Mission, which has served those who are struggling with homelessness, poverty, hunger and addiction since 1952. In addition to his volunteer work and service as an officer at Light of Life, Dr. Perez-Ruiz has organized his colleagues at AGH to participate in the annual clothing drive. Following Hurricane Maria in 2017, Dr. Perez-Ruiz volunteered in the relief efforts in Puerto Rico, working in the field with teams of healthcare professionals to bring victims to the US Navy ship Comfort. Back in Pittsburgh, he helped organize the distribution of donated supplies and food from the Pittsburgh Pirates and AGH.

See the 40 Under 40 Awardees