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‘Heart of our faculty’

Faculty of Medicine honours President's Awards recipients

Campus and Community

By Memorial University

The Faculty of Medicine is recognizing recent 2023 President’s Awards recipients.

The awards were handed out at an event at the Signal Hill Campus on Dec. 8.

Those honoured include Amy Carroll (B.Comm.’02), Office of Research and Graduate Studies; Dr. Proton Rahman (B.Med.Sci.’88, MD’90), Discipline of Medicine; Dr. Guangju Zhai, Division of BioMedical Sciences; and Dr. Sukhinder Cheema, Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Science (cross-appointed to BioMedical Sciences).

“Exceptional individuals like these are the heart of our faculty,” said Dr. Dolores McKeen, dean of Memorial’s Faculty of Medicine. “Their dedication and passion propel us forward on our mission to improve health and well-being and I congratulate them all on this well-deserved recognition.”

Amy Carroll
President’s Award for Exemplary Employees – Champion of Service

Amy Carroll first worked in Memorial’s Department of Human Resources before becoming an administrative staff specialist II in the Office of Research and Graduate Studies (RGS) in 2011.

Amy Carroll
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“When I learned I won a President’s Award I was shocked,” she said. “I called my husband and told him, but I was the most excited to tell my parents because I knew how proud my dad would be.”

That’s because her dad, Joe Carroll, won a President’s Award for Exemplary Service in 2002. He worked at Memorial for 30 years.

Ms. Carroll is the go-to person for advice and support in RGS and helps students, post-doctoral fellows and supervisors navigate everything from stipends and contracts to payroll, awards, immigration support requirements, award ceremonies and convocation celebrations.

With 300 active graduate students across 10 programs, the requirements for student support are great. Ms. Carroll handles it all with ease and makes everyone feel they are her top priority.

“I liked working in HR and helping people, but it wasn’t until I moved to Medicine and started helping graduate students that I found my passion,” she said. “They are so appreciative and grateful for everything you do. It can be confusing to move to a new country and try to navigate things like applying for insurance, so we all do our best to help. I have the best co-workers and work with great administrators and faculty which makes the things we do easier.”

Dr. Proton Rahman
John Lewis Paton Distinguished University Professorship

Dr. Proton Rahman is recognized worldwide for groundbreaking discoveries on the genomics of rheumatic diseases.

Dr. Proton Rahman
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

A visionary educator, he mentored a generation of physicians and researchers. His seminal scientific contributions guided public health policy as part of Newfoundland and Labrador’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Memorial University has been a central part of my life for over 40 years, initially as a student and then as a faculty, so I am incredibly grateful and deeply moved to receive this award,” said Dr. Rahman. “I would not have even been considered for this award if not for the exceptional people around me – mentors, colleagues, students, and family – who are the driving force for any success I have achieved. Finally, I need to thank my dad, whose passion for discovery influenced my career path, and Dr. Reza Tabrizchi, who initiated the nomination, and all others who kindly supported it.”

A clinical rheumatologist and genetic epidemiologist, Dr. Rahman’s work allows clinicians and researchers to rapidly identify diseases and to understand the diseases’ response to therapies. It also provides valuable insight into the diseases’ pathophysiology.

He also created the Newfoundland Genealogy Database, providing a comprehensive family history for more than 550,000 Newfoundlanders dating back to the late 1800s, published more than 700 scientific publications and abstracts and secured nearly $70 million in research funding. A strong supervisor, he personalizes programs for graduate students and mentors them in their careers.

Dr. Guangju Zhai
University Research Professor

Dr. Guangju Zhai is being recognized for his transformative contributions to his field of medicine, the creation of a world-class osteoarthritis research program and an exceptional rate of knowledge dissemination.

Dr. Guangju Zhai
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“I am extremely honoured to receive the title of university research professor,” said Dr. Zhai. “The designation is not only the recognition of my past achievement, but also a great encouragement for me to get more research done in the future. I am also deeply indebted to my students and research staff. Without their hard work in the lab, I wouldn’t be able to achieve what I have done to date.”

An expert in genetic epidemiology, Dr. Zhai has made a significant worldwide impact on the understanding of osteoarthritis while improving the lives of patients.

He established the Newfoundland Osteoarthritis Study, a biobank of joint tissue samples. It collected samples from more than 1,000 patients, which formed the basis for osteoarthritis research at Memorial University and a world-class resource for researchers, fostering national and international collaborations.

He advanced molecular techniques to identify novel metabolites which is helping diagnose osteoarthritis earlier, ensuring patients receive appropriate treatment at the right time.

Dr. Zhai authored more than 130 peer-reviewed publications, which have been cited more than 30,000 times. He was listed on Stanford University’s World’s Top 2% Scientists list for the study of arthritis and rheumatology and is a past recipient of Memorial University’s President’s Award for Outstanding Research.

He mentored nearly 20 undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral fellows and secured more than $4.2 million in research funding.

Dr. Sukhinder Cheema
University Research Professor

Dr. Sukhinder Cheema is being recognized for her exceptional contributions to the field of metabolic health, the creation of a robust research program and her highly influential body of scholarship.

Dr. Sukhinder Cheema
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“Receiving this recognition means a great deal to me on both a personal and professional level,” said Dr. Cheema. “Professionally, this is recognition of the research I have done for the past 24 years. But it would not have been possible without the hard work of my students and trainees. I am in awe of the zealousness with which I have witnessed young people embracing science, and they continue to inspire my dedication to this field.”

“On a personal level, this recognition is a source of inspiration and empowerment,” she added. “It goes beyond just a title; it symbolizes breaking barriers in science and academia. As the first woman in the department to achieve this milestone, as a person of color, and as a first-generation immigrant, receiving this title is a collective achievement for all those who are under-represented in this field.”

Dr. Cheema is a global authority on maternal nutrition and its critical role in the predisposition to adult diseases. Her work studies human breast milk composition and its impact on the well-being of newborns. Her findings demonstrate the importance of nutrition during pregnancy and the harmful effects of saturated fats.

The author of nearly 100 articles, Dr. Cheema has trained more than 80 emerging scholars and secured over $18 million in funding.

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