Martha A. Hooven Awards Honor Six VP&S Employees

Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons honored six employees with Martha A. Hooven Awards for Excellence at a ceremony on Jan. 23. The awards are given annually to commend employee contributions to the medical school’s workplace and community.

In her remarks at the event, Katrina Armstrong, MD, dean of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, emphasized the role of individual employees in fulfilling the medical school’s mission.

“This is a moment to come together and celebrate excellence across VP&S, recognizing people who deserve so much to be highlighted today,” said Armstrong. “At these events I have the strong sense of why the community here drives our excellence. I’m grateful to be here with you as we continue our mission to make the world better and make human health better.”

2023 Martha A. Hooven Awards for Excellence

The awards to recognize individuals at VP&S were initiated in 2008 and renamed in 2019 to recognize the late Martha A. Hooven, who served as vice dean of administration at VP&S for 11 years. 

This year more than 160 award nominations were submitted. The recipients were chosen by a selection committee comprised of representatives from across VP&S. Read more about each honoree below.

Michael Kissner

Vincent C. Santana Officer of Administration/Managerial Award

Michael Kissner, Senior Director of Operations, Flow Cytometry Core, Columbia Stem Cell Initiative

Michael Kissner has been at Columbia since 2017, when he was recruited to establish and build the Columbia Stem Cell Initiative flow cytometry core facility. With Kissner’s guidance, the facility has grown and gained recognition across the university and was designated an institutional core facility by the Office for Research. Kissner’s achievements include establishing a self-service model for cell sorting, integrating novel analyzer and cell sorting platforms, integrating spectral flow cytometry into the core’s portfolio of services, and forging a collaboration with the Columbia Genome Center’s single cell analysis core.

Frances Antonetty

Officer of Administration Professional/Administrative Award

Frances Antonetty, Grants & Contracts Manager, Department of Anesthesiology

Frances Antonetty has worked in the Department of Anesthesiology since 2015 and currently serves as grants and contracts manager. Antonetty assists with all aspects of award administration and is an expert in the life cycle of sponsored projects. She has taken the lead on multiple large endeavors for anesthesiology, including several complex grant transfers and setting up new labs. Before joining the anesthesiology department, Antonetty served in grants and finance-related roles for the Departments of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics and Pathology & Cell Biology and the Institute of Human Nutrition.

Marzhan Atakulova

Officer of Research Award

Marzhan Atakulova, Senior Staff Associate I, Department of Ophthalmology

Marzhan Atakulova is a senior staff associate and co-director of the clinical trials unit in the Department of Ophthalmology, where she has worked since 2015. She plays a critical role in overseeing all regulatory aspects of NIH and sponsored studies and creating and maintaining research databases. She serves as a department consultant for investigator-initiated studies and IRB initiation. She also initiates all the study startup and regulatory requirements associated with industry-sponsored clinical trials.

Zurab Ninish

SSA Union Member/Clerical Technical Award

Zurab Ninish, Chief Technician, Department of Medicine

Zurab Ninish is a senior research technician in the Columbia Center for Human Development in the Department of Medicine. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the field of stem cell therapies. He worked at Mount Sinai Hospital as manager of the electrophysiology/cardiology lab before joining Columbia in 2020. Currently his team is developing new techniques to implant engineered cells that regenerate lung tissue.

Todd Bates

Diversity Award

Todd Bates, PhD, MSEd, MA, Assistant Clinical Professor of Education Assessment (in Medicine), Office of the Vice Dean for Education

Todd A. Bates joined Columbia in 2018 as a learning specialist to help medical and dental students navigate the learning opportunities and challenges they encounter during their training. Along with his colleagues at the Center for Education Research and Evaluation, Todd works with faculty and staff on curriculum development projects and educational research. He currently co-leads the staff anti-racism working group in the Office of Education at VP&S and the staff promotion and retention subgroup of the VP&S Anti-Racism Coalition.

Danurys L. Sanchez

Community Service Award

Danurys L. Sanchez, Senior Staff Associate II, Sergievsky Center

Danurys L. Sanchez is a senior staff associate for the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center, where she collaborates with principal investigators to ensure the fulfillment of the center’s research mission. She has been a key team member for the Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project since 2007, working to recruit participants, connect community members with relevant health care providers and social services, and increase community understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. She also has helped connect departments, faculty members, and researchers with community organizations, creating networks for all parties to collaborate and share resources.


Top image, from left: Todd Bates, PhD; Frances Antonetty; Michael Kissner; Katrina Armstrong, MD, VP&S dean; Marzhan Atakulova; Zurab Ninish; Danurys L. Sanchez; and Rudi Odeh-Ramadan, PharmD, VP&S vice dean for finance and administration.