P&S Pays Tribute to Staff in Annual Awards of Excellence Ceremony

February 2, 2015

Among the recipients of awards of excellence given by P&S for contributions in 2014 are individuals who have “gone above and beyond,” “exceeded expectations,” been a “driving force,” and “made contributions of an extraordinary nature.”

Recipients of the 2014 P&S Awards of Excellence, presented in a Jan. 29, 2015, ceremony:

Community Service Award of ExcellenceDodi Meyer, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at CUMC and director of the community pediatrics program in the Department of Pediatrics Division of Child and Adolescent Health

Dr. Meyer, says one nomination letter, “has committed her career to improving the health of the community of Washington Heights. She has always had a unique vision of the importance of reaching out and working with the local community. She has been the driving force behind many of the Columbia programs that partner with the local community for both service and learning. She is a true visionary who has influenced the health and well-being of many children and families in the local community. In addition, she has exposed countless medical students and residents, as well as students from the greater CUMC community, to the importance of community-academic health partnerships.”

Diversity Award of ExcellenceRafael Lantigua, MD, professor of medicine at CUMC and dean’s special adviser for community health affairs

Dr. Lantigua, professor of medicine at CUMC, was chosen by the awards committee in recognition of his long-standing commitment to improving the health of aging members of minorities. He joined P&S in 1980 and was the driving force behind CALME, the Columbia Center for the Active Life of Minority Elders, which supported research to reduce health disparities affecting minority elders. The program established an important bridge between Columbia researchers and the neighboring community. Dr. Lantigua also helped start the Columbia Center for the Health of Urban Minorities to shift community-based research from studies for the community to studies with the community. When he was named a dean’s special adviser for community health affairs in 2011, EVP and P&S Dean Lee Goldman, MD, said Dr. Lantigua would provide a faculty voice in the medical center’s efforts to engage community health organizations and optimize academic and community partnerships.

Officer of Administration Managerial AwardDionida Ryce, department administrator, Department of Pharmacology and Department of Physiology & Cellular Biophysics

A letter recommending Ms. Ryce, known by colleagues and friends as D. Ryce, says she continues to exceed expectations in her role as DA for two departments. “Despite all of the pressures and difficulties facing the basic science departments D. Ryce handles everything with grace, intelligence, comprehensive knowledge, and insight. She has streamlined our departmental pre- and post-award grants management and has ensured outstanding support for faculty members in both grant application and budget management. The fact that she is able to achieve this in two departments is even more remarkable. Despite the small size of basic science departments, the complexity of the issues and demands of the faculty are large, and D. Ryce handles all of them.”

Officer of Administration Professional/Administrative AwardKim Morel Betances, assistant director of access for ColumbiaDoctors, the P&S faculty practice organization

Several letters of recommendation supported Ms. Morel Betances’ nomination for the award. One letter described her as “one of Columbia’s hidden treasures.” The nomination went on: “She is one of Columbia’s greatest assets whom I have had the pleasure to know and work with. She is a wonderful role model for fellow associates and serves as a great mentor to me. She has been instrumental in helping to advise me on many professional matters. Her warm personable style makes it so easy to work with her. I truly admire and look up to her personally and professionally.” Another nominator added: “She is always willing to guide and motivate us to succeed. She is always giving us advice and shows us what teamwork really means.”

Officer of Research Award of ExcellenceEric Ho, senior staff associate in pathology & cell biology

“Eric is a model of the employee that the P&S Award for Excellence is intended to recognize,” said one letter of nomination. “He has a long and sustained record of excellence in clinical service; research, and scholarly activities; service to students and colleagues; and leadership as a divisional administrator.” From another letter of nomination: “He joined the ranks of the laboratory as a technologist. His diligence, efficacy, reliability, and hard work ethic were noticed and rewarded by the laboratory leadership with a number of promotions. With each promotion came new challenges, responsibilities, and expectations, which he unfailingly met and exceeded.”

P&S has presented awards of excellence since 2008 to employees to recognize exceptional performance and contributions. “The awards are intended to inspire all of us to strive for the highest level of excellence by recognizing some of our truly outstanding people,” says Martha Hooven, P&S vice dean of administration. “These awards allow us to celebrate the unsung heroes who are behind the thriving success of individual departments, institutes, and laboratories, which contributes to success for the entire school.”

“As a medical school, P&S is judged by the impact we have on people’s lives,” says Dr. Goldman. “I am happy to acknowledge the ways our staff members contribute to make P&S among the best medical schools in the nation in ways that matter most: making a difference in people’s lives through direct patient care, education of future generations of physicians, and research that informs treatment and prevention of illness and disease. For that, all staff members can be proud.”