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2019 Rush Medical College Faculty Awards

2019 Rush Medical College Faculty Awards

In the photo: Benjamin Veenstra, MD (left), received the Phoenix Award and the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award at the annual Commencement Banquet in April. The awards were presented by Class of 2019 graduates Mallory Davis and Harrison Pidgeon (right).

2019 Rush Medical College Faculty Awards

Each year the graduating class presents four awards to residents and faculty that have made a positive impact on their educational experience at Rush. Learn about this year’s awards recipients, selected by the Class of 2019.

Aesculapius Award

The recipient of this year’s Aesculapius Award is Constantine Saclarides, MD, third-year resident-physician in the Department of Surgery. The graduating class nominates residents and fellows for this award based on their excellence in teaching and patient care. Students who worked with Saclarides consistently identify his teaching style and respect for medical students as highlights of their surgery rotation.

In a recent clerkship evaluation, one student said that Saclarides was “an absolute role model of an outstanding physician. He is enthusiastic, compassionate, technically skillful, and exudes positivity that brings out the best in everyone he encounters. He was always inclusive of those around him and never misses an opportunity to spread knowledge – not only to medical students and junior physicians, but to other ancillary staff as well. Working with him was a true privilege and I strive to recreate his demeanor as I continue on this career path.”

Daniel Brainard Award

Each year, the Daniel Brainard Award is presented to a member of the faculty who has demonstrated outstanding ability, dedicated service, and teaching in the basic and behavioral sciences. This year’s award recipient is Maureen Richards, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Microbial Pathogens and Immunity.

“Dr. Richards has turned microbiology/immunology into one of my favorite subjects,” said one student after completing one of Richards’ courses. “I honestly get excited when I see microbiology on the study schedule because I know her material will be incredibly well organized, her lectures engaging, and the content made interesting with plenty of clinical correlations. Dr. Richards shows up in class and gives wonderful explanations to any questions. She not only dispels confusion, but also makes us feel confident in what we are expected to know.”

Phoenix Award and the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award

The graduating class selected Benjamin Veenstra, MD, attending general surgeon and assistant professor in Department of Surgery to receive two awards this year – The Phoenix Award and the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award.

The Phoenix Award is presented to the outstanding physician-teacher who has exhibited excellence in medical education and the professional and personal qualities the class would like to emulate as physicians.

After completing a surgery clerkship rotation, one student said that, “Dr. Veenstra goes above and beyond to make this rotation an enjoyable and educational experience. He took time to get to know my background as a student, made sure I was doing okay, carved out time for lunch teaching sessions and answered my questions in his free time. His rapport with his patients makes him an inspirational role model and his easy-going nature makes him an accessible resource and teacher.”

The recipient of the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award, presented by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, is a physician who consistently demonstrates compassion and empathy in the delivery of care to patients and illustrates professional behavior by example. “Dr. Veenstra was an amazing teacher and role model while on this service,” explains another student after finishing the surgery clerkship. “The partnership and relationship he develops with his patients is something I hope to be able to cultivate as a physician. He took the time to teach and explain concepts and decisions as well as interesting approaches to problems. I hope to work with him again in the future!”

In addition to the awards from the graduating class, several other faculty were recently recognized for their excellence in teaching and patient care.

Ambulatory Preceptors of the Year

Each year a faculty member from the Departments of Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Neurological Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics and Psychiatry is selected as the outstanding preceptor of the year based on student evaluations and feedback. Awardees were recognized at the 11th annual Ambulatory Preceptor Workshop.

Congratulations to the 2018-19 Outstanding Ambulatory Preceptors of the Year

Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society

Congratulations to the Rush Medical College faculty and residents inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Honor Medical Society this year.


  • Aimee Szweka, MD, assistant professor in the Departments of Neurological Sciences and Ophthalmology, assistant dean of Clerkship Education
  • Caspian Folmsbee, MD, assistant professor of Internal Medicine


  • Constantine Saclarides, MD, Department of Surgery
  • George Ziegler, MD, Department of Pediatrics

Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) is a professional medical organization that recognizes and advocates for excellence in scholarship and the highest ideals in the profession of medicine. AOA members have a compelling drive to do well and to advance the medical profession and exemplify the highest standards of professionalism. AOA members exemplify the values of honesty, honorable conduct, morality, virtue, unselfishness, ethical ideals, dedication to serving others and leadership. AOA members can be selected at any point in their career and are chosen based on scholarship, professionalism, volunteerism and leadership.