After being held virtually the past two years, the annual Fall Convocation on September 29 brought together the MGH Institute community to celebrate the start of the 2022-2023 academic year and recognize faculty excellence in equity, research, education, and interprofessional practice, and to reveal the winner of the school’s highest faculty award.
“This is a time to celebrate all that you have done to make this institution successful, to celebrate our values, and to welcome new colleagues,” said Dr. Peter Cahn, Associate Provost for Academic Affairs, in greeting the faculty, staff, and administrators who packed the conference room at 1 CW. Asking the school’s newest faculty members to stand and be recognized, he said, “These are the people who are bringing intellectual life, new questions, and new ways of looking at difficult problems to help us achieve our mission of providing care for a diverse society.”
Dr. Reamer Bushardt, the IHP’s new Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, talked about the importance of kicking off the academic year by reaffirming commitments to the Institute’s mission.
“We convene to reconnect with our purpose, to build excitement and energy for the work ahead, and to socialize and strengthen the bonds that tie our community together,” said Bushardt, who began at the IHP in August. “Regardless of your specific roles and responsibilities, each of us is connected to the IHP’s educational mission and share in a commitment to lifelong learning.”
Bushardt gave a moving reflection of how he was inspired throughout his early life by his family that counted numerous teachers who stressed and reinforced the importance of education. Their influence spurred him to become a writer, editor, and educator – the latter of which he discussed during his address.
“As teachers, we hold great power. The best teachers are masters of interpersonal influence, helping expand the potential of others. The most skilled among us understand how to shape a system of actions that facilitate learning, personal reflection, and professional growth,” he said. “Through my conversations with IHP students and graduates over the past couple months, it is clear you are inspiring them—like the teachers in my family did for me—to be curious, to value the perspectives of others, to recognize gaps in our community and lead change to address them, to care for others with humility and respect, and to fight for a more just society.
“The work that each of you is leading matters. While it is often hard work, the graduates you are preparing, the science you are advancing, and the service you are providing impacts thousands of lives. Together, we can touch millions of lives and model a better way forward to others by exercising our core values in the classroom, lab, office, and community.”
Highest Faculty Award Presented
Gayun Chan-Smutko, Associate Chair and an associate professor of Genetic Counseling, earned the Nancy T. Watts Award for Excellence in Teaching, the MGH Institute’s highest faculty honor. Her commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, along with her tireless dedication to teaching and her students, were major factors in her selection as the 33rd Watts recipient.
“To be recognized in this way by the very people, our students, and colleagues that I admire and feel inspired by,” said Chan-Smutko, “further motivates me to make sure everyone can create a space for themselves to learn and thrive to the maximum extent possible and make way for others who come after them as well.”
A video testimonial highlighting Chan-Smutko’s contributions included students, alumni, and members of the IHP community.
“One thing that makes Guy an exceptional teacher is that she’s an exceptional person,” said Joselyn Saenz Diaz, who graduated from the GC program in 2021. “I'm inspired by her as a teacher, and I hope that one day I can inspire other students in a similar way.”
Gabriella Raffaele, a 2021 graduate, noted in the video, “She was always that person who wanted the feedback to make sure she was doing the best she could as a teacher. One of the things that I remember the most about Guy is that she would always say that she would learn just as much from us as we would learn from her.”
Dr. Kimberly Truong, the school’s Chief Equity Officer, listed several areas in which Chan-Smutko has been active with the Office of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Those included being on several subcommittees, working on the school’s Power, Privilege, and Positionality course, and engaging in critical pedagogy. “I don’t believe the work we do in the JEDI Office would have been accomplished without Guy,” Truong said.
Another 2021 graduate, Alyx Vogle, added, “Seeing someone who's so open to have difficult conversations – that’s something that never goes away in your life, it never goes away. In your career, it really gives you the chance to get to the heart of people. Guy is able to get people to think about deeper aspects of social justice and have self-reflection.”
“Guy is an incredibly strong mentor to students, but also to her colleagues,” said Maureen Flynn, Chair of the Department of Genetic Counseling. “Consistently, students report that they feel very comfortable going to her with any questions, any concerns. She listens more than she speaks, which I think is an incredibly strong characteristic of a mentor. She is an exceptional educator.’
Inaugural JEDI Award Presented
Dr. Eleonor Pusey-Reid, an associate professor of nursing, received the inaugural Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Award. In a video, Dr. Elaine Tagliareni, the School of Nursing’s Director of Faculty Development and former Interim Dean, said Pusey-Reid was a major influence in the School of Nursing’s commitment to change in the aftermath of the 2020 murder of George Floyd, and pointed to a research study Pusey-Reid and Dr. Clara Gona published showing that Black alumni experienced microaggressions in their nursing education. That finding led to a two-year faculty development approach to integrating JEDI awareness curriculum in the school.
“Eleonor has helped me more than anyone I remember in helping me to understand the meaning of bias, microaggressions, and how we often commit those errors,” said Tagliareni. “Through the work of Eleonor and her colleagues in the School of Nursing and across the IHP, she's helped us to feel more comfortable with our own biases and to help us to service them.”
“Eleonor was doing what JEDI does before there was a JEDI Office, and she did it not because she got an extra bonus or extra rewards but because of the person she is and what she was trying to do for the students and her profession,” said Dr. Inge Corless, a professor emerita of nursing who worked with Pusey-Reid for several years.
Debbie Mondesir, BSN ’18, talked of the support she received while struggling academically in Pusey-Reid’s medical-surgical class. “She just told me that you're capable of doing this but that first I had to believe in myself. Conversations like that with her made me feel like I don't really want to let myself down and it got to a point where I felt like I just didn't want to let her down either because she was so supportive. I went on to do really well in the class and I think a lot of it was because I had her support and her motivating me that I was capable of doing it.”
Other Faculty Recognized
Three faculty received research awards: Dr. Karen Chenausky, an assistant professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and Dr. Keshrie Naidoo, an assistant professor of physical therapy, each received the New Investigator Award. Dr. Prue Plummer, a professor of Physical Therapy, received the Excellence in Research Mentoring Award.
Dr. Patricia Reidy, Associate Dean of Graduate Programs and Community Engagement and a professor of nursing, was honored for her leadership in Interprofessional Education and Practice.
Three faculty were elected to the school’s fourth cohort of the Teaching Excellence Academy for Learning (TEAL). They are: Dr. Lesley Maxwell, Associate Chair and an associate professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders; Josh Merson, Associate Chair and an assistant professor of Physician Assistant Studies; and Dr. Keshrie Naidoo, Director of Curriculum, Coordinator of the Clinical Residency in Orthopaedic Physical Therapy, and an assistant professor of Physical Therapy. TEAL is an honorary society for faculty members who demonstrate sustained contributions to the teaching mission of the Institute and capacity for mentorship. Fellows receive funding for professional development and the title of Distinguished Teaching Professor.
Nine faculty members were promoted during the previous academic year: Assistant Professor: Dr. Christopher Clock, Physical Therapy; Dr. Beth Cornforth, Physical Therapy; Sarah Friel, Communication Sciences and Disorders; Dr. Amanda Mack, Occupational Therapy; Michael Ruggiero, Physician Assistant Studies; and Sheila Swales, School of Nursing. Associate Professor: Dr. Jean Bernhardt, School of Nursing; Dr. Kim Erler, Occupational Therapy; and Dr. Laura Plummer, Physical Therapy.
In concluding remarks, IHP President Paula Milone-Nuzzo shared, “Hearing about the achievements of our award winners today, I am filled with gratitude for their passionate work. While these awards are given annually, they do not just honor the work done during this past year. Rather, we recognize years of work; devotion to a lifetime of study, preparation, and hard work; a vigorous commitment to sharing and advancing knowledge; and creating a community for the education of future generations of healthcare leaders.”
Addressing the crowd, she added “As scholars, teachers, and exemplars, you are direct stewards of our mission.”