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Upstate presents honors for excellence in teaching, service, research and philanthropy

More than 20 individuals and a local company have been recognized by Upstate Medical University for excellence and distinguished service at the university’s annual Fall Faculty Convocation, held Sept. 13 in the Medical Alumni Auditorium in Weiskotten Hall.

Awards recognized individuals in numerous categories, from Professional Service and Voluntary Faculty to Research and Diversity. Two awards honored a company and individual for Philanthropic Service.

Four members of the faculty received SUNY Distinguished Faculty ranks from SUNY Trustees. These Distinguished Faculty ranks, among SUNY’s highest honors, recognize SUNY’s finest and most accomplished faculty with distinguished careers and prominence in one’s chosen field, service to the university, community, state, nation and teaching mastery.

Receiving Distinguished Faculty ranks are:

Jeffrey A. Bogart, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor

Bogart, a nationally renowned figure in radiation oncology, currently serves as the professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Upstate. He also has served as founding director of the Upstate Cancer Center, chair of the Faculty Practice Plan (UUMAS), president of the board of directors for MedBest, and as a member of the Upstate Medical University Executive Team. His influence isn't confined to Upstate; he actively participates in professional societies and presents at national and international conferences. His expertise in lung cancer radiation has significantly impacted cancer care globally. He has improved lung cancer treatments with innovative radiation regimens, optimized chemotherapy integration with radiation, and led cooperative clinical trials through the CALGB, now known as the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Radiation Oncology. In a groundbreaking study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, he demonstrated the advantages of completing lung cancer treatment in less time, challenging the conventional approach. A recent notable clinical trial, with 700 participants, showed the efficacy of once-daily radiotherapy for small cell lung cancer, challenging the twice-daily standard. Not only is this highly significant for patients, but his collaborative approach and deep understanding of lung cancer biology have earned him accolades.

Wanda P. Fremont, MD, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor

Fremont's nearly three-decade career at Upstate reflects remarkable contributions to child and adolescent psychiatry and unwavering dedication to the community. She has served in various roles, including directing the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (CAP) fellowship program, serving as the medical director of the CAP clinic, and then as CAP division chief and vice chair for Child Psychiatry. Her most prominent contributions have centered on transforming systems of care. She has played a key role in launching the adolescent inpatient unit and Upstate's acquisition of the Children and Youth Services building at Hutchings. A program she started in 2006 with $200,000, has evolved into a $17.5 million grant. Project TEACH now extends education and consultation to pediatricians statewide and has earned recognition from the American Psychiatric Association. Her scholarly contributions encompass nearly 80 peer-reviewed articles and she has served as a co- or principal investigator on grants totaling approximately $33 million, with notable research in Velocardiofacial Syndrome. She has been named a Distinguished Fellow by both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Stephen J. Knohl, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor

Knohl, with a 25-year tenure at Upstate, has played pivotal roles, including interim chair of the Department of Medicine, Residency Program director, and vice chair for Education. His teaching prowess is widely acknowledged, with former residents turned colleagues lauding his mentorship and passion. He imparts a remarkable range of knowledge—teaching renal physiology, clinical diagnosis, and advanced nephrology topics to medical students, residents, fellows, and peers. His teaching evaluations consistently excel, and his communication skills at the bedside are exemplary. He's pioneered creative curricula using theater arts to enhance communication skills, securing grants to support this initiative. His programmatic contributions have garnered national respect and adoption. As a career advisor, he guides numerous students entering internal medicine, overseeing a large residency program. Under his leadership, the program has grown substantially, with a strong pass rate on the American Board of Internal Medicine Certifying Examination and excellent reviews from those he teaches.

Wei-Dong Yao, PhD SUNY Distinguished Professor

Yao has made remarkable contributions to Upstate since his arrival as an Empire Innovation Scholar in 2014. His innovative research efforts have received continuous funding since he established his first lab at Harvard Medical School in 2004. Of his approximately $15 million in total research funding, $10 million has been awarded to him while at Upstate. His lab's mission revolves around understanding how psychiatric diseases affect brain cells and neural wiring, leading to mental illnesses. The potential for his research spans addiction, schizophrenia, autism, dementia, and other diseases of the brain. By employing cutting-edge molecular, cellular, and electrophysiological technologies, Yao investigates how impaired synapse assembly, function, and plasticity contribute to cognitive and emotional deficits in neuropsychiatric diseases. Yao's significant contributions have led to the identification of new brain signaling pathways, offering fundamental insights into disease pathogenesis and potential treatment strategies. Recognized for his research excellence, Yao has received other prestigious awards, including the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities, the President's Award for Excellence and Leadership in Research, the William F. Milton Fund for Career Development at Harvard, and the competitive NARSAD Young Investigator Award.

A complete listing of other winners is below:

President’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropic Service, Corporate: Carrols Restaurant Group, which owns and operates a more than 1,000 restaurants nationwide, is dedicated corporate partner to the Upstate Foundation whose commitment to sick and injured children at Upstate began 40 years ago with its support of the hospital’s new pediatric intensive care unit. Through its instore campaigns and support for the Children’s Miracle Network, Carrols has raised more than $1 million locally for the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital.

President’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropic Service, Individual: The Legacy of Debbie Gregg

Gregg was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2008. In the years following her diagnosis, her goal was to identify better treatment options for patients and someday, a cure. Out of that determination and hope came the Gregg’s Brain Cancer Research Fund established at the Upstate Foundation. After Gregg passed away in 2012, her family carried forward her vision. They’ve organized numerous events as well as the annual Walk for Brain Cancer. To date, nearly $140,000 has been raised and $65,000 from the fund has gone to support brain cancer research at Upstate. Recently, her family opened an endowment at the Foundation to ensure a fund will exist in Gregg’s name in perpetuity at Upstate.   

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities

Peter D. Calvert, PhD, Norton College of Medicine, College of Graduate Studies

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service

Steven M. Taffet, PhD, Norton College of Medicine

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service

Kaelyn Bersani, RN, Nursing, Surgical ICU

Wilford Smith, Environmental Services

Dawn Thomas, Nurse Assistant, Medical/Surgical

President’s Award for Distinguished Service

Richard Uhlig, CEO, Quadrant Biosciences 

President’s Award for Excellence and Leadership in Research

Frank A. Middleton, PhD, Norton College of Medicine, College of Graduate Studies

President’s Award for Excellence in Clinical or Translational Research by a Young Investigator

Kathryn B. Anderson, MD, PhD, Norton College of Medicine, College of Graduate Studies

Jonathan L. Hess, PhD, Norton College of Medicine, College of Graduate Studies

President’s Award for Advancement of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Rachel E. Fabi, PhD, Center for Bioethics and Humanities

President’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service

Lisa Oliver, Norton College of Medicine

President’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service

Sriram S. Narsipur, MD, FASN, FACP, MRCP, Norton College of Medicine

President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching

Peter D. Sadowitz, MD, Norton College of Medicine

Robert T. Swan, MD, Norton College of Medicine

President’s Award for Excellence in Voluntary Faculty

—Norton College of Medicine

Oneeb Ahmad, MD, Norton College of Medicine, Binghamton Campus

Gary Freeman, MD, Norton College of Medicine, Syracuse Campus

—College of Nursing

Melissa Fincher-Mergi, MS, ARNP-BC, FNP, SANE, College of Nursing

—College of Health Professions

Robert C. Groom, MS, CCP, FPP, College of Health Professions


Academy of Upstate Educators Membership

Florence Mandebvu, DNP, RN, GCNS-BC, College of Nursing

Christopher P. Morley, PhD, MA, CAS, Norton College of Medicine

Justin M. Waryold, DNP, RN, ANP-C, ACNP-BC, GS-C, CNE, FAANP, College of Nursing


Caption: Jeffrey Bogart, Wanda Fremont, Stephen Knohl and Wei-Dong Yao are the most recent Upstate faculty to earn Distinguised Faculty ranks.