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School of Medicine

  • Alumni holding their awards

Alumni Awards

Each year, the School of Medicine presents a number of prestigious awards to our most dedicated and qualified alumni who have demonstrated outstanding achievements or service to the school. We would like to invite all alumni and friends of the school to nominate individuals to be considered as recipients of these awards.


2019 Alumni Award Recipients 


Distinguished Young Alumni Award

L. Garrison Morgan, MD, FACC – ’10/Cardiology

L. Garrison Morgan, M.D., FACC, is a cardiologist at Providence Health in Columbia, S.C. Morgan received his medical degree from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in 2010. He completed his residency in internal medicine at Palmetto Health Richland (now Prisma Health – Midlands), then continued his training at the Medical College of Georgia, completing a fellowship in cardiovascular diseases. Additionally, he did a sub-specialty fellowship in interventional and structural cardiology at Mount Sinai Medical Center of Florida/Columbia University.

Morgan has a special interest in structural heart diseases, conditions that result from abnormalities in the heart's structure, and he has been an integral part of the development of Providence Health's Structural Heart Program. Through this program, he was the first physician in the Midlands to implant the MitraClip, used to treat a severe leak in the mitral valve. In 2019, Morgan was named the "Best of Lexington" in cardiology by Lexington Life Magazine. He is married to wife of 13 years, Kristen Morgan, and has three children, Graham, Reid, and newest addition, Alivia.


Distinguished Master’s Alumni Award

Catherine B. Rhea, MBS, CRNA – ’00

Catherine Rhea is a graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Nurse Anesthesia Program. She earned her Master’s of Biomedical Science with Specialization in Nurse Anesthesia in 2000. While attending the School of Medicine, she was awarded the Donald H. Harwood Award and the Physiology Cup. Rhea now serves on the faculty at the UofSC School of Medicine. She is a clinical instructor in pediatric anesthesia, a clinical assistant professor, and the clinical coordinator of the Nurse Anesthesia Program at the Columbia campus.  Currently, Rhea is pursuing her Doctorate of Nurse Anesthesia Practice.

Rhea earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing and Psychology at the University of South Carolina and remains an avid Gamecocks fan. She is an active member of the S.C. Association of Nurse Anesthetists, and has served on the board and numerous committees. She is a member of the First Baptist Church of Columbia, S.C., and Forest Lake Club. She also enjoys spending time with her family and traveling.


Distinguished Genetic Counseling Alumni Award

Holly H. Zimmerman, MS, CGC – ’07

Holly Zimmerman, M.S., C.G.C., is a board-certified and licensed genetic counselor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). Zimmerman earned her Master’s in Genetic Counseling Degree from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Columbia in 2007. She is the inaugural director of the Masters in Genetic Counseling Program at UNMC, which earned accreditation in January 2019 and welcomed its first class of eight students this fall. Zimmerman also is an assistant professor in the College of Allied Health Professions where she serves on the Leadership Council as well as the Curriculum and Admissions Committees. She has a courtesy appointment in Genetic Medicine at the UNMC Munroe-Meyer Institute, and also is faculty within the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program.

Previously, Zimmerman spent 10 years at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, initially serving as the center’s only genetic counselor. In this role, she established genetic counseling services while also gaining experience in general, prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetics. Zimmerman recently celebrated her 12-year wedding anniversary with her husband, Pat. They enjoy exploring Omaha with their two children.


Distinguished Doctorate Alumni Award

Guang Peng, MD, PhD – ’05

Guang Peng, M.D., Ph.D., is a tenured-associate professor in the Department of Clinical Cancer Prevention at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. She received her doctoral degree in biomedical sciences from University of South Carolina School of Medicine Columbia in 2005, after completing her bachelor’s degree in medicine from Tongji Medical University in Wuhan, China.

The long-term goal of her research is to characterize and target molecular regulators of the mutational and dysfunctional DNA repair processes driving tumor evolution and immune responses. Her research has been funded by several agents including the National Cancer Institute (NIH), the Department of Defense, the American Association for Cancer Research, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas, and Sponsored Research Programs from Pfizer. Her recent research has been published in Nature Medicine (2018), Nature Communications (2018, 2014), and Cancer Discovery (2015).


Distinguished Physician Alumni Award

Joseph C. Perkinson, MD – ’92/Family Medicine

Joseph Perkinson, M.D., is a family practice specialist in The Woodlands, Texas. He received his medical degree from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Columbia in 1992, and initially pursued a surgical career taking him through internship and residency to Detroit and Hawaii. Seeking more patient-centric interaction, he transitioned to specialization through generalization – family medicine – at the Baylor College of Medicine’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, completing that residency program in 1998.

In 2000, he started one of the first completely paperless medical offices in Texas, developing and refining workflows for more compassionate and efficient care. After a decade, he moved to the north Houston area, working in a group practice, and later, as medical director of a fledgling, but now nationwide, hormone replacement center. Perkinson’s current practice, Vector Health, combines state-of-the-art medical care with a focus on customer service. Vector Health features open-access, same-day scheduling, minimal paperwork, and direct access to Perkinson.


Distinguished Humanitarian Physician Alumni Award

James R. Morrow, MD – ’82/Family Medicine

James R. (“Jim”) Morrow, M.D., is founder of Morrow Family Medicine in Forsyth County, Georgia. Graduating in 1982, Morrow was a member of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine’s second class of medical students. After graduating, he completed a family medicine residency at Anderson Memorial Hospital in Anderson, S.C., and opened a solo practice in his home town of Greenville, S.C. After eight years, he moved to Georgia and has been practicing family medicine there since 1993.

 In 2012, Jim and his wife, Peggie, learned that there were over 2,000 students in their community who did not have the necessary technology to complete their assignments for school. The Morrows established the Morrow Community Foundation, which conducts the “Forsyth BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) Benefit” to raise money and provide devices and home internet access to students in need. The Forsyth BYOT Benefit has raised over $275,000, and has put devices and internet in the homes of hundreds of students. Morrow has won numerous local and national awards, and since 2015, Morrow Family Medicine has been voted the “Best of Forsyth” in family medicine every year. 


Alumni Association Honorary Life Membership Award

Joshua T. Thornhill IV, MD

Joshua T. Thornhill IV, M.D., is a clinical professor in the Department of Neuropsychiatry & Behavioral Science and associate dean for medical education and academic affairs at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Columbia. He earned his medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School in 1989. Thornhill joined the UofSC School of Medicine in 1993 after completing his residency in general psychiatry at the William S. Hall Psychiatric Institute in Columbia.

He is a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and has authored and given a number of presentations on the topic of medical education. He is a past president of the South Carolina Psychiatric Association and the Southern Psychiatric Association.

During his tenure at the School of Medicine, Thornhill has been a strong advocate of the School of Medicine Alumni Office. As the first clinical faculty representative on the Alumni Association Board, he significantly contributed to the implementation of the organization. He continues to serve on the board and be the primary connection between the school, students, and graduates.

2019 Event Photos

Photos from the 2019 event are available on the School of Medicine's SmugMug account.


Past Winners

See a list of past Alumni Award winners. 


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