2017 Dean's Award Winners
Eight service awards were presented in 2017. Find out more about each recipient below.
Career Achievement Award
C. Warren Derrick, Jr., M.D.
Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics
Dr. C. Warren Derrick, Jr. is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics, Pediatrics. He served as the chair of Pediatrics when the School of Medicine was founded and held the position for 29 years from 1977 to 2006. Simultaneously, he held the position of Director of Pediatric Education at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital.
In the early years as chairman, Dr. Derrick initiated events to recognize outstanding pediatricians and to foster professional growth in pediatrics. The first Carolina Cup Symposium, in conjunction with the horse race in Camden, was held in 1979 to offer CME and to bring alumni together. In 1980, the Department established the Weston Award and held the first Weston Award Banquet. In 1983, Dr. Derrick helped start the children's hospital within a hospital - the state's first children's hospital – and worked with others to establish in 2008 the state’s first free-standing children's hospital, the Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital.
Under Dr. Derrick's leadership, the Pediatric residency program grew from four to nine residents in each class. The residency program has consistently had one of the highest board pass rates in the nation, and the department has won best clinical teaching department from the third year medical students for all but two years in the last 23 years.
In 1993, the Department of Pediatrics assumed administrative oversight of the Center for Disability Resources which resulted in a significant service contract with state agencies and research projects of national significance. In 1994, the directors of the four children's hospitals in South Carolina collaborated on the creation of statewide Developmental Education Centers. Dr. Derrick wrote two successful proposals to the Duke Endowment for funding child abuse services in South Carolina and creation of the South Carolina Institute for Childhood Obesity and Related Disorders.
Dr. Derrick retired as chairman of the department in 2006 but has continued to attend in the teaching clinic, serve on the Admissions Committee, interview pediatric residency applicants and serve as the medical director for the School of Medicine Medical Home Network.
As one of the foundation stones upon which the USC School of Medicine was built, Dr. Derrick’s wisdom and calm demeanor helped to bring stability to the school in its early years. His excellence as a clinical pediatrician and educator, and his outstanding leadership of the pediatrics department and the Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital have built a legacy of service that will endure for many years to come.
Community Service Award
Erik Van Eperen
Medical Student, Class of 2018
Erik Van Eperen is a Class of 2018 medical student who has become an integral part of the Columbia community through numerous community service activities. He’s been a Big Brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands since November 2015. He was paired with a then nine year old boy who lives with his mother and four sisters and needed a positive male presence in his life.
Erik participated in Columbia’s 2017 annual Point in Time Count (PIT Count) of Homelessness, a study mandated by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department. He collected and disseminated items as incentives for the Columbia homeless population to participate in the PIT Count survey and helped give the survey at community events where homeless members congregate.
Erik is a co-founder of Inspire Sports, a nonprofit organization in Wisconsin which helps organizations and high school athletic teams build leaders by sharing their passion with individuals with special needs. He is working with high schools in the Midlands to implement this program in South Carolina. Erik also volunteers his time to assist with free sports physicals for high school student athletes in the Midlands.
Erik also sat on the South Carolina Set Aside Review Committee, which allocates federal Emergency Food and Shelter funds to jurisdictions with unmet needs. He will also be acting as the advisor for the Healthy Futures focus area on the South Carolina Commission on National and Community Service (SC Commission) Grant Review Committee that decides which organizations will receive state AmeriCorps funding.
Community Service Award (Awarded Posthumously)
Seth A. Thomas
Medical Student, Class of 2020
Seth A. Thomas was a Class of 2020 medical student who articulated that service to others was a core value in his life and consistently demonstrated this with his actions. During the final month of his life, he was serving with other students, offering critical women’s care services in the developing community of Cusco, Peru. His strong values, dedication to service, and respect for others had shortly before that been recognized by Seth’s selection to serve as a student representative from the Class of 2020 on the School of Medicine Honor Council. Seth was also the Secretary/Treasurer of the Class of 2020. Seth’s commitment to helping those in great need exemplifies the highest values of the School of Medicine and embodies the concept of servant leadership.
Dean’s Leadership Award
James R. Stallworth, M.D.
Professor of Pediatrics, Pediatrics
Dr. James Stallworth, Professor of Pediatrics, Pediatrics, has exhibited outstanding leadership in the School of Medicine’s teaching mission. In the last two years, he has been instrumental in the success of the new regional campus in Florence and of the new Physician Assistant (PA) Studies Program.
As special assistant to the Dean for the regional campus in Florence, Dr. Stallworth has diligently worked to facilitate the success of the Florence campus medical education program. His contributions have ranged from advising students to his work as the pediatric clerkship director in establishing the clerkship in Florence and assisting other clerkship directors with the transition. He also serves an excellent advocate for the Florence program to other Columbia campus faculty and has contributed to the successful recruitment of Florence physicians as teaching faculty.
As the first medical director for the PA Studies Program, Dr. Stallworth helped establish the curriculum, facilitated communication with clinical providers, and assisted clerkship directors in developing a plan for incorporation of PA students into existing medical student clerkships. He also helped recruit new clinical teaching sites and interviewed new faculty and prospective students. His reputation and standing in the School of Medicine provided the “glue and connectivity” during the program planning. His effort, passion, and commitment to the PA program have truly contributed to its success.
Dr. Stallworth simultaneously maintains the excellence of the pediatric clerkship, excels in his role as director of medical student recruitment, and demonstrates excellence in teaching as demonstrated by his recognition as Teacher of the Year by the Class of 2016. He has also directed the yearly Pediatric Hilton Head Update which brings national recognition to the School of Medicine and to the Department of Pediatrics.
Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Award
Mitzi Nagarkatti, Ph.D.,
Chair, Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology
Dr. Mitzi Nagarkatti is the SmartState Endowed Chair of Center for Cancer Drug Discovery, Carolina Distinguished Professor, and Chair of the Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology Department. Since joining the School of Medicine in 2005, she has enhanced the climate of diversity and inclusion in the School of Medicine through several initiatives.
Dr. Nagarkatti has established collaborative programs for the training of diverse scientists. Through the Institute of International Education, she hosted the first Iraqi Rescue Scholar at the School of Medicine. Currently seven Iraqi students who are supported through the Higher Committee of Education Development in Iraq and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Iraq are pursuing doctoral degrees in Dr. Nagarkatti’s lab. She has also established a collaborative program of education and research with the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Additionally, Dr. Nagarkatti has trained international scientists and students from over 15 countries in her lab.
Dr. Nagarkatti has developed programs for students to gain knowledge of international cultures while pursuing their studies. She has traveled to several countries to establish agreements with international universities for student and faculty exchanges which have enabled medical students to study abroad in China and Kazakhstan in the area of complementary and alternative medicine. A contingent of five faculty paid by China Medical University in Taiwan are expected to visit there this year to develop collaborative research on traditional Chinese medicine. In addition, 17 medical students have expressed interest in pursuing a summer program on global health in Taiwan and China. Dr. Nagarkatti has also established an incentive program to encourage departmental faculty to train undergraduate students through the USC TRIO initiative for low-income and first-generation students.
Friend of the School of Medicine Award
Representative G. Murrell Smith, Jr.
Representative G. Murrell Smith, Jr. was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2001 to serve District 67 in Sumter County.
Representative Smith’s strong commitment to enhancing the delivery of health care in rural areas of South Carolina has been instrumental in providing support for the School of Medicine’s rural health initiatives over the past two years. His vision of a stronger rural health workforce has helped the School of Medicine gain legislative support for the South Carolina Center for Rural Health and Primary Care. The mission of this center is to support and develop rural and primary care education, delivery, and sustainability in South Carolina through clinical practice, training, and research. Representative Smith’s advocacy for the center has led to support for other initiatives increasing health care services to South Carolina residents, especially those in rural areas.
Representative Smith currently serves as Chairman of the Health and Human Services Subcommittee on the House Ways and Means Committee. He served on the House Judiciary Committee until 2009 and was First Vice Chairman of the Committee and Chairman of the Criminal Laws Subcommittee. He has received numerous awards including the Legislator of the Year for the South Carolina Human Services Providers Association, the Legislation Award for South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation, the South Carolina Primary Health Care Association Award and the Community Health Center Champion Award.
Sustained School of Medicine Service Award
Rachel A. Peters
Administrative Director, Pediatrics
Rachel Peters has served the School of Medicine for over 35 years in numerous roles with excellence, dedication, and commitment. For the past twenty years, she has provided outstanding service as the Administrative Director of the Department of Pediatrics. She previously worked in the departments of Neuropsychiatry and Microbiology.
During her tenure as Administrative Director of Pediatrics, Ms. Peters has helped guide its growth while maintaining its financial stability and strength. Her dedication and commitment to the School of Medicine and to the department are unsurpassed. Without any fanfare, she consistently works long hours to keep the department functioning efficiently.
Ms. Peters has served on numerous committees in Pediatrics and in the School of Medicine including the Wellness Promotion Committee, the Committee on Women, and the Women in Science and Medicine Committee. She has also led the Administrative Directors group and often mentors new administrative directors. Her advice is widely sought by many faculty and staff. She has also made valuable contributions to the planning and implementation of the Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group.
Sustained School of Medicine Service Award
Robert L. Price, Ph.D.
Research Professor, Cell Biology and Anatomy
Dr. Robert Price, Research Professor, Cell Biology and Anatomy, has served as the Director of the Instrumentation Resource Facility (IRF) since 1995. He was previously the Manager of the Integrated Microscopic Analysis Facility. Under Dr. Price’s outstanding leadership, the IRF has become a state-of-the-art facility with over twenty major pieces of equipment, including systems for electronic microscopy and live cell and confocal imaging. The IRF strongly support USC’s research and training missions and is a key resource for recruitment of top-notch investigators. Dr. Price has aggressively pursued funding to expand the arsenal of biomedical research equipment and developed a national reputation for the IRF as a leading biomedical research facility.
Dr. Price is a passionate educator who teaches hands-on technical courses to biomedical graduate students and others in the IRF and has directed numerous confocal microscopy workshops locally, nationally and internationally. He recently developed a biotechnology track in the Biomedical Science M.S. program that is designed to help address the shortage of trained support staff in biomedical research.
Dr. Price is an active researcher with over seventy peer-reviewed publications, over a dozen book chapters, has served as Editor-in-Chief of Microscopy and Microanalysis, and is currently the Associate Editor of Microscopy Today. He is currently serving as President-Elect of the Microscopy Society of America (MSA), the largest organization in the country focused on the advancement of microscopy and microanalysis.