School of Medicine honors 2023 Take Wing Award recipient, Richard Barohn, M.D.
Richard Barohn (M.D. `80) was a 17-year-old high school senior when he was accepted to the UMKC School of Medicine, still in its infancy at the time.
“I really do believe that being accepted into the UMKC School of Medicine is like winning the lottery,” Barohn said. “And I believe I won the lottery very early in life. Then it was up to me come through and take advantage of that opportunity.”
His time at the School of Medicine has served the 2023 E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award honoree well, leading to a 20-year military career serving in the U.S. Air Force and becoming a recognized leader and research scientist in neurology and neuromuscular research. Following a stop at the University of Texas Southwestern, where he dove deep into his research interest, he spent another 20 years at the University of Kansas Medical Center, leading the neurology department as well as a team that developed Frontiers, a clinical and translational science institute that includes UMKC as one of its partners.
Today, he serves as the executive vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Missouri and dean of the University of Missouri School of Medicine, with oversight of the university’s entire health care and medical education system.
In his May 12 Take Wing address to students, faculty, friends and colleagues, Barohn discussed his own career path and provided advice for younger physicians, outlining the career paths available to them.
“So now you’ve finished medical school, you’ve finished your residency, you’ve finished your fellowship, what the heck do you do next?” he said.
Barohn offered an outline of career options, from clinical practice to teaching, research and academic administration. Each have been a part of his career, and Barohn said the foundation for that career was laid during his time at the School of Medicine.
“Perhaps I have used my lottery ticket to become a successful physician and, in my case, a successful academic leader, teacher and researcher and more recently an academic administrator,” he said.
Just prior to the Take Wing presentation, Jada Ohene-Agyei, a fifth-year student, received the 2023 Excellence in Public Health Award from the U.S. Public Health Service Physician Professional Advisory Committee.
The national award, presented to Ohene-Agyei by Lt. Cmd. Catherine Olguin of the U.S. Public Health Service, recognizes medical students who help address public health issues in their community and protect, promote and advance the health and safety of our nation.
Ohene-Agyi has been active in many volunteer programs and organizations, serving as a leader with the student chapter of the American Medical Association and as president of the local Student National Medical Association chapter. Last summer, she led a team of nearly 70 student and faculty volunteers from UMKC’s health sciences schools in a one-day community health and wellness fair at the Kansas City Health Department.
Sophie Bernstein, a fifth-year medical student, received the award in 2022.
The School of Medicine honored Scot Ebbinghaus, M.D., ’89, a medical oncologist and health care pioneer, with the 2022 E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award during a ceremony and lecture on May 13.
Ebbinghaus has a distinguished research career in immuno-oncology therapeutics. He currently serves as vice president and therapeutic area head of late-stage oncology clinical research for Merck Research Laboratories in North Wales, Pennsylvania.
He is directly responsible for the strategy and execution of multiple clinical trials that led to the development of pembrolizumab, a drug described as a game changer and one of the most important tools in the treatment of certain types of cancer.
Following his graduation from the School of Medicine, Ebbinghaus completed his internal medicine residency and a fellowship in hematology/oncology at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. He served as an associate professor of medicine at the University of Arizona before joining Merc.
In his Take Wing lecture, Ebbinghaus discussed the development of pembrolizumab, a therapeutic that has received 44 FDA approvals for use in multiple solid tumor types. His work laid the groundwork for the drug’s approvals and its production to scale with millions of doses having been delivered to patients throughout the world.
His research and work with the cancer treatment has been the topic of multiple New England Journal of Medicine publications and American Society of Clinical Oncology plenary sessions
Mario Castro, M.D., a specialist in pulmonary care and 1988 graduate of the UMKC School of Medicine, received the school’s prestigious E. Grey Dimond Take Wing Award and delivered the annual Take Wing lectureship on May 17.
He also discussed respiratory health in the developing work and his work to battle COVID-19 on a global level. Castro serves as principal investigator and director of Frontiers, a clinical and translational research institute at the University of Kansas. The organization collaborates with leaders of health care institutions throughout the region including the UMKC School of Medicine.
While much of the country anxiously awaited the first vaccines to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, Castro was leading a group of researchers in the Kansas City area with a much broader focus.
The goal was a global vaccine that could be taken to the farthest reaches of the world. Vaccines that were being produced for distribution in the United States required deep freezing, said Castro, whose team studied the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“If you’re in the middle of Africa, that won’t work very well,” Castro said. “We needed a vaccine like the AstraZeneca that just requires simple refrigeration, that you can take in a cooler and you can take it anywhere with you.”
Working with partners throughout Kansas City, the collaborative embarked on one of the largest vaccine studies in the country. The study enrolled more than 500 participants in Kansas City who were part of an effort that has since developed the COVID vaccine most used world-wide.
The vaccine has been approved for use in more than 30 countries. More than 200 million doses have been applied. It is also part of the World Health Organization’s plan to reach those world’s lower socioeconomic countries.
Castro has already launched three additional National Institutes of Health-funded studies to combat COVID infection.
“It’s really been an honor to participate in and lead that effort in the midst of this pandemic,” Castro said. “It’s definitely been a help on a world-wide basis to get a vaccine that will be easy to transport and be more readily available around the world.”
Castro joined the KU School of Medicine in 2019 as chief of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine and vice chair for clinical and translational research. Before that, he spent 25 years in St. Louis at the Washington University School of Medicine where he oversaw the asthma and airway translational research unit that conducted as many as 30 clinical trials at a time.
A renowned leader in his specialty, he has received numerous honors for his work including two awards from the American Lung Association of Eastern Missouri and the CHEST Foundation’s Humanitarian Recognition Award.
“What UMKC always taught me well was how to take care of a patient and how to listen to a patient,” Castro said.
That training also paved the way for Castro to create the International Medical Assistance Foundation, an organization that has been reaching the underserved in Honduras.
He oversees a board that regularly sends volunteer teams of ENT, orthopedics, cardiology, neurology and other specialists to remote areas of Honduras. Twelve years ago, the Honduran government provided $3 million and Castro’s foundation raised another $3 million through church donations and fundraisers to build and supply a 100-bed hospital and clinic, Hospital Hermano Pedro, in Catacamas, Honduras.
Just prior to the onset of the COVID pandemic, Castro and his team saw and treated 1,300 pulmonary patients in less than a week at the hospital.
“I immigrated to this country in 1965,” said Castro, who was born in Matanzas, Cuba. “It’s been part of my blood to give back to those who are disadvantaged. We want to give back to those who are less fortunate and certainly it helps us appreciate what we have here in this country.”
For Arif Kamal, M.D., ’05, physician quality and outcomes officer for the Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, North Carolina, research is as much about solving a problem as it is discovery.
“Sometimes we face a problem and have no idea how to solve it,” said Kamal, winner of the 2019 E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award. “We have to discover the solution, and that may require performing foundational basic science research, or conducting a big clinical drug trial. Or we may discover that we have a solution, but it hasn’t been implemented because of cost or other barriers, so we have to innovate and collaborate to make the solution accessible and affordable.”
Kamal received the School of Medicine’s prestigious alumni award on May 20 at the annual Take Wing lectureship and award ceremony. The honor is given to a graduate who has demonstrated excellence in his or her chosen field and exceeded the expectations of peers in the practice of medicine, academic medicine or research.
After giving the noon lecture and accepting the award, he also spoke to faculty, students and their families at the 2019 graduation ceremony at the Kauffman Center.
Kamal describes his approach on conducting health services research as being “agnostic at the outset toward what’s needed to solve any particular problem.”
Kamal’s desire to broaden his skills and the ways he can approach a problem led him to earn a master’s in health science in clinical research in 2015 and a master’s in business administration in 2016. Besides his Cancer Center post at Duke, Kamal is an associate professor of medicine, business administration and population health science.
Kamal distinguished himself in palliative care, developing innovative ways to find out and provide what’s really important to patients at the end of their life. His desire to research and improve palliative care stemmed from his own mother’s battle with breast cancer, when he saw very personally how her care could have been better.
He started Duke’s outpatient palliative care program for cancer patients seven years ago, and the Cancer Center’s “total pain approach” has helped develop and administer therapies for long-term relief of distress that affects patients with a serious illness. The focus is on identifying and addressing physical and emotional drivers of distress well before the end of life, when people historically have thought of palliative care.
Now, Kamal’s team is working on smartphone apps to engage patients with serious illnesses and their caregivers in their own care, day to day. One such app would monitor opioid use.
“We fundamentally believe that patients don’t want to be addicted, that they want to responsibly use opioids and that clinicians want to responsibly prescribe them,” Kamal said. “But there’s not actually a way, for example, to monitor what people are doing at home. So, we’re creating an app to record how and what they’re using and how that corresponds with pain scores, to make sure they’re getting the right amount, and not too much or too little.”
And to put that app into people’s hands takes a team.
“We’re working with some commercial payers and several parts of the university, from data science to graphics and programming, to our addiction and pain management experts, to palliative care and patients and caregivers, to identify what the right characteristics for the app will be.”
Kamal, originally from Warrensburg, Missouri, said his appreciation for teamwork was fostered by the UMKC School of Medicine’s docent system and frequent clinical exposure to the many types of medical practice.
“And I got my start in research there,” he said. “My first published paper was with Dr. Agostino Molteni,” in Nutrition Research in 2004.
Kamal and his wife, Jennifer Maguire, M.D. ’07, have two small children, and Kamal said they enjoy returning to the Kansas City area frequently. That included a return to receive the Take Wing Award.
While the award recognizes career excellence, individual achievement and public service, in Kamal’s case, it also honors a vision for future innovations to reduce suffering and bring healing.
“I think what we’re fundamentally seeing is a reimagination of what it means to be a researcher in medicine,” he said. “Certainly that’s the path I’ve taken.”
Michael Hinni, M.D., ’88, a pioneer in head and neck surgery, is the 2018 winner of the E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award.
Hinni is professor of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine and head of the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Otolaryngology at Mayo Scottsdale. He is known for being in the forefront of developing minimally invasive procedures for surgical removal of head and neck tumors.
Those efforts included designing instruments to accomplish better, safer surgery; contributing to the published medical literature on such topics as how much tissue needs to be removed to completely clear malignancy from the throat and surrounding areas; and presenting the evidence for this medical advances at local , national and international forums.
In letters nominating him for the award, his colleagues praised him for displaying substance, purpose, courage, care for and loyalty to followers, integrity and self sacrifice.
As Take Wing winner, Hinni is scheduled receive his award and deliver the annual Take Wing lecture on May 21 at the School of Medicine and to speak as part of the School of Medicine’s commencement ceremony later that afternoon.
A career in obstetrics and gynecology did not particularly resonate with Jason Wright, M.D. ’99, as he was starting his clinical clerkships at the UMKC School of Medicine. Then he got to his Ob/Gyn rotation.
“It was a complete surprise to me. I really enjoyed that rotation,” Wright said.
So much that Wright has forged a career as an internationally recognized expert in gynecologic cancers while becoming chief of gynecologic oncology at Columbia University. His work has earned him the 2016 E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award.
Wright will receive the award and present the annual Take Wing lecture at noon on May 23 at the School of Medicine.
In 2009, just three years after joining the Columbia faculty, Wright was named the Levin Family Assistant Professor in Women’s Health, becoming one of the youngest physicians to ever receive an endowed professorship at the school. Five years later, he became the Sol Goldman Associate Professor and assumed the section chief’s role.
“This is definitely my passion now,” Wright said. “I’m also a clinician, so my passion is caring for my patients. I developed early on an interest in research and that wove through my residency and fellowship and wound up with me doing the type of research I’m doing now. It wasn’t a straight-forward, straight-line route, but you can trace it back to my days at UMKC.”
Wright followed medical school with a residency in obstetrics and gynecology and a fellowship in gynecologic oncology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
He joined the faculty at Columbia University in 2006 and has served as chief of gynecologic oncology and director of the joint gynecologic oncology fellowship at Columbia and Cornell universities since 2014.
Wright says his interest in research began at UMKC. He now is the author of more than 170 peer-reviewed publications and more than 115 abstracts, with articles published in leading medical journals including JAMA and Lancet.
His work has focused on innovations in technology and the quality of care in oncology. For the past 10 years, he has studied individualized patient care by exploring large data sources to look at treatment outcomes and ways to tailor care for particular patients.
“We’ve been able to challenge some things that are dogma in medicine and the traditional ways of treating patients,” Wright said. “We have been able to shed light on some ways to improve outcomes in women’s health.”
Wright credits his time as a student at UMKC for laying the groundwork for his current success.
“One of the benefits of the UMKC School of Medicine is the tremendous clinical basics you get and you can build on that,” he said. “That foundation was key for me. And, I had great mentors.”
Timothy Buie, M.D. ’84, had some help from family when deciding his career choice. His father, for instance, was a physician in Kansas City and mentored a number of medical students. “I really think I’m a physician because my dad was a good physician and he really inspired us to serve,” Buie said.
And then there was his brother, Steve, now a Kansas City-area family medicine physician, who graduated from the School of Medicine the year before. Buie joked that he thought he’d become an actor until Steve told him, “It just doesn’t pay,” and handed him an application to the School of Medicine.
Today, Buie is a renowned pediatric gastroenterologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and is one of the country’s leading authorities on medical conditions in children with autism.
His work with children who battle developmental and gastrointestinal problems led Buie to create a teaching curriculum that includes guidelines for parents and health care providers regarding behaviors of children with autism that may represent pain or other underlying medical issues. He has received numerous awards for his achievements, and the School of Medicine added to those on May 19 by presenting him with the 2015 E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award.
“I think those who knew me then would not have expected me to receive the Take Wing Award, let me tell you. But I’m really grateful,” Buie said. “My class was really an exceptional class and there are an awful lot of people who ‘took wing.’ ”
While the understanding of autism has evolved, Buie said that knowledge has also served as an interesting model when thinking about other chronic diseases, as there is a good deal of overlap with other conditions.
Buie said the pediatrics textbook he used in school said autism occurred in one out of every 5,000 individuals. More recent reports claim one in 68 individuals have some form of autism spectrum disorder, According to Buie, the numbers are continuing to rise with an added burden of an annual $60 billion used to care for and support autistic children and adults.
“We are seeing a higher frequency of autism, a lot of psychiatric disorders and other developmental disabilities. They are overwhelming our system,” he said.
Buie currently serves as director of gastroenterology and nutrition at the Lurie Center for Autism at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.
He has recently created a video series “Office Hours with Dr. Tim Buie,” co-produced with Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. The videos explore a variety of medical conditions often seen in autistic children and include rare footage of patient examinations to help illustrate these conditions. Buie said the series has received an overwhelming response from families and physicians as an online learning tool. The videos and question/answer sessions for each installment are available at AutismSpeaks.org.
Doug Zweig, M.D., ’80, believes in paying it back and paying it forward.
Growing up on a farm in Vichy, Mo., Zweig was familiar with financial limitations and saw the sacrifices being made for him.
A local physician, Dr. Emile Stricker, asked Zweig, during his senior year of high school, what he planned to do with his future. When young Zweig told him he wanted to be a physician, Stricker suggested the newly formed UMKC School of Medicine. After receiving a letter of acceptance the following spring, the next concern was how to foot the bill. A local farmer and his wife heard about the high school senior who was headed to Kansas City for medical. They had saved $3,000 and wanted to make a difference.
“While the couple did not have immediate family, they heard of an opportunity to make a difference in the life of another and provided a gift for which I will forever be grateful,” Zweig said. “Their selfless act made all the difference.”
Selfless giving of time and treasure became a significant part of Zweig’s life and career. Past president of the Friends of the UMKC School of Medicine, he has helped direct a group of involved parents, guardians and alumni create new scholarships and recreational opportunities for the School and initiate the ongoing endeavor to bring an exercise room to the School for students, staff and faculty. Christian Hospital Northeast, located in North St. Louis County has remained his central office for the past 29 years and acts not only as a primary community-based hospital but also as a safety net for the underserved in North City and County of St. Louis. Zweig serves all patients from the hospitals associated with his practice, Pulmonary Consultants, Inc., regardless of their financial situation, which, he said, is inspired by the pioneers of the School of Medicine.
“All of the icons of the School of Medicine – Drs. E. Grey Dimond, Noback, Jonas, William and Marjorie Sirridge, Langley and others were consistently engaged with the students and focused not only on the success of the school, but principally that of the students,” Zweig said. “At a time in their life when success flourishes, they changed course to start something bold and new. When you reflect on the accomplishments that the School of Medicine has achieved over the past 40 years, that is truly inspiring.”
In the fall of 2013, Zweig received the phone call informing him he was the 2014 recipient of the E. Grey Dimond Take Wing Award.
“I am very humbled that the School feels I’m worthy of this recognition, especially after reviewing its intent and significance and the individual who conceptualized this award. I hope it’s something I can live up to,” he said. “I have no plans to retire any time soon, and I’m not sure what I would do with my time if I did. Medicine is too much fun.”
Zweig joined Pulmonary Consultants, Inc., in 1985 after completing his residency in internal medicine and fellowship in pulmonary and critical care at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa, Fla., and following additional instruction on interventional pulmonary medicine at the Lehey Clinic in Boston. It was during his time in Boston that he improved his skills in endoscopic NdYAG laser photo surgery, a novel approach at the time for airway management. He and his group at Pulmonary Consultants, Inc., founded the Center for Advanced Pulmonary Medicine at Christian Hospital Northeast and at the Northwest Health Center. In additional to traditional pulmonary medicine, the center offers a pulmonary rehab program, the second sleep lab in Missouri directed by a physician board-certified in sleep medicine, a pulmonary hypertension clinic and a lung cancer program for the community. They are currently working to offer a lung cancer screening program for high-risk populations in the hopes of improving the morbidity and mortality associated with this disorder.
“Medicine is one of the few fields that is constantly experiencing a renaissance of discovery and allows those who desire a new experience on a daily basis,” he said. “Applying science to patient care is my passion. We’re not in the business of immortality but rather improving the quality of life for those individuals who seek our council. When patients benefit from our actions, that provides immense satisfaction and kindles the fire to do better each day.”
Striving to bring new technologies to his community of patients and working jointly with Christian Hospital and the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, Christian Hospital was the first to offer minimally invasive surgical techniques using video-assisted thorascopic and robotic lung surgery to St. Louis, as well as navigational bronchoscopy to a community-based facility. His involvement in medical leadership at Christian Hospital includes being past chairman of the intensive care unit and pharmacy committees; a member of the board of directors for the past 14 years; co-director of the Department of Respiratory Therapy & Pulmonary Function Lab; and past secretary/treasurer and current chief of stafffor Christian Northeast Hospital and Northwest Health Center.
Throughout the past seven years, Zweig has reconnected with and has donated his time to the School of Medicine.
“At times it feels like coming home, a place where formative years were spent and friendships were developed,” he said.”
Zweig’s daughter, Jessica, is a 2014 graduate and is following in her father’s footsteps as she heads to the University of South Florida College of Medicine for her internal medicine residency. His son, Jason, is a fourth year student at the School of Medicine.
In addition to his professional activities and service to the School, he has devoted his life to his wife, Dee, who has been a constant source of support, including his adventures in sailing, flying and scuba diving.
“Life is about balance, following your passion, restoring your spirit on a daily basis and becoming personally involved,” Zweig said. “You’re the only person with your particular talent and time, and only you can offer it to others. Donations are wonderful and needed, but time is something that cannot be replaced. At some point, each of us have to decide who we are, what we are willing to do and when that will occur. There is a time and place for everything, but if it truly matters, now is the time.”