Sunanda Gaur, MD
on behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Clinical Research Center (RWJMS-CRC)

Verice M. Mason Community Service Leader Award

Sunanda Gaur, MD

Sunanda Gaur, MD, will receive this year’s award on behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Clinical Research Center (RWJMS-CRS). Dr. Gaur is a pediatric infectious disease specialist and Professor of Pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. She has directed the school’s Pediatric Clinical Research Center since 2006. In 2016, she also became Director of the Adult Clinical Research Center. She co-leads the section on clinical research HUB capacity and trial acceleration at the New Jersey Alliance for Clinical and Translational Science, supported by the National Insitutes of Health’s (NIH’s) National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Dr. Gaur is the Founding Director of the South Asian Total Health Initiative (SATHI) at the medical school. SATHI is a research, outreach and education initiative dedicated to improving the health of South Asians living in the U.S.

Dr. Gaur has worked with children and families with HIV/AIDS since 1983. She has directed the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson AIDS Program since 1995 and chairs the Advisory Committee for the New Jersey Family-Centered HIV Care Network, working with seven other sites in NJ to enhance the standards of HIV care. She served as the Principal Investigator of Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development- (NICHD-) funded pediatric AIDS clinical trials, participating in more than 40 clinical trials in pediatric HIV. Dr. Gaur is interested in international HIV/AIDS, particularly in South Asia, and is involved with the Mailman School of Public Health, providing HIV/AIDS training to healthcare professionals abroad.

Dr. Gaur continues to lead clinical trials related to antimicrobials and infectious diseases, including COVID-19 clinical trials and studies at the medical school.

Petros Levounis, MD, MA

Outstanding Medical
Educator Award

Petros Levounis, MD, MA

Petros Levounis, MD, MA, serves as Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Associate Dean for Professional Development at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Dr. Levounis came to Rutgers from Columbia University, where he served as Director of the Addiction Institute of New York from 2002 to 2013.

Dr. Levounis is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University, where he studied chemistry and biophysics before receiving his medical education at Stanford and the Medical College of Pennsylvania. During medical school, he researched the effects of social class on patient-physician relationships in Oxford, England, and received an MA degree in sociology from Stanford. Dr. Levounis graduated from Columbia’s psychiatry residency program, earning the National Institute of Mental Health Outstanding Resident Award, and went on to complete his fellowship in addiction psychiatry at New York University.

Dr. Levounis is a Betty Ford Scholar, a recipient of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists’ Distinguished Service Award and a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. In 2017, he was elected as an honorary member of the World Psychiatric Association. He was recently named President-Elect of the American Psychiatric Association.

Dr. Levounis has published 14 books, including the self-help paperback Sober Siblings: How to Help Your Alcoholic Brother or Sister—and Not Lose Yourself and the textbook of Substance Dependence and Co-Occurring Psychiatric Disorders. His books have been translated into French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish.

Junichi Sadoshima, PhD, MD

Outstanding Scientist Award

Junichi Sadoshima, PhD, MD

Junichi Sadoshima, PhD, MD, is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. He graduated from Kyushu University School of Medicine in Fukuoka, Japan, receiving his MD/PhD in 1990. He is an expert on the molecular mechanism of heart failure and aging. His research focuses on cardiac metabolism and redox-sensitive signaling mechanisms. His research has been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), American Heart Association (AHA) and Foundation of Leducq. His work has been published in Cell, Nature Medicine and Cell Metabolism. He received first prize for the AHA’s Katz Basic Science Research Prize (1995); first prize for the AHA Cardiovascular Research Prize (2001); the International Society for Hearth Research (ISHR) Janice Pfeffer Distinguished Lecture Award (2010); the AHA Thomas Smith Memorial Lecture Award (2014); the Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences (BCVS) Distinguished Investigator Award (2017); the ISHR President’s Distinguished Lecture Award (2017); and the AHA Merit Award (2020).

Dr. Sadoshima is a member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation. He is a section editor of Autophagy and also serves on 13 journals, including the Journal of Clinical Investigation, as an Editorial Board member. He is a North American coordinator of the Leducq Transatlantic Network, focusing on autophagy in the heart. He has co-organized BCVS 2011 and the Keystone Symposia on Mitochondria and Metabolism in 2017. He regularly serves on NIH study sections and review panels in international funding agencies, including European Research Council. He dedicates himself to the training of young scientists, and his trainees have received numerous awards, including Katz and Marcus awards from the AHA.

Joshua Coren, DO, MBA, FACOFP
and the Rowan University
COVID-19 Vaccine Center Leadership Team

Peter W. Rodino, Jr.
Citizen’s Award®

Joshua Coren, DO, MBA

Joshua Coren, DO, MBA, FACOFP will accept this year’s award on behalf of the Rowan University COVID-19 Vaccine Center Leadership Team, who succeeded in improving the health of New Jersey residents with their vaccination efforts. Dr. Coren is the Co-Founder and Medical Director of the Vaccine Center, and provided leadership and support for the core team while maintaining constant contact with State officials. Dr. Coren also serves as the Senior Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs, Professor, Department of Family Medicine and the Director of Continuing Medical Education at Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Coren is responsible for predoctoral, post-doctoral and clinical activities. He has been Principal Investigator (PI) on numerous state and federal grants, including the Department of Health Services Office of Women's Health and HRSA. As Director of the Continuing Medical Education, he designs, lectures and implements both online and on-site educational content for international programming.

Other members of the Leadership Team:

Richard Jermyn, DO, was the Co-Founder of the Vaccine Center and medical provider in charge of special mobile vaccine projects, reaching communities of need throughout the state.

Danielle Cooley, DO, was the Co-Founder and official medical provider reporting to the New Jersey Immunization Information System (NJIIS). Kanad Mukherjee, DO, was the Site Physician who provided contributor orientation daily, reviewing the mission to save lives. Anne Tomasello, PMP, was the Project Manager who led the volunteer management, scheduling and patient management. Mike Mowery, MBA, was the Vaccine Center Administrator who provided on-site clinical workflow management and assured quality of patient care. Chrissy Beswick was the Facilities/Events Coordinator who coordinated operations for staff and patient experience. Amanda Coltri was the Online Scheduling Services Specialist who created an accessible scheduling experience. Carl Hock, PhD, and Tom Boyle were Cold Chain team members who received and prepared all vaccine deliveries. Renee Demarest, PhD, was the Vaccine Prep Coordinator who ensured that the vaccine site staff were ready to properly prepare the vaccine. Tiruayer Battle, MS, was the Vaccine Center Hired Staff Manager who recruited staff for various roles. Louis Evangelista, MBA, MA, provided valuable PPE and equipment ensuring the highest-level clinical safety standards.

The dedication and the endless hours that faculty, staff, residents, and hundreds of volunteers spent on “Operation Save Lives” resulted in the Center’s remarkable success and had a significant impact on protecting New Jersey’s citizens from COVID-19.

Margarita Camacho, MD, MBA

EJI Physician’s Award®

Margarita Camacho, MD, MBA, MS

Margarita Camacho, MD, MBA, MS, is the Surgical Director of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center’s heart transplant program and one of the nation’s most renowned heart surgeons. Throughout her career, Dr. Camacho has performed more than 650 heart transplants and has been a relentless advocate for the life-changing power of organ donation. Prior to joining Newark Beth Israel in 2005, Dr. Camacho served as a Clinical Associate at the Cleveland Clinic, where she received the Charles Bryan Award for Clinical Excellence. She has been honored by multiple local organizations, including the Executive Women of New Jersey and the New Jersey Hospital Association. In 2021, NJBIZ named Dr. Camacho one of its five “Physician of the Year” recipients. In 2017, she became the first female recipient of the Harvey E. Nussbaum Distinguished Service Award from the American Heart Association. She serves as the President of the New Jersey Society of Thoracic Surgeons and President of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Medical Women’s Association; she also has been named several times to Castle Connolly’s Top Doctors lists. Dr. Camacho is the Past Chair of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons Workforce on End-stage Cardiopulmonary Disease and Past President of the Society of Women in Thoracic Surgery. Dr. Camacho lectures nationally, including to Washington, DC, policy makers, and has authored numerous research articles, book chapters and surgical manuals. She received her medical degree from New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York and completed fellowships on cardiothoracic surgery and pediatric cardiac surgery at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Shereef Elnahal, MD, MBA

Outstanding Healthcare Executive Award

Shereef Elnahal, MD, MBA

Shereef Elnahal, MD, MBA, has served in various healthcare leadership capacities in the public and private sectors. He currently serves as Under Secretary for Health at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. He was nominated by President Joseph R. Biden and confirmed by the United States Senate on July 21, 2022. As the Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Elnahal directs the largest integrated health care system In the United States, which oversees the delivery of care to more than 9 million enrolled Veterans with an annual budget of approximately $102.2 billion.

Dr. Elnahal previously served as the President and CEO of University Hospital in Newark, NJ, which is the principal academic hospital of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Under his tenure, University Hospital achieved substantial improvements in quality and patient safety, financial performance, community engagement, and health equity and inclusion.

He was the 21st Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health in the State of New Jersey, as a Cabinet official under Governor Phil Murphy. Previously, Dr. Elnahal was appointed to the White House Fellows program by President Barack Obama in 2015. In this capacity, he served in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, where he co-founded the Veterans Affairs Innovation Ecosystem—a network of innovators and implementation professionals across the United States who develop and scale best practices that have improved healthcare quality, women’s health, mental health and substance treatment and other areas. The results of this program have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. He also previously served as the Chief Quality and Patient Safety Officer of the Veterans Health Administration.

Emily Davidson

Cooper Medical School of Rowan University,
Class of 2023

Emily Davidson was born in Philadelphia, PA and spent most of her childhood in Voorhees, NJ. She is the youngest of 3 Davidson children. Inspired by her mother’s dedicated career as a PACU nurse, Emily spent multiple summers volunteering in hospitals in Philadelphia during high school, which solidified her aspiration to pursue medicine. Emily attended Muhlenberg College the Lehigh Valley, where she majored in biology and minored in public health. While there, she competed in cross country, winter track, and spring track at the NCAA Division III level and was a team captain. In addition to her athletic pursuits, conducted research on the infection rate and tick abundance of black-legged ticks in the Lehigh Valley. She aspired to unite her passion for the basic sciences in biology and the dynamic impact of the social determinants of health emphasized in her public health courses through medicine. She graduated Magna Cum Laude and was the recipient of various awards and scholarships, including the Dr. James R. Vaughan '52 Student Research Award in Biology. Following her undergraduate studies, Emily worked as a research assistant at Weill Cornell Medicine, where she played an active role in multiple studies within the Transplantation-Oncology Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Unit. Emily assisted with clinical research on the gastrointestinal colonization of hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) patients, contributing to the understanding of multi-drug resistant bacteria and the utility of antibiotic prophylaxis. During her time at Weill Cornell, Emily was both humbled and inspired by the resilience of the patients she had the privilege of working with and learning from. During this period, Emily gratefully received admission to Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU).

Currently, Emily is a 4th year medical student at CMSRU, established in the historically underserved Camden community. In addition to her clinical pursuits, Emily has helped establish an Addiction Medicine and Harm Reduction interest group, advocating for the appropriate and humanistic care for people who use drugs. Additionally, she has helped spearhead a quality improvement project based in the Cooper Rowan Clinic, the free student-run clinic providing primary care to uninsured patients. Emily helped develop and implement a student provider checklist and pneumonia vaccine workflow focused on improving outcomes for patients with diabetes. Embracing her public health background, Emily was also an active member of Care Coordination, a program which provides resources for various social needs of Cooper Rowan Clinic patients. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Emily assisted in safety monitoring for patients enrolled in clinical trials for COVID-19 experimental therapies, including the Remdesivir Expanded Access Treatment Protocol, and assisted with vaccination and testing efforts facilitated by Cooper University Hospital. Outside of medicine, Emily engaged with her community through helping coach the Girls on the Run Program at a local Camden elementary school and through CMSRU’s Homework Heroes program, which provides individualized tutoring to elementary-aged children in Camden. This year, Emily was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.

Emily’s next step is internal medicine residency, with career interests in both hospital medicine and hematology-oncology. Impacted by her pursuits at CMSRU, Emily plans to continue pursuing her passion for advocating for harm reduction policies and practices in medicine. She is also interested in improving health equity and health care delivery for patients with cancer. Emily strives to be a patient-centered physician advocating for patients individually and at the policy level. Outside of medicine, Emily is an avid “foodie” and chef and can be found cooking nourishing meals for her friends and family and dining at Philadelphia’s latest and greatest restaurants. She is also an avid, life-long runner and enjoys exploring new cities through runs with her partner. Most recently, she completed the 2022 Philadelphia Marathon.

Teona Iarajuli

Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine,
Class of 2023

Teona Iarajuli was born and raised in the Republic of Georgia, Tbilisi. At 16 years of age, she moved to the United States, NY. She attended Fordham University where she studied Neuroscience and was passionate about volunteering her time mentoring first generation college students from low-income families. What began as a passionate volunteer pursuit soon became a paid position which she continued throughout her college years. Teona became actively involved in neuroscience research and soon realized that medicine was the right field for her. She was awarded a summer research and travel grant to work on independent projects. She continued research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center before entering medical school.

Teona is currently a 4th year medical student at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine in NJ. She is still pursuing her passion for mentoring, which now includes mentoring first year medical school students by helping them navigate the challenging academic workload and transition into successful students. She is also actively involved in research at the Hackensack Urology Research Department, where she was awarded a $10,000 scholarship to pursue full time research. During this time, she was actively involved in investigating various urologic topics including, robotics, urologic oncology, and female urology. This has been a particularly rewarding experience as Teona is beginning her urology residency at NYP-Columbia program. Teona is looking forward to new challenges as she commences with her chosen specialty. She is eager to learn and is excited about the opportunity to perform surgical procedures that can make a positive impact upon the lives of others.

For fun, Teona enjoys playing chess which she learned from her grandfather as a child. She also enjoys socializing, meeting new people, and travelling. She also particularly enjoys finding new pet stores and playing with puppies (if they allow it). Teona also loves winter sports including skiing and ice skating.

Irene Kontogiannis

Rutgers School of Dental Medicine,
Class of 2023

Irene Kontogiannis was born and raised in the village of Ridgefield Park, NJ. Along with her older sister, she is a first-generation daughter as her mother immigrated to the United States from El Salvador and her father from Greece. She grew up playing sports and later led her varsity volleyball and softball teams as captain, where she learned the significance of leadership, dedication, communication, and teamwork. She also had the privilege of being inducted into numerous honor societies throughout high school and continued receiving these honors (and more) throughout her undergraduate studies at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ).

Nearing the end of her time at TCNJ, she really had to decide upon a career – ideally, one that aligned with her biology degree. In the summer of 2017, she interned at SigmaPharm Laboratories located in Bensalem, PA but did not see her life behind a lab bench. Soon after, Irene started to reflect and could not recall ever having an unpleasant experience at the dentist. Intrigued by the idea of dentistry, she decided to shadow her family dentist. That summer, she learned, observed, and experienced all types of dental procedures and loved the fact that every procedure had a purpose in relieving disease and/or pain for the patient. This, however, was not the only aspect that intrigued her. Irene really loved the fact that dentistry allowed you to have an everlasting impact on your patients with the use of your hands. For as long as Irene can remember, she always loved to draw – from doodling in her notebook to rendering portrait drawings. The idea of helping people in the forms of art, empathy, and medicine, really inspired her to pursue a career in dentistry.

This May, Irene will be graduating from Rutgers School of Dental Medicine. She has been awarded with prestigious scholarships, built invaluable connections with the supportive faculty, and made lifelong colleagues and friends. This past February, she had the opportunity to volunteer at one of her hometown’s elementary schools to educate kindergarteners on the importance of oral health and hopes to continue giving back to her community in the future through education and service. Next year, she will be attending a one-year general practice residency at Morristown Medical Center to expand her skillset as she aspires to ultimately open a private practice in North Jersey where she can provide comprehensive care to her family of patients while always be compassionate with them.

Amy Heussinger

Rutgers School of Health Professions,
Physician Assistant Program, Class of 2023

Amy Heussinger was born in New York City, and raised in Bergen County New Jersey. She attended Westwood High School in which she acted as the school’s cardinal mascot and played on the basketball team. Her interest in medicine was first piqued through her involvement in athletics as she spent time with the school’s athletic trainer who took the time to teach her anatomy, mechanisms of injuries, and treatments plans. Throughout high school and college, Amy worked as a summer camp counselor in which she had to be cognizant of medical conditions each camper in her group possessed. This is when Amy realized her love of working with children and also steered her in the direction of working in medicine with a pediatric patient population.

Amy attended the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences. During the summer of 2018, she participated in The Stewart Alexander Internship Program through Pascack Valley Medical Center in which she was able to shadow different healthcare providers in different specialties; this led to her realization of aspiring to be a physician assistant. She was then accepted into the Rutgers University Physician Assistant Program (RUPA) for the class of 2023. As a first and second year student, she acted as the Rutgers University PA Student Society president. Within the program, Amy acts as a tutor to first and second year students for basic science courses and system-based modules. She has enjoyed being able to give back to the community and volunteer with the program’s HOPE clinic, a medical clinic run by the RUPA faculty and students to deliver healthcare to those who are uninsured/underinsured.

Amy is currently a third year student in Rutgers PA Program and graduating in May 2023. Her career goals are to become a physician assistant and provide patient-centered care as she values the use of shared decision making in medicine. She hopes to work in a pediatric or emergency medicine setting in the future and to utilize her professional skills gained during her RUPA training to provide compassionate health care. Outside of medicine, Amy loves to travel, watch UConn and Rutgers basketball games, and spend time with her family and friends.

Ngozi Anaemejeh

Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School,
Class of 2023

Ngozi Anaemejeh was born and raised in Nigeria. She moved to the United States with her family at age 15 and settled in New Jersey. She began her educational journey at Essex County Community College and eventually transferred to Rutgers University where she majored in Biological sciences with a minor in Entrepreneurship. As an undergraduate, she was an active member of the Office for Diversity and Academic Success in the Sciences (ODASIS); an academic support unit that is invested in the success of underrepresented minority students who are interested in pursuing careers in STEM. She nurtured her love for teaching and mentoring by working with middle and high school student at an after school program, where she was able to help them learn new concepts and complete assignments. As a young girl growing up in a rural community in Nigeria, she had multiple personal experiences with the health care system. She began to understand how the lack of access to quality health care can have detrimental effects on families and communities. These experiences ignited her passion for medicine, and desire to serve under-resourced communities.

Ngozi is currently a 4th year medical student at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical school, NJ. She is an aspiring OB/GYN with a passion for community and global womens health. As a medical student, Ngozi has led and participated in several community health outreach initiatives, and held multiple leadership positions. She co-developed a curriculum with the aim of improving health literacy among senior citizens in her local community. She served as an intern for the Rutgers Women’s Health Institute where she helped develop educational videos for incarcerated women. She was inducted into the AOA and Gold Humanism Honor Societies. In addition, she will be graduating with a Distinction in Service to the Community.

She is excited about beginning her career as an OB/GYN. She plans to use the knowledge and skills gained during training and throughout her career to contribute to the advancement of the quality of healthcare delivery to marginalized communities in the United States and developing countries, especially in West Africa, where it all began for her. When she is not working, Ngozi enjoys exercising, leisure reading, travelling, and spending time with family.

Ellen Cahill

Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School,
Class of 2023

Ellen Cahill was born and raised in Basking Ridge, NJ. She is the daughter of Margaret and Dennis Cahill and sister to Thomas Cahill. She attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine where she studied Psychology and Government/Legal Studies. Ellen was involved in several student-led dance groups on campus and enjoyed leading campus tours and writing for the college newspaper’s arts and entertainment section. During her junior year of college, Ellen realized the impact she hoped to have on the lives of others and decided to pursue a career in medicine. Ellen graduated cum laude with honors in Psychology from Bowdoin. Ellen spent time before medical school working as a scribe in the Emergency Department at Morristown Medical Center, and she applied to medical school and was accepted to Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Ellen is currently a fourth-year medical student at RWJMS in New Brunswick, NJ. Beginning in her first year of medical school, Ellen has had a passion for medical education and curricular improvement. Ellen created a revamped journal club for teaching evidence-based medicine, which has been presented at a national medical education meeting and has since been incorporated into the RWJMS curriculum. During medical school, Ellen has also enjoyed tutoring first-year medical students through the Cognitive Skills department, serving as a course representative and student curriculum reform fellow, and engaging in research within the division of urology. She was awarded a Distinction in Medical Education and was inducted into the AOA and Gold Humanism honor societies.

Ellen will be starting urology residency at Yale this July. Ellen has several interests within urology, including pediatric urology, men’s health and infertility, and endourology. After training, Ellen hopes to combine clinical practice, medical education, and research into her future career. In her free time, Ellen enjoys yoga, running, cycling, birding, board games, and spending time with her family and friends.

Debbie Meskin

Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine,
Class of 2023

Debbie Meskin was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and raised in Voorhees, NJ. She began her medicine journey wanting to be just like her dad, an outstanding Family Practitioner. As she progressed through her education, her passion for medicine, specifically Sports Medicine, grew stronger. Debbie majored in Chemistry and minored in Psychology at The College of New Jersey, where she was also part of the NCAA Division III TCNJ Swim Team. Debbie was inducted into the college’s Blue and Gold Hall of Fame for her monumental leadership as captain of the swim team, Lab Manager, Admissions Ambassador, and Resident Advisor. Debbie was elated to be accepted to Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine to continue her medicine career.

While at RowanSOM, Debbie found her true passion in Family Medicine, with special interests in Academic Medicine, Behavioral Health, Pediatrics, and of course, Sports Medicine. She served as president of the Pediatric’s Club, Lead Ambassador for Admissions, secretary for Sports Medicine Club, and ultimately Student Council Vice President. While VP, Debbie focussed her efforts on offering assistance to the first and second year medical school classes by creating a guide to the RowanSOM new curriculum, designing a successful and now mandatory Orientation program, and holding multiple tutoring and help sessions for the classes below her. She also represented her school at multiple national advocacy meetings, including Advocacy Day and DO Day on the Hill. Debbie is also the proud creator of the Learning Group Curriculum, a school-run program for first years designed to acclimate students to efficient medical school studying.

Debbie is pursuing a Family Medicine Residency with plans to complete a Sports Medicine Fellowship, with the ultimate goal of becoming a USA Olympic Team Doctor and broad-based family medicine practitioner. She loves traveling with her amazing partner Evan, playing fetch with her beautiful goldendoodle/son Jackson, working out with her sister Nicki, playing board games with her dad, and swimming in rivers with her golden retriever Sully. Debbie would like to thank her mom for all of the support she had given her, as well as all of the mentors and teachers that have helped make her dream of becoming a doctor come true.

Cynthia Smith

Rutgers New Jersey Medical School,
Class of 2023

Cynthia Smith was born and raised in Monmouth County, NJ. She attended Virginia Tech, located in Blacksburg, VA, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in education. She also attended Seton Hall Law School, located in Newark, NJ, where she graduated with a concentration in Health Law. Cynthia has worked as a water chemist and microbiologist, a teacher and school administrator, an inventor and entrepreneur, and a patent attorney.

Cynthia is currently a 4th year medical student at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School located in the Newark, NJ. While a student, Cynthia serves her school community through her work on the curriculum committee and the quality improvement committee, as well as serving as a research mentor and academic tutor. She has also been actively involved in research, contributing to and authoring numerous publications during her medical school career, and was recognized for her achievements in research by the award of the AOA Weiss-Lambert Research Contribution Recognition Award. She is honored to have been admitted to the AOA in her junior year and serves as AOA co-president for her class.

In the future, Cynthia plans to pursue a residency in pediatrics and a fellowship in pediatric cardiology. She looks forward to partnering with her patients and their families in providing compassionate patient-centered care. Cynthia plans to apply her skills and experience to both academic medicine and patient advocacy. In her free time, Cynthia enjoys many activities including distance running, aikido, travel and playing the guitar. She cherishes time with her family and friends.

Jessica Castelo

Seton Hall University School of Health and Medical Sciences,
Physician Assistant Program, Class of 2023

Jessica Castelo grew up in Westfield, NJ and received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. While at W&L, Jess participated on the Women’s Lacrosse team, playing in the NCAA Final Four, earning All American Honors, and captaining the team her senior year. Jess solidified her desire to pursue PA school after shadowing and learning from various healthcare professionals. She knew being a PA would allow her to combine her passion for science and lifelong learning with her desire to have meaningful connections with patients. After college, she worked as a certified nurse aid in a skilled nursing facility as well as a patient care associate on a medical/surgical floor at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, New Jersey, where she has continued to work throughout PA school.

As an undergraduate, Jess’ senior capstone focused on a government subsidized health clinic that provides medical, dental, women’s health, and behavioral health services in rural Virginia. It was at this clinic Jess learned of the biopsychosocial model and how it can be used to provide comprehensive interventions to care for patients. Jess has taken this approach with her on clinical rotations throughout New Jersey at various hospitals and outpatient clinics. The past two years while at Seton Hall, Jess has served as Co-President for Saving Mothers. Saving Mothers is a global non- profit organization founded with the mission to reduce maternal health inequity, empower women, and eliminate preventable pregnancy-related deaths. She has helped fundraise for Saving Mothers through social media campaigns, donation-based yoga classes, and Safe Birth Kit building events. Jess has also volunteered with Children’s Lightning Wheels, an organization that creates opportunities for athletes with physical disabilities to compete, have fun, make friends, and increase awareness of their capabilities.

Jess is currently a third year PA Student at Seton Hall University. After graduation, Jess plans to work as a PA in New Jersey to serve her community and help her patients overcome each unique challenge. In her free time, Jess enjoys gardening, playing tennis, and running. This past November, she achieved one of her goals and completed the 2022 New York City Marathon and hopes to one day run it again.

Gabriela Alvarez

Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy,
Class of 2023

Gabriela Alvarez was born in New Brunswick, NJ and raised in East Brunswick, NJ. She is a daughter to the best parents in the world and older sister to another aspiring pharmacist. She attended East Brunswick High School from where she graduated with honors and earned admission to Rutgers University - Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy’s accelerated PharmD program. Gabriela was involved in several groups on campus, highlighted by her roles as an academic mentor to younger students, a campus ambassador, and a member of Rho Chi Honors Society. She also has volunteered on several committees with her school’s American Pharmacists Association chapter to host health-related outreach events to the local community. Her favorite events involved those aimed at educating children about drug safety.

Her decision to pursue a career in pharmacy stems from a general interest in health sciences starting in middle school and a lifelong desire to help others. While researching careers in early high school, Gabriela learned about the rigorous pharmacy program offered at Rutgers, a university that had always been a ten minute drive down the street. She dedicated herself to securing admission to the accelerated program and was graciously accepted to begin Fall of 2017. However, Gabriela’s passion for pharmacy began when she began working as a technician at a specialty pharmacy in an underserved community. Seeing the impact she could have on people and the plethora of opportunities there are within pharmacy, she knew this was the career for her. These experiences, in addition to the support of her family and friends, have driven her to become who she is today.

In the future, Gabriela aims to be a compassionate healthcare professional who can provide excellent medication-related education to patients, providers, and students. She seeks to be an asset to any medical team that would welcome her and be as hands-on with patient care as possible, potentially specializing in either ambulatory care or pediatrics. Eventually, she hopes to obtain a position in academia to teach and inspire the next generation of pharmacists. In her free time, Gabriela enjoys playing the ukulele and spending time with her little dog, Ginger. She enjoys traveling and loves to experience new cultures and foods. She is also a loyal New Jersey Devils fan and can typically be found most nights during hockey season either watching the game on television, if not actually at the game enjoying it live.

Sheena Licata

Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Pharmacy and Health Services,
Class of 2023

Sheena Licata was born in Georgetown, Guyana and moved to New Jersey in 1999. She is a daughter, sister, and an aunt to two adorable nephews. Her first introduction into healthcare was working as a pharmacy technician at her local retail pharmacy in Jersey City, New Jersey. In this role, she found a passion for helping those in need and decided to pursue a career in pharmacy. She attended William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, and graduated with a B.S. in Biology. She applied to pharmacy school and was accepted to Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

Sheena is currently a 4th year pharmacy student at FDU in Florham Park, New Jersey, pursuing a dual degree in Master of Public Health. She is determined to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who are medically underserved. In her role as a pharmacist, she believes she can have significant influence on public health through promotion of health literacy, medication adherence, health screenings, and tertiary care. During one of her APPE rotations, Sheena volunteered to help the Diabetes Foundation at their annual gala and advocated for attendees to enroll in the Peer Advocacy Program. This program brings together individuals interested in supporting an awareness campaign about the diabetes epidemic. This event inspired her to get involved with the New Jersey Coordinating Body for the Association of Diabetes Care and Educators Specialists. She currently sits on the membership committee, where she encourages and offers supports to members as they advocate for people with diabetes.

As a future pharmacist, Sheena intends to make an impact on a much larger scale by pursuing a fellowship in the pharmaceutical industry. She is eager to succeed in pharmaceutical marketing where her clinical knowledge combined with advertising and strategy, can improve access of medications for patients. She has graciously accepted a fellowship in Global Oncology Marketing with Daiichi Sankyo and is excited to embark on this new chapter of her life after she graduates from FDU in May 2023. In her free time, Sheena enjoys playing with her two cats, Kobe and Kloe, and her dog, Kyrie. She enjoys watching true crime documentaries, cooking, and game nights with her friends.  She loves traveling, has a thirst for knowledge and novel experiences, and enjoys exploring new cultures and cuisines. She also enjoys sports, is a huge Tom Brady fan, and is extremely sad he retired.