Super Gators

Super Gators

Three Health Science Center employees received universitywide Superior Accomplishment Awards in 2012.

Rajeeb Das

Looking at a map of Gainesville’s underserved areas, Rajeeb Das wondered what life was like for the families who lived there. So he decided to move into one of these neighborhoods to find out for himself.

Family and friends were concerned about his decision, but Das, a statistical research coordinator at the UF College of Medicine’s department of pediatrics and grant writer at the department’s Family Data Center, had already made up his mind.

“If I could experience what these families were dealing with on a daily basis, I knew I’d better understand what the numbers meant,” he said.

This attitude of going the extra mile to help others is the reason Das was recently honored twice as the inaugural recipient of the Community Service Award during the universitywide Superior Accomplishment Award ceremony.

“Mr. Das has played an integral role in the college’s mission to promote community health, empower families to take charge of their health and reduce the health disparities in the region,” said Michael L. Good, M.D., dean of the UF College of Medicine. “He is an inspiration because of his compassion for our area’s most fragile populations.”

Jeffrey Roth, Ph.D., program director of the Family Data Center and a research professor of pediatrics at UF, said Das played in instrumental role in pinpointing the “unknown areas of need.”

“Rajeeb worked with faculty to take a look at a density map of communities that have adverse conditions,” Roth said. “He paid attention to the areas that are sometimes overlooked because they are near nicer neighborhoods.”

After studying the geographic information from maps, Das moved into a local low-income neighborhood for six months. Through that experience, the Gainesville native gained insights that helped him write highly competitive grant proposals to accurately address the needs of the residents.

“I saw people living in a broken state, neglected and forgotten by their community,” he said. “Little things like sidewalks and quietness didn’t exist there. But the people there are just like us, trying to live a life.”

At the Family Data Center, Das collects data on maternal and child health and works collaboratively on projects with state agencies such as the departments of Health, Education, Children and Families, and Juvenile Justice. But just getting numbers and figures on paper has never been his final goal.

“I enjoy numbers and statistics,” he said. “But if it’s not applied, what is the point? What can we do with these numbers for our community?”

Das’ colleagues, who nominated him for the award, had no difficulty obtaining recommendation letters, said Jill Bischoff, a training and education coordinator at the Family Data Center.

“Rajeeb is great at sharing passion and connecting people,” she said. “People realize that what he does is genuine.” — Jessica Jinah Song

Constance Pruitt

On a typical weekday, you will find Constance Pruitt at the UF&Shands Florida Recovery Center, where she is an administrative assistant for the department of psychiatry.

But on April 19, she was in the J. Wayne Reitz Union Grand Ballroom, where she received the Jeffrey A. Gabor Employee Recognition Award. She was one of four recipients of the award this year.

“It was kind of a surprise,” Pruitt said. “I’m very honored to be recognized.”

The Jeffrey A. Gabor Employee Recognition Award, sponsored by the Gabor Agency, is awarded to university employees who demonstrate outstanding service. The winners received $1,000 check and a commemorative plaque.

As an administrative assistant, Pruitt oversees billing for psychiatric consultation services, addiction medicine and hospital stays. She also provides administrative support for Scott Teitelbaum, M.D., the medical director of the Florida Recovery Center.

“She’s a wonderful person,” said Donna Roland, who has worked with Pruitt for three years. “She always goes above and beyond to make sure all her ‘I’s are dotted and ‘T’s are crossed.”

Pruitt says the hardest part about her day-to-day tasks is finding time to do them all, but the best is seeing the results.

“The most rewarding part is seeing the impact we have on patients here who are dealing with addiction,” Pruitt said. “I get to indirectly see that benefit.”

Outside of work, Pruitt enjoys being outdoors and participating in activities with her local church. This summer, she is spending a week in Spain to hike the Camino de Santiago with her sister.

“I grew up in an active family, and once a year we get together for a trip,” she said. “It will be a great trip.” — Rachel Rakoczy

Michael Crary

When Lisa LaGorio, Ph.D., M.P.H., saw an email about a new UF award for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, she immediately knew who to nominate.

Through LaGorio’s efforts and those of peers and visiting scholars, Michael Crary, Ph.D., a professor of speech-language pathology in the College of Public Health and Health Professions, received the first universitywide Superior Accomplishment Award for Diversity and Inclusion.

“He is outstanding all-around, but when I saw that award I thought immediately of him,” LaGorio said.

In her nomination letter, LaGorio says Crary’s sense of diversity and inclusion does not stop in the workplace. In addition to teaching students and playing host to visiting scholars from places such as Singapore, China and Romania, Crary creates a “home-away-from-home that eases culture shock and helps students learn about other parts of the world.”

Diversity is a natural part of Crary’s life. His wife is Australian, his daughter participated in a student delegation to China and his youngest son, who has a learning disability, has led Crary to ensure he — and all his students — practice multiple teaching techniques.

“The most remarkable aspect of all this is that Dr. Crary does not have any specific strategic plan to grow diversity. Diversity and inclusion are just part of his daily routine,” LaGorio wrote.

Crary, who has been a member of the UF faculty since 1984, serves as the director of the PHHP Swallowing Research Laboratory.

For his part, Crary said the honor reflects the achievements of the Swallowing Research Laboratory group as a whole.

“I didn’t do anything,” he said. “It reflects the result of a lot of people around me and what they accomplish.”

This attitude is representative of what he tells his students: “Work for accomplishments and accolades will happen.”

In addition to the award, Crary received a $2,000 check and seats in the President’s box for a football game this season. — Rachel Rakoczy