January 2019 – Distinctions

Honors and Awards

By Kacey Finch

A University of Florida physician and professor has been recognized with two prestigious national awards for his outstanding achievements in the medical field.

Scott Rivkees, M.D., chair of the UF College of Medicine’s department of pediatrics and physician-in-chief of the UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, was named the first pediatric endocrinologist to receive the Paul Starr Award from the American Thyroid Association.

When Rivkees was at Yale University about 10 years ago, he uncovered a safety problem with a medication used to treat hyperthyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid overproduces the hormone thyroxine. He found the medication put children at risk for liver failure.

“To identify a problem that had been hidden for so long that had been causing individuals harm, that’s the most gratifying thing about this,” he said.

Rivkees brought the problem to the attention of the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration. His discovery resulted in immediate worldwide changes in how the condition is treated.

Rivkees also received the Special Achievement Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics. He helped create the annual Pediatric Medical Student Research Forum, which brings together medical students from around the nation to present their pediatric-related research.

“Research really has to do with hope, finding cures for diseases and advancing our science,” he said. “The more that we can do to get trainees interested in research, the better we are.”

Rivkees said the honors are a team effort.

“When you get these awards, it’s not about you, it’s about all the people you worked with to get this to the finish line,” he said.


Matthew E. Merritt, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology, had a journal article recognized by The Journal of Biological Chemistry as one of the most significant advances in drug metabolism research over the last three years. The findings showed that the drug beta-lapachone disrupts energy metabolism and DNA activity in pancreatic cancer cells by targeting NQO1, an enzyme that is overactive in many cancer cell types. Merritt and his colleagues found evidence the drug affects several metabolic processes in cancer cells, which can prevent them from efficiently replicating. Merritt worked with collaborators at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center on the research.


Alex Parker, Ph.D., has been named senior associate dean for research. Parker comes from Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, where he was a professor of epidemiology and urology and held several leadership positions. His research centers on the molecular and clinical epidemiology of urologic cancers, with a primary focus on kidney cancer. His work has focused on understanding the environmental and molecular mechanisms that support kidney cancer development and aggressiveness and helping physicians translate that knowledge into better, more-individualized patient care.


Miriam Ezenwa, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, an associate professor, and emeritus faculty Pamela Pieper, Ph.D., APRN, PPCNP-BC, TCRN, FAANP, have been inducted as American Academy of Nursing fellows. The academy is composed of more than 2,400 nurse leaders in education, management, practice, policy and research. Academy fellows include hospital and government administrators, college deans and renowned scientific researchers. Ezenwa and Pieper join 17 current and emeritus faculty members within the college, more than 30 percent of the faculty, who hold the title of fellow with the academy.


Song Liang, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of environmental and global health, has been invited to join the World Health Organization’s Guidelines Development Group as an expert adviser. The group is in the process of developing guidelines on the implementation of control and elimination of schistosomiasis. Liang is leading efforts on one of eight components in the development of the guidelines: assessing reliability of methods in the detection of Schistosoma infections in non-human animals.

Mark Bishop, Ph.D., P.T., an associate professor in the department of physical therapy, was recently recognized at the state and national levels for his legislative work advocating for physical therapy as an alternative to opioids for the treatment of pain. He received the Florida Physical Therapy Association’s Rick Shutes Award for Legislative Advocacy and the American Physical Therapy Association’s State Legislative Leadership Award.


Oliver Grundmann, Ph.D., a clinical associate professor of medicinal chemistry, has been named a Fellow by the American College of Clinical Pharmacology, or ACCP. Fellow is the highest category of membership granted by ACCP and is awarded to those with exemplary credentials and dedication to the betterment of clinical pharmacology. Grundmann has been a member of ACCP since 2006. In 2016, he joined the student, trainee and young professional committee and was named co-chair of the committee this year.

Kimberly Stultz, Pharm.D., has been named director of the Office of Experiential programs. Stultz will lead the team in overseeing and coordinating advanced pharmacy practice experiences and introductory pharmacy practice experiences. She will provide pharmacy students with orientation to experiential learning, coordinate student schedules and oversee student and site evaluations. In addition, she will facilitate the recruitment and retention of high-quality preceptors and experiential sites and assist in preceptor orientation, training and continued development.