Office of Academic Affiliations
David M. Worthen Awards for Excellence in Health Professions Education
The David M. Worthen Awards are the highest honors given by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to recognize outstanding achievements in health professions education. Established in 1988, this award program was named after the late David M. Worthen, MD, former Associate Chief Medical Director for Academic Affairs, board-certified ophthalmologist, established academician, surgeon, researcher, and inspirational leader of the Department of Veterans Affair's (VA) education mission. VHA education champions are honored in three categories including: Rising Star, Career Achievement, and Innovator in Health Professions Education.
Nominations for the Worthen Awards
Visit our nomination page for information about how to nominate health professions educators for the 2022 David M. Worthen Awards.
2021 David M. Worthen Award Recipients
2021 David M. Worthen Rising Star Award
Andrew Grock, MD, Staff Emergency Medicine Physician at VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, received the 2021 David M. Worthen Rising Star Award recognizing him as an early career champion of health professions trainee education.
Dr. Grock is a national and local leader for both wellness education and online educational resources. He is currently chair of the Council of Emergency Medicine Residency Director’s (CORD’s) Resiliency Committee, co-chair of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Emergency Department’s Wellness Committee and is a mentor for CORD’s wellness mini-fellowship. He has designed numerous local and national resiliency curricula and has given several national and local lectures about burnout prevention.
A scholar interested in what makes a person happy and a good person since high school, Dr. Grock found during residency there was little time for things like friendship, family or other interests. That led to his interest in educating residents on burnout prevention techniques – an important curriculum given that burnout has been associated with increased medical errors. He reworked the residency rotation through the Emergency Department at VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System with a focus on teaching the spectrum of burnout and burnout prevention techniques along with clinical practice skills.
Dr. Grock is nationally recognized for his extensive work on online educational resources, publishing over 100 educational posts and creating the first nationally available individualized interactive curriculum that incorporates curated online resources and numerous peer-reviewed publications on the use and quality assessment of these resources. He created an Emergency Medicine lecture series for UCLA’s Internal Medicine residency program where he personally mentors each faculty lecturer and has engaged in numerous formal and informal resident and medical student mentoring programs, including clinical experience and research.
In all his mentoring and educational efforts, Dr. Grock remembers an important tenet. “We make really big decisions that are going to affect people’s live,” he said. “Doctors who take care of themselves provide safer care. That’s the main reason to take care of yourself – for the good of your patients.”
2021 David M. Worthen Innovator Award
Jessica Feinleib, MD, PhD, CHSE, FASA, Staff Anesthesiologist at VA Connecticut Healthcare System (VACHS) and VHA SimLEARN’s Out of Operating Room Airway Management (OORAM) national course director, received the 2021 David M. Worthen Innovator Award recognizing her for sustaining and expanding a significant educational innovation for health professions trainee education. Dr. Feinleib, who is also on faculty at the Yale School of Medicine, has advocated and produced simulation-based education for health professions trainees and practicing clinicians in VHA, nationally and internationally.
“I felt managing airways needed a standard process kind of similar to how we run codes,” said Dr. Feinleib. She worked locally on out of operating room airway management when VA was beginning its programs and then led major revisions to OORAM Sim learning using flipped classroom education modalities and a novel remote delivery instructor training platform in her role as OORAM national course director.
Dr. Feinleib worked on the team that developed a novel ventilator training course specifically designed for physician residents and fellows, as well as medical, nursing and respiratory therapy students. The course is comprehensive, including didactics, cognitive aids and simulations for both task training and team-based care. She also serves as a subject matter expert (SME) for simulation-based systems testing in advance of VHA opening new units for patient care to ensure the highest quality of care.
“Medicine has moved on and changed a lot,” said Dr. Feinleib, “so we really needed to take it up a level.” That is what she did when she conceived and served as the primary SME for the development of the award-winning Difficult Airway Algorithm and Rescue Cricothyrotomy (DAARC) simulation program. DAARC is a novel composite system of serious gaming, videos, podcasts and simulation designed for trainees and practicing clinicians to standardize a systematic approach to airway management to enhance safety for our Veteran patients. In addition to being used in VA, DAARC is now integral to the American Board of Anesthesiologists maintenance of certification process.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Feinleib initiated and served as an SME for COVID-19-specific simulation-based training for airway management, prone positioning and mechanical ventilation. Additionally, she was a SME for a COVID-19 personal protective equipment donning-and-doffing video game that has had more than 7,000 users.
“We should all be students for life. You need to educate both the trainees and the attendings to the same standard. This is part of what makes VHA an HRO (High Reliability Organization). Standardizing the clinical practices with the latest evidence-based procedures is paramount,” said Dr. Feinleib. “I wake up every morning excited to make Veterans’ care better and safer.”
2021 David M. Worthen Career Achievement Award
Ismene Petrakis, MD, Chief, Mental Health Services at VA Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven, received the 2021 David M. Worthen Career Achievement Award recognizing her as an outstanding health professions trainee education champion whose lifetime contributions have profoundly advanced and impacted the educational mission of VHA.
Dr. Petrakis, who also serves as a Professor of Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and Director of the Yale Addiction Psychiatry Residency, has worked to improve and disseminate best education practices in Addiction Psychiatry and its interface with the new field of Addiction Medicine. She has been invited to serve on numerous national education committees including the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, Research Society on Alcoholism and the American Board of Addiction Medicine.
“Addiction education changed pretty dramatically over the past few decades,” said Dr. Petrakis. “Decades ago, many didn’t want to learn about addiction. Now we’ve come to understand it’s really a problem in the brain versus bad behavior.” In the late 1990s addiction psychiatry was recognized, and in more recent years, addiction medicine has been recognized.
Dr. Petrakis has been called on by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) to serve on national panels of board examiners and to author board questions for nationally written ABPN competency examinations. Her scholarly work, published in prominent academic journals, focuses on educational issues, including curricular design in undergraduate and graduate medical training, which has become a national training model. Her educational initiatives include working directly with trainees, specifically in alcohol use disorders, opioid use disorders and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many of her mentees are now influential educators and researchers across VA.
Dr. Petrakis was also instrumental in establishing an agreement with the Department of Defense (DoD), VA and the Yale School of Medicine to train active duty psychiatrists in the VA Connecticut Healthcare System addiction psychiatrist fellowship, meeting a need as DoD does not have an addiction psychiatry residency.
In recognition of her work, Dr. Petrakis received the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse New Investigator/Educator Award and the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership Academic Medicine award from Emerging Leaders in Academic Medicine.
Click here to see a listing of previous awardees.