Five Residents Selected to Receive 2023 Cefalo House Officer Awards

The 2023 awards were given to Michael Cunningham, MD, Alexander Fenn, MD, Calvin Gross, MD, Wesley Roten, MD, and Krishan Sivaraj, MD.

The Robert C. Cefalo, MD, House Officer Award recognizes members of the Hospitals’ House staff for exemplary service to patients and families, professional performance and compassionate patient care. The 2023 awards were given to Michael Cunningham, MD, Alexander Fenn, MD, Calvin Gross, MD, Wesley Roten, MD, and Krishan Sivaraj, MD.

This award is intended to honor Robert C. Cefalo, MD, PhD, professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynecology and assistant dean, head of the Office of Graduate Medical Education, Emeritus, UNC School of Medicine. Cefalo served with distinction for 25 years as director of the residency and fellowship programs at UNC Hospitals.  He was also a North Carolina Medical Society member, NCMS Foundation donor, and member of the NC Obstetrical and Gynecological Society.

Cefalo passed away in 2008 after a battle with cancer, and this award was renamed the Robert C. Cefalo House Officer Award in 2008 as a permanent memorial to the legacy he left behind. A selection committee of physicians, nurses, and other clinical and administrative staff select honorees each year.

Residents and fellows are nominated for this esteemed award by demonstrating outstanding empathy for patients and families, effective listening to and communicating with patients and families, advocacy for and demonstration of the highest standards in patient care, and exemplary professional and interpersonal interactions with colleagues, staff, patients, and visitors. In addition to this recognition, awardees are also provided a $1,000 professional development stipend.

Nominations for Michael Cunningham, MD, explained:

” Mike is extremely kind, thoughtful, and brilliant when it comes to teaching residents, students, and patients. He makes the learning environment comfortable and productive with his calm demeanor and extensive knowledge base. He exemplifies what it means to be a great doctor, medical educator, and patient advocate.”

“Mike is the epitome of an exemplary house officer through exceptional service, professionalism, and compassionate patient care. Mike is the ultimate team player and has been since he came to UNC for Medical School nearly 10 years ago.”

Nominations for Alexander Fenn, MD, explained:

“In the emergency department (ED), Dr. Fenn is a mature, professional, compassionate, and
empathetic emergency physician. With his patients, he quickly establishes excellent rapport and provides above and beyond, compassionate care. He has a natural ability to help patients on their worst day. Many patients seek ED care due to severe illness or pain, worry, and lack of access to care. He presents himself in a calm and understanding demeanor to each and every patient. He is able to hear their concerns, reassure them, and treat their ailments.”

“Alex is a selfless leader who continually strives for excellence and improvement. He is a natural leader, and I have no doubt he will make great improvements to the UNC EM program over the next year, but more importantly, will emerge as a leader within the field of Emergency Medicine in general.”

Nominations for Calvin Gross, MD, explained:

“A few things really stand out to me about Calvin that make him such a special person and resident physician. One, he is incredibly thoughtful and reflective. In meetings, he is often the one to bring a new insight or perspective to an issue. Two, he is incredibly kind. He gives his time to his patients, students, and his co-residents. Three, he is brilliant. He obviously reads and actively works to expand upon his knowledge. And finally, his communication skills are as one faculty member described ‘aspirational.’”

“Dr. Gross was a fantastic team leader who did an exemplary job setting expectations, managing interns, and ensuring good communication across the care team. He took time to educate the medical students and did a wonderful job incorporating them into patient care. He completed the TARHEEL Residents as Educators program, and I could see how well he implemented the tools he developed for medical education while on service.”

Nominations for Wesley Roten, MD, explained:

“Dr. Roten has the personal characteristics that make him an exemplary physician. He is bright, motivated, and has a wonderful sense of humor. He has natural leadership skills and will serve as our chief resident next year. He has already shown his leadership gifts during the transition period in preparation for next year. He understands the many guidelines and procedures required in the residency program and balances those guidelines with the personal needs of individual residents, which is a sometimes-challenging task. He is committed to medical student education and is a great role model for students.”

“In medical school at UNC Dr. Roten was a Kenan Rural Scholar, with a commitment
to serving a rural and underserved community post-training. Furthermore, in residency, he committed to our FQHC track and in our 2nd class of residents who completed their continuity clinic at the Siler City Community Health Center, a federally qualified health center about 40 minutes from Chapel Hill serving a large Spanish speaking population.”

Nominations for Krishan Sivaraj, MD, explained:

“He has been not only an excellent physician and clinician, but has demonstrated outstanding professionalism, communication skills, teamwork, and leadership. He is noted by faculty to be hard working and motivated, ‘forward-thinking,’ and dedicated to his patients. One attending wrote that “despite the workload, Krishan came everyday with a positive attitude and thoughtful management.” In clinic, his preceptors have written that he is ‘one of the best residents I’ve ever worked with. He is kind and caring. Always prepared. Constantly improving his approach… Careful thinker who takes into account the context of his patient’s lives…. He is remarkably self-aware.’”