2023 Alumni of Distinction Award recipients

Introducing the international leaders, accomplished scholars, community advocates and trailblazers who are recipients of the 2023 Alumni of Distinction Awards. They have upheld the exceptional reputation of the School and represent what is best in our alumni community. They are role models and an inspiration to all.

Congratulations to the recipients:

L.Robinson200x200.jpgDr. Lisa Robinson, Resident Alumna '95
Doctor Stephen Blizzard Trailblazer Award

Dr. Lisa Robinson graduated with her Doctor of Medicine degree in 1991 at the University of Toronto. She went on to complete a residency at Western in Paediatrics, serving as Chief Resident from 1994-1995. Following several illustrious fellowships and educational opportunities, Dr. Robinson is now a coveted staff physician and educator at SickKids Toronto.

Dr. Robinson is also the Vice Dean, Strategy and Operations, at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. She works collaboratively to build alliances, develop strategic partnerships, and engage internal and external partners to enhance and promote the diversity and inclusion of faculty, learners, and staff across the Faculty of Medicine at UofT.

She has a remarkable track record of knowledge translation, mentorship, and laying foundations for others to succeed. Committed to actionable change, Dr. Robinson has led several initiatives to foster equitable medical education and environments. She is the founder and director of Kids Science, a SickKids Research Institute program which provides opportunities for middle and high school students to improve their understanding of science and technology, and the Student Advancement Research (StAR) Program, a SickKids summer research program for high school students from under-represented communities.

Her clarity of vision and integrity are important factors in inspiring leaders and staff across the hospital and university to work together for change through collaboration and partnership building. More informally, Lisa is considered the ''go-to person'' for many working in the EDI space and she is always happy to mentor colleagues and share her time, energy, wisdom, and expertise.

M.Shkrum200x200.jpgDr. Michael Shkrum, MD'78, Resident Alumnus '84
Professional Achievement Award - Medicine

Following his graduation from Western’s Faculty of Medicine in 1978, Dr. Michael Shkrum has had a distinguished career in Anatomic and Forensic Pathology and he continues to make important contributions in these domains.

Dr. Shkrum's expertise in forensic pathology is, at its core, attributable to hard work, having performed thousands of medicolegal autopsies over the past 30 years within Ontario's Coroner's Death Investigation System. He is a tireless worker and is the first pathologist in the department in the morning and one of the last to leave. He is a team player, always willing to lend a hand in busy times, take on new challenges, and help colleagues resolve difficult cases.

He has earned a stellar reputation for his meticulous autopsy reports and his clear and fair testimony in court. He is routinely consulted by pathologist colleagues, crown attorneys, and police services for forensic opinion and assistance. His testimony in numerous murder trials and coroner's inquests has been crucial to their resolution. In addition, acting as an expert witness for defence counsel demonstrates his balanced non-partisan attitude to our justice system.

Dr. Shkrum's career has been the total package: A myriad of achievements in service, research, teaching, and leadership. He has truly led the way and left a permanent mark in the field of Canadian Forensic Pathology.

K.VanRsywyk200x200.jpgDr. Karin Van Ryswyk, DDS'86
Alumni of Distinction Award – Dentistry

Dr. Karin Van Ryswyk graduated from Western Dentistry in 1986. Three years later she began her private practice, built the building from the ground up, and maintained this vibrant practice for 30 years.

In 1997, Dr. Van Ryswyk was elected to serve on the London and District Dental Society (LDDS) Executive. During this five-year term, she became the LDDS president from 2000- 2001. Significantly, and happily, she broke a historic gender barrier, by becoming the first female President of the LDDS. Her leadership roles have continued to flourish since then. Most recently she became Schulich's Student Professionalism and Ethics Association (SPEA) liaison, for the Ontario Section (OS) of the American College of Dentists (ACD).

Dr. Van Ryswyk is held in high esteem by her peers and has been honoured with Fellowships in the International College of Dentists, the American College of Dentists and the Pierre Fauchard Academy. She is also a recipient of the Ontario Dental Association Award of Merit.

Dr. Van Ryswyk has steadfastly and passionately given her time, knowledge, and expertise over many years to improve both our Schulich Dental School and our London community. In recent years, her focus has been to care for the well being and education of her student colleagues at Western University.

K.Lendhart200x200.jpgDr. Kris Lehnhardt, MD'03, Resident Alumnus '08
Young Alumni Award

Dr. Kris Lehnardt has taken his undergraduate medical degree and post-graduate specialty in Emergency Medicine obtained at Western and turned it into his dream of a career in space medicine.

After completing his residency, Dr. Lehnhardt continued to develop his career in aerospace medicine, joining the Canadian Armed Forces as a Medical Specialist Reservist and attending the International Space University Space Studies program. He also joined the faculty at the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration at Western. His career eventually took him to Washington D.C. where he developed a fellowship in Extreme Environmental Medicine as well as a Human Health in Space graduate course as part of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, George Washington University.

As part of his role, Dr. Lehnhardt oversees an interdisciplinary group designing the medical systems that astronauts will use to travel to the Moon and eventually to Mars. He provides scientific leadership, guidance, and oversight of an annual $10-million portfolio of applied research and medical technology development. He is passionate about developing novel techniques to monitor, diagnose and treat astronauts. He is equally passionate about translating space-based technologies to leverage the delivery of health care to remote locations in Canada.

Despite his achievements, he remains down to earth and approachable, mentoring students and residents. He is  always happy to talk about his experiences and support others along the career path. Dr. Lehnhardt is truly an inspiration for the many Canadian youth who aspire to be an astronaut or work in the field of space medicine.

K.Beaucage200x200.jpgDr. Kim Beaucage, PhD'14, DDS'18
Young Alumni Award – Dentistry

Dr. Kim Beaucage was accepted into the competitive Dental Clinician-Scientist program, and became involved in a number of projects, both her own and those of other students. Her hard work led to a half a dozen publications during her time as a PhD and dental student.

Dr. Beaucage was also a significant catalyst for the creation of the Dental Academic Research Trainee (DART) Group at Schulich Dentistry. She organized monthly sessions and activities, brought in relevant speakers, and established a program that had a strong foundation that continues on even after her graduation.

She continues to be involved with teaching at Schulich Dentistry and is an adjunct assistant professor for both Dentistry and Physiology and Pharmacology, as well as her own commitments to her dental career with the establishment of practices in Waterloo and Kitchener. Her specialized expertise in skeletal biology enables her to provide dentally relevant lectures in areas such as musculoskeletal physiology, physiological tooth movements, and craniofacial growth and development.

While Dr. Beaucage graduated from Dentistry just a few short years ago in 2018, she has accomplished a great deal already and has made important and ongoing contributions to our School and to society.

B.Kleinstiver200x200.jpgBenjamin Kleinstiver, PhD'13
Young Alumni Award – Basic Science

Benjamin Kleinstiver, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Pathology at Harvard Medical School and an assistant investigator in the Center for Genomic Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. He completed his doctoral degree in the Department of Biochemistry in 2013.

As a postdoctoral fellow, his accomplishments reached new levels with two ground-breaking papers on genome editing in 2015 and 2016, both in Nature. Perhaps the most notable of his many accomplishments is the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award (2022) and the selection of his engineered CRISPR-Cas nucleases as one of Seven Technologies to watch in 2023 by Nature, awarded to tools and techniques poised to have a transformative impact on science.

In the short years following graduation, Kleinstiver has already established himself as an internationally recognized expert in the CRISPR gene-editing field as reflected by 52 publications, 9,400 citations and more than 80 invited lectures. Kleinstiver’s research has far-reaching impact and has changed how scientists use CRISPR-Cas9 for basic science and therapeutic applications.

Described as a true role model and leader for future students, Kleinstiver exemplifies the School’s vision of leading in health research.

Jennifer Trowbridge, BSc'02, PhD'06J.Trowbridge200x200.jpg
Excellence in Basic Science Research Award

Jennifer Trowbridge, PhD, completed her Honors Bachelor of Science (Genetics) in 2002 at Western and four years later completed her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology. She accepted a post-doctoral fellowship (hematology/oncology) with Dr. Stuart Orkin (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Children’s Hospital Boston), an internationally recognized clinician-scientist for his research on the genetic basis of blood disorders.

Since 2010, Trowbridge has diligently started her independent career as an assistant professor at the Jackson Laboratories in stem cell biology and leukemogenesis.

Trowbridge has had a very successful start to her research career making significant contributions to our understanding of stem cell biology and subsequently in leukemogenesis and aging. From her Ph.D. alone she has first author papers published in Nature Medicine, PNAS, and Cell Stem Cell. Her following 20 papers continued to be published in high-impact journals such as Blood, Stem Cells, Genes & Development, Developmental Biology, PNAS, and Nature Communications.

Trowbridge’s scientific leadership in hematology and leukemia biology is recognized on national
and international levels. She has been awarded many prestigious career development and scientific
achievement awards in her field, including the Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholar Award in Aging,
the V Foundation for Cancer Research V Scholar Award, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Scholar Award, and the Mark Foundation for Cancer Research Emerging Leader Award.

Jennifer Trowbridge is a gifted, passionate, and talented investigator committed to basic research discoveries that will positively impact human health.

ML.Myers200x200.jpgDr. Mary Lee Myers, MD'77, Resident Alumna '82
Community Service Award

A graduate of the Faculty of Medicine at Western University in 1977 and a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in General Surgery and Cardiovascular Surgery, Dr. Mary Lee Myers completed a Medical Research Council of Canada Fellowship in Houston, Texas, before commencing her practice in adult cardiac surgery in London, Ontario. She currently serves as Western’s Program Director for Cardiac Surgery.

Dr. Myers is a trailblazer in cardiac surgery and has served Western and the people of Ontario and Canada as a much-admired and sought-after physician, teacher, mentor, humanitarian, and volunteer for more than 40 years. Outside of her clinical practice and teaching, she has donated a significant amount of time to the arts as a tireless champion over several decades of sustained and influential leadership.

She has been Chair of the Board of the London Community Foundation, has served on the Canadian Arts Summit for several years, and most notably, has been an invaluable leader at the Stratford Festival for over 20 years. Including having served as Chair of the Board of Governors, the Foundation Board and the Steering Committee and Campaign for the new Tom Patterson Theatre. She has received the YWCA Women of Distinction award and is a member of the Order of Canada.

Dr. Myers is celebrated by her colleagues as an unassuming, modest leader who helps other people and causes, greater than herself, to shine. She is deeply influential and a sterling example of an alumna’s great contributions to medicine and surgery and the broader community around us.