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headshots of alumni awards recipients

Alumni Association awards seven individuals

The annual Alumni Association Awards honor graduates and friends of the University in recognition of their excellence in the health professions, and service to the University and their local community. This year, seven recipients will be honored at NEOMED’s annual Alumni Association Awards Dinner on Friday, April 6, 2024, in the NEW Center in Rootstown.

The Honorees

Joseph A. Congeni, M.D. (’84), has been honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor bestowed among graduates of the University. Dr. Congeni serves as medical director of the Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital. He has dedicated his career to preventing and providing improved care for sports injuries at all levels through his extensive advocacy. Dr. Congeni is also a professor of pediatrics at NEOMED.

Johannes “Hans” G. Thewissen, Ph.D., has been honored as the Distinguished Service Award recipient, in recognition of more than 30 years of outstanding service as an educator and researcher. Dr. Thewissen is just one of two faculty members who have received the distinction of University Distinguished Professor. In addition to his outstanding record as an educator, Dr. Thewissen is also one of the world’s most highly regarded experts in whale evolution.

Philip W. Westerman, Ph.D., has been recognized as the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient for many contributions dating back to 1976 when he began as a faculty member at NEOMED. Dr. Westerman retired in 2005 as Professor Emeritus and has remained active as an educator and researcher in a part-time or volunteer role.

Hannah Hays, M.D. (’08), earned the Emerging Leader Award for her significant record of accomplishment in the past 15 years. Dr. Hays serves as the medical director for the Central Ohio Poison Center (COPC) and chief of toxicology for Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. In this role, Dr. Hays sets the clinical vision for the COPC and ensures ongoing competency and development of its clinicians.

James L. Hill, M.D. (’08), was also recognized with the Emerging Leader Award. Dr. Hill is the COO of the University Hospitals Parma Medical Center, the largest community hospital in the UH network. He provides leadership for the graduate medical education programs, medical staff, caregivers and quality initiatives.

Joseph Zarconi, M.D. (’81) is a professor of internal medicine at the University and was awarded the NEOMED Alumni Association Appreciation Award for his dedication to his alma mater. Dr. Zarconi has been instrumental in developing connections between alumni and students, including his recent work to populate NEOMED Connect, the University’s online networking platform, with mentors. He was also a featured speaker at the 50th Anniversary Kickoff celebration in 2023 and has been selected to give the eulogy at the memorial service for Robert A. Liebelt, Ph.D., M.D., the first dean of the College of Medicine in March 2024.

Dorothy Jones, a longtime supporter of NEOMED, was also awarded the NEOMED Alumni Association Appreciation Award. With her encouragement, the Jones family sold their family farm to the state in 1974 for the purpose of building the NEOMED campus. A resident of Ravenna, Mrs. Jones frequently attends NEOMED events and celebrations, including the 50th Anniversary Kickoff.

“NEOMED has been creating transformational leaders in health care since its founding 50 years ago,” said Rajiv Lapasia, M.D., president of the NEOMED Alumni Association and member of the 2000 graduating class. “Each of the recipients of the 2024 Alumni Association Awards has made a profound impact in the health care field and for the University, and we are proud to have them as part of the NEOMED community and get the chance to honor them for their many accomplishments.”


Attend the Alumni Awards Dinner on April 6.