Students, Nurse Anesthetists Share Neuroscience Honors

Dr. Richard Simon Excellence in Clinical Neurosciences Award in its 5th year

collage of six portraits

The 2024 Dr. Richard Simon Excellence in Clinical Neurosciences Awards is name for Dr. Richard Simon (top center). This year's awardees include (clockwise from top left) Matthew Scoggins, Jasmin Williams, Nathan Leclair, Susan Shafer, and Lily Zhong.

Three students and two nurse anesthetists are this year’s winners of the Dr. Richard Simon Excellence in Clinical Neurosciences Award, presented annually at UConn Health since 2020.

The awardees are fourth-year medical student Jasmin Williams, third-year medical student Lily Zhong, fourth-year medical student and MD/Ph.D. candidate Nathan Leclair, and nurse anesthetists Matthew Scoggins and Susan Shafer.

Named for the UConn John Dempsey Hospital’s chief of medical staff, the award honors clinicians, staff, or students “who exemplify excellence in any area of the neurosciences at UConn Health.” Simon is a professor of surgery in the Division of Neurosurgery and has been a member of the UConn School of Medicine faculty for four decades.

Jasmin Williams portrait
Jasmin Williams is a member of the UConn School of Medicine Class of 2024. (Semaj Campbell Photography)

From Williams’ nomination:

“Faculty members and neurology residents alike have gone out of their way to report how impressed they were with Jasmin’s performance during the neurology rotation and the advanced neurology elective…. I believe that Jasmin will be an outstanding neurologist as well as a thoughtful, mature and compassionate physician – one that I would be happy to have care for a loved one.”

“I am truly honored to receive the Richard Simon Excellence in Clinical Neuroscience Award as a fourth-year medical student, especially just before embarking on my journey to neurology residency,” Williams says. “This award serves as a source of inspiration and as a reminder of the responsibility that I carry as a future neurologist to provide compassionate and high-quality care to patients.”

Lilzy Zhong portrait
Lily Zhong is a student at the UConn School of Medicine, Class of 2025. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health photo)

From Zhong’s nomination:

“Ms. Zhong exudes a remarkable passion for the care of older adults with neurocognitive disorders, particularly dementias. She has demonstrated leadership in volunteerism, a clinical skill set beyond her current training level, and multiple valuable contributions via her research. She has done all of this while excelling in an intense medical school curriculum.”

“I am incredibly honored to be one of the recipients of an award that celebrates the tremendous contributions to neuroscience made by Dr. Richard Simon,” Zhong says. “I would like to thank my mentor, Dr. Jaclyn Olsen Jaeger, who has provided me with unwavering support in my clinical and research interests since my first year of medical school. I would also like to thank Dr. George Kuchel, director of UConn’s Center on Aging and chief of geriatrics, for his continued mentorship, as well as a huge thank you to everyone at the UConn Center on Aging. I really appreciate this recognition and am grateful to be a part of this amazing UConn neuroscience community!”

Family portrait
Matthew Scoggins, pictured with his family, is a nurse anesthetist at UConn Health. (Photo provided by Matthew Scoggins)

From Scoggins’ nomination:

“Matthew Scoggins stands out as an exemplary individual whose dedication, expertise, and passion for advancing the field of clinical anesthesia and neuroscience have significantly contributed to its progress and innovation…. His dedication to clinical excellence, leadership, innovation, and education has made a lasting impact on the field of clinical neuroscience and has inspired countless individuals within our community.”

“Every CRNA in the anesthesia department works extremely hard to deliver exemplary care to our neurosurgery patients,” Scoggins says. “I am honored to have been selected from among these excellent providers and to share this award with my co-winners.”

Nathan Leclair portrait
Nathan Leclair is an MD/Ph.D. candidate at UConn Health, Class of 2024. (Photo provided by Nathan Leclair)

From Leclair’s nomination:

“Clinically, he performs at the level of a resident with an excellent fund of knowledge. He has been tremendously productive in the research realm with many publications in high impact journals. On the educational front, he is sought out by other students as a leader for guidance and advice. Nate is truly a tribute to our medical school. His dedication to clinical neurosciences is something that I have rarely seen. I hope one day we can recruit him to the University of Connecticut faculty, no matter what neuroscience subspecialty he pursues.”

“First, I want to extend my gratitude to the Departments of Neurosurgery and Neurology for the tremendous amount of opportunity and mentorship provided to me during my medical school career,” Leclair says. “Receiving the Richard Simon Excellence in Clinical Neuroscience Award is a reminder of my passion to advance the field of neuroscience through translational research and thoughtful patient care.”

Susan Shafer portrait
Susan Shafer is a nurse anesthetist at UConn Health. (Photo provided by Susan Shafer)

From Shafer’s nomination:

“Susie, as she is commonly referred to, is truly an outstanding nurse anesthetist. She is dedicated to patient care at a level that is truly impressive. She was integral to launching our Awake Craniotomy Program at the University of Connecticut. Susie has always been an ultimate advocate for patient care. Her insights into complex neuroscience patients from the anesthesia perspective has contributed to optimizing patient care on countless occasions.”

“I am truly honored to be a recipient of the Richard Simon Excellence in Clinical Neuroscience Award,” Shafer says. “I will continue to work every day to make this committee and UConn Health proud.”

Dr. Hilary Onyiuke, professor of neurosurgery and founder and co-director of UConn Health’s Comprehensive Spine Program, chairs the selection committee, which includes leadership from the Division of Neurosurgery, the Department of Neurology, and the neuroradiology section of the Department of Radiology.

outdoor portrait of three men
From left: Dr. Hilary Oniyuke, Dr. Richard Simon, and Dr. Ketan Bulsara (photo provided by Ketan Bulsara)

“On behalf of the Richard H. Simon Clinical Neuroscience Award Committee, we received numerous exceptional nomination requests from members of the UConn Health community and found it pleasantly difficult in arriving at the list of eventual winners, a true legacy and reflection of Dr. Simon’s exemplary career,” Onyiuke says. “We jointly congratulate the selected winners on their dedication to hard work and excellence.”

“I am grateful to Dr. Onyiuke for his leadership of the multidisciplinary clinical neurosciences committee for the work in selecting this year’s recipients,” says Dr. Ketan Bulsara, chief of the UConn Health Division of Neurosurgery. “Dr. Simon has dedicated his entire career to the University of Connecticut. The selection of these exemplary recipients truly celebrates Dr. Simon’s career and growing legacy of excellence that transcends all specialties.”