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Chicago Medical School Humanitarian Award 2016

The CMS Humanitarian Award recognizes the full measure of a person’s worth, as someone whose efforts on behalf of others — especially the underserved define a quality of character that embodies selfless service to improve health. The CMS Humanitarian Committee considered a number of very impressive applications. We are very proud of the humanitarian accomplishments of our students. The CMS Humanitarian Committee is delighted to announce the winners of the Chicago Medical School Humanitarian Award 2016. 

The following M3 and M2 students have been awarded the Chicago Medical School Humanitarian Award!

Olsi Gjyshi

Graduation: June 2017, Chicago Medical School (CMS)

“When I was selected as a Franklin Fellow in 2014, I identified the ideal opportunity to help bridge this knowledge gap between medical research and public awareness. With RFUMS’ support, I conceptualized, planned, and implemented a community outreach program that intended to increase awareness about: i) the role of certain viruses in cancer prevalence, ii) how to decrease exposure risk to these viral infections through safe sexual practices and other methods, and iii) the importance of monitoring for disease in patients with a history or predisposition to infection, including STD screening and PAP smear testing. Through an interprofessional team of students, we targeted low-income areas of Lake County through seminars and lectures at multiple venues, including the Waukegan Public Library, Women’s Health Fair, and many Waukegan Public High School students.” – Olsi Gjyshi 

“Because of this constant interest in helping the underserved community, Olsi was awarded the prestigious Franklin Fellowship in the winter of 2013. Following this award, Olsi organized a service project that sought to expand his PhD thesis mission by applying to the community what he had so thoroughly learned through his research. Specifically, viruses are known to be powerful agents in cancer initiation and progression, and Olsi wanted to convey such an important message to the community that surrounds him in an effort to decrease cancer rates that are caused by these viruses. He, therefore, led a service project that sought to enhance the knowledge about oncogenic viruses in the underserved Lake County communities. Remarkably, he successfully established a free HPV vaccination program, a vaccine that is well-known to decrease the risk of cervical cancer in women.” – Bala Chandran, PhD

“It was truly a joy to work with him. He wholeheartedly had the community’s best interests in mind, treating each participant as a person in need and not another medical case study. He listened and incorporated the individual’s needs and concerns when he was educating them into a plan of care that was evidence-based, effective, and patient-centered. For example, at the lecture series given at the Waukegan Public Library, Olsi had outlined in his portion of the presentation basic and important points for the public to know about viruses and vaccines.” – Kelly Jo Smith, RN, BSN, PAS-1 Class of 2016

Natalia Popenko

Graduation: June 2018, Chicago Medical School (CMS)

“Whether it is performed globally in Honduras or locally in Waukegan, IL, I know that it is essential to provide opportunities for people to further understanding and awareness of their own health. Without community-organized free medical care, those like my young pregnant “patient” five years ago would never have been able to receive antibiotics for her son and simple prenatal vitamins and an ultrasound for herself. Others like my stroke victim patient may have never been alerted to his dangerously high blood pressure for which he was able to alert his doctor about immediately after the clinic. As my education has grown in the past five years, I am continually evolving as well and seeing my “patients” in a new light. Five years ago, I can confidently say my skills were limited to taking a good blood pressure and reading a thermometer. Today, I have been fortunate enough to have been given the beginnings of a medical education.” - Natalia Popenko

“During the past year, I have been impressed by Ms. Popenko’s selfless commitment to her student volunteers, board members and her organization as a whole. When supplied with the task of recruiting students for a multitude of  our clinics, even some with minimal notice, she never failed to inspire involvement from her peers. However, at one weekend clinic which I was informed was immediately prior to a large medical student exam. Ms. Popenko emailed me to let me know that the few students who had originally signed up had all cancelled last minute. Knowing the importance of being a reliable leader and having follow-through with her commitment, she volunteered at the clinic herself, no questions asked.” - Michael Smith, Community Care Connection Coordinator 

“While there were many accomplishments during her tenure as O4H president, I especially remember Ms. Popenko’s diligence and attention to detail in expending the group’s offerings to include cholesterol screens. She was convinced that this was going to benefit the group’s target population, those that are undeserved and underinsured, and worked through any obstacles to assure the new service becomes a reality, which it did.” - Ziemowit Mazur, EdM, MS, PA-C


We wish to congratulate both our award recipients as well as all of our applicants and wish them all the best. Congratulations!