Faculty of Health highlights excellence in teaching, research and service

Awards that highlight faculty accomplishments in teaching, research and service in the Faculty of Health were announced on Oct. 7 by Dean Paul McDonald.

Four faculty members were recognized with the annual Dean’s Awards, which reflect excellence and innovation within the Faculty.

This year's recipients are: Lauren Sergio – Dean’s Award for Research Excellence; Dr. Jennine Rawana – Dean’s Award for Excellence in Educational Leadership, Pedagogical and/or Curricular Innovation; Parissa Safai – Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service & Engagement Impact Award; and Dr. Jonathan Weiss – Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service & Engagement Impact Award.

The annual awards alternate each year between “early career” faculty and “established career” faculty in the categories of Teaching, Research and Service. This year’s awards cover the 2019-20 academic year for established career faculty.

“Given the challenges we have all been facing the last few months, it is more important than ever to celebrate the remarkable contributions of our colleagues,” said McDonald. “This year the Faculty of Health is recognizing the extraordinary accomplishments of four faculty members whose contributions, dedication and talent has enriched the entire Faculty of Health and University communities through outstanding research, service, or educational leadership. On behalf of all faculty, staff, students and community partners, I’d like to congratulate and thank this year’s award recipients.”

The awards were adjudicated by the Research & Awards Committee.

Awards and award recipients for the 2019-20 academic year:

Dean’s Award for Research Excellence – Lauren Sergio

This award recognizes the outstanding contributions to research by an established researcher in the Faculty of Health. The individual is recognized for making significant contributions and developments in a specific new area of scientific inquiry, pioneering new methods of analysis, models of investigation or theoretical perspectives that are subsequently widely acclaimed with commitment to dissemination of research findings.

Lauren Sergio

Lauren Sergio

Lauren Sergio is an internationally respected expert in the areas of dementia, concussion, and the brain’s control of complex movement. Her main research themes are to understand the neural networks that control skilled performance and how this control is affected by age, sex, expertise and injury/disease.

She is very well-funded, having secured funding from government and industry of more than $43 million as principal or co-investigator. Her outstanding research funding has led to groundbreaking publications. She has more than 61 peer-reviewed publications with an H-index of 29 and over 3300 citations, with several of her papers having been cited over 200 times.

Sergio's research has directly impacted policy and practice. For example, the Canadian military adopted software developed by Sergio to conduct field assessments on soldiers exposed to blast waves/recoil as part of their duties.

Her research impact is also seen in the development of commercial products. She has two products on the market with several more in beta testing or under embargo. Her ongoing line of research is exceptional and highly innovative.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Educational Leadership, Pedagogical and/or Curricular Innovation – Dr. Jennine Rawana

This is a new Dean's Award that was created to recognize outstanding educational leadership, pedagogical and/or curricular innovation. The individual is recognized for being an outstanding role model and mentor to students beyond the classroom. Contributing to enhancement of teaching and learning by taking an active role in innovative development or redesign of new programs, and by engaging in activities that share knowledge and expertise in teaching and learning.

Jennine Rawana

Dr. Jennine Rawana showed a consistent and comprehensive involvement in educational leadership over the last decade both within the Department of Psychology as well as beyond having a significant impact on student success, mental health and wellness and leadership. Rawana is a compassionate and caring mentor who is committed to ensuring the professional and intellectual development of students. She has been instrumental in providing strategic direction and support to students as Head of Calumet College. She has established strong connections with Faculty of Health alumni which provides opportunities for current students to network and obtain career advice.

In addition to mentoring, she actively contributed to the student success program in Calumet and Strong Colleges. During her tenure as head of Calumet college, she co-developed and implemented a strategic direction/plan that developed and expanded upon student success programs for the Faculty of Health. The success of this endeavour indicates her outstanding leadership abilities and her ability to work collaboratively with both college staff, the head of Strong College and others.

In her capacity co-Chair of the pan-university Mental Health Steering committee, Rawana champions student mental health and wellness. For example, she established a wellness lounge in collaboration with the School of Nursing, where nursing community practicum student provide daily drop-in health and wellness programming for students.

She has also published her research on the ”Development and evaluation of a peer mentorship program for Aboriginal university students," and co-presented with student leaders on student success program evaluation at the York Teaching In Focus conference and external conferences.

Rawana exemplifies comprehensive and consistent outstanding educational leadership and curricular innovation for all students.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service & Engagement Impact Award – Parissa Safai

This award was revised to recognize the impact of outstanding service by a faculty member. The individual has passion, sense of mission, and dedication, that significantly builds capacity, reputation of the program/Faculty/University, and/or contributes to new directions. The individual has taken on leadership roles within the university or community, playing a key role that results in major impact in their field or in professional associations that goes beyond their research impact.

Parissa Safai

Parissa Safai

Parissa Safai has a long history of service at the unit, Faculty, University and community levels, stepping forward for committees where she can enact real change. Safai received this award as an early career in 2013, and now seven year later, in the established career category. She served on many critical committees in the School of Kinesiology and Health Sciences, guiding future direction of the school as well as creating and implementing the School’s vision. She worked tirelessly leading and developing the sociocultural stream which ensures hiring of new faculty member in this area.

As interim associate dean in the Faculty, Safai stepped up to be the Faculty of Health designate during the longest labour disruption at York taking a lead role in facilitating and implementing the Senate directives related to the disruption. In addition, she has an outstanding record of stakeholder engagement and program development such as building capacity in Indigenization in the Faculty through development of a concept paper that sparked dialogue and involvement in key hires that were integral to this process.

Currently, she is serving as co-Chair and academic lead on the HR Service Transformation Team, which is tasked with making recommendations to HR on how to better meet institutional needs and support the university’s academic mission.

Outside of university, Safai serves on Federal-Provincial-Territorial Sports committees that are focused on addressing the gender gap in sport. She most recently served as a member of the Sports Canada Sports Participation Research Initiative Committee, which supports sports-related research. She is also an active member of two international sociology of sport association where she has taken on various roles and contributed to their outstanding success.

Safai's enthusiasm and commitment to the success of York University community is unparalleled and it exemplifies service enacting real change in the University.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service & Engagement Impact Award – Dr. Jonathan Weiss

This award was revised to recognize the impact of outstanding service by a faculty member. The individual has passion, sense of mission, and dedication, that significantly builds capacity, reputation of the program/Faculty/University, and/or contributes to new directions. The individual has taken on leadership roles within the university or community, playing a key role that results in major impact in their field or in professional associations that goes beyond their research impact.

Jonathan Weiss

Dr. Jonathan Weiss has an outstanding record of engagement with stakeholders, non-profits and government, and exemplary service to the broader community, while representing the Faculty of Health and York University.

Besides being a prolific and highly respected researcher whose work on mental health in autism and developmental disabilities is groundbreaking, Weiss is dedicated to serving the community.

His key engagements include:

  • director, Board, Special Olympics Canada, contributing to the translation of research results into greater funding, better programming, greater representation of athletes in decision making activities on the board;
  • Canadian Autism Working Group (appointed by the minister of health) – to develop a national autism strategy; and
  • Ontario Ministry of Child & Youth Services, Autism Clinical Expert Committee informing policy and advocating for better coordination of services and further funds.

Weiss's ability to mobilize knowledge is impressive. Working alongside the disability community he launched the ASD Mental Health Blog, a collection of more than 100 research lay summaries, multiple editorials and videos all targeted to helping stakeholders understand the science of mental health and autism.

His use of technology to amplify the message is clear in the TEDxYorkU Salon events he organized on autism. For this event, he worked closely with autistic adults, parents, advocates, policy makers, politicians and researchers to create a platform to share their knowledge with each other. His work has significantly contributed to the international reputation of York University being recognized as an institution where meaningful and impactful community engagement work takes place, and he is a shining example of leadership around mental health for people with developmental disability in the country.

Weiss is receiving this award as he exemplifies engagement outside of the University that has a real impact at multiple levels from the individual to the federal government.

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