2015 Award Honorees


Contact Ginnie Flynn, Vice President of Communications:  630-263-4613 or [email protected]

 Outstanding Family Physicians Honored at IAFP Annual Awards Dinner

 [ROSEMONT, Ill. October 9, 2015]  - The Illinois Academy of Family Physicians presented their annual awards tonight to honor the Family Physician of the Year, Family Medicine Teacher of the Year and Distinguished Service Award.  The awards were presented by IAFP President-elect Alvia Siddiqi at the McCormick and Schmick’s restaurant in Rosemont, as part of the IAFP annual meeting weekend. Outgoing president Janet R. Albers, MD presented three President’s Awards to honor contributions and accomplishments that she encountered over her term as president which ends on October 10.  

Family Physician of the Year:  Elba M. Villavicencio, MD of Buffalo Grove – NorthShore University Health System

Dr. Villavicencio is relatively new to Illinois, but quickly established herself among her patients and colleagues with NorthShore University Health System at her practice, located in Gurnee. She also practiced in Columbia and Ecuador.  Her story is one of change and determination and success.  Since joining the NorthShore Medical Center in Gurnee, she quickly won the hearts and loyalty of her patients.  Patient Vicky Soberano nominated her for the award.

 Soberano is an experienced patient, who has seen many doctors throughout her life due to health problems in childhood.  She met Dr. V. by chance and after one visit, knew that she had found the doctor for herself and her family.  Vicky says she is the only doctor who was able to help her lose weight and quick a 35-year smoking habit.  “What is not easy and what makes her so unique is how she uses the tools she was given.  She recognizes what her patients need.  I would love to say I’m her favorite, but I know she treats all her patients like she treats me.”


Her physician career began as a rural service physician in Ecuador after graduating from medical school there in 1990.  The one-year commitment to working in the Andean mountains or the rain forest is a requirement of all medical school graduates in Ecuador.  From there, she spent several more years in Ecuador, including completing a residency program in anesthesiology before becoming a community medicine physician in Bogota, Columbia.

 She came to the U.S. in 2000 and eight years later, started family medicine residency training in New York.  Less than a year after completing residency training, she joined NorthShore University Health System.  Colleague Lisa M. Wiederin sums it up: “I so like all the qualities that Dr. Villavicencio possesses, medically and personally, that I switched my entire family to her care.  I have the opportunity to see her from three different perspectives, a patient, a parent and a co-worker. They all add up to one quality physician.”

 To make being active fun, Dr. V encourages patients to incorporate dance, and as a professional salsa dancer herself, she’s able to practice what she preaches!

Teacher of the Year – Employed:  Richard (Rik) V.V. Stringham, MD, FAAFP – University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Family Medicine

Dr. Stringham is a fan favorite among UIC medical student family medicine leaders.  He was nominated for the award by then-students Mustafa Alavi and Kristina Dakis, along with department head John Hickner, MD.  He joined the UIC Department in 2008 and was named Associate Professor this year. He has won numerous Golden Apple and other teaching awards, both at UIC and his previous location of UCLA.  He was recently appointed Assistant Dean for M3 and M4 Curriculum at UIC, due to his excellent work in medical student education at UIC. 


Dr. Hickner says, “You have to see Rik in action to know how he demonstrates his highly effective teaching style. He is dynamic, humorous and knows the content cold. He is compassionate with all students, yet pushes them hard to learn. In addition to his skill as a one-on-one and classroom teacher, he is a terrific educational administrator. Under his leadership, the Family Medicine Clerkship at UIC has been consistently the top rated required clerkship at UIC-COM.”

 For Stringham, education is more of a two-way street than simply educators and students.  “I receive way more knowledge and inspiration from the medical students, family medicine residents, and fellow faculty that I work with than I could ever give back,” he says. “I am where I am because many people have seen my potential - before I did - and have given me the opportunity to grow professional as a family medicine educator.” 

 Dakis sums up the many facets of Dr. Stringham that make him the 2015 IAFP Teacher of the Year. “He is a phenomenal teacher who devotes himself to his students’ education and growth, who is incredibly passionate about his patients, and who has inspired countless students to pursue a career in family medicine.”

 Distinguished Service Award – Thomas H. Miller, MD – Southern Illinois University Quincy Family Medicine Residency Program

The Distinguished Service Award is given at the discretion of the Public Relations Task Force, to honor an outstanding career.  Dr. Miller is being honored for his 23 years of service to Illinois.  He has been with the SIU- Quincy Family Medicine Residency since 1994 and was named the program director in 2003.  He’s active in the community serving on a variety of boards covering health and child advocacy issues.  He was nominated by IAFP president Janet Albers, MD, Chair of the Family and Community Medicine Department at Southern Illinois School of Medicine.

 Dr. Miller has been involved in numerous local television and radio interviews to educate the public on the importance of preventative care, evidence-based medicine, and health care costs.

Dr. Albers praises the complete package of Dr. Miller, as the “epitome of a family physician.”  He delivers babies and cares for seniors. Under his leadership, the residency program recently received a grant from the Illinois Children’s Health Foundation to integrate children’s behavioral health into the medical home at Quincy Family Medicine.

Isidoros Vardaros, M.D., former resident and current faculty at SIU Quincy says Miller’s constant support for his residents and patients is the reason she chose to stay in the same town to practice medicine post residency. “My fondest memories of residency include Dr. Miller coaching me through deliveries in the latest and earliest of hours; him second assisting in surgical procedures when he didn’t have to; and him being there for me as a teacher, colleague, and friend during my brightest and darkest moments. He is the first person I consider for medical and professional advice because of the wealth of knowledge and skill sets I have gained under his guidance.”

Former resident Preet Joshi, MD credits Miller with helping him manage the culture change from Houston to Quincy, Ill. “Dr. Miller say in all residents potential that I don’t think we even knew we had.  I saw how he carried himself day to day.  I knew I had to be better, not only to impress him, but also for myself.”  

This year Dr. Miller was elected to board of directors of the Association for Family Medicine Residency Directors (AFMRD). 

President’s Awards – Presented by Janet R. Albers, MD

Kristina Dakis, MD of Chicago

Kristina graduated from University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine tin May 2015.  Kristina served as the student member of the IAFP board of directors from July 2014 to June of this year. “Her passion for family medicine and the underserved of Chicago shone through in everything she did.  Her consistent advocacy for our Family Medicine Midwest conference provided a successful stream of Illinois medical students the opportunity to attend the conference,” says Albers.  She’s been involved in planning the conference for the past two years, as well. This year, Kristina stepped up in planning and leading the Health is Primary Student/Resident event at UIC on May 19 with Dr. James Valek. “Dr. Kristina Dakis is the future of family medicine and represents everything that is right with our specialty. I know she will continue that exemplary leadership and advocacy in residency at the University of Illinois at Chicago Family Medicine Residency. I can’t wait to see where her career takes her next,” concluded Albers.



Illinois Primary Health Care Association

The Illinois Primary Health Care Association has been a tremendous organizational advocate in building a better healthcare system for patients and community health centers, while advocating for policies that protect both stakeholders.  Thirteen percent of our IAFP members work in Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), sharing in the IAFP mission of high-quality, community-based primary care. IPHCA’s outstanding work in supporting enrollment of eligible patients in Medicaid and Get Covered Illinois has been key to the success of the Affordable Care Act in Illinois. IPHCA’s educational resources and support to federally qualified health centers throughout the State have fostered growth and expansion of health care services for those most in need.  “IPHCA member clinics are delivering on the promise of expanded access to primary care for all patients under the Affordable Care Act.  IAFP and IPHCA have supported each other in our like-minded goals for many years,” says Albers. Rajesh Parikh, MD, Vice President of Clinical Services and Workforce Development, accepted the award for IPHCA.

Tracey Smith, DNP, PHCNS-BC, MS

Director of Medical Education and Community Outreach, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine

 For years, Tracey Smith has done excellent work as the staff liaison to the SIU Family Medicine Interest Group and with students in general. Dr. Smith has coordinated and shepherded “med student generations” of Tar Wars presenters, ensuring our local Springfield schools get this important tobacco prevention lesson every year.  The SIU FMIG has won first place nationally from AAFP the past two years in a row for their coordinated Tar Wars efforts. “Tracey isn’t a family physician, but she certainly understands us and has taught many current family physicians as Director of Medical Student Education for the Department of Family and Community Medicine at SIU. Tracey Smith is a key member of our department and represents the importance of the interdisciplinary team that our students will work in for the rest of their careers,” explains Albers.  Also as Director of Outreach and Chair of the Community Health Policy Committee at SIU, Smith has been instrumental in efforts to serve the homeless, advance population health and develop a hot-spotting program for those patients that are most vulnerable. “Tracey is more than a valuable teammate, she’s my hero!”


 The Illinos Academy of Family Physicians is a professional membership association representing over 4,700 Illinois family physicians and medical students dedicated to improving the lives of Illinois pateints and the family physicians who care for them. Learn more at www.iafp.com