IAFP 2022 Academy Awards

For Immediate Release 
Contact:  Ginnie Flynn, 773-754-1185 and [email protected] 

(November 5, 2022 – Downers Grove, Illinois) After two long years of Zoomed awards presentations, the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians (IAFP) members and leaders gathered in Downers Grove, Illinois to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the organization that is currently called the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians, originally founded as the Illinois Academy of General Practice.  IAFP also presented their annual awards and added a new award to their Academy tradition.  

President’s Awards

The IAFP President of the previous year chooses this award from among members or organizations that have had a profound impact on the President personally or advanced the Academy’s mission in the past year.  Tabatha Wells, MD, FAAFP selected the following two members for 2022 President’s Awards. 

Christina Wells, MD, MPH, FAAFP 
Dr. Christina Wells has quickly become an incredible contributor and asset to IAFP.  In addition to serving on IAFP board, she quickly became an indispensable force with the Illinois Vaccinates Against COVID-19 (I-VAC) project podcasts.  

Through her selfless dedication with the Family Health Foundation of Illinois’ (IAFP’s Foundation) Summer Externship program, she has hosted a young medical student at Mile Square Cicero Family Health Center the past three summers.  With each externship, a medical student spent four weeks under Dr. Wells’ guidance learning team-based primary care meeting the needs of the underserved population in the Cicero area.  They also learn about the organization and impact of federally qualified health centers as medical homes dedicated to providing quality care for those often left on outside looking in.   

Careyana Brenham, MD, FAAFP 
Dr. Brenham is the program director at SIU Family and Community Medicine in Springfield, where Dr. Tabatha Wells completed residency training and then stayed on as faculty for a few years alongside her.  “She has been my greatest mentor and treasured friend throughout my education and career,” states Dr. Wells. 

She is a court-appointed expert in child-abuse cases, a residency program director, and assistant department chair for SIU School of Medicine.  Recently, she started a gender equity and transgender clinic at SIU Medicine, providing gender affirming, high quality care and a safe space for those often marginalized and misunderstood in the health care system.

“She has long been a beacon of hope and care for some of society's most vulnerable and often voiceless people. Her impact on me, many other students, residents, patients, family medicine, and the Springfield community simply cannot be measured. Her impact goes well beyond Illinois through her mission trips and the dozens of family physicians who trained at SIU to become dedicated family physicians who now serve in Illinois and beyond with her spirit of caring for those who most need family medicine,” says Wells. “Because of her I am also the family physician, educator and advocate that I was always meant to be.”   


Vincent D. Keenan Award for Servant Leadership 
Janet Albers, MD, FAAFP Chair of Family and Community Medicine at SIU School of Medicine
IAFP President 2014-15 

Established in 2022, the award is selected by the IAFP Board of Directors from nominations contributed by IAFP members. Named for the IAFP’s long serving chapter executive Vincent D. Keenan, CAE who retired in 2020, the award recognizes outstanding Illinois physicians in public health who embody one or more of the following qualities:

  • Dedicates career to public health.
  • Has worked or led public health initiatives beyond their normal practice in service to their community.
  • Improves population-level health outcomes through their work.
  • Works to enhance health equity through ongoing initiatives within the workplace or their community.

Dr. Janet Albers embodies a physician who has dedicated her career to serving patients, students, residents, and her community. As Chair of the SIU School of Medicine Family & Community Medicine Department, she has been a leader for change in the medical school and her community for decades.  

Dr. Albers was most notably the driving force behind establishing SIU Family Medicine as a Federally Qualified Health Center. As an FQHC, SIU Family Medicine has been able to address the public health needs of not only Sangamon County but following this other central and southern Illinois counties with several satellite clinics in many rural and urban areas in central / southern Illinois. Under the guidance of Dr. Albers, SIU Family Medicine FQHC has addressed health care needs in many innovative ways with many grants acquired to help provide this care.  

SIU Family Medicine meets the health care needs of patients in rural settings through mobile clinics and additional clinics in rural areas.  Patients suffering from opioid use disorder get help through Medication Assistance Recovery clinics. People with complex health care issues get the support they need through partnership with community health care workers. Patients with mental health care needs now have access to integrative behavioral health care programs with licensed clinical social workers; and many other support programs. 

Vince Keenan and Dr. Janet Albers (Photo provided by Mr. Keenan)In addition to the direct care to patients and the community and the development of health care programs, Dr. Albers has also been a mentor, teacher, and leader to so many medical students, residents, and physicians in her community.  She served as the Residency Program Director for the SIU Family Medicine Center Residency program in Springfield for 15 years prior to being named Chair of Family and Community Medicine at SIU.  Her influence and actions exponentially lead to so many positive effects on public health. Her outreach and the ripple effect of teaching others and mentoring others has benefited so many patients, communities, and people everywhere.  

Former IAFP Executive Vice President Vince Keenan personally assisted in the award presentation. "Servant leadership is developed by building communities and teams.  As a servant leader, Janet sees the extraordinary in others, is inspired by the dedication of others, and provides the tools and encouragement to others to be their best," he said. 

Resident Teacher of the Year  
Wala Tout, MD – 2022 Graduate of University of Chicago NorthShore Family Medicine Residency in Glenview

According to faculty member Dr. Pooja Saigal, Dr. Wala Tout demonstrated strong competence in medical knowledge and clinical judgement with a drive to continuously improve knowledge and stay current. As a result, she was given the unique opportunity to pursue the faculty development track earlier than all other residents during her second year of residency, while simultaneously completing an intensive two-year research track. 

In her role as chief resident, Dr. Tout led the residency with meticulous organization and resolved conflict with fairness and sound judgment, demonstrating her skills not only as an educator, but also as a leader. 

“Dr. Tout was one of the most exemplary resident teachers that I have ever had the privilege to work with during my career in academic medicine. Dr. Tout was cherished and respected by her colleagues for her clinical competence, humility, work ethic, positive attitude, calm demeanor, accountability, and selfless helpful nature,” concludes Dr. Saigal.  

Fellow resident Jennifer Hill, MD summarized it well.  “Wala was the senior resident that all interns hope for- smart, confident, and encouraging. I can attest that working with Wala has made me a better physician. Wala's ambition, dedication, and tireless efforts to improve resident education have been transformative for the program. She is leaving this program a better place, and her absence will be felt.”

Dr. Tout is now pursuing an Academic Career Fellowship with MPH in Community Health Sciences at UIC. 

Family Medicine Teacher of the Year 
Brandyn Mason, DO - Carle Foundation Family Medicine Residency

Dr. Brandyn Mason arrived in Illinois in 2015 after completing his residency training in Erie, Pennsylvania where he also earned his Masters in Medical Education.  He started at Carle Foundation Hospital and now is the Associate Program Director for the Carle Foundation Family Medicine Residency. 

At Carle, he has developed a leadership curriculum for the chief residents so that the chiefs gain extra education and skills out of their chief year. He has developed an osteopathic education series for MD residents so that they can become board certified in Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) upon their graduation from residency. 

When asked about his decision in medical school to pursue family medicine, the answer may surprise you. “When I first went to medical school, I knew what specialty I would go into: pediatrics. Then through education and clinical rotations I realized that I had made the wrong decision and I was destined to do psychiatry as my lifelong profession. Then through self-reflection I began to explore what I really wanted from a medical career, the ability to build life-long meaningful relationships and instill change in a patient’s life by preventing disease rather than treating it. I wanted to build treatment plans with the patient… that met their needs physically, mentally, and spiritually without diminishing the quality of care that I was able to provide. With this newfound understanding, I identified Family Medicine as the correct career choice for me.”

Dr. Mason also serves on the IAFP board of directors, class of 2023 as well as the Task Force on Non-Dues Revenue, the Family Medicine Educators Committee, and the Diversity Task Force.  His own continuous learning includes adding a Masters in Health Administration (MHA) this year. 

Family Physician of Year
Joseph E. Ross, MD, FAAFP Rockford

Dr. Ross a Family Physician at the UI Mile Square Health Center LP Johnson in Rockford.  He was instrumental in the process whereby the clinic is now linked with a larger Chicago-based Mile Square Health Clinic and the College of Medicine at the University of Illinois - Rockford campus. The clinic addresses the medical, dental and social emotional needs of many low-income patients in the surrounding community. He is also a faculty member of the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford and recent program director of the Family Medicine Residency Program. 

Dennis Harezlak is a fellow board member of the Mile Square LP Johnson Clinic and says, “Dr. Ross is my family physician and a friend that I trust with my life. My family and I greatly appreciated his personal efforts and leadership. Over the past 40 years, he knew us, our successes and pains, and our lives. Throughout that time, he was always caring and compassionate. He always took time to listen and guided us as we grew.” 

Photo provided by Dr. RossMary J Hackett was the medical transcriptionist for Five Points Medical Group, when Dr. Ross joined the practice in 1988. “Dr. Ross regularly let me know how much he appreciated and valued the work I completed for him.  On occasions where my husband or I were hospitalized, Dr. Ross always checked in on us to answer any questions, making us feel comfortable and secure. We had confidence and assurance that Dr. Ross was providing the best possible health care. I have come to regard Dr. Ross not only as a physician, but as a treasured friend.”

Joseph Garry, MD, FAAFP, a colleague at the University of Illinois at Rockford Family Medicine Residency Program says, “Dr. Ross has a broad and highly committed patient panel. I have witnessed the trust and value which his patients place in his care. He sets both the example and demonstration of the quality of care delivered by a Family Medicine physician practicing a full-scope of care. The common mantra from both students and residents is their desire to "practice Family Medicine as Dr. Ross has demonstrated" to them; full-spectrum and across all venues while still able to maintain a work-life balance.

Dr. Ross believes having a life partner with similar ideas and goals is essential; someone to share your hopes, dreams, and visions. 

2018 Photo from Rockford Register Star - Kimberly WatleyFamily medicine gave Dr. Ross more than a rewarding career – it also delivered his life partner with those similar ideas and goals.  He met his wife Dr. Mary Jo Ironside when they were both residents at the Family Medicine Residency Program at University of Illinois Rockford. They’ve been married more than 30 years and returned as faculty to that same program in 2012.   They raised three children and enjoyed many outdoor family adventures while supporting their sports and education as a team. 

With IAFP, he serves on the Family Medicine Educators Committee and has volunteered as a faculty reviewer for the annual Resident Scholarly Works Virtual Summit. 

Upon his graduation from Loyola University – Stritch School of Medicine in 1979, Dr. Ross wrote a reflection called “personal comments” on a typewriter, with evidence of White-Out to correct any keystroke mistakes.  In that one-page, double spaced document, he wrote:

“I look on the role of the family physician as a person reaching out to help individuals, not only physically, but emotionally and psychologically as well.”  He went on to say: “It is up to the physician to inspire confidence in those he treats. I feel the family physician’s holistic approach to medicine trains him to deal with problems when they arise.” 

Those who have entrusted him with their care over these last 40 years would attest that he has successfully done just that, and perhaps even more. 



 Chapter Summit Dinner Poll