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2022 Distinguished Alumni Awards

Distinguished Alumni Awards

The Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine bestows upon its outstanding graduates.  

Established in 1998, this awards program recognizes our former students, colleagues, and friends who have transcended their fundamental roles as health care providers, scientists, and educators to become influential participants in the advancement of the art and science of medicine. Excellence in these areas brings pride and distinction to the University of Iowa and the Carver College of Medicine.

Award for Achievement

Honors University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine alumni for significant professional accomplishments in science, medicine, and/or education.

James Christensen, MD


James Christensen is an internationally recognized physician, scholar, and scientist responsible for major contributions to the understanding and management of gastrointestinal tract diseases. He provided the first explanation of the motions of the human esophagus in swallowing, proved the existence of the lower esophageal sphincter, and discovered the pacemaker cells of the colon. Christensen became the first director of the Division of Gastroenterology in the Carver College of Medicine in 1971, serving there for 17 years and concurrently as the director of the division’s National Institutes of Health academic training program. Christensen received the Janssen Award for Lifetime Achievement in Gastrointestinal Motility from the American Gastroenterological Association in 1997. He has been a University of Iowa professor emeritus of internal medicine since his retirement in 1998.

Debby Tsuang, MD

83BS, 88MD, 92MS, 92R–psychiatry  

Debby Tsuang has made critical contributions to the understanding of dementia and related disorders through her research on their genetic, clinical, and neuropathological underpinnings. Tsuang’s cutting-edge studies of dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) have informed its clinical classification and treatment by highlighting the role that behavioral disorders play in DLB. She is committed to compassionate clinical care for socioeconomically vulnerable populations. Her passion for helping aging veterans has influenced much of her research, and she has expanded telehealth options at the Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center (GRECC) of the VA Puget Sound Health Care System to increase rural veterans’ access to care. She has also achieved the distinction of being both the first woman and the first non‐white person to serve as director of the VA Puget Sound GRECC.

Award for Early Achievement

Honors University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine graduates of the past 20 years who have achieved early distinction in their field.Honors University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine graduates of the past 20 years who have achieved early distinction in their field.

Alireza Shamshirsaz, MD, FACOG

09R–obstetrics and gynecology

Alireza Shamshirsaz (“Shami”) ranks among the world’s foremost experts in fetal surgery and in the treatment of abnormally adherent placenta, a rare pregnancy complication also known as placenta accreta spectrum. He has pioneered novel surgical techniques for neural tube defects and twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, and he was part of the team that performed the first successful fetoscopic repair to treat spina bifida in the U.S. Shamshirsaz is board certified in OB-GYN and maternal fetal medicine and an appointed reviewer of 22 medical journals. He has published more than 250 peer-reviewed manuscripts in English language journals and 18 in Farsi. Shamshirsaz serves as director of the Maternal Fetal Medicine Care Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, part of Harvard Medical School.

Jeremy Cauwels, MD, FACP, FHM


Jeremy Cauwels’ leadership and advocacy have redefined the patient experience at Sanford Health System, the nation’s largest rural nonprofit health care system. He was recognized as a leader early in his career when, after completing his internal medicine residency at the University of Kansas Medical School in 2005, he was selected to lead the program the following year. In 2014, he became the director of the hospitalist program at Sanford, where he doubled the size of the program. Now as chief physician at Sanford, his colleagues look to him as a role model of patient-focused care.

Award for Service

Honors University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine alumni for meritorious service in a professional capacity or in the broader community.

Sharon Goodwin Fogleman, MD


Sharon Goodwin Fogleman has dedicated her career to medical missions in Kenya, rural Appalachia, South Sudan, Uganda, and Ghana. She and her husband began their medical work in 1987 at Maua Methodist Hospital in rural Kenya, joining the medical staff there to provide medical care and mentorship. After 10 years, they moved back to the U.S. to work at Red Bird Clinic in rural Kentucky for 14 years, after which they returned to work in Africa. From 2012 on, Fogleman worked to provide health education and resources to combat malnutrition, malaria, and infectious disease in a region of central South Sudan alongside local government health care workers. When civil war led millions to seek refuge in Uganda, the Foglemans trained community health promoters, pastors, and lay workers in trauma healing within the refugee camps. Now in the U.S., she continues to travel internationally to work with vulnerable populations and mentor health care workers and students.

Janet Schlechte, MD

78R, 81F–internal medicine

Janet Schlechte’s clinical research on the relationship between prolactinomas and bone loss has shaped the understanding of how the endocrine and skeletal systems interact, garnering her invitations to present at conferences around the world. In 1996, Schlechte was elected to the most prestigious academic medical society in North America, the Association of American Physicians, and later she became the only woman among a handful of Iowans to be selected as Master of the American College of Physicians. She is a professor emerita in the UI Department of Internal Medicine.

Award Ceremony

Recognition of the 2022 UI Carver College of Medicine award recipients will take place September 16, 2022. For more information, please contact UI Health Care Outreach and Engagement at 1-319-335-8886 or email medicine-alumni@uiowa.edu.