Matt Burdett, Jessica DeCaro, Maita Diaz and Lisa Tersigni have a few things in common. They not only consistently perform their job duties in an outstanding manner, but they steadily operate with an exemplary attitude. Because of this, the School of Medicine is proud to recognize them as this year’s winners of the school’s staff awards, the highest honor it bestows upon staff members.
School of Medicine Dean Stan Gerson congratulated the recipients on receiving the well-deserved awards, and thanked them for their continued service to the school.
“In our fast-paced world at the School of Medicine, it must sometimes seem that your
contributions go unnoticed, but I assure you, they are never unappreciated,” Dean Gerson said. “Our staff are the people who keep it all together, making everything look seamless and easy.”
Matt Burdett, assistant director of facilities planning in the Office of Space and Facilities Planning, is this year’s recipient of the Joan Harris Staff Recognition Award. The award is named in honor of Joan Harris, the former associate dean for faculty affairs to Dean Frederick Robbins in the 1960s and is given annually to a staff member who consistently exemplifies the very best work ethic and demeanor.
Jill Stanley, Burdett’s supervisor and associate dean of Space and Facilities Planning, said she’s experienced Burdett’s “extraordinary dedication and contributions” to the school for more than five years, but never more so than during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stanley said from the beginning of the pandemic, Burdett was a key member of the school’s COVID-19 Task Force and he was a key participant in the university’s return-to-campus site inspections over many weeks. She noted he led the effort to implement the university’s facilities-related safety measures throughout the school so others could work safely and continue their research.
“The past 16 months have been difficult and challenging for everyone and there are many who stepped up to the plate, but without a doubt, Matt went above and beyond in all aspects,” Stanley said. “He was ‘boots on the ground’ for many who were remote. Despite the overwhelming amount of responsibility on his plate during this extremely stressful time, he did his job with humor, kindness, professionalism, and dedication to the [School of Medicine] and its mission.”
Jessica DeCaro, director of Cleveland Health Sciences Library, was awarded the Staff Diversity Award. The School of Medicine established the Staff Diversity Award to recognize a non-faculty employee who actively promotes diversity and inclusion within the university.
Kathy Miller, senior director of medical education, said DeCaro has worked at CWRU for almost nine years, where she leads the library administratively, acting as a bridge to the health sciences schools the library supports.
Miller said DeCaro encourages a “culture of inclusion” on campus and beyond, and she has been a steadfast supporter of her staff, as well as a tremendous resource to faculty and students. Lia Logio, vice dean for medical education, agreed.
“Jessica is an amazing collaborator with a strong service leadership orientation,” Logio noted. “She amazes me in all that she manages and how responsive she and her whole team are to a whole host of myriad issues.”
Maita Diaz, who recently left the Office of Research Administration for a position as director of administrative operations for the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences, was honored with the Staff STAR Award. The School of Medicine established the Staff STAR Award to recognize a non-faculty employee who demonstrates supportive, team-oriented, authentic and respectful interactions with others.
Diaz has been promoted many times in her 13 years as a School of Medicine employee, and in that time, she also earned her MBA from Case Western Reserve. Mark Chance, vice dean for research in the School of Medicine, said Diaz’s “dedication to improvement, willingness to step up at all times, and utmost professionalism” exemplifies her approach to her job and colleagues.
“Ultimately, she has been a significant contributor in all her roles in the [School of Medicine],” Chance said. “Maita’s particular contributions over the last year, above and beyond everything else she has done, concern COVID-19.”
Chance said Diaz organized and hosted a myriad of COVID-19 activities, including organizing the communications interface and workflow for questions and developments announced from central campus leaders related to the pandemic. Additionally, she acted as lead of all school department chairs and administrative departments on the ramp down and ramp up of research in the school during the pandemic.
Lisa Tersigni, executive director for medical development in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, is this year’s recipient of the Staff Mentor Award. The Staff Mentor Award recognizes a non-faculty employee who demonstrates outstanding mentorship qualities to multiple School of Medicine staff.
Elizabeth Kalfas, who works on Tersigni’s team, said in Tersigni’s nine years with the school, she has evolved from a major gift officer focused on scholarship fundraising with medical alumni into an incredible team leader who now manages and mentors a team of seven people, while continuing to close major gifts.
Kalfas said Tersigni’s leadership style is best compared to a coach, “someone who, guided by a larger strategy, works to turn individual players into a cohesive team—a team where each individual understands the critical role they play in working toward the team’s goals and ultimate success.”
“Lisa’s kindness has never wavered, as I believe she leads with her heart, caring for each of us as people with lives beyond work, while also helping us to care about each other, which has led us to fondly refer to ourselves as ‘Team Tersigni,’” said Kalfas. “She engages with us as if her role is a calling, and while she is our supervisor, she is quick to remind us she is also our colleague.”