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Samuel Merritt University Health Impact Awards

Our University’s Most Prestigious Awards

***Event Update*** Thank you to each attendee for your unwavering support and presence at the first inaugural Health Impact Awards. The enthusiasm and energy in the room were truly palpable, and it was inspiring to witness the collective dedication to celebrating and honoring these exceptional award recipients who have made remarkable contributions to the field of health sciences.  

Award winners 2023

Your attendance and active participation contributed to making this event an extraordinary success. We extend our deepest thanks to all sponsors and supporters who helped make this event possible, as your generosity was essential in recognizing the incredible efforts of the award recipients. To see our list of award recipients and photos of the evening, scroll down on this page.

We cannot wait to welcome you back next time to continue this important tradition. Thank you for being part of the success of the first Health Impact Awards, and for joining us in recognizing those who are driving positive change in healthcare. 

About the Awards

Launched in 2023, the SMU Health Impact Awards program honors exemplary SMU alumni, friends, and students who have made significant contributions to health sciences or healthcare by virtue of their professional activities and/or community service, or who have demonstrated exceptional promise for outstanding future achievements. Through their individual accomplishments and merits, the awardees bring enduring distinction to the University.

Recipients are selected by the SMU president following recommendations from a committee selected to represent the diversity of the University, to include the deans of the Colleges of Health Sciences, Nursing, and Podiatric Medicine or their designees, as well as faculty, staff, alumni, and student representatives. Recipients are required to attend the SMU Health Impact Awards recognition event, where possible. Any posthumous recognition must be approved in advance by the recipient’s family.

Please direct any questions to University Advancement at



Health Impact Award Recipients 2023

- Click the dropdown arrow next to each awardee's name to see their short biography.


Distinguished Alumni Award
Jovine Fifer Hankins, Providence ‘53, RN, PHN, BSN, MEd, FCN

Jovine Fifer Hankins, Providence ’53, RN, PHN, BSN, MEd, FCN, is an Oakland native, nursing leader, and tireless community health advocate. Her educational journey spans Oakland public schools, Providence College of Nursing, UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, and University of San Francisco. For ten years, Jovine was a respected member of the faculty at the Providence College of Nursing, challenging and inspiring her students. She worked for more than 29 years in the Oakland Unified School District, first as a school nurse and then an administrator in charge of health services, expertly aligning public health regulations and education code compliance. As a board member of the California School Nurses Organization, she shaped statewide health education strategies.        

Jovine has volunteered as an educator with numerous community health and wellness initiatives, including Alzheimer's support groups and Summit Hospital’s Parish Nurse program. She is actively involved with SMU’s Ethnic Health Institute and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and she presents in the California Highway Patrol’s free “Age Well Drive Smart” program. A lifelong member of Parks Chapel AME Church, Jovine's commitment to holistic well-being remains unwavering. She is passionate about empowering individuals to advocate for their health and has made a lasting impact on healthcare education and public health.

Eric Hubbard, DPM ‘68

Eric R. Hubbard, DPM '68, a trailblazer in Podiatric Medicine, embarked on his journey to elevate the field during his student years at CPM. Following a distinguished Surgical Residency, Dr. Hubbard assumed the role of Residency Director at Magnolia Hospital, embracing a selfless ethos by aiding fellow podiatrists with surgeries even during his lunch breaks. His impactful contributions spanned both professional and legislative domains as a driving force behind equal pay reform and the acquisition of the Ankle Certificate for Podiatrists, rewriting the narrative of their scope of practice. 


Dr. Hubbard's contributions include serving as president of both the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) and California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA) and starting the Long Beach Memorial Podiatric Medical and Surgical Residency, which he directed for 25 years. With over five decades of commitment, Dr. Hubbard's legacy encompasses leadership roles in numerous associations, dual-time recipient of the Podiatrist of the Year title, and an unwavering dedication to his patients, his community, and the generations following in his footsteps.


Innovative Leadership Award
Bruce Lawrence, DPM

Bruce R. Lawrence, DPM, is an accomplished surgeon, inventor, and dedicated philanthropist whose exceptional career has left an indelible mark on the field of podiatric medicine. He is a Life Member of the California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA) and served on the board of the California College of Podiatric Medicine (CCPM) for 11 years. After graduating from the Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine, Chicago, he channeled his expertise and compassion to serve patients in California, founding Tri-City Podiatry Group and practicing for 45 years before retiring in 2012.        

Driven by innovation, he holds several patents, primarily in the realm of medical devices, has developed seven artificial joints for reconstruction of foot deformities and one device for post-op rehabilitation, and has co-founded several orthopedic surgical device companies, including In2Bones Global, Inc., Solana Surgical, Nexa Orthopedics, and Futura Biomedical. His generosity extends to philanthropy, including a substantial gift to CPMA and funding scholarships at the SMU College of Podiatric Medicine, earning admiration and respect from colleagues and peers alike.

Carter Todd, ABSN ‘15

Carter G. Todd, ABSN ’15, is an accomplished professional, serving as Nurse Manager at Kaiser Roseville Medical Center, President and founder of Capitol City Black Nurses Association (CCBNA), and a Fellow of the American Nurses Association-California. With a diverse educational background, including degrees from SMU, UC Davis, and Western Governors University, he recently completed an MBA in Healthcare Management. Carter's dedication to nursing is evident through CCBNA's growth and recognition, along with his numerous awards, including those from the Sacramento Business Journal, Association of California Nurse Leaders, and National Black Nurses Association.  


Outstanding Service Award
Timothy Dutra, DPM ‘85

Timothy Dutra, DPM ’85, is an Assistant Professor at Samuel Merritt University College of Podiatric Medicine and has been an esteemed faculty member since 1987. A native of the East Bay and a graduate of University of California, Davis, and California State University East Bay, he completed his residency training and sports medicine fellowship in Long Beach, CA. With over two decades of practice in San Leandro, he is renowned for his contributions, including serving as the podiatric team physician for the University of California, Berkeley's intercollegiate athletics, and volunteering as Clinical Director for Special Olympics of Northern California Healthy Athletes Fit Feet Program, and leading students on the annual CPM Medical Mission to the California-Mexico border. A distinguished practitioner and recipient of numerous awards, Dr. Dutra's impactful career extends to his leadership in multiple professional and community organizations. He served as the president of the following organizations: American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, Alameda-Contra Costa Podiatric Medical Association, SMU's Faculty Organization, Alameda County Medical Center Foundation, San Leandro Chamber of Commerce, and San Leandro Kiwanis.        


Mohammad Deen, MSNA ‘18, CRNA is a remarkable Nurse Anesthetist whose compassion knows no bounds. From remote rural areas where he serves as the sole anesthesia provider to bustling urban centers like Chicago, he has dedicated his career to ensuring diverse populations receive the care they deserve. Mohammad's impact goes beyond borders, as demonstrated by his instrumental role in fundraising for a women’s and children’s hospital in Kenya and providing anesthesia services for Kenya Relief. A dedicated advocate, he employs his powerful voice to shed light on crucial global issues, exemplified by his recent speech at a fundraiser for earthquake-stricken regions. Through his medical missions, humanitarian endeavors, and impactful speaking engagements, Mohammad's influence reverberates widely, magnified by his compelling social media presence. His Ted Talk, "What if we were friends," delivered in Paris, encapsulates his profound experiences, including a transformative three-month stint as a medical provider in a refugee camp. Mohammad Deen's legacy of service, empathy, and advocacy defines him as an exceptional representative of his profession and a beacon of hope for generations to come.  

Recent Graduate Impact Award
Uzoamaka Nwankpa, DNP ‘22

Dr. Uzoamaka Nwankpa, DNP ’22, is a community health registered nurse dedicated to combating clinician burnout and collective trauma using African indigenous healing arts practices. Serving as an Assistant Professor at Samuel Merritt University's College of Nursing, she mentors students in embedding well-being into their academic journey. She founded The Uzo Method Project, which employs technology to revive indigenous health practices. Through her consultancy, Wellness Promoters LLC, she partners with health organizations and academic institutions to address healthcare worker burnout. Uzo's expertise lies in community healing sessions, especially for historically marginalized health and community care workers. Her initiatives span healing programs for immigrant families, previously incarcerated women, domestic violence victims, special needs families, the marginally housed, LGBTQIA+ communities, and community care workers. Uzo uniquely blends ancient healing techniques like music, dance, mindfulness, and storytelling with modern strategies. Driven by innovation and a deep-rooted commitment to healing, Dr. Uzo bridges the gap between traditional and contemporary healing methods.       

Alondra Ammon, MOT ‘17

Alondra Ammon, MOT ‘17, is an award-winning occupational therapist and advocate, recognized for her exceptional dedication to underserved communities and her efforts to enhance diversity within the OT profession. Her work includes helping previously unhoused individuals in San Mateo County with housing stability. Through her impactful YouTube channel and social media presence, Alondra educates and enlightens audiences about the crucial role of occupational therapy in healthcare. Recently, the TV station Telemundo featured Alondra on segments related to mental health in the Hispanic community and helping students transition back to school. At SMU, Alondra helped establish a scholarship fund benefiting graduating OT students, ensuring they receive support for their board exams. Currently pursuing her Ph.D. at Texas Woman's University, Alondra was proud to receive a two-year fellowship designed to support women in leadership and research.  


Spirit of SMU Award
Lynn-Indora Edmond, DPM ‘24 (College of Podiatric Medicine)

Lynn-Indora Edmond, DPM ‘24, is a fourth-year podiatric medical student at Samuel Merritt University College of Podiatric Medicine. She is an active leader and served as the president of the Student National Podiatric Medicine Association (SNPMA), which represents and supports minority podiatric medical students. She also is the founding president of SMU’s Black Student Union. Reflecting her passion and deep commitment to inclusion in health care and medicine’s role in meeting people where they are, Lynn-Indora founded the SNPMA Mobile Clinic, which provides free podiatric care to people experiencing homelessness in Oakland. In fall 2022, Lynn-Indora was the student speaker for the University’s “SMU Forward: The Next 100 Years” event. She spoke movingly about her academic journey, which started as a 16-year-old volunteer at a hospital in Haiti, and her passion for serving marginalized and underserved communities. Through her leadership and community engagement roles, Lynn-Indora is an outspoken advocate for diversifying the face of medicine with minority representation and visibility. She continues to call attention to the challenges faced by underrepresented students in medicine. to call attention to the challenges faced by underrepresented students in medicine.     

Aryanna Lewis, BSN ‘24 (College of Nursing)

Aryanna Lewis, BSN ’24, (College of Nursing, is dedicated to community service, with a focus on healthcare inclusivity and cultural awareness. She holds leadership roles as President of the SMU Student Body Association and Vice President of the California Student Nurse Association, where she works to improve healthcare outcomes. Aryanna founded the non-profit Heroes 4 Youth, mentoring underserved high school students. As a nursing student, she's volunteered over 100 hours, raising awareness about hypertension in African-American communities. She also inspires younger students to consider healthcare careers through field trips, seminars, and panels. Aryanna plans to become a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner and Nurse Midwife, committed to creating an equitable healthcare landscape.  


DaJanae Gresham-Ryder, DNP ‘24 (College of Nursing)

DaJanae Gresham-Ryder, DNP '24, is a Clinical Nurse III at UC Davis Medical Center, a Trauma One hospital in Northern California. Originally from Stockton, California, DaJanae's interest in nursing began when she saw her grandmother caring for her great-grandmother. After serving in the United States military for one year, she earned her BSN and MSN in Nursing Leadership and Administration from Cal State East Bay, where she was recently honored with a 40 under 40 award. As a bedside nurse, DaJanae implemented quality improvement initiatives to improve patient health outcomes, with a focus on reducing catheter-associated urinary tract infections and central line-associated bloodstream infections. She is the Vice President of the Capitol City Black Nurse Association, where she actively recruits student nurses and nurses of color into nursing programs and fills vacant hospital positions. DaJanae envisions a future that supports equitable healthcare for all and the treatment of nurses of color equally. As part of her doctoral studies at SMU, she will implement an intervention promoting civility and a sense of belonging for nurse leaders to improve staff morale, nurse retention, and cultural humility.    

Nyasha Abrams, DPT ‘24 (College of Health Sciences)

Nyasha Abrams, DPT ’24, has been a creative and dedicated leader, mentor, and teacher to kinesiology students and aspiring healthcare professionals. Through social media and her work with PrePT GRIND, which supports students through the physical therapy education process, she has provided online mentorship to over 10,000 kinesiology students and aspiring healthcare professionals globally. She has also inspired high school and college-age students of color, encouraging them to pursue a career in healthcare. In addition, Nyasha is committed to education and wellness for people with disabilities. She created an online course to help wheelchair users prevent dangerous pressure injuries through exercises, stretching, and preventive pressure relief. Nyasha co-founded the University's first Black Student Union, helping to build community and mentorship for Black students. She is also class president of her DPT cohort at SMU, inspiring her classmates to advocate for themselves and others. Nyasha plans to continue to leverage social media and technology to make positive and impactful changes in communities that have unmet needs.  


Distinguished Friend of the University
Cornelius Hopper, MD

Dr. Cornelius Hopper, MD, an accomplished physician, and administrator, served as the Emeritus Vice President for Health Affairs for the University of California System. With a distinguished career spanning from Marine service to leadership in academia, including his directorship of John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital and impactful role at Samuel Merritt University, he remains dedicated to promoting health equity and diversity. Dr. Hopper's legacy endures through the Dr. Cornelius Hopper Diversity Excellence Award and ongoing support for health equity initiatives at SMU and within the community.      

Noha Aboelata, MD, founder and CEO of Roots Community Health Center

Dr. Noha Aboelata, MD, was raised in Oakland, returned to Alameda County after medical school to combat health disparities among African American residents due to poverty. As a family practice physician and Chief Medical Officer at Oakland’s Native American Health Center, she founded Roots Community Health Center in 2008 to offer comprehensive care, especially to African American men re-entering society from prison. With over 10,000 active clients, Roots' holistic approach, led by Dr. Aboelata, connects patients to resources, enhancing accessibility and consistency of care for their overall wellness.  


Event Sponsorship Recognition

Sponsors 2023

2023 Health Impact Awards Event Photos