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Deans Richards and Schuster earn Rockford Chamber of Commerce Awards


Two UICOMR assistant deans took home awards from the Rockford Chamber of Commerce at its Pow(h)er Conference on November 3.

Maureen Richards, PhD, assistant dean for medical education and evaluation, received the 2022 Excellence in Leadership Award.

Dr. Richards has contributed greatly to the College of Medicine Rockford since she became assistant dean for medical education and evaluation in 2019. During this time, the medical school curriculum was evolving, enhancements to the students’ experience were needed and changes in staffing occurred — and Dr. Richards dove in headfirst using her experience from Rush University’s medical school to quickly become a leader in shaping this new medical school experience. And then the pandemic hit. Now all the challenges faced were compounded by having to shift medical school into a virtual environment. She rose to the challenge using clear communication, flexibility and teamwork to guide the organization in providing the classroom and clinical experiences needed for medical education to continue in an unexplored landscape. As a scholar and clinical assistant professor with a doctorate in microbiology and immunology, her insight into what was happening with COVID-19 was invaluable in setting protocols to keep students, staff and faculty safe.

As an administrator overseeing a 15-person team of coordinators, clinicians, technicians and faculty, she has demonstrated outstanding leadership skills and strong ethical standards while nurturing the growth of her team, which, thereby, enhanced the students’ education. Her leadership skills continue to grow through the many campus and college committees on which she leads and serves as well as through her network of peers in the American Association of Medical Colleges.

“Dr. Richards is a role model as a highly intelligent, dedicated scientist, scholar, educator and administrator,” says UICOMR dean Alex Stagnaro-Green. “She has worked collaboratively with faculty and administrators across all four University of Illinois College of Medicine campuses to build curriculum and assessments, and create effective evaluation strategies for programmatic improvement and faculty development and promotion.”

Carol Schuster, MS, RHIA, CHPS, assistant dean for operations, received the 2022 Community Hero Award.

Dean Schuster has been involved in the Rockford community since joining the College of Medicine Rockford in 2007 as Director of Compliance and Risk Management. She is on the Governance Committee of the Family Peace Center, has chaired and served on the Silent Auction Committee for MERIT’s annual fundraiser, chairs the Rockford Regional Health Council and is the new chair of the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, among many other community volunteer activities.

As Past Board Chair for Freeport Health Network, Carol took an active role in the direction of that organization, serving as Chairman of the Board Quality and Safety Committee as well as a member of the Executive and Finance Committees. She also served on the board of the United Way of Rock River Valley and was an active member of the United Way’s Move the Middle Task Force which is focused on the increasing the number of students graduating from high school.

She also spent considerable time and effort to bring to fruition a SHIELD Illinois COVID-19 testing laboratory and community testing site to the College of Medicine Rockford that provided free saliva-based tests to tens of thousands of people.

"In addition to applying her impressive leadership skills at work that led her to become Assistant Dean for Operations, Carol also applies her leadership skills to efforts to improve health care and the community by connecting the College of Medicine to the community and by serving on several boards of directors and volunteering for community events,"  says Dean Stagnaro-Green.