School of Medicine staff honored with service awards

Three Washington University School of Medicine employees were honored by Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor and dean of the School of Medicine, for going above and beyond in their work.

The Dean’s Distinguished Service Award, the medical school’s highest honor for staff, recognizes employees who excel in their job responsibilities, help to create a positive working environment and improve the community. James Lee, coordinator of international scholars and patients in the Department of Surgery, received the award this year.

Lee coordinates all of the Department of Surgery’s international visitors, scholars and patients and provides similar services for the departments of Orthopaedic Surgery, Anesthesiology and Neurosurgery. He is a member of the St. Louis Concierge Service Association and volunteers for the Lwala Community Alliance.

“James shows tremendous empathy for all of the patients and families for which he is in contact,” says Matthew Dobbs, MD, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery. “He creates an environment that is comfortable for both the physician and families to interact in an optimal way to deliver the best care. James is truly the ideal ambassador for Washington University and St. Louis Children’s Hospital and plays a critical role in communicating our mission of providing the best patient care possible with a caring and empathetic approach.”

Erin L. Ruh, research patient coordinator in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, was given the Research Support Staff Award.

Ruh oversees all of the clinical research efforts for Robert L. Barrack, MD, the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, and Ryan Nunley, MD, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery, and has been cited as a contributing author in published articles, scientific exhibits and posters and abstracts/scientific presentations. She has been key research support to several award-winning papers.

“In my 25 years of experience in orthopaedic surgery research, Erin is easily the most outstanding research support individual with whom I’ve had contact,” Barrack says. “She has demonstrated outstanding leadership in working with fellows, residents, faculty and other research support personnel. She leads by example and spends countless hours and works tirelessly to ensure successful completion of a number of research studies at the highest level of excellence. The quantity of the high level of work that she has produced is matched by its extreme high quality.”

Jonathan C. Riley, facilities technician III in Facilities Management, was presented with the Operations Staff Award.

As facilities technician III in the McDonnell Pediatric Research Building, Riley is responsible for regular maintenance and repair for the building. In addition, he has been active in researching and finding solutions to make the building more energy efficient. He recommended changing inefficient lights in the building’s lobby to 25-watt LED lighting, which uses 90 percent less energy and saves more than $5,000 a year.

“Jon is extremely professional and always has the best interest of the university and our department first,” says Jerry Pinkner, research lab manager in the Department of Molecular Microbiology. “His humor and wonderful personality go a long way to lessening the ‘emergency’ atmosphere of many situations. On top of this, Jon shares a passion for sustaining the environment and advancing causes important to Washington University that go far beyond the call of his job description.”

For photos of the awards, visit

For photos of the Employee Appreciation picnic, visit

On June 9, School of Medicine employees were recognized for 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 years of service. For a list of employees honored, visit