On June 6, Keck Medicine of USC held its seventh annual USC Choi Family Awards for Excellence in Patient-Centered Care.

Henry and Queence Choi, Leonard Schaeffer and Steven Shapiro, MD

From left to right: Henry and Queence Choi, Leonard Schaeffer and Steven Shapiro, MD. (Photo/Don Milici)

This year’s event took place in the Blue Ribbon Garden atop the iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. The venue, designed by USC alumnus Frank Gehry, provided an impressive backdrop for all those gathered to celebrate.

The awards recognize nurses, fellows, physicians, non-clinical staff and departments for demonstrating patient-centered care, compassion and excellence. These prizes are part of the USC Choi Family Excellence in Patient-Centered Care Endowment established in 2016 by Keck Medicine of USC through a gift from the Choi family.

The keynote speaker for the event was Leonard Schaeffer, a USC Trustee and chair of the USC Health System Board.

“My father was a pharmacist, and my mother was a full-time social worker. So, I grew up in a house where professionally trained people were caregivers – and caregiving, in a professional manner, was a goal and a value to which we were committed,” said Schaeffer. “That’s why I’m here tonight, to express my admiration to all of you as health care professionals who are putting patients at the heart of everything you do at Keck Medicine.”

This year, 59 nominees and 13 teams across five categories were honored.

The 2024 award-winners (pictured below) are: 

  • Nurse: Michael Soghomonians, RN, USC Verdugo Hills Hospital
  • Resident or Fellow: Divya Dharia, MD, in Anesthesiology
  • Non-Nurse Staff: Dawn Mitchell, Supply Chain Administrator
  • Physician: Tanaz Ferzandi, MD, Urogynecology
  • Department/Unit: The Access Center

Each awardee receives $2,000, along with an additional $2,000 for their department to be used for programs, training, and activities to support and foster superior patient-centered care. Also, each recipient’s name will appear on a perpetual plaque located in the Keck Hospital of USC Cardinal Lobby.

“A strong organizational culture is the cornerstone of better employee and patient experiences at Keck Medicine of USC,” said Rod Hanners, chief executive officer for Keck Medicine. “These Awards recognize those who consistently demonstrate the ideals of patient-centered care, compassion and excellence, and make a positive contribution to the culture of the enterprise.”

In addition to the awards, the USC Choi Family Excellence in Patient-Centered Care Endowment also supports the Choi Family Patient-Centered Care Program and the Choi Family Patient-Centered Care Symposium.

The program is available to the entire health system as a means to promote collaborative interactions between patients and caregivers — helping to form partnerships and achieve the best health outcomes. During the first seven years of the endowment, the enterprise has been able to send more than 100 colleagues to conferences with a focus on patient- and family-centered care.

Additionally, the symposium provides caregiver education and training focused on compassion, empathy and advocacy. It is open to all health care professionals and, during the event, attendees learn about creating a culture that promotes superior patient experiences.

“The individuals we are honoring tonight have contributed immensely to USC’s mission, and have enabled us to continue serving the health needs of our communities,” said Steven Shapiro, senior vice president for Health Affairs at USC. “Thanks to the Choi family, we will continue our focus on the voice of the patient and their family through education, research, and recognition.”

The Choi family are longtime supporters of USC and Keck Medicine. In addition to their contributions to the health system, the family’s generosity has supported many other USC programs, including stem cell research at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research; an artist-in-residence endowment at the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance; and a violin scholarship honoring the late Eudice Shapiro at the USC Thornton School of Music.

“Care is a reciprocal relationship, one in which both the patient and the care provider learn and grow from each other,” said Henry Choi. “Keck Medicine’s limitless approach to care has especially resonated with our family as we have experienced it first-hand. As a family, we are forever grateful for the opportunity to support your mission of delivering extraordinary care, and hope that our gift will enable you to continue giving back to those in need.”

— Matthew Vasiliauskas

Annette Sy, DNP, RN, NE-BC, Michael Soghomonians, RN, and Rod Hanners. (Photo/Don Milici)


Armand Dorian, MD, MMM, Divya Dharia, MD, and Rod Hanners. (Photo/Don Milici)


Ike Mmeje, MHSA, Dawn Mitchell and Rod Hanners. (Photo/Don Milici)


David Peng, MD, MPH, Tanaz Ferzandi, MD, and Rod Hanners. (Photo/Don Milici)


Marty Sargeant, members of Keck Medicine’s Access Team and Rod Hanners.