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The Maria & Sam Miller Professional Excellence Awards

Sponsored by the Miller family, the Maria and Sam Miller Professional Excellence Awards are presented annually to Cleveland Clinic physicians, nurses, scientists and other professional staff who demonstrate exemplary service and dedication to excellence.

Recipients epitomize leadership, talent, innovation, commitment, and outstanding outcomes. They are nominated by their peers and selected by a committee of Cleveland Clinic leaders.

Thanks to the generosity of the Miller family, each recipient is honored at the professional staff awards reception with both a monetary gift and commemorative plaque.

Police Officer of the Year
Daniel Darke

Daniel Darke

Daniel Darke is a police officer in the training bureau on Cleveland Clinic’s main campus who conducts departmental in-service training, roll-call training, on-shift training programs and assists with new officer training.

Officer Darke graduated from the police academy at the University of Akron in 2002. He then began his law enforcement career working part time in Boston Heights. In September 2004, Officer Darke joined Cleveland Clinic as a security officer and was promoted to police officer in November 2006.

Officer Darke holds instructor certifications in pistol, patrol rifle, Taser, active shooter incidents and speed measuring devices (radar/laser). From 2012-2014, he served on the Right of Review Committee, which is a trusted group of caregivers who make recommendations regarding employee corrective action.

Nurse of the Year

Joseph Mastrandrea, RN

Joseph Mastrandrea

Joseph Mastrandrea, RN, is a registered nurse working in the J-83 Medical/Surgical and Cardiology Step-down Unit on Cleveland Clinic’s Main Campus.

Mastrandrea received his nursing education at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio. He has previously served in nursing roles at hospitals across the nation, including Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center & Orthopaedic Hospital (Los Angeles), Brigham & Women’s Hospital (Boston), South Miami Hospital (Miami), Cleveland Clinic Florida (Ft. Lauderdale), Sunrise Hospital (Las Vegas), Good Samaritan Hospital (Phoenix) and LakeWest (Willoughby, Ohio).

He has served in various roles at Cleveland Clinic, but has been in his current role in the VIP unit since 2008. Care in this unit includes cardiothoracic, transplant, vascular, orthopaedic, urology, colorectal and spine surgeries. The unit is a leading-edge therapeutic environment whose staff is specifically trained in all of the clinical care areas, as well as the service of high amenity patients. Mastrandrea is known as the unit’s “go-to” nurse for any high-amenity patient admitted. He is recognized for his clinical skills, interpersonal communications savvy, quick wit, patient advocacy and acumen for the complicated arena of private-duty service.

Mastrandrea has served as the unit’s Shared Governance Chair and operates as an informal leader on the unit.

Scientific Achievement – Clinical Research
Mikkael Sekeres

Mikkael A. Sekeres, MD, MS

Vice-Chair for Clinical Research
Director, Leukemia Program
Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute

Mikkael Sekeres, MD is Professor of Medicine, Director of the Leukemia Program, and Vice-Chair for Clinical Research at Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute.

He earned a medical degree and a master’s degree in clinical epidemiology from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Dr. Sekeres completed his postgraduate training at Harvard University, finishing an internal medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and a fellowship in hematology-oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. He chaired the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee of the U.S. FDA and is co-chair of the medical advisory board of the Aplastic Anemia and Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) International Foundation.

An invited speaker at numerous meetings, grand rounds and conferences, Dr. Sekeres is a member of the American Society of Hematology, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the Southwest Oncology Group — Leukemia Committee. His current research focuses on patients with MDS and older adults with acute myeloid leukemia, and he has been the national primary study investigator on several phase I/II trials.

He is the author or co-author of over 230 articles and over 250 abstracts published in leading journals such as Blood, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Nature Genetics, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, PLoS One, Cancer, Haematologica and Leukemia. He is also the co-author of six books, editor-in-chief of the ASH Clinical News magazine, editorial board member of several journals, and essayist for The New York Times and Huffington Post.

Scientific Achievement – Basic Science
Xiaoxia Li

Xiaoxia Li, PhD

Staff, Department of Immunology
Professor, Dept. of Molecular Medicine (CCLCM/CWRU)
The Paul L. Fox Endowed Chair in Molecular Medicine

Xiaoxia Li, PhD is a staff member in the Department of Immunology at Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute (LRI) and Professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner College of Medicine.

Dr. Li is the primary investigator of a laboratory, including graduate students, research associates and project scientists, whose research includes autoimmunity and cancer. Dr. Li has a broad background in molecular biology, cell biology and immunology, with extensive research experience in TLR-IL-1R, IL-17 and IL-25 signaling in inflammatory response. During the last several years, the discoveries from her lab have provided important new information for our understanding of signaling mechanisms in innate and adaptive immunity.

She is the the Paul L. Fox Endowed Chair in Molecular Medicine and has been with Cleveland Clinic since 1994. She previously served as a research project scientist in Dr. George Stark's laboratory in the Department of Molecular Biology at LRI. Dr. Li received her PhD in molecular biology from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Texas/MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Master Educator
Craig Nielsen

Craig Nielsen, MD, FACP

Associate Professor of Medicine
Internal Medicine

Craig Nielsen, MD, is Vice Chairman of Internal Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. He also serves as an Associate Professor of Medicine and Associate Director of Clinical Education at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. He recently completed a 10-year tenure as Program Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Internal Medicine Residency Program (2004-2014) and six-year tenure as Vice Chairman of Education for Cleveland Clinic’s Medicine Institute (2008-2014).

He earned his medical degree from the University of Vermont College of Medicine and completed his Internal Medicine Residency at Cleveland Clinic where he served as Chief Medical Resident. He won the Internal Medicine Residency Program’s General Internal Medicine Teacher of the Year Award in 2006 and 2008 and received the 1st Annual Department of Internal Medicine Stephan Ockner Clinician Educator Award in 2013.

He has authored or co-authored clinical papers and textbook chapters focused on his interests of preventive medicine and graduate medical education.

Master Clinician
Zeyd Ebrahim

Zeyd Y. Ebrahim, MD

Vice Chairman, Anesthesiology Institute

Zeyd Ebrahim, MD, did his residency in Anesthesiology and Critical Care at Cleveland Clinic. On completion of his training in 1981 he joined the professional staff of Cleveland Clinic in the Department of General Anesthesiology. He has provided anesthesia care for a range of patients undergoing a wide range of surgical procedures with a sub-specialty interest in patients having in spine and neurosurgical procedures.

He is a respected mentor among residents and staff within the Anesthesiology Institute, and has also helped train over nine hundred residents and fellows. His scholarly pursuits include original scientific and clinical papers on neuroanesthesia. In his leadership role at Cleveland Clinic he has served as a member of the Board of Governors.