2023 award recipients

2023 award recipients

Nova Scotia is home to many innovative and talented physicians. The association’s annual achievement awards are one way that Doctors Nova Scotia (DNS) celebrates the dedication of its members, physicians who go beyond the call of duty, but are rarely acknowledged for their hard work.

In 2023, Doctors Nova Scotia honours twelve physicians and one medical student for exemplary achievement.

Distinguished Service Award: Dr. John Fraser

Dr. John Fraser has been awarded the Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his years of providing care for marginalized Nova Scotians, especially those living with chronic pain and opioid use disorder. Dr. Fraser practised medicine for 43 years, dedicating his time to working with marginalized populations, providing direct patient care and developing collaborative, community-based services. In addition to his work at the North End Community Health Centre, a collaborative health centre in Halifax, Dr. Fraser has served as medical director for Direction 180 and has provided care to people suffering from the comorbidities of chronic pain and opioid use disorder at the Pain Management Unit at the QEII Health Sciences Centre. He was also instrumental in opening Pain and Addiction Albro Lake (PAAL) in 2021, a new community-based, interprofessional clinic for patients suffering from pain and addiction co-morbidities. Dr. Fraser retired in 2022.

Dr. Clement Ligoure Award: Dr. Shelly McNeil

Dr. Shelly McNeil is being recognized with the Dr. Clement Ligoure Award for her outstanding contributions that helped guide Nova Scotians safely through the COVID-19 pandemic. A physician for 29 years, Dr. McNeil played pivotal role at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She served as chief of infectious diseases and as senior medical director of COVID Planning and Implementation for Nova Scotia Health. She helped develop COVID-19 testing and vaccine strategies for one of the largest vaccination rollouts in the province. As deputy director of the Canadian Center for Vaccinology, she led studies to assess the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Through her leadership and collaborative approach, Dr. McNeil provided ongoing support and education to the public, physicians and other health-care providers, helping safeguard the health-care system and protect vulnerable Nova Scotians.

Dr. William Grigor Award: Dr. Mahmoud Elsawy

Hematologist Dr. Mahmoud Elsawy is being honoured with the Dr. William Grigor Award for his leadership in advancing research and treatment for Nova Scotians with blood cancer. Dr. Elsawy spearheaded the program to bring chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy to patients in Nova Scotia. An innovative treatment for people with blood cancer, CAR-T therapy uses a patient’s own immune cells to destroy cancer, potentially curing many patients with end-stage blood cancer. Previously, patients had to travel to Boston for the treatment, making it out of reach for many people. Thanks to Dr. Elsawy’s efforts, it’s now available in Halifax, with 15 patients treated last year. Dr. Elsawy studied medicine in Egypt and completed further training in Seattle and Vancouver. He values the role of mentorship and supports medical learners in his practice.

Community Family Physician of the Year: Dr. Emmanuel Bamikole Ajuwon

Dr. Emmanuel Bamikole Ajuwon receives the Community Family Physician of the Year Award in recognition of his contributions as a family physician and his mentorship and guidance of international medical graduates (IMGs). Dr. Ajuwon has been in practice for 23 years and moved to Nova Scotia in 2014. He manages a family practice, works regular shifts at the Cape Breton emergency departments, and serves as the medical director for one of the local nursing homes. He also has the responsibility of being the primary assessor and mentor for a large community of IMGs undergoing assessment for practice readiness in Nova Scotia, through the Nova Scotia Practice Readiness Assessment Program. Through his work as a mentor, he ensures that IMGs are properly equipped to begin working in their practices and helps families settle into their communities.

Community Specialist of the Year Award: Dr. Paul MacDonald

The 2023 Community Specialist of the Year Award goes to Dr. Paul MacDonald, in recognition of his tireless service to cardiac patients in Cape Breton. Dr. MacDonald entered practice as a family physician in 1989, then undertook a cardiology residency in 1991. He began practising cardiology in Sydney in 1996. In addition to clinical practice and research, Dr. MacDonald has also been involved in education, administration, and regional and national cardiology groups. Dr. MacDonald has spent years working to improve cardiac services in Cape Breton, including acquiring funding for the heart failure and cardiac medication titration clinics and improving patient access and flow for cardiac catheterization. Dr. MacDonald also advocated the creation of a cardiac catheterization lab in the Eastern Zone, which will be created as part of the upcoming expansion of Cape Breton Regional Hospital.

Physician Health Promotion Award – Dr. Beverley Cassidy

Dr. Beverley Cassidy receives the Physician Health Promotion Award in recognition of her outstanding initiative and leadership skills in the creation of the Memory Café NS project. This project has been recognized by the Alzheimer Society of Canada as the national winner of the Dementia-friendly Grassroots Award in 2023. Working with a multi-disciplinary team, Dr. Cassidy has been coordinating memory cafés for the past three years. Memory cafés promote social well-being and inclusion for people living with dementia. Memory cafés are now available in many areas in Nova Scotia, including Cape Breton, Clare, Argyle, Bridgewater and Wolfville/Kentville. These cafés give hope and feelings of belonging while simultaneously reducing stigma and isolation for both persons living with dementia and their care partners. In practice for 26 years, Dr. Cassidy currently works in the Annapolis Valley as well as with the Dalhousie Department of Psychiatry.

Outstanding Resident Award: Dr. Amy Gough

Dr. Amy Gough is receiving the Outstanding Resident Award for her dedication to improving the well-being of Nova Scotia seniors. A PYG-6 geriatric psychiatry subspecialty resident at Dalhousie University, is an advocate for mental health among older adults, focusing on positive psychiatry, a branch that explores the science of mental well-being. She is already making waves in the field, including publishing in international journals and as editor of the Positive Psychiatry Section of the World Psychiatric Association. Dr. Gough was keynote speaker at the 2022 Atlantic Stroke Conference in P.E.I. At Dalhousie, she received the Psychiatry Resident of the Year Award, Resident Professionalism and Geriatric Psychiatry Resident Awards. On the national stage, she was the recipient of the 2022 Canadian Academy of Geriatric Psychiatry (CAGP) Resident Research Award and the 2019 CAGP Resident Award.

Outstanding Medical Student Award: Mr. Brett Ells

Fourth-year Dalhousie Medical School student Mr. Brett Ells receives the Outstanding Medical Student Award in honour of his exceptional dedication to his studies and the leadership of his fellow students. Mr. Ells served as class president and then as president of the Dalhousie Medical Students Society (DMSS) during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. His work to support the student body included working with Doctors Nova Scotia to plan a virtual cooking lesson and dinner for more than 200 medical students and faculty, plus coordinating a large-scale renovation of the medical students’ lounge, office and wellness room to create a more accessible, comfortable and inclusive space. With graduation quickly approaching, Mr. Ells hopes to specialize in emergency medicine. He credits his experience as part of Dalhousie Medicine’s Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship program on the South Shore with influencing his path.

Doctors Nova Scotia Senior Membership Award

Dr. Barodi Mustafa Fashir
Dr. Barodi Mustafa Fashir is being recognized because of his sincere dedication and commitment to the health community. Dr. Fashir started providing organized gastroenterology care in Cape Breton in 2005 and has since provided a full range of GI services in the area. Dr. Fashir currently runs an inflammatory bowel disease clinic and is also participating in resident and medical student training. Despite his busy schedule and long waiting list, he is always ready to accept referrals and consultations and constantly tries to accommodate requests for additional procedures. Dr. Fashir can frequently be seen providing inpatient care at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital on weekends and holidays. Before his career brought him to Canada, he taught medical students and led the resident training program in Saudi Arabia. He has also done extensive research and published many papers.

Dr. Jerzy Gajewski
Dr. Jerzy Gajewski has been chosen to receive a DNS Senior Membership Award in honour of his long and successful career as a urologist. After graduating from medical school in Poznan, Poland, in 1973, Dr. Gajewski completed his urological training, then pursued further training in Germany. He immigrated to Canada in 1982. Dr. Gajewski focused on voiding dysfunction and sacral neuromodulation of the urinary tract, becoming internationally recognized for his expertise. Over the past 20 years, he has performed hundreds of sacral nerve implants. In addition, Dr. Gajewski has held numerous leadership positions in both Canadian and international urological organizations, including Presidency of the Canadian Urological Association and editorial board membership for Neurourology and Urodynamics Journal. Although he retired from full practice in 2018, Dr. Gajewski continues to see patients monthly and participate in urological research and education. 

CMA Honorary Membership Award

Dr. Sanjeev Kaul
Dr. Sanjeev Kaul, radiologist, receives the Canadian Medical Association Honorary Membership Award in recognition of his years of devoted service at Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre (CRHCC) in Amherst, N.S., providing on-call support to radiology departments across the northern zone of the province. Dr. Kaul began his radiology practice in India 1984; his career later took him to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and, finally, Nova Scotia. He has been the staff radiologist at CRHCC since 2008. Dr. Kaul provides general community radiology, including varied X-rays and ultrasounds for adults, pediatrics and prenatal outpatients and inpatients, as well as CT scans, mammography and imaging-guided procedures.

Dr. Charles (Chuck) Maxner
Dr. Charles Maxner receives the Canadian Medical Association Honorary Membership Award for his tremendous contributions to education, research and patient care in neurology and neuro-ophthalmology. Dr. Maxner graduated in 1979 from Dalhousie Medical School and started his neuro-ophthalmology practice shortly after. He was instrumental in building the neuro-ophthalmology program into what it is today and his influence on patient care extends nationally and internationally. Dr. Maxner was also actively involved at Dalhousie, holding two Full Professor titles and serving in many other important roles over the years. He also held clinical administrative roles, including Head of the Division of Neurology.

Dr. Robert La Roche
Dr. Robert La Roche is receiving the Canadian Medical Association Honorary Membership Award for his tireless contributions to education and best care practices in pediatric eye care and adult strabismus. Dr. La Roche began his practice in the early 1980s as the first full-time pediatric ophthalmologist in Atlantic Canada. Over 40 years, his leadership has transformed the IWK pediatric ophthalmology program into one of the most respected in the country. He was instrumental in creating the Dalhousie Clinical Vision Science program and a recognized pediatric ophthalmology fellowship program, training countless residents and fellows. He was Ophthalmology Residency Program Director at Dalhousie for over 12 years and established the national ethics symposium for ophthalmology residents.


Melissa Murray
Communications coordinator