Four with ties to UofL named MOSAIC Award winners

Jewish Family & Career Services annual honor recognizes immigrant success

Two current University of Louisville faculty members, the daughter of a faculty member and a former faculty member are among the 2016 recipients of an annual award that honors the contributions made by immigrants to the Louisville community.

The MOSAIC Awards, presented by Jewish Family & Cultural Services, will be presented Thursday, May 26, at the Marriott Louisville Downtown Hotel, 280 W. Jefferson St. The event kicks off at 5 p.m. with a reception showcasing local entrepreneurial talent followed by dinner and presentation of the awards.

The “MOSAIC” name represents “Multicultural Opportunities for Success & Achievement In our Community,” and the annual awards dinner is a fundraising event to benefit JFCS. Every year since 2006, JFCS has honored new or first-generation immigrants and refugees who are making a significant contribution in their professions and in the community.

This year’s honorees are Dr. Emma Birks and Dr. Riaan van Zyl, both current University of Louisville faculty; Oksana Masters, the daughter of UofL faculty member Dr. Gay Masters; former faculty member Thangam “Sam” Rangaswamy;  and Dr. Manuel Grimaldi,

“JFCS was founded to assist newcomers to Louisville, and this event honors its original mission,” Judy Freundlich Tiell, JFCS executive director, said. “To date, the event has recognized 52 international Americans who make our community a richer and more interesting city, creating a mosaic of many colors and perspectives.”

Tickets to the event are $125 per person, and table sponsorships begin at $1,500. For reservations, contact Beverly Bromley, JFCS director of development, at 502-452-6341, ext. 223, or

About the honorees
Emma Birks, M.D., Ph.D., is from Great Britain and is a professor of medicine and director of the Heart Failure, Transplantation and Mechanical Circulatory Support program in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Louisville. She practices with University of Louisville Physicians-Cardiovascular Medicine and is affiliated with Jewish Hospital, a part of Kentucky OneHealth.

Birks developed a myocardial recovery program and the burgeoning Ventricular Assist Devices and Transplant programs in Louisville. She currently teaches cardiology fellows and residents and started a heart failure fellowship program.

Birks works closely with cardiothoracic surgery and biomedical engineering and is involved in translational research studies. Her research focuses on inducing myocardial recovery and on the underling molecular mechanisms in recovery with the goal of reversing heart failure.

Originally from South Africa, Riaan van Zyl, Ph.D., is professor and associate dean for research in the Kent School of Social Work at UofL. His leadership and involvement in progressive social matters led to solutions that work, such as the first alcohol safety program in South Africa’s criminal justice system and programs for those with epilepsy.

He founded the South African Association of Mediators, facilitated the national aging policy for the National Department of Welfare and united all of South Africa’s schools of social work in a transformation process that developed high educational standards, and helped to reform the prison systems.

Van Zyl continues work in the area of prevention of HIV/AIDS in Africa. After joining the UofL faculty in 2000, he set about creating a new environment for research, building relationships with the community and creating a collaborative environment where faculty work with each other to solve community problems. He also has positioned the school to be one of the fastest growing in the country in terms of federal research dollars.

Oksana Masters from Ukraine was born with several radiation-induced birth defects. She was abandoned and lived in orphanages until she was seven. She endured surgeries, amputations, hunger and physical abuse, something no child should have to endure; yet she survived. She was adopted by M. Gay Masters, Ph.D., who is an assistant professor in the UofL Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery and Communicative Disorders and practices with UofL Physicians-Speech-Language Pathology

Oksana Masters and her partner, Rob Jones, earned a bronze medal in trunk & arms rowing at the 2012 Paralympics. This was the first medal for the USA in this category. She was then named US Rowing Female Athlete of the Year in 2012, first time ever for a para-rower.

In 2014, after one full season on sit-skis, Oksana earned silver and bronze medals in Nordic Cross Country at the 2014 Paralympics. In 2015, during her next season on snow, she earned cross country World Championship medals and was World Cup Leader. She also earned a bronze medal at the Paracycling World Championships in 2015 as well as numerous medals in World Cup competitions in cross country, biathlon and handcycling. She is currently working to qualify for her third Paralympic.

Thangam “Sam” Rangaswamy, Ph.D., is from India and is the president and principal engineer of Rangaswany & Associates Inc., which he founded. He has taught concrete courses at the UofL Speed School of Engineering.

He is the founder of the Structural Engineering Association of Kentucky and served as its president, director and secretary. He has also served as Kentucky Minority Business Development Council treasurer, secretary and board member.

Rangaswany was given the U.S. Small Business Administration Person of the Year Award in 1985. He is a registered engineer in nine states and has received many national structural engineering and concrete masonry design awards.

He is currently serving on the Parking Authority of River City Board (PARC) and the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure. Rangaswamy was a founding trustee involved in the building and opening of the Hindu Temple of Kentucky and organized the India Community Foundation of Louisville.

The only honoree not associated with UofL, Manuel Grimaldi, M.D., came from Spain to the United States in order to be certified in internal medicine (1976) and medical oncology (1977). He joined the practice of Drs. Beard, Fuller and Dobbs currently known as CBC in 1977.

He has won numerous accolades, including the American Cancer Society Physician of the Year Award in 2010 and The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Award. Upon retirement, he became a volunteer through the Greater Louisville Medical Society, donating his time, knowledge and service in medical missionary trips to Nicaragua and Belize.

Grimaldi has traveled to Nicaragua numerous times with Hand to Hand Ministries, visiting hospitals and clinics where he provided families, women and children with routine health care that would otherwise be unavailable to them. He raised funds to build homes in Belize and also served as a medical missionary for homebound families living with HIV.