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J.S. Ward Society names Choate 2023 Hero of Science, honors student award recipients at annual dinner

Keely Hagan | 615-966-6491 | 

Florah Mhlanga, senior associate dean of CLAS, Dr. Phil Choate, Hero of Science recipient, Candice McQueen, president of Lipscomb University

Florah Mhlanga, senior associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences; Dr. Phil Choate, 2023 Hero of Science; Candice McQueen, president of Lipscomb University

Recently retired professor of biology Charles Phillips Choate (’69), M.D., was named the 2023 Ward Society Hero of Science and recognized along with student award recipients at the society’s annual dinner, hosted by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences on April 14.

During his 46-year tenure at Lipscomb University, Choate taught Fundamentals of Biology, Histology, Medical Terminology and Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology (A&P). Most noteworthy is the impact he had with the A&P course. Through gradual refinement and his intentional use and care of human cadavers in the laboratory, his one-of-a-kind A&P course became the cornerstone for Lipscomb’s pre-health students’ entrance into future graduate programs and an outstanding hallmark course for Lipscomb and other universities.

Dr. Phil Choate

Dr. Charles Phillips Choate

“I’d like to say thank you to the students who are being honored tonight. What they represent is something of interest to me as biology changed over my many years of teaching,” Choate said when accepting the Hero of Science award. “It’s hard for many of you to imagine what it was like after the 1990s when we got all those new techniques with that molecular stuff… and they started making things up.” He then continued in seriousness, “I realized early on that we needed to modernize. We have been able to do that and now we have a new graduate program. I am thankful for the students in the program and for those of you who support it.”

Students and colleagues have described Choate as a unique, unconventional and excellent teacher. Many call him the “most interesting man in the world” because of his colorful stories from his medical career in Memphis, the case studies he used in his labs, his robust singing, his love of movies and musicals and his passion for food. His students recall the tongue-in-cheek medical information he taught them: “When in doubt, cut it out! Liver, heart, lungs, and brain – only these must remain!”

While known for his wit, he is valued most for his very professional intent on preparing his students to be the best doctors. During his 46 years in the classroom, Choate received the Outstanding Teacher of the Year award twice, the John William Baker Summer Fellowship Award and Outstanding Academic Advisor Award. His colleagues know him to be a compassionate, intellectually curious man of deep faith who greatly values teaching and Christian education, as demonstrated by his service to Lipscomb University and his lasting impact on his students.

Choate, a native of Hickman County, Tennessee, began his career at Lipscomb in 1976 and he retired last year. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from then David Lipscomb College in 1969, and his medical degree at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. His residency in internal medicine was at the City of Memphis Hospital and the Methodist Hospital in Memphis.

Student Recognition

Another important component of the evening was the recognition of students who were named Langford-Yates Fellows, LaVelle Scholars, Ward Fellows and Ward Scholars. 

Langford-Yates Summer Fellowship Program

This fellowship was established in honor of former Lipscomb science faculty members Paul Langford and Oliver Yates to support undergraduate research in the sciences. Each year, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences awards the research fellowships to select science students with outstanding research proposals. The fellowships allow recipients to stay on campus over the summer and engage in research with a faculty mentor. 

Paul Agaiby, Tony Khalil, Kenneth Klutse, Antouious Mikaael holding certificates

Langford-Yates Fellows

Langford-Yates Fellows 2023:

Paul Agaiby, biology: “Investigating the Potential Effect of the Opportunistic Pathogen Cronobacter sakazakii on Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor: Implications for Necrotizing Enterocolitis.” Faculty mentor: Dr. Kyle Brawner

Tony Khalil, biology: “Heavy Metal Detection in Middle Tennessee Water Bodies Using Inductively Coupled Plasma–Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES).” Faculty mentor: Dr. Stephen Opoku-Duah

Kenneth Klutse, biochemistry, professional chemistry: “Removal of Cyanotoxins from Drinking Water Sources Using Copper Sulfate and Sodium Peroxyhydrate (PAK27) Compounds.” Faculty mentor: Dr. Stephen Opoku-Duah

Antouious Mikaael, applied biochemistry: “Isolation and Characterization of 6-His Tagged FimH, and E. coli Adhesin Protein.” Faculty mentor: Dr. Brian Cavitt

The Herman G. LaVelle Scholars Program

This program honors the life and legacy of Dr. Herman G. LaVelle, who was the first member of his family to attend college and medical school. In doing so, he paved the way for generations of his family to have hope and a future. The purpose of the LaVelle Scholars program is to assist qualified pre-health professions students who demonstrate financial need to pay application and testing expenses associated with gaining admission to health professions schools. Selections are made by Lipscomb’s Health Professions Advisory Committee and student awards are funded by the Herman G. LaVelle Jr. MD Health Professions Student Assistance Funds. Each LaVelle Scholar receives a free Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) prep-course.  

LaVelle Scholars holding certificates

LaVelle Scholars

LaVelle Scholars 2023:

Paul Agaiby, biology

Jafar Aljorani, bioscience, philosophy and molecular biology

Mark Habeb, molecular biology

A.J. Hilliard, neurobiology

Timothy Khalil, biology

Toby Renfrow, biology

Mariam Shalaby, biology

Dionne Trammell, molecular biology

The J.S. Ward Society Research Fellowship

This fellowship allows pre-health students to conduct undergraduate research in the summer at an off-site location. Undergraduate research is a high-impact educational practice that is transformative; students gain skills that prepare them for success in their current and future programs.

Research fellows in white coats

J.S. Ward Research Fellows

J.S. Ward Research Fellows 2023:

Joseph Helmy, biology: Summer Fellowship in the Vanderbilt Undergraduate Clinical Research Internship Program (UCRIP)

Timothy Khalil, molecular biology: Summer Fellowship in Dr. Eric Grogan’s lab, Vanderbilt Hospital

Ellie Kowitz, molecular biology: Summer Fellowship in the Vanderbilt UCRIP

Abby Powell, bioscience and philosophy: Summer Fellowship at Meharry Medical College

Eric Schall, neurobiology: Summer Fellowship in the Vanderbilt UCRIP

Carolyn Tran, molecular biology: Summer Fellowship at Meharry Medical College

The J.S. Ward Society Scholarship 

This scholarship is a prestigious award given to outstanding students who are planning a health science career and have excelled in and outside of the classroom. Recipients of the Ward Society Scholarship are students of character and integrity. They demonstrate resilience and grit, and they serve the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and Lipscomb University in various ways.

J.S. Ward Scholars

J.S. Ward Scholars

Ward Society Scholars 2023:

Easton Ball, piano performance with minors in biology and chemistry

Julianna Dilbert, biology

Timothy Khalil, molecular biology

Mena Shawky, biology

J.S. Ward Society

Created in 2014, the J.S. Ward Society is named for James Samuel Ward, a member of the University of Tennessee medical faculty who served as interim president of Lipscomb in 1905-06 and 1913. He was invited by university founder David Lipscomb to join the faculty in 1893 as founding dean of the science department, thus establishing the university’s focus on the highest-quality science instruction and an unbroken lineage of medical doctors serving on the faculty. The purpose of the Ward Society is to connect science alumni and friends to Lipscomb in meaningful ways while making a Lipscomb pre-professional health science education accessible to current and future students through a robust endowed scholarship program. To learn more about investing in the lives of future Ward Scholars contact Jenny Lovell at