2019 Award Winners

W. Jeff Terry Award

Samuel Buford Word Award

Paul W. Burleson Award

Ira L. Myers Service Award

Howard L. Holley Award

William Henry Sanders Award

AMASA Scholarship Winners

50-Year Club Inductees


W. Jeff Terry Award

George C. “Buddy” Smith Jr., M.D., FAAFP

The W. Jeff Terry Award is presented to a physician member of the Medical Association in recognition of a medical career that has encompassed not only high ethical and professional standards, but has also included outstanding leadership and advocacy. The award, established in 2016, honors the memory of W. Jeff Terry M.D., a tireless opponent of policy and regulatory intrusions into the patient-physician relationship, who was a former Medical Association President and Chairman of Alabama’s AMA Delegation at the time of his death in 2015. The ideal candidate – living or deceased – must have a record of leadership and advocacy on issues related to the protection of the patient-physician relationship and the preservation of the private practice of medicine. The 2019 W. Jeff Terry Award recipient is George C. “Buddy” Smith Jr., M.D., FAAFP, of Lineville.

Dr. Smith is a family physician with expertise in emergency medicine. A 1983 graduate of the University of Alabama Birmingham School of Medicine, Dr. Smith went on to Northeast Alabama Regional Medical Center for his internship and residency.

He has served on numerous medical committees and societies including medical director for Clay County Rescue Squad, Clay County Medical Society, Alabama Academy of Family Physicians, Diplomate of the Alabama Board of Family Practice, and Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians. He previously served as chairman of the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, president-elect and president of the Association’s Board of Censors as well as numerous committees including the ADHOC Committee on Mid-Level Providers, Medical Liability Committee and the Credentials Subcommittee. Dr. Smith is a frequent guest lecturer for medical conferences on pain management, use of electronic health records and technology in medicine, and use of the Alabama Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.


Samuel Buford Word Award

William H. “Bill” Coleman, M.D., PhD

The Samuel Buford Word Award is the highest honor given by the Medical Association and is presented in recognition of service to humanity beyond the usual scope of medical practice, with such services having been rendered at some personal sacrifice. Created in 1971, this award is named in memory of S. Buford Word, M.D., of Birmingham, who at the time of his death was serving as president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. The 2019 Samuel Buford Word Award recipient is William H. “Bill” Coleman, M.D., PhD, of Scottsboro.

Born in Birmingham, Dr. Coleman is a graduate of what’s now known as the University of Montevallo with a degree in biology and a PhD in anatomy from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. UAB’s School of Medicine was so excited to have Dr. Coleman join its ranks that he did not have to test or interview before being accepted. In 1977 he did his residency in family medicine at the University of Alabama at Huntsville School of Primary Care and completed his training with an endoscopy externship at Fox Army Hospital at Redstone Arsenal in 1980.

Dr. Coleman has received numerous academic appointments. He was Assistant Professor in the Department of Anatomy at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, 1970-1971; Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Practice in the School of Primary Medical Care at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, 1977-1993; Clinical Professor in the Department of Family Practice at the University of Alabama Birmingham School of Medicine Huntsville Regional Campus, 1993-2010; and Clinical Professor of Rural Medicine at the University of Alabama School of Medicine Huntsville Regional Medical Campus, 2015 to present.

During his storied career, Dr. Coleman has also received numerous honors for his achievements, including the Juan Comas Award for the best student research paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists; The William H. Coleman Lecture in Family Medicine at the University of Alabama School of Medicine Huntsville Regional Medical Campus; 2009 Lion of the Year from the Scottsboro Lions Club; 2012 Inductee to the Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame; 2014 John G. Walsh Award for Lifetime Contributions to Family Medicine, the highest honor bestowed by the American Academy of Family Physicians; and 2016 Sage Award, Rural Health Hero, University of Alabama Institute for Rural Health Research. In 2016 Dr. Coleman was also named to the Governor’s Alabama Health Care Improvement Task Force.

To think of family medicine in rural Alabama is to think of Dr. Bill Coleman. For 26 years he has practiced family medicine in Scottsboro, part of that time with his son, Hardin. He has served in leadership positions in state and national associations, such as The Alabama Academy of Family Physicians and as president of the American Academy of Family Physicians in 1994. From 1996-2000 he served on the U.S. Secretary of Health’s National Advisory Committee on Rural Health. Dr. Coleman established the Rural Medicine Program of Auburn University/University of Alabama School of Medicine Huntsville Regional Medical Campus and was the Rural Medicine Program Director from 2006 to 2015. The program has a 72 percent success rate in creating family medicine physicians for rural Alabama. He revitalized the Huntsville Rural Premedical Internship for College Students and has seen 32 percent of those students become rural physicians in Alabama. He has been invited to present his workforce research for the past three years at the annual AAMC Health Workforce Research Conference.

When he retired from private practice, Dr. Coleman immediately took a position at the University of Alabama School of Medicine Huntsville Campus to recruit and mentor medical students for rural practice. At the age of 79, he is still working diligently at the medical school and has begun a new phase of rural practice advocacy by leading research into how many family medicine physicians each community in Alabama will need in the next five, 10 and 20 years. As Director of the Office for Family Health Education and Research, he manages the largest rural primary care workforce database in the state.

Dr. Coleman is a member of the Jackson County Medical Society and the Medical Association of the State of Alabama since 1978.

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Paul W. Burleson Award

Richard M. Freeman, M.D.

The Paul W. Burleson Award is presented to a physician member of the Medical Association in recognition of a medical career that encompasses not only high ethical and professional standards in patient care, but also includes extraordinary service to physician organizations at the county, state and national levels. Named in recognition of Paul W. Burleson, M.D., renowned Alabama physician and benefactor, the award has been given annually by the Medical Association of the State of Alabama since 2000. The 2019 Paul W. Burleson Award is presented to Richard M. Freeman, M.D., of Auburn.

Dr. Freeman grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, and graduated from North Carolina State University where he received a Bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics. He later worked as an aerospace environmental engineer in Tullahoma, Tenn., before attending medical school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He completed his post-graduate medical education at Children’s Hospital, University of Alabama Hospitals and Clinics in Birmingham, and after completing his training in Birmingham, he served as a medical officer at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Fla., in the Department of Pediatrics. Dr. Freeman came to Auburn after leaving the Navy and established his practice, which has been open for more than 30 years.

Dr. Freeman has served on the Alabama Medicaid Pharmacy and Therapeutic Committee, the Alabama Medicaid Drug Utilization Review Board and the Alabama State Committee of Public Health. Dr. Freeman has also served on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Board, Pharmacy and Therapeutic Committee, and Medical Review Committee.

He currently serves on the East Alabama Medical Center Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee and mentors Auburn University students in the College of Sciences and Mathematics who are interested in a career in medicine. In 2016 Dr. Freeman began lecturing for the Pediatric Curriculum
at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine at Auburn University, where he also serves as a preceptor for pediatric clinical rotation. He is board certified and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Freeman has served as vice president, secretary-treasurer and District 3 Censor for the Board of Censors of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, as well as nine years on the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners. He is a previous recipient of the Association’s Ira L. Myers Service Award. Dr. Freeman is also a past president and member of the Lee County Medical Society since 1975.

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Ira L. Myers Service Award

Ronald D. Franks, M.D.

The Ira L. Myers Service Award is presented to members of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama who have served the medical profession faithfully and meritoriously during their lifetime. The award was first given in 1986 to, and is named in honor of, Ira L. Myers, M.D., Alabama’s State Health Officer who served from 1963 to 1986. The 2019 Ira L. Myers, M.D., Service Award is presented to Ronald D. Franks, M.D., of Mobile.

A graduate of the University of Michigan Medical School With Distinction, Dr. Franks completed his internship in internal medicine at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle and his residency in psychiatry at the University of Colorado. He joined the faculty there where he soon became an Associate Professor and later Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Curriculum before leaving in 1988 to assume the role of Dean of Medicine at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Dr. Franks left in 1998 to become the Vice President for Health Affairs and Dean of the College of Medicine for East Tennessee State University. At both schools, he strengthened their mission to educate future rural physicians, resulting in the schools gaining recognition in the U.S. News and World Report rankings; top five for both. At ETSU, he established colleges of pharmacy and of rural-focused public health. In 2007 he came to the University of South Alabama as Vice President for Health Sciences, a responsibility he held until 2015, along with Acting Chair of Psychiatry, a role in which he currently serves.

His national and community involvement has included being active in organized medicine for more than 40 years, holding offices in the American Medical Association (Chair of the Section on Medical Schools) and most recently, President of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama (2014-2015). He has also served in several roles through the American Association of Medical Schools, most recently as Vice Chair of the committee to revise the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). He has also served on accrediting bodies, including Chair (ACCME) and Co-Chair (LCME). At the state level, he most recently served as Chair of the Governor’s Task Force to Improve the Health of Alabama. He is also a member of the Alabama Psychiatric Physicians Association, the American Psychiatric Association, Southern Medical Association of the State of Alabama and the Medical Society of Mobile County, among many others.

Board certified Dr. Franks has continued to practice psychiatry through his academic career, valuing his work with patients as one of his greatest privileges. He serves as the designated psychiatrist to treat medical students in need of consultation. He also continues to teach residents, helping them understand the intricacies of the biological and psychological determinants of psychiatric disease and how to manage both.

His research has focused on the biological mechanisms leading to bipolar disorder, as well as various aspects of medical education, which ultimately led to coining the term “hidden curriculum,” a description of the subtle forces that impact the development of professionalism in students and residents. He has more than 60 publications and multiple local and national presentations.

Dr. Franks’ honors include multiple teaching awards, the Communicator Award from the Minnesota Medical Association based on his hosting a television viewer call-in show for nine years with area physicians called, “Doctors On Call,” a reviewer of manuscripts for publication, and a member of Alpha Omega Alpha. His other awards and honors include: Distinguished Life Fellow with the American Psychiatric Association; Pharmacy Leadership Society; 2009 Teacher of the Year (Department of Psychiatry); 2006 Caduceus Club Founder’s Award; named as one of 20/20 Visionaries by the Business Journal of Tri-Cities, TN/VA, January 2005; Named as one of 25 Executive Leaders by the Business Journal of Tri-Cities, TN/VA, February 2000; 1996 Educator Award by the Lake Superior Medical Society; Brady Visiting Professorship, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, 1996; Listed among The Best Doctors in America (regionally beginning in 1996; periodically since); President’s Award for Outstanding Contribution by the Lake Superior Medical Society, 1994; President’s Award for Outstanding Support of Family Practice by the Minnesota Academy of Family Practice, 1993; and one of Minnesota’s 100 Most Influential Health Care Providers by The Minnesota Physician magazine in 1993 and 1996.

Dr. Franks has been a member of the Medical Society of Mobile County and the Medical Association of the State of Alabama since 2008..

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Howard L. Holley Award

Robert J. Webb, M.D.

The Howard L. Holley Award is presented to an Alabama physician who has made a significant contribution to the understanding and appreciation of medicine through non-technical published or broadcast works. These works may include films, books, articles, television or radio programs, that may have been produced for either physicians or the general public. The award is named for the late Howard L. Holley, M.D., the author of A History of Medicine in Alabama. The 2019 Howard L. Holley Award is presented to Robert J. Webb, M.D., of Florence.

A native of Canada, Dr. Webb graduated from the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, and completed his internship in Flint, Mich., followed by a postgraduate year in England specializing in anesthesia and obstetrics. He practiced family medicine in Melfort, Saskatchewan, for 19 years before immigrating to Florence in 1995, where he continued a family practice until 2002. Since then, Dr. Webb’s practice has focused on geriatrics and palliative care, and he is board certified in family medicine and hospice and palliative care in the U.S.

Dr. Webb is currently medical director of the Supportive Care Services Department at Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital, which includes palliative care and a new OASIS unit – Older Adult Specialty Inpatient Service – and chair of the Ethics Committee. In addition, he is medical director at Lauderdale Christian Nursing Home, associate medical director at Florence Nursing and Rehab and medical director of Hospice of the Shoals.

Dr. Webb has given numerous presentations to health care professionals and to public groups across Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Canada on topics related to geriatric care in general and palliative care in particular. He maintains a website on palliative care issues to help seniors and their families make more informed choices in health care. View his website at www.comfortcarechoices.com.

Dr. Webb has been a member of the Lauderdale County Medical Society and the Medical Association of the State of Alabama since 1997.

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William Henry Sanders Award

Walter T. Geary Jr., M.D.

The William Henry Sanders Award is presented to an outstanding person, lay or professional, engaged in full-time public health work, and who has served above and beyond the call of duty. The Sanders Award was created in 1966 in honor of William Henry Sanders, M.D., who served as Alabama’s State Health Officer from 1896 to 1917. The 2019 recipient of the William Henry Sanders Award is Walter T. Geary Jr., M.D., of Columbus, Ga.

Dr. Geary is a graduate of LSU Medical School in New Orleans. He completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of Alabama Medical Center and is board certified in internal medicine. He was in private practice in internal medicine for 20 years before changing practice type to provide long-term care for patients enrolled in hospice care, skilled nursing home care, assisted living care and in-home care.

He served as the Medical Director for several nursing homes and numerous assisted living facilities in the Montgomery area. In 2007 he became the Medical Director for the Bureau of Health Provider Standards of the Alabama Department of Public Health. In 2011 Dr. Geary was named the Director and Medical Director of this bureau, which provides licensure, certification and inspection of the majority of the health care facilities in Alabama. In July 2016 he was named Assistant State Health Officer for Regulatory Affairs.

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