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Mahler LilyUAB medical student Lily Mahler is the 2021 recipient of the William Boyd Medal at the 2021 University of Alabama School of Medicine Dean's Awards ceremony, held virtually on May 20, 2021. The Boyd Medal is given each year to the UAB medical student whose performance in all aspects of their pathology education has been most outstanding.

Mahler attended Auburn University for her undergraduate studies in microbiology and graduated from the University of Alabama School of Medicine with her medical degree in May. She served as a Medical Student Research Assistant in 2020 under Brandi McCleskey, M.D., Assistant Professor, Division of Forensic Pathology, where she participated in research efforts with the UAB School of Medicine (SOM) and the Jefferson County Medical Examiners Office. In this role, Mahler learned literature review and manscript drafting. She gained additional research experience in 2018 from the laboratory of John Hartman, I.V., M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Genetics, where she studied NF1 gene regulation via phenomic characterization of Saccharomyces cerevisiae homolog IRA2. Mahler will move to Boston to work as a pathology resident at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. 

She works as a Clinical Skills Teaching Associate in the UAB SOM where she instructs first and second-year medical students in history taking and physical exam skills. In addition, Mahler volunteers as a UAB SOM peer mentor, an undergraduate student mentor for Bridging the Gap, and a Learning Community Representative on the UAB SOM Student Senate. She served as a medical student panelist in the 2019 Association of Pathology Chairs (ACP) national meeting. Mahler was the recipient of the People's Choice Award in the 2018 UAB SOM Art Show as well as the Scholars of '67 2019 Travel Award for the APC national meeting. In her free time, she enjoys painting, sketching, print making, art history, hiking, kayaking, and bouldering. 

"I first met Lily when she served as leader of the Pathology Interest Group here at the UAB SOM and I was immediately struck by her ease of communication and poise," says Mahler's mentor, Dr. Brandi McCleskey. "I have been lucky to establish a professional and collegial relationship with Lily over the past 2 years. She has proven to be hard working, dependable, and quite capable in all rotations she has completed. Lily is beyond deserving of the Boyd Medal Award."

The Boyd Medal has been awarded continuously since 1967 and is given on behalf of the Alabama Association of Pathologists and the faculty of the UAB Department of Pathology to the graduating medical student whose performance in Pathology throughout their medical school career has been most exemplary. This award was named in honor of Dr. William Boyd who came to UAB as a visiting professor from 1955 to 1962.

Dr. Boyd is considered by many to be one of the fathers of modern pathology education. He was born in Scotland in 1885 and obtained his medical degree in 1908 at Edinburgh. He was a medical officer in the First World War and published his first book, With a Field Ambulance at Ypres in 1916, about his war experience. After the war he moved to University of Manitoba in Canada where he rose to the rank of professor of pathology. During his career Dr. Boyd published seven textbooks, one of which was the first pathology text to emphasize pathophsyiology and pathogenesis. This book was used worldwide as the primary pathology text for health professional students. Boyd was an excellent author noted for his clear prose, and also an excellent speaker who was often in high demand. One publisher once referred to Dr. Boyd as, "The pathologist with a silver tongue and a golden pen."

Mahler was recently recognized for another achievement, one that she uses as a pasttime and stress reliever from her medical studies: her art. An original painting she made, titled, "After Cajal," was featured in the April 2021 issue of The Pathologist magazine, in a feature on art in pathology called, "Picture Perfect Pathology."

After Cajal Lily Mahler 2021"After Cajal," original artwork by Lily Mahler 2021

"I consider myself something of an artist," says Mahler, who took art classes in high school and some art history and drawing classes in college. "Art was definitely a creative outlet for me between the hard-core science classes that I really enjoyed. If I needed a break from studying, I went and worked on an art project."

This piece is a nod to early neuroanatomist Santiago Ramon y Cajal, who did a lot of work characterizing the structure of the central nervous system. He was a pathologist as well as an artist.

"I started doing more in color, experimeting with different mediums—acrylic and watercolor. Pathology really inspired me, things I have seen on rotations. If I see a slide or something that really catches my eye, I try to recreate it," she says.

Mahler submitted the piece to the magazine and was pleased to learn it had been selected and featured in print.