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University of Tennessee Alumni Association Announces 2018 Award Recipients


The University of Tennessee Alumni Association (UTAA) named its 2018 recipients for their Outstanding Teacher and Public Service Awards. The awardees were recognized earlier this month during the UTAA Board of Governors Dinner at the Knoxville Hilton Downtown. The University of Tennessee Alumni Association Outstanding Teacher Awards began in 1966. The Public Service Awards began in 1962.

Outstanding Teacher: Penny Head, PT, MS, SCS, ATC, CSCS

Penny Head

Penny Head has been an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy since December 2013. She graduated from the UTHSC Physical Therapy program in 1982 and went on to become board certified as a clinical specialist in Sports Physical Therapy.

Head practiced in the area of orthopedics and sports medicine for 20 years before pursuing a career in academia. Prior to her faculty appointment at UTHSC, she taught in the physical therapy program at Arkansas State University (ASU) where she developed a student-run pro-bono physical therapy clinic. During her time at ASU, Penny was awarded the Outstanding Faculty Award multiple times, as well as the College of Nursing and Health Professions Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching. In 2016, she received the UTHSC SGAEC Excellence in Teaching Award.

In addition to her duties as a faculty member, she continues to practice physical therapy on a limited basis, and is pursuing her PhD in Orthopedics and Sports Science at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions.


Outstanding Teacher: Santosh Kumar, PhD

Dr. Santosh Kumar

Santosh Kumar is an associate professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Prior to UTHSC, Dr. Kumar was an associate professor in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He received his PhD degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India. Dr. Kumar’s research interests include HIV, alcohol abuse, and smoking. His research focuses on the role of exosomes as well as the role of cellular and exosomal cytochrome P450 enzymes in drug abuse-mediated HIV pathogenesis and neuroAIDS. Dr. Kumar’s research projects have been funded by several grants from the National Institutes of Health since 2011. He has published over 85 peer-reviewed papers, 90 posters and abstracts, and presented at 40 invited talks.

Dr. Kumar is passionate about mentoring pharmacy and graduate students. He currently mentors five graduate students, one PharmD/PhD student, and one postdoctoral fellow. Over the last 10 years, he has taught several professional and graduate basic science courses, including pharmacology, toxicology, drug metabolism, fundamentals of drug action, and biochemistry.

He has been the executive associate editor and on the editorial board of several journals. He is also a member of and serves on the council of the Society on Neuroimmune Pharmacology, where he is secretary. As a result of his outstanding contributions to research, teaching, and service, Dr. Kumar has given numerous awards such as the Gandhi Award, runner up For Teacher of the Year, Professor of the Year and more.

Public Service Award: Keith Gray, MD, MBA, FACS

Dr. Keith Gray

Keith Gray completed his undergraduate and medical degrees from Wake Forest University, his surgical residency at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and a surgical oncology fellowship at MD Anderson Cancer Center. He joined the University of Tennessee Medical Center in 2007 and has served as chief of staff. He founded the Pancreas and Liver Service of East Tennessee and co-founded and directs the Physician Leadership Academy. Dr. Gray’s expanding leadership roles prompted him to complete a MBA from the Haslam College of Business in 2014, where he served as class president. Currently, he is associate professor and chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology and medical director of the Operating Room Committee. He is passionate about eliminating health disparities in East Tennessee and has delivered over 100 community lectures on disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

In and out of the hospital, Dr. Gray feels called to serve and empower those around him. As an academic surgeon he advocates for patients battling liver and pancreas cancers and mentors countless trainees pursuing health care careers. In the Knoxville community, he is a trustee of the Emerald Youth Foundation and East Tennessee Foundation boards, coaches in the Knoxville Explosion youth softball organization, and serves as an elder at Faith Promise Church. He is a member of the 2016 Leadership Knoxville class and a current member of Leadership Tennessee Class V. Dr. Gray relishes collaborations that help all Tennesseans live a full and rewarding life.

Dr. Gray is most proud of his roles as a husband and father. He has been married to Dr. Kala Gray for 21 years. Their top priorities are raising their five children, ages 9-17, and making their home a safe place for friends, family and community.