Five Medical School Faculty Honored as Health Care Heroes

Cuong Pham, Alexander Boucher, Betsy Seaquist, Nicole Chaisson and Fang Li were named Health Care Heroes by Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

The University of Minnesota Medical School is proud to announce that five faculty members have been recognized by Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s third annual Health Care Heroes awards.

The award honors both clinical and administrative healthcare professionals in the Twin Cities for their innovation, care, dedication and compassion in their work to improve the human condition. Honorees were chosen across ten categories, highlighting the breadth of the healthcare field. 

Our 2023 honorees include:

  • Health Equity Champion: Cuong Pham, MD
  • Physician - Health-system-based: Alexander Boucher, MD
  • Health Care Executive - Health-system-based: Elizabeth Seaquist, MD
  • Innovator: Fang Li, PhD
  • Physician - Nonhealth-system-based: Nicole Chaisson, MD, MPH

Get to know our five "Health Care Heroes" below:

Cuong Pham, MD, Internal Medicine Physician

Dr. Pham is an assistant professor of medicine and associate vice chair of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Department of Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He has devoted his career to improving healthcare for marginalized populations. His own experiences as an immigrant in the U.S. allow him to build relationships with patients that are built on trust and provide an invaluable perspective in his clinical work at the Community-University Health Care Center, a versatile clinic in Minneapolis providing a wealth of resources to its diverse patient population. Dr. Pham’s work dives deep into the roots of health inequity, from patients to physicians to medical students. He advocates for integrating health equity into daily clinical practice by training future physicians through a DEI mentorship program for medical students and co-founding Minnesota Doctors for Health Equity, a nonprofit that educates and activates current health professionals to work towards ensuring equal healthcare access for all. 

Dr. Pham also created Project ECHO on Race Equity in Opioid Use, an innovative model that gives community leaders in the African American, East African and Indigenous communities the opportunity to collaborate and lead discussions on the local opioid crisis. The trust Dr. Pham has cultivated allows people to come together to share their experiences and be empowered, creating a community-wide dialogue aimed at addressing disparities in opioid care.

Alexander Boucher, MD, Pediatric Hematologist and Oncologist

Dr. Boucher is a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at M Health Fairview and assistant professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Medicine at the Medical School. He is a leader in improving outcomes and community awareness of sickle cell disease (SCD), a painful hereditary disease that is most common among people of African descent. SCD treatment has a history of discrimination and inequity, with young patients in particular at a higher risk for complications and gaps in care. His research has expanded clinical trials to increase treatment options and reduced hospital admission and readmission rates for patients with SCD. Dr. Boucher is also dedicated to researching existing inequities and biases in clinical care for all diseases by working directly with young adults and adolescents. He brings his clinical and research experience to medical students as the director of the University of Minnesota’s SCD program. Dr. Boucher develops curriculum around his specialties of hematology and social determinants of health to ensure that all future physicians have the necessary knowledge to break down health inequities and improve all patients with the highest quality care.

Elizabeth “Betsy” Seaquist, MD, Head of UMN Medical School Department of Medicine

Dr. Seaquist is a clinical investigator dedicated to the understanding and care of diabetes. In the clinic, she listens closely to her patients to identify problems and designs research to find answers. Her research focuses on the effect of diabetes on the brain, specifically working to understand why repeated episodes of low blood sugar in diabetic patients cause their brains to stop sending important warning signals, which can lead to loss of consciousness and increase the risk of death. Dr. Seaquist’s work has resulted in both life-improving and life-saving treatments, and her impact on the diabetes community has been profound.

In 2022, Dr. Seaquist made history by becoming the first female head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School, where she is responsible for recruitment, overseeing over 650 faculty members and fostering professional development for the department’s faculty. As a physician-leader, Dr. Seaquist exemplifies the Medical School’s mission to use research and education to improve patient care. She has strengthened clinical operations, directed quality and safety initiatives and engaged clinicians to advance the Medical School’s largest department.

Fang Li, PhD, Pharmacology Researcher

Dr. Li is a professor of pharmacology and director of the Center for Coronavirus Research at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He is a world-leading coronavirus researcher who made pioneering discoveries about the structural mechanisms of COVID-19 that were crucial to vaccine development. Dr. Li co-leads the Midwest Antiviral Drug Discovery (AViDD) Center, which aims to prepare the Midwest for the next pandemic. Dr. Li's research on COVID-19 has provided fundamental insights for therapeutic development, and he and his team are currently developing novel treatments for COVID-19 with the ultimate goal of extending their scientific discoveries to treat other viral infections and human diseases, including cancer. In his roles at the Medical School, Dr. Li encourages intellectual achievement among graduate students with the Fang Li Research Award program, and his expertise helped the University of Minnesota be chosen as one of nine AViDD national centers established by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in response to the pandemic.


Dr. Chaisson is faculty at the University of Minnesota Medical Center Family Medicine Residency. She is also one of the family medicine team members on the Minnesota Primary Care Transformation Collaborative. She completed fellowship training in adolescent medicine and has strong interests in adolescent health and wellness and reproductive health. Dr. Chaisson earned her MPH in maternal and child health from the University of Minnesota. Her research interests are family planning, adolescent health & wellness, as well as cross-cultural health and community-oriented care.