Gastroenterology fellow receives graduate medical education equity award

Alex Zhornitskiy recognized for his leadership in diversifying the future physician workforce and advocating for the underserved


A gastroenterology fellow devoted to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in graduate medical education has been recognized for his passion by UC Davis Health peers and faculty.

Alex Zhornitskiy, who will soon complete his three-year clinical gastroenterology and hepatology fellowship, has received the Dr. Ifeanyi Onyeji Resident/Fellow Inclusive Excellence and Equity Award for 2024.

A man with dark hair, thin mustache and beard, wearing a white shirt and yellow tie
Alex Zhornitskiy, winner of the Dr. Ifeanyi Onyeji Resident/Fellow Inclusive Excellence and Equity Award for 2024, will soon complete his fellowship and become a UC Davis Health faculty member.

The award is named in honor of a urology resident, Ifeanyi Onyeji, who championed diversity and passed away unexpectedly of a medical condition in 2022 at the age of 31.

Nominations were reviewed by officers of the Resident Medical Staff Committee, deans and directors of the Office of Graduate Medical Education, and the Office of Student and Resident Diversity.

The award recognizes outstanding accomplishments in several areas. These include:

  • Recruiting trainees from backgrounds historically underrepresented in medicine
  • Enhancing medical education for students, residents and fellows
  • Raising awareness of injustices
  • Other criteria that help improve health outcomes for underserved and vulnerable populations

“While I never had the privilege of meeting Dr. Onyeji, I am well aware of his exemplary work in DEI and it truly was humbling to find out I was nominated for this award in his honor, not to mention be named the recipient of it,” Zhornitskiy said.

Zhornitskiy is an active member of UC Davis School of Medicine Admissions Committee and helps with recruitment for the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. He also volunteers his time as a mentor to the medical school’s Gastroenterology Student Interest Group.

As president of the Graduate Medical Education Resident and Fellows Health Policy Group, Zhornitskiy organized educational events aimed at teaching trainees advocacy skills, such as editorial writing. He has been a featured speaker at Internal Medicine Grand Rounds, Emergency Medicine Global Health Rounds and the Sacramento Gut Club.

As a volunteer, Zhornitskiy has provided gastrointestinal care on medical missions in Rwanda. He has participated in multiple national medical societies. He also helped lead an effort to increase colorectal cancer screening and patient education at the student-run Paul Hom Asian Clinic in Sacramento.

“Promoting DEI initiatives is paramount to addressing some of the greatest gaps in health care that we currently face,” Zhornitskiy said. “Whether it's through addressing disparities in health care outcomes or fostering a physician workforce that reflects the diversity of Sacramento, the end result of investing in DEI is it leads to a healthier community.”

Zhornitskiy attended medical school at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia and trained as a resident in internal medicine at UCLA Health.

Zhornitskiy will finish his fellowship at the end of June. He will then transition to being a faculty member in the UC Davis Health Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. He also will be enrolled in the UC Davis Master of Public Health program. He hopes to learn more about epidemiology and health policy related to GI conditions in underserved communities.

The other physicians who were nominated and strongly considered for the Dr. Ifeanyi Onyeji Resident/Fellow Inclusive Excellence and Equity Award for 2024 included:

  • Emma Zavala-Suarez (Psychiatry)
  • Payton Gore (Anesthesiology)
  • Sarah Pfiel (OB-GYN)
  • Claudia López (OB-GYN)
  • Jared Bruce Watson (Orthopaedic Surgery)
  • Jayla Watkins (OB-GYN)
  • Angelica Martin (Surgery)
  • Ignacio Petrasic (Internal Medicine)