Groton on the Inside: Michigan MD: Groton’s newest Distinguished Graduate

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It was a nine-hour drive from Ann Arbor, MI to Groton, but Class of 2001 Groton High School alumnus, Dr. Sam Mackenzie, made the trip with his wife, Natalie, and their three young children, Henry, Alice, and Louis, for Mackenzie to be inducted into the Groton High School Distinguished Graduate Hall of Fame on Thursday, June 6 at the 14th annual GHS Banquet of Academic Excellence.


This prestigious award was created by the Groton chapter of the National Honor Society nine years ago, to pay tribute to the accomplishments of one or two graduates each year. The recipients are invited to attend the annual banquet to receive their award, serve as the keynote speaker(s), and are commemorated in the halls of the school with a permanent plaque outlining their achievements.


Mackenzie was nominated for this honor by GHS health teacher and track and cross-country coach, Mr. Scott Weeks, who delivered a glowing and heartwarming introduction; citing many of Mackenzie’s accomplishments while a student, and since, along with Weeks’ personal thoughts and stories about Mackenzie.


Weeks said, “In High School, Sam was an academic. Though I feel that academically, things came relatively easy for him, he always stretched himself to higher levels. Sam was a driven, goal-oriented, hard worker, and whatever he put his mind to, he accomplished. Sam was a guy everyone liked and enjoyed. His respectful rapport with his teachers was second to none and he was as loyal as it gets when it came to his peers and his teammates. In these ways, and in so many others, I see Sam as the same person as he was in high school; he’s just become better at it!”


After his graduation from GHS in 2001, Mackenzie went on to receive his BA from Cornell University in 2005, his MS in Exercise Science from the University of Delaware in 2007, and then his MD and Ph.D. in Neuroscience from SUNY Upstate Medical University in 2015.


While at Cornell, Mackenzie won an individual Ivy League championship in track & field. He continues to run today and enjoys training for marathons with his wife. At Delaware, his research focus was on improving rehabilitation therapies for children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy.


For his Ph.D. work at SUNY Upstate, Mackenzie secured competitive grant funding through the National Institute of Health. During his last year of medical school, he also served on the board of trustees for the American Medical Association as the only medical student trustee in the country.
After medical school, Mackenzie pursued residency training at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, where he is now a fourth-year resident in pediatric neurology. After residency, he plans to work on gene therapies for children with congenital muscle diseases. He also recently founded his own company pursuing the development of a medical device to help children and adults with life-threatening heart arrhythmias.


Mackenzie was awarded the New York State Chancellor’s Award, given to one student on each SUNY campus, in 2015, the Pediatric House Officer Teaching Award in both 2015 and 2017, and the Michigan Medicine Making a Difference Award in 2018. He has published seven articles in professional journals, as well as a manual for treating children with spina bifida.


In his spare time, Mackenzie organizes events in his community such as the music stages at the Westcott Street Cultural Fair and promotes childhood fitness through a free summer track program in Ypsilanti, Michigan that just wrapped up its third year.


Delivering his keynote speech, Mackenzie spoke of his fond memories of Groton; particularly noting how seeing the different places he used to run as he drove into town that day from Michigan reminded him that his track experience at GHS opened a lot of doors for him, including his acceptance at Cornell.


Mackenzie told the students in the audience that they would find their own success as a combination of who they already are as people and the help they receive from others around them. He also said, “Pursue your interests but don’t let them confine you. There is always more to learn no matter what field you’re in, and don’t let yourself be undervalued.”


Spontaneous applause from the entire audience erupted when Mackenzie also told the students to “stand up for kids who are the ones who get picked on!”
The physical plaque that will hang on the Wall of Fame was presented by National Honor Society president, Zoe Barclay. Mackenzie was humbled and appreciative, and called his children up to join him because, he explained, “My 6-year-old son, Henry, asked if being in the hall of fame meant I would be famous, and if it did, he wanted to be famous too.”

Scholars of Achievement
The current students of Groton High School were also honored at the banquet as Scholars of Achievement for 2018-19. Earning a GPA between 90 and 94.9 were Lean Bernhardt, Taylor Buckley, Evan Carlo, Jacquelyn Charbono, Brett Clore, Michael Cooper, Morgan Dittman, Abigail Dykeman, Kael Eldred, Mitchell Felko, Kaleb Goodwin, Elijah Griep, Robert Griffin, Morgan Gunn, Aiden Harriott, Jacey Hatfield, Jordan Houston, Robert Houston, Madison Howell, Fredrick Hulbert, Cheyanne Hunt, Kira Knapp, David Kuss, Mia Lederman, James Lucey, Kalib Manning, Noah McCormick, Cheyanne Myers, Samuel Norman, Tori Quarella, Madelyn Redfield, Cordell Riemer, Sadie Royce, Dylan Sedorus, Jackson Slade, Cassandra Stone, Caylin Todd, Travis Totman, Nathanial Turner, Jay VanVolkinburg, Amanda Willis, and Alyssa Willis.
Honored for earning a GPA of 95 and above were Zoe Barclay, Brooke Brecht, Rachel Cargian, Chloe Conger, Abby Corcoran, Holly Dunham, Francesco Giacomozzi, Alison Haskell, Kaija Hoyt, Drew Jackson, Emma Kennett, Michaeline Lauchle, Lillyan McCormick, Diaz Niño, Averie Roberts, Robert (RJ) Shurtleff, Taylor Thompson, Kinsey Townsend, Hailey VanAlstine, Framke Vitale, Tenley Webb, and Bowen Zheng.


Congratulations to each of these academic achievers and the teachers, families, and caregivers who encouraged them along the way.

Groton on the Inside appears weekly. Submit news ideas to Linda Competillo, lmc10@cornell.edu or 607-227-4922.

In Brief

National Honor Society inductees
The Groton chapter of the National Honor Society inducted 12 new members into its ranks, beginning with NHS Advisor, Scott Montreuil, recognizing the seven senior members who will graduate this year: Zoe Barclay, Lean Bernhardt, Colin Harrington, Alison Haskell, Reese Lockwood, Jack Miller, and Maggie Ossit.Chapter president, Zoe Barclay, took the podium to emcee the remainder of the ceremony. The four characteristics of an NHS member were read as follows, along with the ceremonial lighting of candles for each. Scholarship, Averie Roberts; Leadership, Brooke Brecht; Service, Abby Corcoran; Character, Maggie Ossit. Existing members read welcoming remarks about each of these inductees: Kaleb Goodwin, Cameron Hamilton, Jacey Hatfield, Kaija Hoyt, Cheyanne Hunt, Michaeline Lauchle, Kalib Manning, Jackson Slade, Cassandra Stone, Framke Vitale, Tenley Webb, and Bowen Zheng.

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