First Annual Three Minute Thesis Competition

Event Date: April 7, 2017

Winners Finalists Judges Event Photos

The Judging Panel

Maritza Baez

Maritza Baez headshot.

I'm from Buffalo NY. Community has always been important to me. I'm especially thankful to the Buffalo Prep community, of which I have been a part for over 25 years, first as a student, then as an advocate. It was through Buffalo Prep that I realized my dream of becoming a family physician. First, I was awarded a full scholarship to the Nichols School, then went on to graduate from Yale University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science in three years instead of four and finally earned a full scholarship for my medical degree from the University at Buffalo, which I earned in 2004.

For over 25 years, I have been giving back to my community. Among other activities, I have volunteered for the City of Buffalo Youth Engaged in Service, given inspirational talks and mentorship to students on the elementary, high school, college and graduate school levels, and served on various community-wide boards. I currently serve on the Board of Trustees at the Enterprise Charter School, where I am also Board Secretary.

For the past 10 years I have been working full-time as a family physician at Lifetime Health Medical Group. I work in an inner-city urban office where my bilingual (spanish) skills are used daily. I manage complex chronic medical conditions for over 4,000 families a year and managed over 10,000 lives for over six months during a provider shortage. I consistently have exceptional productivity, quality and patient satisfaction measures. I have incorporated a bilingual certified diabetic educator, helped bring translator phones to our office and helped acquire accessible examination tables.

I am always coming up with improvements that become incorporated site-wide and company-wide. In 2016 I contributed to some major company-wide improvements. One was rewording the Mammogram Order Requisition to ensure that patients understood exactly what it was for. The wording changed from "Screening for Malignant Neoplasm of Breast" to "Screening Mammogram." Another enhancement I initiated was to include flexible sigmoidoscopy on the Patient Care Card as a valid colon cancer screening measure. From 2015 to 2016 my overall clinical quality score increased by 13.1%. My diabetics with a HbA1C < 9 increased by 7.01%, and for HbA1C < 8 improved by 9.38%.

I have been featured in the Buffalo Criterion, Black Western New York Magazine, Jacobs School of Medicine Momentum newsletter, Pangea Organics Catalog, Buffalo Magazine, Buffalo Spree, Western New York Health Magazine,, Channel 2 Buffalo, Time Warner Cable News, Channel 4 Buffalo, WNLO-TV, CAO radio, WBEN radio and others.

Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata headshot.

Elizabeth Licata is the editor of Buffalo Spree and has been a journalist for 30 years. Her art criticism has been published in the Village Voice, the Buffalo News, Art in America, Art News and many other publications. Since becoming editor of Spree in 1999, Licata has overseen a complete makeover of the magazine, which is now an award-winning city/regional publication.

Licata was curator at the Castellani Art Museum from 1991-1999, where she organized several nationally touring exhibitions and co-edited two books: In Company: Robert Creeley’s Collaborations and Consider the Alternatives: Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center.

Licata’s board service includes Squeaky Wheel, Hallwalls, the Allentown Association and the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. She has received awards from Young Audiences of WNY, Preservation Buffalo Niagara and other organizations.

Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy headshot.

Michael Murphy joined Shea’s Performing Arts Center as President in October of 2016. He previously served as managing director of the Tony-Award winning Old Globe Theatre in San Diego from 2011 and as its general manager beginning in 2003. Prior to the Globe Theatre, he was the managing director of Austin Lyric Opera in Austin, Texas; Director of administration of San Diego Opera; and general manager of San Diego Repertory Theatre. Before relocating to San Diego from New York City, he held similar positions at Theatre for a New Audience and the Joyce Theater Foundation’s American Theater Exchange. He also served as negotiating assistant for the League of Resident Theatres and sales representative for Columbia Artists Theatricals Corporation.

Murphy serves on the Board of Directors of the Theatre District Association of Western New York and the National Alliance of Musical Theatre. He has also served on the Board of Directors of National Corporate Theatre Fund, the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership and as a management trustee for San Diego County Theatrical Trusts, the pension and welfare trust for IATSE stagehands in the San Diego region. He was also an adjunct faculty member of the Music Department at the University of San Diego.

Murphy earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in stage management from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri and his Master of Fine Arts in performing arts management from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

Samuel Savarino

Samuel Savarino headshot.

Samuel Savarino is the owner and chief executive officer of Savarino Companies. Since it was formed in January of 2001, Savarino Companies has grown to be one of Western New York's leading general contracting, construction management, property management and development firms. Savarino Companies has built many notable structures throughout Western New York including UB Economic Opportunity Center, new academic building and sports facilities for D’Youville College and several YMCA branch facilities.

Savarino Companies has led the development of several notable Western New York projects including several restored buildings in Buffalo’s historic Cobblestone District, Academy Place in Gowanda, 500 Seneca, White’s Livery Apartments and Buffalo River Landing.

Prior to forming Savarino Companies, Savarino served as chief executive officer at ADF Construction Corporation of Amherst, New York. Under his leadership, ADF grew from a small, family-owned construction firm to a large and respected full-service construction company that successfully completed many landmark projects throughout Western New York.

Savarino is also the primary owner and Managing Member of TSC Construction, a telecommunication infrastructure builder headquartered in Binghamton, New York.

Savarino received a Bachelor of Arts from the University at Buffalo. He is a graduate of the Leadership Buffalo Class of 1995. He is active in many industry related organizations, and is certified by the Construction Specifications Institute as both a Construction Documents Technologist (CDT) and a Certified Construction Contract Administrator (CCCA).

James Wehrfritz

James Wehrfritz headshot.

James Wehrfritz began his international energy industry consulting firm Erie-Niagara Consulting, LLC in 2014 after an illustrious career with Exxon Corporation, beginning in 1978, and then Exxon-Mobil Corporation after the merger. At Exxon, he held management and professional positions, involving upstream (production), midstream (transportation) and downstream (refining) organizations, along with business development, planning, engineering, construction, marketing and operations. Jim provided interdisciplinary team leadership of discipline and environmental engineers, planning, contracting/purchasing, legal, public affairs, construction and operations staff.

His assignments have included work from domestic locations in Texas, Louisiana, California and New Jersey, and international projects as an expatriate (with family) in Russia and Indonesia, along with assignments across the globe in Canada, Venezuela, Russia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, United Kingdom, Italy, France, Chad, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Angola, Turkey, Jordan, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Iraq.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering (Water Resources concentration) from the State University of New York at Buffalo (1974-78) and has completed graduate work at the University of Houston (1981-86), MBA courses in accounting, finance and management, in addition to engineering graduate courses on  turbo machinery and thermodynamics.