Caterpillar Faculty Scholars Fellowship

The Caterpillar Faculty Scholars Fellowship (CFSF) is a 16-month-long faculty development program originally funded by Caterpillar and by the Illinois Health Education Consortium. The fellowship meets once a week on Tuesday afternoons.

One of the primary goals of the CFSF is to prepare clinical faculty members for successful and productive careers in academic medicine. The CFSF is built upon five basic curricular themes:

  • Teaching
  • Curriculum development
  • Leadership and administration skills
  • Research skills
  • Community program development

Core Faculty – Director
Meenakshy Aiyer, MD, FACP –

About the Cat Scholars


Cecilia Albaro, MD

Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics

Dr. Albaro is a pediatric cardiologist who has been practicing in Peoria for five years. She completed medical school at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City in 2005, followed by residency at the University of Vermont in Burlington and fellowship in pediatric cardiology at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. She was appointed Director of Fetal Echocardiogram in 2015. Her passion is in clinical practice, particularly counseling families regarding prenatal congenital heart disease. Her area of interest is in fetal imaging, counseling, and neurodevelopmental outcomes.


Amira Alfil, MD, MPH, FAAP

Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics

A pediatric hospitalist in the UICOMP Department of Pediatrics, Dr. Alfil obtained her MBBCh from Tripoli University in Libya. She completed her OB-GYN residency at Tripoli Medical Center and a Master of Public Health from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in Bronx, New York. She completed her pediatric residency at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York and joined UICOMP in July 2016. Her passion is teaching medical students and residents. Her research interests include epidemiology and predictors of central line-associated bloodstream infection, home phototherapy for neonatal hyperbilirubinemia, and community acquired pneumonia.


Jonathan A Gehlbach, MD

Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics

A 2010 UICOMP graduate, Dr. Gehlbach completed his pediatric residency and a year as Chief Resident at the University of Wisconsin Madison before moving onto a fellowship in critical care medicine at Duke University. In 2017, he returned to UICOMP, joining the division of pediatric critical care, where he was honored to receive the pediatric residency program’s inpatient teaching award. His academic interests include patient safety (especially teamwork dynamics and communication), quality improvement, and simulation.


Thomas Lee, DO

Assistant Professor of Clinical Ob/Gyne

Dr. Lee is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist generalist with over 20 years of practice experience. Dr. Lee received his medical degree from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine (now Midwestern University), and completed residency at Muskegon General Hospital in affiliation with Michigan State University. He worked in private practice in Peoria from 1996 to 2016. He joined the UICOMP faculty part-time in 2005 and precepted medical students in his private practice. Dr. Lee later became the Director of Academic Programs in the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and closed his private practice to accept a full-time faculty position in 2016. Dr. Lee’s passion is teaching medical students and being an advocate for enhancing medical student educational experiences in the clinical setting.


Joseph R Mackey, MD, FAAP

Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics

A double-boarded internal medicine and pediatrics hospitalist, Dr. Mackey earned his medical degree from the University of Kansas School of Medicine. He completed his combined internal medicine and pediatric residency with concurrent year as the med-peds chief resident at UICOMP. He works as a combined internal medicine and pediatric academic hospitalist at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Illinois. His passions include resident and medical student education, and his areas of interest in patient care involve evidence-based medicine and teaching those skills to resident learners.


Brinda Mehta, MD

Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics

Dr. Mehta joined OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois and UICOMP as a pediatric hematology oncology specialist in 2017. She attended medical school at Kasturba Medical College, Manipal University in Mangalore, India and completed residency in pediatrics and was chief resident at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas. Dr. Mehta then went on to complete a fellowship and served as chief fellow in pediatric hematology, oncology, and stem cell transplant at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center/New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York. Dr. Mehta’s clinical and research interests include treatment of solid tumors, immunotherapy in pediatric oncology, neutropenias, and long term survivorship after completion of chemotherapy.


Sonia Tewani Orcutt, MD

Assistant Professor of Surgery

Dr. Orcutt received her medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine as part of a dual-degree undergraduate/medical school program. She completed her residency in General Surgery including a 2-year research fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX, and completed her fellowship in Complex General Surgical Oncology at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL. She joined UICOMP in 2017. Dr. Orcutt is passionate about using a team approach to personalize cancer care for each patient. Her goal is to provide top-notch surgical oncology care to patients of this community without the need to travel great distances. Her primary areas of interest include gastric, hepatopancreaticobiliary tumors, and melanoma.


Vimal Master Sankar Raj, MD

Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics

Dr. Raj is currently Head of the Pediatric Nephrology Division at UICOMP. Dr. Raj did his medical schooling in Thanjavur Medical College, India. He finished his residency in Pediatrics at Michigan State University followed by fellowship in Pediatric Nephrology at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. His research interest has been with Sickle cell nephropathy and is currently conducting a clinical trial on biomarkers for early kidney injury. Dr. Raj has contributed several scholarly articles and has served in the Editorial board of several lead medical journals. His clinical interest is on pediatric hypertension, Glomerulonephritis and management of CKD.


Nadia Shaikh, MD

Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics

Dr. Shaikh is a Pediatric Hospitalist who started her career in Pediatrics in 2005 after graduating from Dow University of Health Sciences in Karachi. She started her first Pediatric Residency in Pakistan and then completed in Saudi Arabia in 2011 where she moved after two years. She then completed her second Pediatric Residency at Icahn School of Mount Sinai New York (Elmhurst Program) in 2016 and moved to Peoria and joined UICOMP. Her passion is in quality improvement, using simulation and innovative techniques for teaching medical students and residents, and caring for acute and complex diagnoses. She is very invested in Pediatric Sepsis and creating preventive strategies for early diagnosis.


Mary Stapel, MD

Clinical Assistant Professor

A graduate of the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford’s Rural Medicine program, Dr. Stapel completed residency in the Internal Medicine-Pediatrics Program at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center/UICOMP. Her time is split between seeing primary care patients, teaching residents in the clinic, and developing a Global and Rural Medicine Track for the residents, and helping to facilitate the Innovation in Rural Global Medicine program at UICOMP. Dr. Staple’s clinical interests include global health, travel medicine, adoptive medicine, refugee health, rural health, planetary health and sustainability, and advocacy against human trafficking and violence.


Neelam Verma, MD

Assistant Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology


Kari Beth Watts, DO

Clinical Associate

Dr. Watts currently practices family medicine at UnityPoint Health First Care – Pekin. She received her medical degree from A.T. Still University – Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. In 2018, she became a proud graduate of the UICOMP Family Medicine Residency. After completing residency, Dr. Watts accepted a full-time faculty position with the UICOMP Family Medicine Residency Program, allowing her to continue practicing the full scope of her training, including obstetrics, inpatient medicine, traditional ambulatory care, and at the same time developing herself as an educator. Her areas of interest include group prenatal care, hospital medicine, and osteopathic manipulative treatment.