Faculty Recognized as Outstanding Teachers

By Lin Lofley

Ten faculty members at UT Southwestern Medical Center have received Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards in recognition of their performance and innovation in the classroom and the laboratory.

The Outstanding Teaching Awards, the highest honor granted by UT System Regents, were created in 2008 to recognize and reward faculty members who serve undergraduate students in an exemplary manner.

This is the first year the Awards were presented to faculty at the UT System’s six health institutions.

The UTSW honorees are:

  • Dr. Preston Blomquist, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, who will become a full professor on Sept. 1.
  • Dr. Susan Cox, Regional Dean of Austin Programs, and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
  • Dr. Ponciano Cruz Jr., Vice Chairman of Dermatology and Director of the Department’s Dermatology Residency Training Program.
  • Dr. Frederick Grinnell, Professor of Cell Biology and a recognized leader in the field of bioethics.
  • Dr. Eugene Jones, Chairman of Physician Assistant Studies, the Department of which he became chairman on the day he arrived on campus in 1983.
  • Dr. Biff Palmer, Professor of Internal Medicine.
  • Dr. James Richardson, Professor of Pathology, Molecular Biology, and Plastic Surgery.
  • Dr. John Sadler, Director of the Program in Ethics in Science and Medicine, Chief of the Division of Ethics in the Department of Psychiatry, and Chief of the Division of Ethics and Health Policy in the Department of Clinical Sciences.
  • Dr. Jerry Shay, Professor of Cell Biology, and an authority in the field of geriatrics.
  • Dr. Ellen Vitetta, Director of the Cancer Immunobiology Center, and one of the nation’s most honored researchers and scientists.

“Teaching is a selfish activity,” Dr. Sadler said. “You get to learn new things all the time. You have the delight of presenting new ideas to others, and awakening new ways for others to experience the world. Countless students enlighten and enrich you with their own perspectives. You get to mold the future. What’s not to like?”

Dr. Richardson, who joined the faculty in 1987, said his teaching goal is “to render the complex simple.”

“I try to make the road forward negotiable by pointing out twists and turns that confounded me as a student,” he said. “Clarity makes pathology accessible and exciting. Engaged students build a solid foundation of pathology and pathophysiology upon which they place insights from their clinical training both in medical school and throughout their lives as practicing physicians.”

Dr. Vitetta, who joined the faculty in 1974, said teaching future physicians and scientists is challenging, and “one must be passionate about doing so.”

She said she believes in “teaching the facts and concepts, but working hardest at connecting the dots into a big picture that will ‘stick’ and lead to creative and analytical thinking.”

Across the UT System, 40 Outstanding Teaching Awards were handed out to faculty members at its health institutions. Each recipient received a $25,000 award, given to the respective institutions for disbursement to the teachers or for their use in their department or program.

Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa

In announcing the Awards, Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, Chancellor of the UT System and UTSW alumnus, said the system “has a mandate to provide an education of the first class.”

“I firmly believe the efforts of these outstanding faculty members significantly enhance the educational experience of our students and, just as importantly, sharpen the competitive edge of our science and technology activities,” he said.

UT Southwestern and UT Health Science Center at Houston each had 10 honorees, followed by the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio (8), UT Medical Branch at Galveston (6), UT MD Anderson (5) and UT Health Science Center at Tyler (1).