For Dr. Rachel Russo, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, effective teaching involves collaboration with students that not only imparts facts but also inspires a love of learning. “I think this is important in all areas, but particularly in the medical field where lifelong learning is a necessity,” she said.
Dr. Russo will receive the Devneil Vaidya Junior Faculty Teaching Award for 2020 from the Association of Directors of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry (ADMSEP) at a virtual awards ceremony Feb. 24. The award recognizes a promising early career ADMSEP member who demonstrates excellence in teaching, mentoring, and curricular innovations related to medical student education.
“I’m honored and grateful for the recognition for my work in medical student education,” she said.
Dr. Russo, who also serves as Associate Psychiatry Clerkship Director, is a proponent of interactive learning, which she and Dr. Kathlene Trello-Rishel, Professor of Psychiatry and Clerkship Director, have incorporated into the clerkship lecture series through team-based learning and simulations.
“A traditional lecture is limited in the amount of higher-level learning that occurs. But when learners work as a team to solve difficult cases, they are better able to organize and clarify their knowledge, use higher-level learning, and get to see things from the perspective of their teammates,” Dr. Russo said. “These skills are also extremely useful in clinical practice where we are typically working in diverse teams with value added from each member with separate and unique perspectives and skills.”
On Feb. 25, Drs. Russo and Trello-Rishel will launch a new interactive anti-racism workshop developed by residents and medical students.
“Anti-racism is very important for all of us to learn about and reflect on, and we have an obligation to teach our students about it,” Dr. Russo said. “We were excited when the residents came to us with this idea and are grateful for all the work they have done to develop it.”
After earning bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry and biology from the University of Dallas, Dr. Russo completed her medical degree, internship, and residency in psychiatry at UT Southwestern. In addition to her faculty appointment, Dr. Russo works in general outpatient psychiatry in the Mental Health Diamond Team at the VA North Texas Health Care System. She also is a psychiatric facilitator for a medical student colleges group, oversees a fourth-year elective for medical students, and serves as a mentor for UTSW medical students applying to psychiatry residency.
Among other recent honors, Dr. Russo received the 2020 Association for Academic Psychiatry Early Career Development Award, the American Psychiatric Association’s 2019-2020 Nancy C.A. Roeske, M.D., Certificate recognizing excellence in medical student education, and the UTSW Department of Psychiatry’s 2019 Outstanding Contribution to Medical Student Education award, given to one teaching faculty member per year. She is a 2020 graduate of the UTSW LEAD (Leadership Emerging in Academic Departments) Program, “which I found immeasurably helpful,” she said.
“Dr. Russo has been an incredible asset to our program and has greatly enriched the education experience for medical students,” Dr. Trello-Rishel said. “She has made wonderful contributions as a direct teacher of students, as the Associate Clerkship Director, and through her scholarly presentations and involvement at national education meetings.”