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Barker honored with UT Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award

man in white lab coat
Blake Barker, M.D.

Completing medical school is difficult enough, but mastering the art of teaching is even harder, according to Blake Barker, M.D., the recipient of a Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award that recognizes his dedication to both mentoring future generations of caregivers and teaching excellence.

Dr. Barker is among 14 educators from across the state system recognized this week as Regents’ Award winners by the UT System Board of Regents.

“It is a distinct honor to be recognized among the educators I am fortunate to work alongside every day,” said Dr. Barker, Associate Dean for Student Affairs, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, and the 55th UTSW faculty member to date to receive a Regents’ Award.

Teaching is humbling, he said. A key, Dr. Barker emphasized, is understanding that one of your jobs is to create a learning environment that permits mistakes and “stupid questions.”

“I think of myself as a coach more than a teacher. As a coach, I hope to create a learning environment that is supportive but bounded by high expectations,” he said. “I aspire to push learners to stretch their boundaries and seek new knowledge with this outcome in mind: a physician fit for my own family.”

Dr. Barker, a general internal medicine practitioner who joined UT Southwestern in 2011, must be doing something right. He began winning teaching awards while still in his internal medicine residency at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He was chosen by interns to receive the Dr. Gerald M. Grumet Teaching Award in 2010, then won a Faculty Teaching Award the following year.

At UT Southwestern, students have consistently given him high marks for his teaching and successfully nominated him for membership in both the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society and the Gold Humanism Honor Society. He is also a member of the Southwestern Academy of Teachers, an elite group of UTSW educators who work to foster teaching excellence.

By age 5, the Texas native said he had decided to become a doctor. “Somehow I just knew this is what I was going to do. I appreciated in the few physicians I was exposed to in childhood the respect and kindness they offered my family member and me,” Dr. Barker said.

The choice to combine teaching and medicine came later, said Dr. Barker, who attended Baylor College of Medicine before going to Northwestern for residency.

“I like the intellectual stimulation of being around people who are creating and teaching and discovering,” he said. “I really just wanted to be around learners.”

Angela Mihalic, M.D., Dean of Medical Students and Associate Dean for Student Affairs, said few faculty members are more deserving of the Regents’ Award than Dr. Barker. “He is a gifted and celebrated teacher, a kind and caring mentor, a fierce student advocate, a servant leader, and an innovative educator and scholar,” Dr. Mihalic said.

Added Thomas J. Wang, M.D., Professor and Chair of Internal Medicine: “He has demonstrated excellence in teaching quality, innovation, and educational leadership throughout his tenure at UT Southwestern.”

Dr. Barker said he subscribes to the master adaptive learner philosophy of teaching. “Medical students and residents are like Olympic athletes of learning,” he said. “They accomplish a whole lot on their own … What they really need is for you to create an experience for them or create a learning environment that helps them cement that knowledge or really capitalize on it.

“I think our job is to really help people connect with their own internal motivations to inspire future learning.”

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