Dr. Rob Rockhold was the keeper of a wonderful secret when he ran into the last person in the world he needed to see last Friday night.
Rockhold, deputy chief academic officer and professor of pharmacology and toxicology, was to present the Regions Bank Toward Educational Advancement in Care and Health (TEACH) Prize Tuesday to the individual who most represents the highest qualities of the University of Mississippi Medical Center's academic faculty.
At a restaurant four days before, Rockhold happened to come face-to-face with the selected recipient: Dr. Mary W. Stewart, professor of nursing.
"You cannot imagine how difficult it was not to let her know," Rockhold told the audience after revealing the winner during the 2015 Norman C. Nelson Order of Teaching Excellence luncheon.
Bee, left, and Woodward, right, present the ceremonial TEACH Prize check to Stewart.
Alon Bee, Regions Bank Metro Jackson president, Rockhold and Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs, presented a ceremonial check for $10,000 to Stewart, the third TEACH Prize recipient. Dr. Kimberly Simpson, associate professor of neurobiology and anatomical sciences, won the inaugural award in 2013, and Dr. Ian Paul, professor of psychiatry and human behavior, received it last year.
Stewart said being named a TEACH Prize winner reinforces her awareness of her academic duties.
"It is a convincing reminder of my responsibilities as an educator - to persevere in the advancement of education as the path to solving our greatest problems," she said. "I want my students to say confidently, 'I don't know,' but at the same time, I want them to recognize they are gifted with the ability to question, explore, discover and disseminate.
"I also hope they remain cognizant of the power of not only knowledge, but understanding - particularly of perspectives that differ from their own."
The 19 recipients of the Nelson Order, who represent all six schools at the Medical Center, were eligible to be nominated for the TEACH Prize. The deans of each school designated a single candidate from their respective schools, and the winner was selected by the Medical Center Faculty Development Committee and officers of the Associated Student Body.
"This award identifies the educator who most represents the characteristics we strive to endorse, to develop and to represent to our students," Rockhold said. "The term 'best of the best' is used a lot by academic health science centers, but in the education mission, I think it is appropriate that we recognize the best of the best among our educators.
"This very deliberately advances the educational mission in the most significant way possible."
After receiving her B.S.N. from Mississippi College in 1991, Stewart served as a staff R.N. at hospitals in Prentiss and Hattiesburg while pursuing her M.S.N. in the adult health/nurse educator role from UMMC, which she earned in 1994. She joined the University of Southern Mississippi faculty as an instructor in nursing in 1994 while also serving as an outpatient surgery staff R.N. and a home-health and hospice nurse in Hattiesburg for several years.
Stewart joined the William Carey University faculty as an associate professor of nursing in 2000 and earned her Ph.D. at UMMC in 2002. The following year, she became dean of the Joseph and Nancy Fail School of Nursing at William Carey University and was promoted to professor of nursing in 2007. She left William Carey in 2008 to become associate professor of nursing and special assistant to the dean of nursing at UMMC; in 2010, she was promoted to professor of nursing; she became School of Nursing director of the Ph.D. in Nursing Program in 2011 and director of accreditation for the School of Nursing in 2014.
Throughout her teaching career, Stewart has maintained a steadfast philosophy of health science education.
"The best words I have to synthesize my philosophy are relationships, integrity and hope," she said. "In relationships, we are not alone - nor should we be. We truly need each other. To have integrity, we must keep the standards high: perseverance, not perfection. Be honest. Take responsibility. Then, know how to forgive yourself and others.
"Our students are our best hope. In all the gray of being human, the mysterious power of expectation can move a student to fulfillment and a patient to a place of healing."
She said her proudest moments as an educator occur when a student confesses, "I see things differently now," or "My thinking has changed." She said serving on faculty at the Medical Center is the highlight of her teaching career.
"Just being among people from many disciplines whose mission is to make life better for others is an amazing realization," she said. "I'm so glad to be surrounded by people who care. The investment of individuals, community partners and service institutions toward the advancement of education is an example of caring for all of us.
"I think what matters most is that we choose to care - each day, with every student and every patient, in the face of challenges and the shadow of celebrations, we make the choice to care."
Nelson Order honorees include (front row, from left) Robin Parish, Kristi Moore, Cindy Luther, Mary McNair, Mary Stewart, Kate Fouquier, Felicia Tardy, and (back row, from left) Angela Morey, Meagan Brown, Lisa Didion, Lique Coolen, Jordan Lu, Elizabeth Lutz, Bill Daley, Stephen Stray, Jose Subauste, Susan Warren and Michael Hebert. Not pictured: Jennifer Bain.
The Nelson Order is named for Dr. Norman C. Nelson, vice chancellor emeritus for health affairs and dean emeritus of the School of Medicine, who led the Medical Center from 1973-94; at the time of his retirement, Nelson was the longest-sitting dean of a medical school in the country.
The order recognizes faculty who demonstrate excellence in delivering innovative teaching methods; engaging and inspiring students; conveying accurate, contemporary knowledge; setting clear, appropriate expectations for professional behaviors; and guiding and mentoring students.
As the order members were announced by Rockhold, the recipients each came forward to receive a certificate from Dr. Ralph Didlake, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, and a blue stole from Woodward, which Nelson Order members are entitled to wear at Commencement. The names of each Nelson Order recipient will be inscribed on a plaque that will be mounted on the Nelson Wall in the atrium outside the Rowland Medical Library on the first floor of the Verner Holmes Learning Resource Center.
2015 Nelson Order members include:
School of Dentistry
Dr. Jennifer Bain, assistant professor of periodontics and preventive sciences
Dr. Yuefeng "Jordan" Lu, assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomical sciences
*Dr. Susan Warren, professor of neurobiology and anatomical sciences
School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences
*Dr. Lique Coolen, professor of physiology and professor of neurobiology and anatomical sciences
School of Health Related Professions
*Dr. Kristi Moore, associate professor of radiologic sciences
Angela Morey, assistant professor of health informatics and information management
Robin Parish, assistant professor of occupational therapy
Dr. Felicia Tardy, assistant professor of medical laboratory science
School of Medicine
Dr. Bill Daley, professor of pathology
Dr. Lisa Didion, assistant professor of pediatrics
Dr. Michael Hebert, professor of biochemistry
Dr. Elizabeth Lutz, instructor in obstetrics and gynecology
Dr. Stephen Stray, assistant professor of microbiology
*Dr. Jose Subauste, professor of endocrinology
School of Nursing
Dr. Kate Fouquier, assistant professor of nursing
Cindy Luther, assistant professor of nursing
Mary McNair, assistant professor of nursing
*Dr. Mary W. Stewart, professor of nursing
School of Pharmacy
*Dr. Meagan Brown, assistant professor of pharmacy practice
* TEACH Prize nominee