Dr. William Daley, who started medical school relatively late, said he was once asked what he planned to do after his residency, which ended when he was 40-something.
“I said, 'Retire,'” he recalled.
If he had been serious, it would have been a loss for the Medical Center's education mission, if winning the Regions Bank TEACH PRIZE is any kind of standard.
At Monday's Nelson Order luncheon, Daley, professor of pathology in the School of Medicine, learned that he is the 2017 recipient of the Toward Educational Advancement in Care and Health honor; he also received a check for $10,000.
“When they called my name, the blood drained from my head,” Daley said afterward. “I was shocked.”
Not so shocked: Dr. Kristen Adams, a pathology resident who joins the UMMC faculty in July.
“If you made a card with the name of every student he's helped it would have to be the size of the new School of Medicine building,” Adams said.
“He's a superstar of the Medical Center and deserves all the accolades he receives.”
Dr. Kristen Adams, pathology resident, considers Daley a "teacher, mentor, colleague and friend."
To underscore this accolade's standing at the university, the luncheon was attended by Dr. Jeffrey Vitter, chancellor, and Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.
The order is named for one of Woodward's predecessors, Dr. Norman C. Nelson, who served in those positions for more than 20 years, until 1994. The order recognizes faculty in each of the Medical Center schools, based on praise from their students.
This year, Daley, who joined the faculty in 2003, became one of 20 Nelson Order inductees; as one of six finalists for the order's TEACH Prize, he was nominated by students in the School of Medicine.
The other finalists and the schools that selected them are: Dr. Marianne Conway, School of Dentistry; Dr. Lique Collen, School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences; Dr. Joshua Fleming, School of Pharmacy - Jackson; Dr. Janet Harris, School of Nursing; and Dr. Sherry West, School of Health Related Professions.
First awarded in 2013, the TEACH Prize comes with an outsize facsimile check, which was presented to Daley on Monday by Alon Bee, city president-metro Jackson Regions Bank.
“This is one of the most important things we do for education,” Bee said later. “At Regions, we are fortunate to be associated with this effort to recognize the teachers who make an impact on students for generations to come.”
Certainly, Daley made an impact on Adams, a beneficiary of his mentoring ever since she was a pre-med student at his own undergraduate alma mater, Mississippi College.
“In a difficult journey like medical training, having someone like Dr. Daley to give you guidance and support is invaluable. If you had to describe that training as an experience, it would be 'Dante's Inferno' and Dr. Daley was a Virgil,” Adams said, comparing her mentor to Dante's wise and informative escort through Hell.
Congatulating Daley, second from left, on his teaching accomplishment are, from left, Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs; Bee; and Dr. Jeffrey Vitter, University of Mississippi chancellor.
One of Daley's own mentors in medical school was Dr. Robin Rockhold, now deputy chief academic officer, who applauded his former student's “delivery of superlative individual lectures, masterful coordination of the pivotal second-year pathology course, and small group guidance in clerkships and electives.
“As a scholar, a physician, an educator, and a leader, he represents the pinnacle of faculty achievement in the education mission.”
Although sidetracked from that mission for years, Daley was a born teacher, as he discovered while growing up in Jackson.
“I would go through the trash cans at school and pull out materials teachers had thrown away, take them home and hold classes for the kids in the neighborhood,” Daley said.
Science was always his hobby - an itch he scratches to this day in his “Frankenstein's lab,” a workshop over his garage, where he repairs vintage stereo equipment and radios with vacuum-tube entrails.
Right out of college, though, he “felt obligated” to join the family business, Capitol Barber & Beauty Supply, helping run it with his parents for years, until “a little voice popped in my head,” he said.
That voice told him he could defer his destiny no longer. “It was like I was being operated by remote control,” he said. “I have a lot of fond memories of working with my parents, but I yearned for more.”
“More” was the pursuit of his brother's profession; Dr. Charles Daley, another School of Medicine alumnus, is a practicing physician in Denver.
“To be honest, though,” Daley said, “there were people who said, 'Are you crazy?' I said, 'This is something I want to do.'”
From the moment Daley entered medical school here, in 1994, he knew that teaching would be central to his career.
“It was the academic setting at the Medical Center,” he said. “I enjoyed the student-teacher relationship and the challenge. Students are a tough audience in many ways. But you try to do what you believe is best for them.
“Working in business, I learned a lot about people. I like to believe that I'm able to communicate well, and that's a big part of teaching.”
For Adams, Daley taught her not only how to be a teacher, but how to be a mentor as well, she said. “He taught me how to be helpful, how to be in the service of others. That's something you don't learn in class, per se, but you do learn it by spending time with someone like Dr. Daley.”
It was his high school band director at Jackson Prep that helped Daley learn those “life lessons,” he said. “Dana Skelton instilled in us the importance of working hard, practicing, listening to the person next to you.
“I want to inspire students to want to learn, and to be problem solvers, to know how to find the answers.”
He's grateful, he said, that the Medical Center and Regions recognize those who strive for excellence.
“I want to thank Regions Bank for making this possible; I wish we could see more corporate sponsorships like this. The TEACH Prize and Nelson Order demonstrate overtly the commitment the leaders at UMMC have for education.
“They don't just talk about it. It's literally putting your money where your mouth is.”
Nelson Order inductees include, back row from left, Dr. Michelle Palokas, Katie Hall, Dr. Janet Harris, Tina Ferrell, Dr. Marianne Conway, Dr. James Brantley, Dr. Susan Warren, Dr. Scott Phillips, Dr. David Brown, Dr. Joshua Fleming, Dr. Bela Kanyicska, Dr. Corey Jackson and Dr. Janet Slaughter; and front row from left, Dr. Lique Coolen, Dr. Sherry West, Asher Street, Dr. Penny Rogers, Daley, Dr. Calvin Thigpen and Dr. Zeb Henson.