VC Notes Archive Office of the Vice Chancellor
Friday, May 13, 2016

The Gift of Teaching

Good morning!

As an academic medical center, we often talk about the three missions that we are engaged in every day - education, research and patient care.  These are interdependent and mutually supportive.  Each one makes the others better.

Even though all three are vital and essential to our identity, historically we have tended to put the education mission first.  Even as we care for our patients and strive to gain greater insight into the science of healing and disease prevention, we are all teachers and learners throughout our careers.  It's an ennobling and even sacred pursuit that is literally handed down from one generation to the next. 

Nelson_order_2016.jpgLast Monday I had the pleasure of participating in the induction ceremony for The Nelson Order, the annual recognition of the Medical Center's most outstanding teachers from each of our six schools.

The event took on special significance this year, as it came just a few weeks after the passing of the Nelson Order's namesake, former Vice Chancellor Norman C. Nelson.  Dr. Nelson was a champion for education and was himself a master teacher who took delight in recognizing commitment to teaching excellence in others.

The culmination of the event was the announcement of the overall winner of the Regions Bank TEACH Prize, who this year is Dr. Jennifer Bain of the School of Dentistry.  Amazingly, Jennifer has become one of our finest teachers in just two years since joining the faculty.

We have a number of awards and recognition programs for our students, which is quite fitting.  The Nelson Order is the only award we have for faculty that encompasses all schools.

While there is one single overall winner, all who are inducted into the Nelson Order are excellent, dedicated teachers.  The bar for admission to this exclusive club is set very high.  For a complete report of the induction ceremony, click here.

I have deep appreciation for those of you who go the extra mile for our students, who really connect and are a positive force in shaping the careers of these young health-care professionals and scientists.

All of us can remember the impact that certain teachers had on our lives.  Two from my high school days cultivated my love for literature and expression.  In college, several teachers and advisors provided unerring guidance and support that kept me on the path toward a career in medicine.

As a medical student, I learned that among our greatest teachers are our patients.  This begins with the very first patient we ever have - and for some of us, that is the selfless donor who gave the precious gift of his or her body - and ends with the last patient we treat.  Every patient along the way teaches us something about this wonderfully complex mixture of art and science that is health care.

At UMMC, I had the privilege to be taught by some of our legends and living legends - Dr. Arthur Guyton, Dr. James Hardy, Dr. John Hall, Dr. John Naftel, Dr. Buford Yerger, Dr. Suzanne Miller, Dr. Rob Rockhold, Dr. Helen Turner and Dr. Peter Blake - to name a few.  I still remember the influence they had on me these many years later.

From my exposure to these superlative teachers and my own experience with teaching, I know that teaching excellence is, for the most part, a choice.  The choice to invest the time, enthusiasm, and flat-out hard work necessary to stand out among your peers and be a positive force in the lives of our students.  It's a gift of love that inspires all of us and will be forever remembered - and passed along - by those fortunate enough to receive it.  

We're grateful for our teachers and all that they are doing to help us reach A Healthier Mississippi.

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