6 at UTHSC receive title of distinguished teaching professor

San Antonio (Aug. 21, 2007) – Six faculty members of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio are now distinguished teaching professors, the university announced today.

The Health Science Center bestowed the honor with approval from The University of Texas Academy of Health Science Education. The honor recognizes the faculty members’ significant, outstanding contributions to education.

The academy, part of the U.T. System, was formed in 2005 to recognize and reward outstanding educators in the U.T. System. Distinguished teaching professors are members of the academy who have been nominated and selected for this higher honor.

The distinguished teaching professors include:

• Dennis Blessing, Ph.D., P.A.-C., professor and chair of the Department of Physician Assistant (PA) Studies and associate dean for South Texas programs in the School of Allied Health Sciences

• Robert Esterl, M.D., professor of surgery and director of medical student education in the Department of Surgery

• Linda Johnson, Ph.D., professor of cellular and structural biology in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

• Ellen Kraig, Ph.D., professor of cellular and structural biology in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

• Richard Luduena, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

• Shirlyn McKenzie, Ph.D., C.L.S., (N.C.A.), professor and chair of the Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences in the School of Allied Health Sciences

‘An elite group’

“I am so pleased that each of these faculty members has been recognized with this prestigious honor,” said Health Science Center President Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D. “Excellence in teaching is often overlooked. Receiving this title from the members of the U.T. Academy of Health Science Education, who themselves are recognized for excellence in teaching from throughout the U.T. System, places these individuals in an elite group. They are the ones preparing our future health professionals and they are making a significant impact.”

Dr. Blessing shares the active learning strategies he uses with his students with future educators through national, regional and statewide workshops. He developed and helped secure funding for a faculty development course for physician assistant educators across the country. In his spare time, he offers one-on-one student tutoring. A graduate of Duke University and one of only a few full professors in PA education, Dr. Blessing was inducted into the Duke University Physician Assistant Hall of Fame in 2002. He has been recognized for his teaching by Wichita State University, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, The Texas Academy of Physician Assistants and the Physician Assistant Education Association. The Health Science Center PA program is among the top 20 schools in the nation on the U.S. News & World Report America’s Best Graduate Schools list.

Dr. Esterl, one of the 13 inaugural members of the U.T. Academy of Health Science Education in 2005, is the clerkship director for surgery, coordinating clinical rotations for 200 students. According to students and colleagues, the transplant surgeon teaches wherever life finds him ― in the classroom, the operating room, during morning rounds, in the elevator, in his office and on the transplant jet. He plans curriculum, delivers conferences, develops faculty, assures a quality experience for students at multiple sites, and counsels and mentors many of the students. He also was a 2004 recipient of the Presidential Teaching Excellence Award at the Health Science Center.

Dr. Johnson, also among the founding members of the academy, is a three-time winner of the Presidential Teaching Excellence Award and a Piper Professor. She teaches gross anatomy, embryology and neuroscience to medical and graduate students. She has worked with the National Board of Medical Examiners since 1993 in the preparation, editing and evaluation of the national medical licensure examinations. She directs the medical gross anatomy and embryology course, emphasizing the integration of basic science and clinical medicine. A role model and mentor to many students, she takes a special interest in women and minority students.

Dr. Kraig has been involved in graduate education since joining the Health Science Center in 1983. She was chair of the cellular and structural biology committee on graduate studies for many years. She established an interdepartmental course in molecular biology that has become one of the three core courses for multiple graduate programs. She also developed materials to teach students the principles of scientific integrity. Dr. Kraig updates course materials with new lecture topics and mentors students to ensure they succeed. In 1996, Dr. Kraig received the Presidential Award for Teaching Excellence and in 2000 received the Dean’s Award for Exceptional Graduate Teaching.

Dr. Luduena, who was invited to join the academy in 2006, makes mentoring students a priority. The internationally known research scientist has been honored by his students for his ability to convey the immense amount of biochemistry material in a way that is both accessible and relevant. He served as the course director of the medical biochemistry course in the curriculum of the School of Medicine and has represented the basic science departments on the curriculum and preclinical promotions committees. In addition, his peers asked him to teach graduate students how to become effective presenters. He is a past winner of a Presidential Teaching Award.

Dr. McKenzie is known for making students and student learning her priority. A leader in clinical laboratory science education, Dr. McKenzie has developed a nationally ranked program at the Health Science Center. She continuously seeks new ways to enhance student learning by incorporating a variety of teaching methods into her lectures. A past recipient of a Presidential Teaching Excellence Award, Dr. McKenzie authored the textbook, Clinical Laboratory Hematology, one of the leading texts in clinical laboratory education. She also authored and taught the first U.T. Telecampus course. She provides one-on-one advising to all of her students. Dr. McKenzie also serves as president of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science, the preeminent national organization for clinical laboratory science practitioners.

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The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $536 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $14.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio’s economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $35 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 22,000 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and allied health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopaedics, research imaging, transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, allied health, dentistry and many other fields.

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