Weaker joins class of 2006 Minnie Stevens Piper Professors

(L-R) Dr. Weaker’s wife, Mary Ellen, Dr. Weaker, Dr. Cigarroa

Frank J. Weaker, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of cellular and structural biology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, was named a 2006 Piper Professor in early May by the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation. Dr. Weaker is the 11th Health Science Center faculty member to win the prestigious award.

Dr. Weaker received $5,000 and a commemorative pin at a presentation by Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., president of the Health Science Center. Fifteen Piper Professors are selected annually on the basis of nominations from Texas colleges and universities.

Dr. Weaker joined the Health Science Center faculty in 1975 and has taught various ages of the student population. Currently he teaches dental hygiene and dental students and is a guest lecturer in occupational therapy. He previously taught medical students and postdoctoral fellows. He is co-director of the Dental Histology course and director of the Structures of the Head and Neck course, and is a teaching faculty member in the Dental Gross Anatomy courses.

“It is rare that a faculty member teaches in human gross anatomy, microscopic anatomy and neuroanatomy, but Dr. Weaker is one of those rare individuals with expertise in all three courses,” said Christi A. Walter, Ph.D., professor and interim chair, department of cellular and structural biology. “The faculty in the department of cellular and structural biology hold Dr. Weaker in very high regard. He is an exemplary teacher and deserving of the award. We are very proud of him.”

Dr. Weaker is one of only two Health Science Center faculty members to receive the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching twice, and he has been the recipient of numerous teaching awards from the institution.

In 2005, Dr. Weaker, collaborating with Dr. Thomas King, cellular and structural biology, and Dr. Nan Clare, pathology/medical dean’s office, unveiled “Virtual Microscopy for the Health Professional.” This innovation is in use with first-year medical and dental students. Virtual Microscopy enables students to view prepared slides on a computer screen, but with no drop in resolution. Unlike the traditional microscope, it makes possible the study of slides at home and by several students at a time. Students enjoy the feature of being able to save images into digital atlases for personal reference. The AT&T Foundation funded this project.

“I believe Frank Weaker merits recognition as a Piper Foundation Professor not because he ‘clocks’ his time in the classroom, but because he actually thinks creatively about how ever-more-bewilderingly complex information in ever-increasing amounts can be imparted to our professional school students,” said Merle S. Olson, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. “Focusing intellect and resources on the development of novel tools to help profess the basic disciplines of medicine is exactly what our faculty must do to improve the educational process; when they are successful, they should be honored and rewarded.”

Dr. Weaker also has given his time to younger students interested in health and science careers. He regularly speaks to Med/Ed Program students from the Lower Rio Grande Valley when they visit the Health Science Center.

Like all great teachers, Dr. Weaker has impacted several generations of students. In fact, he taught several students who are now Dental School faculty members, he said.

Dr. Weaker’s wife, Mary Ellen, also is an award-winning educator. In 1992, she received the Teacher of Excellence Award in the Archdiocese of San Antonio. She taught Texas and American history for 26 years, including 13 years at Jordan Middle School in the Northside Independent School District. Mrs. Weaker “semi-retired” a year ago, and currently serves as a field adviser for other teachers.

Since 1972, 10 other Health Science Center professors have been named a Piper Professor. They include:

• Carlos Pestana, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of surgery
• John Preece, D.D.S., M.S.D., professor of dental diagnostic science
• Robert Huff, M.D., professor and deputy chair of obstetrics and gynecology
• Terry Mikiten, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology and associate dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
• Joyce Schwartz, M.D., associate professor of pathology
• Linda Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor of cellular and structural biology
• Nanette Clare, M.D., associate dean of the Medical School and professor of pathology
• David Foulds, M.D., professor of pediatrics
• Mary Kathleen Vaughan, Ph.D., associate professor of cellular and structural biology
• Craig Witz, M.D., associate professor and Frank Harrison Chair of Pediatrics

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