20 profs presented Excellence in Mentorship Awards

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Twenty professors from 17 departments are the recipients of the 2011 Graduate Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentorship.

Professor of Cell Biology Bradley Yoder (bottom row, center) is honored by his students at the recent Graduate Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentorship ceremony.

The award, now in its fifth year, recognizes exceptional faculty mentorship and demonstrates that UAB is a university that values the commitment to excellence in mentorship that is exhibited by its faculty, says Bryan Noe, Ph.D., dean of The Graduate School.

“This award recognizes faculty who have been outstanding mentors, advisors and role models to the students and trainees with whom they have worked,” Noe says. “We are particularly pleased to see that faculty from different disciplines and departments across campus were nominated for their dedication to assisting students, postdoctoral fellows and other trainees to realize their career goals.”

These recipients were honored in a ceremony April 2: Olivia Affuso, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology; Anne Alexandrov, Ph.D., professor of nursing; Scott Barnum, Ph.D., professor of microbiology; Michael Brenner, Ph.D., professor of neurobiology; John Burgess, D.D.S., professor of prosthodontics; Lois Christensen, Ph.D., professor of curriculum and instruction; Gary Cutter, Ph.D., professor of biostatistics; William Drace, assistant professor of physician assistant studies; Paul Goepfert, M.D., professor of medicine; Renitta Goldman, Ph.D., professor of curriculum and instruction; Adrienne Lahti, M.D., professor of behavioral neurobiology; Max Michael III, M.D., dean of the School of Public Health; Selvarangan Ponnazhagan, Ph.D., professor of molecular and cellular pathology; Rosalinda Roberts, Ph.D., professor of behavioral neurobiology; Bisakha Sen, Ph.D., associate professor of health care organization and policy; Jon Daniel Sharer, Ph.D., assistant professor of clinical genetics; Susan Spezzini, Ph.D., associate professor of curriculum and instruction; Günter Stolz, Ph.D., professor of mathematics; Timothy Wick, Ph.D., chair of biomedical engineering; Bradley Yoder, Ph.D., professor of cell biology.

For faculty to be selected, at least five letters of nomination had to be submitted. The nominators were asked to consider personal characteristics, excellence in teaching and communication and mentoring characteristics in considering whom to recommend for the award.

The faculty receiving the award this year will not be eligible to be nominated again for at least 10 years. “This will help to ensure that as many deserving faculty as possible from across the university can be recognized for serving as outstanding mentors,” Noe says.

These are excerpts from the nomination letters:

Olivia Affuso

“She continually seeks opportunities for her students, mentees, friends, etc. to grow. Whether in the School of Public Health, the Graduate School or life in general, Dr. Affuso is on a continual search for the next big and better thing and takes those she mentors along for the ride.”

Anne Alexandrov

“She would always say that she was ‘just doing her job’ but she did more than that. What Dr. Alexandrov showed by ‘just doing her job’ was that she not only cared but that she was invested in you and that she wanted you to succeed.”

Scott Barnum

“Dr. Barnum has a way of instilling in his trainees self-sufficiency and the will and ability to take the necessary steps to succeed. This ability to find the precise balance between mentoring and promoting self-sufficiency is a unique quality that makes Dr. Barnum an outstanding mentor.”

Michael Brenner

“Rather than giving me simple answers to questions in study, research and even life, he has always tried to teach me how to find it. In other words, he favored my encountering big challenges in order to teach me how to troubleshoot effectively.”

John Burgess

“I can truthfully say in nine years of working together, he has never made one disparaging comment, had a curt moment or even waivered from his omnipresent smile. He has a positive outlook for every situation and treats every person with whom he interacts with profuse respect and courtesy. He is loyal to his students and will not hesitate to defend us.”

Lois Christensen

“Her devotion to my personal success is empowering. She is more than my professor and mentor; she is my friend.”

Gary Cutter

“He guides students along in a manner that allows students the freedom to explore topics that are of genuine interest to them, provide opportunities to grow and go outside one’s comfort zone. And if one finds themselves with the need for a push or an explanation, he seems to always be available and helpful.”

William Drace

“Mr. Drace is the eternal optimist and serves his students with an open-minded, unbiased opinion whenever he is asked for help or feels called to guide a student in need.”

Paul Goepfert

“Throughout his mentoring he has provided me with countless opportunities for success, and he has ensured that I act on these opportunities to be successful. He has promoted my independence while maintaining opportunities for continued guidance and mentoring.”

Renitta Goldman

“Dr. Goldman has consistently demonstrated enthusiasm in her teaching and as a project leader. She continually expected nothing less than excellence from her students and motivated us to meet and/or exceed her expectations.”

Adrienne Lahti

“The hardest lesson that I have had to learn — a lesson that I could not have learned without Dr. Lahti’s patient wisdom and guidance — is the need for a scientist not only to give but to graciously receive the assistance of his or her colleagues.”

Max Michael

“Multidisciplinary work requires an individual who can understand several different points of view and bring people together to work for a common purpose. Dr. Michael is one of the rare individuals who can seamlessly transition from the individual-based world of the clinician to the population-based world of the public-health professional, and he actively mentors students to help them learn to do the same.”

Selvarangan Ponnazhagan

“He always has maintained an open-door policy and makes time to speak with everyone in his lab. He has never made me feel inferior when asking a question and always was very patient with me no matter how many times a concept had to be explained.”

Rosalinda Roberts

“Dr. Roberts is a person who instills inspiration and optimism, provides guidance when needed, fosters independence, and works tirelessly to make sure her trainees are successful.”

Bisakha Sen

“Dr. Sen highly holds mentoring excellence and champions her students and mentees through commitment to professionalism, code of ethics, and beyond expectation quality. She is a role model to me and my peers and has inspired us to become better, life-long learning researchers.”

Jon Daniel Sharer

“Dr. Sharer created a collaborative atmosphere in the Biochemical Genetics Laboratory in which students were able to exchange ideas freely, observe the daily activities in the lab and see a clear transition from clinical to laboratory genetics.”

Susan Spezzini

“Her support, guidance, expert instruction, and willingness to share her experiences has endowed me with knowledge and understanding far beyond that which a person just entering their career as a professional educator would normally have.”

Günter Stolz

“It is amazing the numerous times I walked into his office frustrated and walked out with a newly found hope and enthusiasm. His enthusiasm for science is truly contagious and his undying optimism never failed to inject new hope when things seemed dire.”

Timothy Wick

“Dr. Wick always has a passion for inspiring students to do their best and reach for new heights that they would not otherwise have strived to obtain. I can say with absolute certainty that I would not be where I am today without the support and guidance of Dr. Wick, and I know this to be the case for many other students as well.”

Bradley Yoder

“Dr. Yoder expected the best from his students and postdoctoral fellows and communicated these expectations in a supportive and enthusiastic manner. This approach resulted in us striving to meet his standards of what he knew we could accomplish while also allowing us room to grow as researchers and individuals.”