President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching goes to 11

Written by 

Eleven faculty were honored with the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching during the annual Faculty Awards Convocation, Wednesday, Feb. 23.

Other faculty honored during the ceremonies included Charles Watkins, Ph.D., professor of chemistry, The Ellen Gregg Ingalls/UAB National Alumni Society Award for Lifetime Achievement in Teaching; Andrew Keitt, Ph.D., associate professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2010 Alabama Professor of the Year Award; and Tamilane Blaudeau, Ph.D., research assistant professor in Human Studies, the Odessa Woolfolk Community Service Award.

The 2010 honorees for the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching represent each school, the College of Arts & Sciences and the Joint Health Sciences departments.

colin_davis_webColin J. Davis, Arts & Sciences

Davis, Ph.D., a professor of social and behavioral science, was an Ingalls Teaching Award recipient in 1997 and Ireland Prize winner in 2010. He regularly offers his time outside the classroom to students, graduates, parents, colleagues and the community. As part of his outreach, Davis has been the content professor in American History for Birmingham public schools, and he hosts parents of incoming UAB students in parent orientation. Davis often assists students in research, and he is the co-chair of Graduate Student Research Days. Davis also holds the attention of his students in the classroom. One student says, “He presents information that I have never learned before and makes it interesting.” A colleague adds, “Colin holds his students to a high academic standard and knows how to help them meet these standards with innovative methods. In short, Colin is a remarkable teacher.” Davis routinely has the highest student-evaluation numbers on the IDEA surveys, often averaging five on a five-point scale. Davis teaches students at all levels in courses ranging from the U.S. History survey to a graduate seminar in Comparative Labor History. He also has taught the graduate seminar on Research and Writing — one of the most important and difficult courses in the curriculum — and a Freshman Learning Community course on Social and Behavioral Sciences, which he developed himself.


larry_delucas_webLawrence DeLucas, Optometry

DeLucas, O.D., Ph.D, embodies the essence of the UAB Presidential Teaching Award, colleagues say. The director of the Center for Bio-Physical Science and Engineering has been a significant contributor to training graduate and professional students. DeLucas also has a long and successful history of fostering educational outreach programs involving K-12, undergraduate and graduate students. He makes more than 20 presentations at middle and high schools and colleges throughout the state each year. DeLucas has served on 17 dissertation committees and has been the thesis advisor for three master’s and seven doctoral students. DeLucas, who flew on the space shuttle Columbia in 1992, uses his unique personal experiences and enthusiasm to keep students engaged in the classroom. He is well known among students for his interesting, informative and memorable lectures in biochemistry. “He engages students while clearly presenting complex information,” one student says. A colleague adds, “The combination of his experiences in space, and adapting it to the given scope of the lecture, have always had a marvelous impact on students, and more than once, I have literally seen jaws dropping — including my own.”


Filler_Steven_webSteven J. Filler, Dentistry

Filler, D.D.S, is a mentor and teacher for dental students, from pre-application to Continuing Dental Education, and associate dean for Students, Alumni and External Affairs. He has made 65 Continuing Dental Education presentations in the past five years and lectures extensively on some of the most demanding areas of dentistry: medical emergencies, infection control, OSHA and Dental IV sedation and anesthesia. His presentations are informative, interesting and interactive. Filler prepares students to excel technically and as ethical leaders in the profession. “He genuinely cares and wants to see students succeed on all levels,” one student says.

“He goes out of his way to reach out to students who are remotely interested in dentistry and helps guide them to or from the profession,” another student adds. “I think this last point is important because he’s more than a recruiter for the profession — he’s a friend and advisor, who has the potential dental student’s best interest at heart. The bottom line: he’s going to be honest with you whether he thinks you’d make a good dental student or not.”


Grice_Steve_webSteve Grice, Business

Grice, Ph.D., a professor of accounting in the School of Business, also is the Scholar-in-Residence for Carr, Riggs & Ingram LLC. He has broad accounting experience and his true-to-life experiences are an asset in the classroom. Grice also is an accomplished researcher, active in professional associations and serves the community and his profession. Colleagues say Grice has “an open-door policy for both students and colleagues,” and that he has great patience with students struggling to understand complex accounting concepts and procedures. His student teaching evaluations are among the highest in the department, and he consistently ranks in the top 10 percent in the excellent teacher category. Students speak glowingly of his effective and varied teaching methods, often integrating traditional and online technologies. They also laud his professional and inspirational mentorship, high ethical standards, passion for his profession and his availability. “He showed us common mistakes made by accountants and how to counteract them,” one former student says. “He also enhanced our critical-thinking skills during group presentations. He always stressed the importance of maintaining strong ethics and professional behaviors.”


Jennings_patricia_webPatricia Jennings, Health Professions

Jennings, Dr. P.H., a professor in the Department of Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences, is a nationally recognized authority on infectious disease. From 2006 to 2011, Jennings’ role as either project director or investigator for the Alabama/North Carolina STD Prevention and Training Center has been to educate practitioners and public health directors in seven states on the latest treatment and prevention guidelines. Because of her involvement with the CDC, Jennings has been able to extend her teaching, precepting and mentoring activities within and beyond UAB. She is regularly invited to lecture on dermatology and sexually transmitted diseases to first-year students at other physician assistant programs and precepts clinical-year students for their infectious disease rotations at the Birmingham Veterans Administration HIV/AIDS clinic. Jennings is committed to ensure that each student learns vital information and receives quality clinical experiences. Her role with the CDC sometimes enables her to bring information to her students before it is published nationally. Jennings is recognized by faculty and students at UAB and throughout the Southeast for her enthusiasm, knowledge and commitment to education. “My attending doctors were impressed with how proficient and comfortable I was with STD-focused exams and treatment,” says one former student of her training under Jennings.


nir_menachemi_webNir Menachemi, Public Health

Menachemi, Ph.D., associate professor in Health Care Organization and Policy, is director of the doctoral program for Public Health. He has revised and restructured the program, encouraged the faculty to develop new courses and inspired a high level of faculty involvement. In addition, he has shaped a doctoral student culture of excellence with high standards and expectations for all students in the program. “Menachemi spends countless hours mentoring Dr. PH students and has developed numerous joint-author papers with students,” says a colleague. “He has truly motivated and inspired his students to high levels of achievement.” Menachemi spends considerable time counseling students on career and educational goals and promoting professional ethics and values. In the classroom, he routinely receives outstanding teaching evaluations across a variety of courses. “He used a teaching style focused much more on class involvement than lecture, and his ability to keep the classroom engaged and interested helped to facilitate constructive class discussions,” says one student. “After many conversations with him, he helped me create an internship working hands-on in the field. He opened the doors to opportunities that were life-changing.”


marti_rice_webMarti Rice, Nursing

Rice, Ph.D., a professor of Family/Child Health and Caregiving, teaches graduate courses and mentors Ph.D. candidates. “She demonstrates exceptional standards for learning, scholarship, professionalism, mentoring and service,” says one colleague. Rice is considered an expert nurse educator and scientist by her contemporaries; they say she kindles student and faculty passion and advancement. Rice has been instrumental in developing the Leadership Education for Child Health Nursing Program, drawing from her professional experiences as a pediatric nurse. Many students in the program — bachelor’s of science in nursing to doctoral — have achieved a high level of functioning relatively early in their careers thanks to her time and mentorship. “She is an exemplary role model as a faculty member, scientist and nursing leader,” says a group of former students. “Her promotion of ethical and professional values through her own actions serve as important role modeling behaviors for us a future nursing faculty. She possesses expertise and knowledge of research in nursing, but also compassion and dedication to her students.”


nathaniel_robin_webNathaniel Robin, Joint Health Sciences

Robin, M.D., a professor of genetics, has a comprehensive knowledge of genetics, and colleagues say he effectively communicates this to students, patients, fellow attending physicians and genetic counselors. He was nominated for an Argus award in 2006 and 2007 and won the award in 2008 and 2009. He lectures across schools and departments. “He never, and I truly mean never, misses an opportunity to teach about genetics to any and all,” says a colleague. Colleagues say Robin has made a significant impact in the Department of Pediatrics since joining UAB in 2003. “He is constantly teaching and educating,” a colleague says. “He truly changed the face of genetics at this university and profoundly changed it in Pediatrics in the area of teaching and awareness of genetics.” Students appreciate his approach to teaching and his impact is noticeable, they say. “In areas of clinical practice around UAB I’ve noticed both medical students and residents using phrases such as ‘this one deserves a Dr. Robin approach,’” one student says. “This is code for: This is a scientifically difficult case requiring in-depth reading, a plainspoken discussion of the clinical reality with the family and patience that the conversation may be lengthy to satisfy the family’s needs.”


jane_roy_webJane Roy, Education

Roy, Ph.D., an associate professor in Human Studies, through her professional service activities with the Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance and the National Strength and Conditioning Association, has supported student learning and professional development. She has published more than 30 peer-reviewed research manuscripts and presented at numerous conferences. Roy has earned the respect and admiration of students and colleagues alike. They recognize her as a highly committed educator who is committed to teaching with enthusiasm, integrity and strong scholarship. Roy has successfully incorporated technology in the classroom by using Blackboard and Web-based assessments into her courses. Her syllabi and lectures are well prepared and organized, and she effectively communicates, listens and connects with her students so they feel open to ask questions and speak. “Her class syllabi were among the most detailed, organized, and explanatory of all classes I have taken,” one student says. “She displays genuine excitement for what she teaches and is able to grab and keep the attention of her students.” She also is an inspirational role model in the field of exercise physiology, in which women traditionally have been under-represented. “Jane teaches her students to be critical thinkers who are accountable and responsible for their high-quality competence in the practice and delivery of exercise physiology concepts, ideas, and services,” says a colleague.


nancy_tofil_2011_1Nancy Tofil, Medicine

Tofil, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics, has a long and distinguished history of interest in medical education. She is the co-director of the Pediatric residency program, co-module director of the Integration module for the Medical School’s Preclinical Curriculum, a member of the Dean’s Council on Medical Education and the developer of the Pediatric Simulation Lab. Through the Pediatric Simulation Program, Tofil exposes all third-year medical students, pediatric residents, nurses, surgical assistant students, pharmacy students and pediatric fellows to real-life simulations in a protected environment. Tofil has developed more than 30 courses in simulation, ranging from special topics courses for second year medical students to postgraduate simulations for practicing pediatricians to simulation programs on teaching fellows how to teach. She also has developed programs for simulations of neonates to geriatrics and orthopedics. Tofil also has mentored third-year medical students, which has led to a number of presentations at national meetings focusing on simulation. Students praise her for her ability to teach complex materials clear and concise. “Nancy once stood in the middle of a group of medical students clearly befuddled by the 55-minute PowerPoint by the official lecturer,” one student recalls. “As is often the case, her off-the-cuff style met the needs of her audience. She was clear, concise, authoritative and responsive. I continue to carry my notes from this session on a simple card in my back pocket; it remains one of the few pieces of paper I refer to in our digital age.”


peter_walsh_webPeter Walsh, Engineering

Walsh, Ph.D., a research professor in mechanical engineering, is consistently rated one of the best teachers in the school. Colleagues say he excels in the classroom and the laboratory. In fact, he brings the latest results from his research into the classroom, making the subject more relevant to the students. Walsh conducts research in the area of carbon sequestration in collaboration with Southern Company and the Department of Energy. The goal of the research is to sequester CO2 generated from fossil-fuel plants by forcing the CO2 below round. This research is addressing a critical environmental problem in the United States and especially in Alabama, where much of our energy is generated from fossil fuels. Walsh’s research is very interesting to the students. After they are exposed to the research in the classroom, both undergraduate and graduate students work in Walsh’s laboratory creating one-on-one teaching opportunities. “He has been a revitalizing breath of fresh air for my academic career, and he is a person who has made me excited about learning,” one student says. “One can tell that he is a man of extreme high character and knowledge that some can only hope to achieve someday,” added another.