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School of Public Health News November 15, 2023

Recently named Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the UAB School of Public Health, Gregory Pavela, Ph.D. was selected to receive the UAB President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, which honors those who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in teaching.

Pavela and Health Behavior graduate students at the American Public Health Association’s 2022 Annual Meeting in BostonPavela and Health Behavior graduate students at the American Public Health Association’s 2022 Annual Meeting in Boston Twelve faculty were chosen this year with honorees representing each school, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Honors College and the Graduate School. Pavela is an associate professor in the Department of Health Behavior and has recently taught at the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels, including courses on the social and behavioral determinants of health, public health law and ethics, and survey design and analysis.

“It’s difficult to name a favorite course that I teach because I honestly enjoy teaching all of them,” said Pavela. “Although, I especially like the courses that leave students walking away feeling like they have added a tangible skill to their toolkits, be it the ability to apply a framework for ethical analysis or how to test whether the effect of a behavioral intervention varies across subgroups.”

Pavela began teaching roughly fourteen years ago and recalls that his first day of teaching at the University of Florida was also the same day he successfully defended his master’s thesis. In his nominations, his students describe him as approachable and feedback focused. One mentee said, “Dr. Pavela was constantly asking for feedback to help him help us – even using prompts and response request using the best practices we learned about in class (a survey design course), that is, requesting feedback from students in a manner that reinforced the principles of the course. There was no doubt he was not only available to us throughout the course, but actually very excited to talk with us about the materials as well.”

Recently, Pavela’s favorite course to teach was PUH 204: Social and Behavioral Determinants of Health. Not solely because of the course content, but because in this course, he collaborated with two School of Public Health teaching apprentices and PhD students, Whitney Neale and Robin Riddle. “Robin taught the in-person offering of PUH 204 this year, and it was gratifying to watch her grow into an instructor by bringing her own style and creativity into the classroom, as well as see her superb ability to connect with students and facilitate discussions,” said Pavela.

One faculty nominator said of Pavela “I believe his effectiveness as a teacher is driven by his constant striving to find new and better ways to explain concepts and to develop creative assignments that reinforce those concepts through application. And among students, he is well known for his fairness, compassion, kindness and availability.”

Pavela says he is very grateful for this recognition. Though much of his work happens in the classroom with students, or in his office grading assignments, the award reminds him that he belongs to a community of professional educators at UAB who value good teaching.

In addition to his positions as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor in the Department of Health Behavior, Pavela is also the Assistant Director of the Survey Research Unit, housed in the UAB School of Public Health. See the full list of recipients of the 2023 Excellence in Teaching Awards.

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