Meet the Masters
by Eve Jacobs
A love for teaching and medicine were already in his blood as an undergraduate at Allentown College in Pennsylvania, so after graduation Timothy Dombrowski entered the Peace Corps to teach science in a secondary school in Malaysia for two and a half years. He then returned to the U.S. and entered the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1977.
It was in 1981, as a resident in internal medicine at SOM and Kennedy Memorial Hospital-University Medical Center, that his two loves came together. "The Department of Medicine took teaching seriously and faculty worked together to excel in the practice of medicine," he says. He finished his residency and chief medical resident year in 1985, and was asked to join the department he so admired.
In the last 15 years he has made his mark teaching second- and third-year medical students. In the early '90s, he developed the Health Promotion/ Disease Prevention course, which has become a staple of the curriculum. He has been course director of this second-year course since 1992. "Health is a concept we take for granted," he observes. "When there's no sign of disease, we assume the individual is healthy."
Dombrowski contends that this is a misconception. "We need to pay attention to risk factors," he explains. "That gives us an ability to predict the natural history of a disease, and to intervene to prevent it or catch it early." Human behavior is central to his focus. Factors such as nutrition, exercise, smoking, stress, family violence and occupational environment are viewed in relation to periods in the life cycle, and from generation to generation. Child abuse and violent behavior, he points out, are often repeated in multiple generations."We also look at disease prevention from a community and state perspective," he says.
The most innovative aspect - and the one that usually hits home - is an assignment that students get early in the course. "I ask each student to identify his or her own risks. Future physicians need to understand how difficult this is for patients," Dombrowski explains. "I ask them to check their cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure, and to keep a dietary log. How much calcium and iron, and how many calories, for instance, do they take in and how much energy do they expend during the day? I want them to see that if they're gaining weight, there is an imbalance." After the final exam, students turn in the log and Dombrowski discusses it with them.
"I follow these students into their third year and enjoy developing their clinical acumen and skills through informal Thursday evening sessions during their clinical rotation in Medicine III and as the faculty advisor for the Student Journal Club. I follow many of them after graduation as interns and medical residents," he says.
Why was he chosen as a Master Educator? "I spend a lot of time with my students. I don't intimidate them or put them on the spot. I want to make the learning experience enjoyable. I try to find out what each student knows because teaching starts where the individual's understanding stops," he explains.
In his Health Promotion class, Dombrowski gives students a varied experience, so they "will think about things in different ways." For instance, during a session on domestic violence, he brings in a four- to five-member panel, including an emergency room physician, a social worker who deals with domestic violence, a representative from the prosecutor's office and a judge from family court. "A physician needs to know what resources in the community he can tap into," he observes.
He also trains students to look beyond an individual patient: Is a case of severe diarrhea or shigella a single incidence, or one of many? Is the community at risk? "If students gain a great deal of experience in their early years and maintain their intellectual curiosity, they will become more accomplished physicians," he comments.
Dombrowski credits his department with providing many good role models and valuing good teaching, and his wife and two teenage children with "making tremendous sacrifices in terms of understanding what it is I do and the time I need to do it."
It's a big leap from student to Master Educator, but Jo-Ann Reteguiz accomplished it in 17 years. The 1983 alum of NJMS decided to become a doctor at a very young age. "I was 5 or 6 when I made the decision and I never wavered," she says. Her inspiration was a "country-type" doctor in her native Brooklyn, who, she says, worked seven days a week in a small office in a poor neighborhood.
The graduate of St. Peter's College in Jersey City worked all the way through her undergraduate years and halfway through medical school. "Financially it was a struggle," Reteguiz remembers, "but it turned out okay."
But this teaching-star remembers being "just an average medical student with average experiences."
" I didn't shine," she comments. "I met good teachers and some who were not as good. I took all the good and made a point not to take the rest." She completed her residency in internal medicine at NJMS, staying on an extra year as chief resident at the Veteran's Administration Medical Center in East Orange. This experience solidified her desire to become a teacher.
"If life is perfect," thought Reteguiz, "I will have the opportunity to run the course I loved so much." She calls this course - the Medicine Clerkship - the greatest influence of her professional life. Its goal is to provide third-year students with the clinical skills for solving problems and making decisions related to patient care.
"It was my first experience in the hospital, my first time working with patients and my first exposure to role models," she explains. She became course coordinator in 1995 and received her first Golden Apple award for excellence in teaching that year. She also received awards in 1996, '97, '99 and 2000. (No teacher can receive more than three in a row.)
What's so special about her teaching? "I get students to talk back," she says. "I don't allow belittlement or humiliation in the classroom. I'm strict but we do laugh." Reteguiz also changed the curriculum, so it's all case-based - no lectures and no slides.
"I try to create an easygoing, open atmosphere of collaborative learning," she continues. "Every point of view is heard. I believe in leading students to the right answer - they will get there."
Students also applaud her for her dedication, which often means 12- to 14-hour workdays. "I like what I do from beginning to end," she comments. "I like taking care of patients. I like sharing what I know with students."
She has also incorporated the standardized patient exam into the medicine clerkship. (Medical students interact with trained actors who simulate the symptoms of a disease or condition.) "Pilots and astronauts go through a simulation. You would want this for your doctor, too," she explains. Reteguiz says the students learn a great deal by getting feedback, particularly on their communications skills.
Among the top achievements of her career, Reteguiz puts her massive overhaul of the medicine clerkship right at the top. She coordinates 50 to 60 physicians - in communities throughout Essex, Union, Bergen and Passaic counties - who each take one of her students into their practices one day every week. She tries to find a practitioner in the student's community, if possible. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive. Reteguiz says she gets to know all 175 students in each graduating class - 14 or 15 at a time - by first name and last. She becomes attached to them, she says, and never misses a convocation.
And last but not least, Reteguiz chairs the Clinical Curriculum Subcommittee. Its purpose is to make sure all graduates have the skills to be doctors.
"We train very good doctors here," she remarks. "We want them to be even better. If we see even one deficit, we want to remedy it right away."
She has also written two books for students. One, called Mastering the OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination), is the first comprehensive book ever written to help medical students prepare for the standardized patient examination. The second is a study aid on physical diagnosis. She is hoping to publish the research she is conducting with the chairman of medicine, Dr. W.G. Johanson. They have collected data from almost 900 medical students and hope the results will help future students improve performance in the medical clerkship.
"I am always looking for ways to make better doctors," she concludes, "not only for our school but for all schools."
Craig Scanlan knows the value of a good teacher: He credits a few mentors from his undergraduate years with coaxing him to do things he didn't think possible. More than 30 years later, he still acknowledges their influence.
Scanlan set forth from college knowing he wanted a socially meaningful career, probably in teaching. Building on skills he had acquired during summer jobs, he earned his credentials in inhalation therapy, then set out to acquire a teaching position. In the first 10 years of his professional life, he started and developed a nationally recognized respiratory therapy program at Brookdale Community College. The community college environment has always recognized excellence in teaching, he comments. It was an environment in which he thrived.
Between 1977 and 1982, Scanlan completed master's and doctoral degrees in education at Rutgers University. He yearned to work in a university environment, where research and scholarship are encouraged. In 1980, he joined SHRP as an assistant professor, and as co-director of the master's degree program with Rutgers. Since that time, he has worked with many students who, in turn, have become teachers and leaders in the field, as well as publishing a considerable amount of educational research. Just this fall he took on the new responsibility of serving as director of SHRP's MS and PhD programs in health sciences.
He says that university teachers need to be good at the mechanics of presentation as well as active scholars in their fields. A teacher should bring into the classroom the excitement of working on the edges of the field, he notes. It helps to give students a future vision.
Scanlan's research includes a continuous process of reviewing and synthesizing the most current articles in cardiopulmonary science. Since 1988, he has served as co-editor of Egan's Fundamentals of Respiratory Care, a major textbook that is in its seventh edition. He estimates that 70 percent of the book is rewritten every four years, so the process is ongoing. He assesses about 1,400 articles in this specialty each month, choosing 700 abstracts and then 200 actual articles from that group to download for study.
He thinks the Internet is creating a fundamental change in education. "We now have an 11 million article Medline database," he observes. "What we need to do is give students the skills to take advantage of the new tools." Scanlan has created an extensive Web site for the Cardiopulmonary Sciences Department, which has a searchable data base of 50,000 articles. The site gets over 40,000 hits monthly.
In 1997, Scanlan created SHRP's first course entirely on the Web on the ethical and legal aspects of practice. He says the course was highly successful. "Although we never saw each other face-to-face, the discussions were more in-depth and more grounded in the readings and concepts I wanted them to master. Students showed good preparation and sound thinking," he comments.
As a Master Educator, he wants to set up a virtual center for teaching excellence in the health sciences that would serve both as an internal resource, as well as a model throughout the country. "We make assumptions that if you are a good clinician, you're a good teacher," he explains."But these are not the same skills." Scanlan would also like to establish a network of mentors at UMDNJ and a database of faculty with expertise in certain areas of teaching and educational research.
"Teaching is central to our mission," he concludes. "I hope the Guild can help foster a recognition of its importance."
Patrick Quaranta, DMD Associate Professor, Department of Oral Pathology, Biology and Diagnostic Sciences New Jersey Dental School (NJDS) Patrick Quaranta has been known to reach for the stars. In fact, his love of astronomy led him to the teaching profession.
He completed an astronomy minor at Villanova University, presenting planetarium shows during his final undergraduate year. It was then he discovered his passion for imparting knowledge.
Following graduation, he taught high school biology for two years, then decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, a dentist. He graduated from NJDS in 1973 and on graduation day was invited to join the faculty by one of his professors, Dr. George Yamane.
He's been able to successfully combine two careers plus his fervor for the stars, practicing and teaching dentistry for the last 27 years, and giving continuing education courses on the celestial bodies for many years. He started out teaching one day a week at the dental school, then went to three days in 1988 and became a full-time faculty member just last year.
"I consider teaching an honor and a privilege," he says. "I do it out of pure love."
His unflagging energy for teaching has inspired him to continuously develop and refine his presentation methods. Over the years, he says, his classes have become much more interactive. "My teaching used to be far more one-directional," he explains. "Now I teach via questioning." He also has brought computer-generated imaging into his classrooms.
"Most important, I am enthusiastic and that enthusiasm rubs off on the students," he comments. "I light up as soon as I see my first student."
Quaranta has taught a variety of courses at the dental school, including diagnostic sciences; treatment planning for the medically-compromised patient; clinical radiology; and problem-based learning, in which small groups of students study one patient's case, and collaborate to dig out information, diagnose the problem and plan the treatment. "Each case can go on for a few weeks," he explains. "We scrutinize the data for scientific power. Was it derived from a clinical trial? Was the trial properly designed?" It is a course he brought to the school and directed for many years.
His drive to become an ever-better teacher led him to complete a master's degree in educational psychology in 1997. "It helped me to become a scientific thinker," he says. Among Quaranta's plans for the future are to carve out time for his favorite hobby, fishing, and for Sally, his wife of 31 years, and their two children, Brian, chief resident in radiation oncology at Duke University Medical Center, and Stacey, a fourth grade teacher in the South Brunswick school system.
And he continues to work at becoming even more effective. A star in his own right, he knows what it takes to light up a classroom.
Science and music were equal loves of Jerome Langer when he entered Lawrence University in Wisconsin, but during his freshman year he realized that he couldn't pursue both. Langer chose physics, and his experience was an unusual one. The department had four faculty members and four students majoring in the field during his senior year. "At a good small liberal arts school, teaching is very important; and students get excellent opportunities to do research," he observes.
Yale's Department of Biophysics and Biochemistry recognized Langer's talent and respected his solid background. He started graduate work there in 1972 and finished his PhD in December of '76. "The faculty were great mentors. There was a sense of excitement about learning and about pushing the boundaries," he remembers. "It was fun and a lot of hard work."
Langer did postdoctoral work at UCLA. On a trip to his native New Jersey, he met Sidney Pestka, MD, then a Member of the Roche Institute, which Langer describes as an "open and exciting research institute." In the summer of 1982, he came back to New Jersey to join the team at Roche to do research on interferon.
When Pestka accepted the chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at RWJMS in 1986, he invited Langer to join the faculty. The new position proved challenging. "Being a faculty member, you juggle committee responsibilities, grant writing, teaching, student needs and research,"he comments. "You can't focus on just one thing."
One of his first teaching assignments was to revamp the med school lecture series in his department to include a section on genetics. "I had four lectures to take them from Mendel to recombinant DNA," he recalls. A critical change in his teaching occurred when Langer created his miniseries in written form, reserving class for discussion rather than lectures.
"The hardest part about teaching is getting students to open up and ask questions. I think all learning starts with questions," he comments. "You need to find your questions, then pose them in a clear, compelling way. To do research, you also need to start with questions."
High on Langer's list of current commitments is the summer Graduate Science Careers Program (GSCP) - to encourage college students from minority groups underrepresented in science to enter graduate school for research careers. The GSCP is part of a larger NIH grant-funded initiative in Piscataway (with Dr. Michael Liebowitz as principal investigator) to promote biomedical research among students from historically underrepresented minorities. Langer is the faculty director for GSCP, teaching an intensive seminar, and coordinating the placements of students with more than 200 faculty members from UMDNJ and Rutgers. These faculty work with students on laboratory research projects during the summers and sometimes during the school year. For Langer, the students' success has become a personal mission, but he says "without the generosity of faculty mentors there would be no program."
Why does he invest so much of himself? "To me it's an ethical issue. Once you've committed to another human being, you have to follow through," he says. "I also have an undisguised enthusiasm for teaching and students. I take my teaching seriously."
And what are his plans for the future? "I want to get more kids involved in science careers. I hope to find better ways to recruit African-American and other underrepresented minority students into the world of science. I also want to do more seminar work with graduate students - it helps me to learn new areas - and to expand my teaching using the Web. I always want to keep learning."
Catherine Kotecki has a vision. She sees the old notion of nurses as handmaidens toiling at the bedside evaporating, and a bold new image taking its place. "The core of modern nursing is theory, research and advanced nursing practice," she says. "It is this new vision that will carry us forward."
Kotecki knows the profession well. She's been a nurse for a quarter century, and has also been a teacher for that long. For 20 of those years, she worked at the bedside of critically ill patients, including patients in heart transplant programs, but she was always the one to instruct students, nurses and residents who were new to the specialty.
"I was constantly drawn to the teaching," she says. So in 1996, she completed a doctorate in nursing science with a focus on education, and decided it was time to make the move from the hospital to the university. She was hired that year by the School of Nursing to teach in a joint program with NJIT for registered nurses (RNs) studying for the BSN (bachelor of science in nursing degree) and in the school's master's degree nurse practitioner program.
She plays a pivotal role in helping students define their professional goals. "They come in with one view of their role. I work with their vision and help them to expand it," she explains.
Her home base is the Stratford campus, but her reach has an impact in the inner city of Camden. "I teach health promotion and disease prevention in the community. I bring students into the community and teach them how to teach. I then bring information back to the campus classroom and use it to develop research," she explains.
Some of the work she does with students stretches over several courses. In the Church Nurse Training Program that she oversees in Camden, students teach with Kotecki during the spring semester. In the fall, students learn techniques for evaluating the effectiveness of their teaching. Then during the following spring, the students mentor new students coming into the program.
During the past year, Kotecki and her students have created a folic acid awareness program, funded by the Southern Jersey Chapter of March of Dimes. (It has been shown that when pregnant women take 4 micrograms daily, the incidence of certain neural tube defects are minimized.) "The point is to use innovative techniques in teaching. We don't lecture," she says. Last fall, students worked with pregnant women at Gamma House, the site of an Early Head Start Program in the community, to create a cookbook based on folic acid-enhanced versions of their favorite recipes. The cookbook - Gamma Gourmets - will be published shortly.
Kotecki points to the number of "lessons" learned by students working on this project. "It involves creating a plan, developing curriculum, needs assessment, writing grant reports, conducting focus groups, designing questionnaires and the actual teaching," she says. "After publication, we'll survey the women and analyze the data." The Southern Jersey Chapter of March of Dimes has funded the effort for two years.
Kotecki would like to expand her program's reach into health promotion work with chronically and critically ill individuals. Her expertise in cardiac care will guide students' efforts with congestive heart failure patients. "Nurses work well with families and the day-to-day management of illness," she says.
She points to the "step-wise fashion" in which nurses are educated. "They're different than other students," she explains. "They're always working, and they go in and out of school - studying two years for the RN, then two more years for the BSN, then two additional years for the master's degree. They challenge you from the work world, and they are very astute in their assessment as consumers." Kotecki calls her election to the Master Educators' Guild the "pinnacle of her career." "I've read thousands of pages of papers. I've heard thousands of stories. I've been there day-in and day-out," she states. "This award recognizes something intangible about teaching - the impact you have had on someone's life."
There are medical students who go home and think about death and dying, a topic that never before crossed their minds. Others think about the death of loved ones after the first few sessions of his class. So says Nagaswami Vasan, Director of Gross Anatomy, a hands-on dissection course for first-year medical students. This group of mostly young people -many who have never seen a dead body in their lives - spend three hours each day in the laboratory with their cadavers and another three to four hours daily studying the course material. What they learn in these long and strenuous sessions will certainly set the stage for their future understanding of the human body and how it works.
Vasan educates students about the cadaver donor program and tries to help them understand their early reactions to the dissection. "I think they should keep a diary for two weeks. Then we could talk about their feelings," he states. "I want to know if they feel they have become more compassionate towards other human beings. Certainly that is one of the adjustments students should go through on their way to becoming doctors."
Vasan has dedicated the last five years to the monumental task of revamping the entire curriculum so that everything students learn is relevant to their clinical training during the third and fourth years of school. To accomplish this, he spent almost two years attending morning clinics in many disciplines, talked with specialists in these fields and discussed the medical education process with students. "I also read many, many books and gave a great deal of thought to how my anatomy course relates to their clinical training. I love learning," he explains.
Vasan says that students used to be required to memorize an enormous amount of information, but testing did not require them to critically think through a problem and apply what they had learned. "Now they are required to apply their knowledge," he explains. "I will ask them to diagnose a patient's problem and to explain the patient's illness with their knowledge."
All of his painstaking effort has paid off in big successes for the students, who say they no longer forget the information after taking the exams. They test very high in standardized exams, making this one of the top anatomy programs in the country. "Twenty-five percent of the class got honors in a recent standardized test," states Vasan proudly. He is currently developing an exam to see what students retain after one year, and will strengthen the program where retention is weak. He is always thinking of ways to improve his teaching. "I try to make the course enjoyable," he says. "If it is painful, students won't retain what they've learned."
Vasan has either been nominated or won the Golden Apple Award for 20 years running. He recently received the UMDNJ-Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching. "I love my teaching. I try to understand and learn from everything and everyone - I even watch ER." He also acknowledges the help from his own teacher and mentor, Dr. John Siegel, chairman of his department.
"And when the students knock on the door to thank you, or send e-mails expressing their appreciation, you feel good. Then you think: 'Well, I can do a little more.' And you do."
Lloyd Forman says his doctorate in biology from the University of Kentucky was broad enough to prepare him to teach almost any topic in the biological sciences. And this range of expertise has allowed him great flexibility in the world of academic medicine.
He started his career doing research in developmental physiology, looking at hemoglobin transition during amphibian metamorphosis (in this case how tadpoles become frogs), a process he says is not unlike the hemoglobin transition that humans go through at birth. But his real interests led him to the opposite end of the spectrum, and into the budding specialization of aging.
Forman did a National Institute on Aging funded postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Physiology at Michigan State University from 1979 until 1982, studying the effects of aging on the neuroendocrine system in rats. He was hired by SOM in 1982 into a research position, but shortly thereafter was invited to lecture on the endocrine system and on aging.
His portfolio continued to expand as he steadily added more and more lectures in physiology and pharmacology to his teaching load. His areas of concentration include endocrine and gastrointestinal physiology and gastrointestinal, endocrine and central nervous system pharmacology. In 1995, he became course director of the pharmacology course, which is delivered over two semesters in the second year of the medical students' curriculum. It is taught in parallel with pathology and medicine to provide a systems approach to their medical training.
The area of aging is high on Forman's list of academic interests. He has been a member of SOM's Center for Aging since its inception. In 1989, the department garnered a five-year Health and Human Services grant to establish a Geriatric Medicine and Dentistry Fellowship Program within the Center for Aging, which provides cutting edge training to fellows in the care of older people and helps fellows to develop skills in academic research. In 1990, he became the coordinator of its research program.
As such, Forman plays an instrumental role in carrying out the Center's mission. He oversees research article and proposal preparation, medical student and fellow research, and teaches at the Center. He is dedicated to educating a generation of physicians with expertise in this field, who can both practice and take on important roles in academic medicine. "I see geriatricians as general physicians for those over 55. Our goal is to provide excellent training, and research guidance and support," he says. Dementia evaluation of patients, and treatment of the patients and their families, are areas of great import in this specialization, he states.
Many of the more than 20 graduates of the Geriatric Medicine and Dentistry Fellowship Program have assumed academic leadership positions in the field of aging nationwide - as far away as Texas and Missouri.
What keeps Forman going? "My most important motivator is my interest in research," he says. "I try to keep current in research pertaining to the areas I teach." His own current areas of research include the study of pain perception and biochemical regulators of pain perception, as well as end-of-life issues in the elderly.
He keeps on top of all developments in physiology and pharmacology, and integrates this wealth of up-to-date information into the students' curriculum. "There's barely enough time to cover pharmacology during the second year before the Boards," he comments. Forman tries to compile all the needed information into handouts, and to write up cases to help students prepare for these exams.
Although he always brings energy and enthusiasm to his job, he says his naming to the Master Educators' Guild has lit a fresh fire. "I'm inspired to do something new," he says, "to meet with other Guild members and play a role in its projects."
"I'm thrilled to have this opportunity," he concludes, "and thankful to have had a lot of help along the way from so many colleagues."
With a bachelor's degree in animal science from Rutgers' Cook College, Jeffrey Wilusz went on to earn a PhD in virology from Duke University in 1985. It was while doing postdoctoral work in molecular biology at Princeton that he was bitten by the teaching bug. "I began teaching a few undergraduates and saw how my enthusiasm could help motivate students," he remembers.
He joined the faculty of New Jersey Medical School and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in 1989 and within one year became director of the graduate program in microbiology and molecular genetics. His vision included building up the students' levels of enthusiasm and motivation. "I saw it as a great challenge to create a responsive environment," he says.
In 1992, he was part of the committee that launched the ethics course for GSBS students. Basic scientific conduct and misconduct, animal and human experimentation, winning grants from the NIH, bio-warfare, patents and copyrights, and publishing guidelines are among the course's hot topics. Because it was mandated, Wilusz says he expected the students to react negatively. "We didn't lecture. We used various scenarios to show students how to survive in the research environment," he says. They realized the value of the program and gave it a big thumbs-up. With each success came new responsibilities. In 1996, Wilusz took over the MD/PhD program, consisting of two years of medical school, three years of PhD training and then two more years of medical school. "Although some individual students did well in the program, it lacked overall organization and had a high dropout rate," he says. "My mission was to recreate it." He set up an interdepartmental program with a clear chain of command and a defined mission. "What we've created is very good," he states. The 1997 accreditation team rated it one of the outstanding attributes of the school, and called it a model for interdepartmental programs.
Wilusz says the goal is for graduates to enter academic medicine, pharmaceutical medicine or translational research. He has been further developing the program to train physicians who want to go into clinical research. Wilusz has taught a variety of courses, including virology, biochemistry, cell biology and molecular genetics, but his own research - in which he has developed a novel approach to messenger RNA turnover - is very near and dear to his heart. His team of eight includes PhD and master's degree candidates whom he personally trains in bench research. "You focus a lot of energy on someone when you work together so closely. You recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and you work with them on the weaknesses. It's such fun seeing students develop," he remarks.
Why did he get this award? He names two of his major strengths as an educator: a recognition that organizing information in a context that's easily recognized is very important to students; and knowing that a teacher's enthusiasm is infectious. "We're here to create active learners," Wilusz concludes. "Computer science and the human genome project are having such an impact and everything is moving so fast. We have to make sure that our students know how to deal with the world of biology, whatever that world will be."
Judith Amorosa did not speak English when she immigrated to the U.S. from Budapest. But there were no special classes or tutoring coming her way. Rejected by the local elementary schools because they were not equipped to teach her, she began her American education at an inner-city high school in Los Angeles. And she managed to excel.
Amorosa's father spoke 12 languages and was amazingly curious and knowledgeable, she says. The family had no money, but both parents valued education "We had no TV or radio," she remembers, "but my father lectured us every day about current events, geography, about everything. I loved it."
Amorosa was groomed to be a doctor "from the moment I was born," she states. Her mother, an x-ray technician, was not able to fulfill her own dream of becoming a physician, but knew what she wanted for her daughter. "There was never any question about what I would do when I grew up," she observes.
She graduated from Long Island University and UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, and went on to complete a pediatric internship before deciding the specialty was not for her. But radiology came "perfectly naturally" to her, because, she says, she was always very visual. Amorosa was among a small number of women entering the field at the time.
After completing a three-year residency and one-year fellowship in diagnostic radiology at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York, she landed her first job at King's County - Downstate Medical Center, where she had the good fortune to study with internationally recognized radiology educator Dr. Lucy Frank Squire. At the same time she also had the opportunity to specialize in thoracic radiology. By now she was married to fellow physician Louis Amorosa, an endocrinologist at RWJMS whom she had met while still in medical school. They have raised four children, lived initially in Piscataway and now live in Somerville.
In 1980, she came across the river to accept the challenge of setting up a medical school program in radiology at RWJMS. With that success under her belt, she was asked to develop a radiology residency program from scratch in 1984. She succeeded in that as well. "It's been reviewed three times and approved three times," she says proudly.
But teaching is where her heart is. Like her father, she inspires students to love learning. She lectures to first year students, conducts small group sessions for those in their second year and gives a short, very concentrated course to third year students. "Radiology has not been part of the core curriculum, like medicine and surgery," she observes, "so there's barely enough time." But the Senior Radiology Clerkship, a three-week elective course, draws 75 to 95 percent of students, a testimony to her teaching. Because she considers attendance to be one of the biggest problems in medical school, she is currently "moving in the Web direction."
Amorosa is thrilled about the establishment of the Master Educators' Guild because it focuses attention on teaching. She thinks that two of her major strengths as an educator are her ability to organize teaching material and a willingness to make herself available. "I do spend a lot of time with students," she says. "You can be brilliant, but if you don't give of yourself, it won't work."
In addition to her teaching, she spends six to eight hours advising each third- and fourth-year medical student considering a residency in radiology. She has also established a data base profiling approximately 50 students from RWJMS who have entered the field since 1988. "This is a great tool when we advise students," she says.
Amorosa credits her husband of almost 30 years with a real understanding of what it has taken for her to be a physician and a teacher, and with sharing the responsibilities of a child-filled household. "He's an excellent teacher himself. We did whatever we could to make it easier for the other," she comments.
The radiologist observes that the word doctor comes from the Latin word docere, meaning to teach. "A guild is a very good idea," she says. "Teaching is a trade. And like other trades, we need to mentor younger colleagues. And our younger colleagues need to see that teaching is appreciated.
"I'm so excited," she concludes. "Everyone is always talking about the multi-million dollar NIH grants, and they should. But they never talk about teaching. Now we're talking about teaching."
What are the key attributes of a good teacher? "Being reasonable," says Joel Martin. "Also being approachable and consistent." While these may not sound like exceptional qualities, they've certainly helped Martin - the son of a general dentist - earn the respect of his students. "They can come to me, even if we've had some differences," he says, "and it won't be a negative experience."
Martin graduated from the University of Michigan Dental School in 1974, and taught for two years at Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas. His first teaching experience was a good one, but he decided that he needed to specialize. He completed specialty training in prosthodontics at Temple University in 1979, where he met his wife, Kathy, also a dentist. He joined the UMDNJ faculty in September of 1980.
In the course of his teaching career, he has held a range of academic positions, including faculty member in operative dentistry and prosthodontics, division director, acting chair, vice chair and associate dean. "It's helped me look at education, and teaching, in many different ways; and to observe what seems to work, and what doesn't," he says.
It's made him aware that dental students are under an enormous amount of pressure, responding to the demands of many courses and many teachers. Martin says that both students and teachers need to approach each course as part of an entire curriculum - not unrelated segments of information to be mastered.
He has coupled these insights with a drive to stay current in his teaching methods. In the summer of 1993, he returned to full-time teaching. It was a time when the utilization of computers to enhance lecture presentation was just beginning, he recalls. Martin was right at the forefront of this change.
In fact, in the winter of 1995 he was the first NJDS faculty member to present an entire course on the computer. "The response was fantastic," Martin remembers. "As a teacher, you know when you have the audience in hand." The students' appreciation inspired him to continue learning.
This self-taught expertise has made him a sort of computer guru to other faculty members, as well as accessible to students via e-mail. They know he's always reachable, and contact him frequently with questions, comments or just to say hi after they've finished his course.
Martin observes that students today are far more aware of the social implications of being a professional, and very willing to participate in community projects. "I'm very impressed with today's students and I'm always amazed by what they've been able to accomplish in their short lives."
What does it mean to him to be chosen as a charter member of the Master Educators' Guild? "To be recognized helps me feel my career has been meaningful," he comments.
"I'm a bit surprised. Other faculty are as much or more deserving," he continues. "I've learned so much from them.
"I'm mostly business, but perhaps students are impressed with the sincerity of it. I don't think I do anything so great, but I do keep trying."
Going back to school after a summer's break can sometimes be quite a challenge. But returning to school after a 19-year hiatus is a bit more daunting.
When Marian Stuart went back to the books, she was in earnest about her goals. With her youngest of three children in kindergarten, she earned a master's degree and a doctorate in psychology from Rutgers, and completed 2,000 hours of supervised clinical work, in just three and a half years.
"I was very motivated," comments Stuart.
With a newly-minted PhD in hand, she was hired to work for St. Clare's Mental Health Center in January of 1975, where she stayed for two and a half years. She came to RWJMS in April of '98 to administer a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant on quality assurance in medical education, specifically on interviewing skills of future primary care physicians. She immediately developed a lecture on how to address patients' psychosocial issues along with the biological ones.
Over the years, her job has shifted from primarily administrative to entirely teaching. She took off from this single lecture and created a well-received 15-week course, which she presented first with collaborator David Swee, MD, and now alone, for family medicine department faculty and fellows, and MPH students in the family health track. The primary aim of the program is to help participants develop the in-depth skills needed to be good teachers for adults. Stuart also instructs residents one-on-one and in weekly seminars.
The book she published in 1986 with Joseph A. Lieberman, MD, MPH, called "The Fifteen-Minute Hour, Applied Psychotherapy for the Primary Care Physician," has proved to be quite a success, with a reprinting in 1993 and a third edition planned for 2001. Lieberman and Stuart have been invited to discuss their book, either independently or together, more than 200 times. Most recently, she gave a week-long workshop in Denmark and spoke before the Royal Society of Medicine in London.
The authors propose that primary care doctors set aside a short amount of time during every patient visit to find out what is going on in the individual's life and how the patient is handling it. Stuart says their technique - which can take just a minute and a half - helps the patient connect body and mind, and ends up saving a considerable amount of time for both doctor and patient.
"The feedback says it works," says Stuart, who is chair of the education committee of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. It is presented in textbooks on family medicine, and has been favorably discussed in JAMA, Medical Economics and other journals.
Why was she chosen as a charter member of the Master Educators' Guild? "I love teaching because I love learning," Stuart explains. In her small clinical practice she says she teaches new ways of looking at life and dealing with problems.
As a Guild member, Stuart says it would be wonderful to help make teaching more important and more learning-centered:"I think teaching is the most exciting thing to do - to have an impact on how people live their lives and how doctors practice. There is no better way to spend my energy."
The magazine of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey