Sixteen UAB professors from five schools and the Joint Health Science departments have been nominated as recipients of the inaugural Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentorship.
The award 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 and creator of the award.
“This award recognizes faculty members 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 so many different disciplines and departments across campus were nominated for their dedication to assisting students, postdoctoral fellows and other trainees realize their career goals.”
Awards will be presented to the recipients Friday, March 7 during a ceremony beginning at 2 p.m. in the Hill University Center Great Hall. Honorees will receive an engraved plaque and a bound volume that contains the nomination letters written on their behalf.
This past fall, the Graduate School invited current and former undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to nominate faculty whom they believe provided excellent mentorship. For a faculty member to be selected for the award, at least three letters of nomination had to be submitted on their behalf.
The schools with selected faculty are Education, Nursing, Medicine, Natural Sciences & Mathematics, Social & Behavioral Sciences and the Joint Health Science departments.
The nominators were asked to consider personal characteristics, excellence in teaching and communication and mentoring characteristics in considering whom to recommend for the award.
Among the characteristics of an outstanding mentor documented in the nomination letters:
• Demonstrates effective leadership skills
• Is enthusiastic
• Is respectful
• Makes difficult information and concepts understandable
• Welcomes questions and alternative interpretations
• Believes in the importance of mentoring
• Provides inspiration and optimism
• Encourages creative thinking
• Celebrates trainee successes
• Serves as a role model
The 2008 inaugural Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentorship recipients: Gypsy Abbott, Ph.D., Education–Human Studies; Susan Appel, Ph.D., Nursing– Adult/Acute Health); Susan Bellis, Ph.D., Physiology and Biophysics; Jeffrey Clair, Ph.D., Sociology; Christine Curcio, Ph.D., Ophthalmology; Retta Evans, Ph.D., Education–Human Studies; John Hablitz, Ph.D., Neurobiology; James Hagood, M.D., Pediatrics; Gary Hunter, Ph.D., Education–Human Studies; Raymond Ideker, M.D., Medicine; Robin Lorenz, M.D./Ph.D., Pathology; John Mountz, M.D., Medicine; Peter Prevelige, Ph.D., Microbiology; Robert Thacker, Ph.D., Biology; Dan Welch, Ph.D., Molecular and Cellular Physiology; and Dale Williams, Ph.D., Preventive Medicine.
The faculty receiving the award this year will be not eligible to be nominated again for at least three years.
The recipients are:
Dr. Abbott is a caring person, a reflective practitioner and a knowledgeable teacher. She has developed a great wealth of knowledge and experience related to the dissertation writing process, and she freely shares this information with newcomers to the field. I find her collaborative approach to be refreshing in a world that is too often marked by competition. … Dr. Abbott has facilitated many opportunities for me and other graduate students as she really cares how our training and education benefits us professionally in employment settings.
Dr. Appel is a beaming representation of what a mentor represents. Her true compassion and drive for excellence showed in every class she conducted and how thoughtfully she guided her students. I am thankful that she has touched my life and helped me to achieve my goals. On many occasions she offered guidance on my work, provided professional insight and pushed me when I thought I could go no further. … Dr. Appel clearly articulates the vision and is committed to each student receiving a rewarding and enlightening research experience to help transform them to become a premier researcher.
One thing I have always loved about Susan is her hands-on approach to training and mentorship. In Susan’s lab I was trained from day one the way all of her students are – personally by Susan. This hands-on training extends not only to the lab bench, but to the writing of grants, dissertations and manuscripts. Though she is one of the busiest human beings I have ever known, Susan’s door and Susan’s heart are always open to her people. … Susan’s selflessness encourages motivation and inspiration in each of her staff with the endless amount of personal attention we receive as well as the active mentoring she gives daily.
Jeffrey Michael Clair
Jeffrey spends a great deal of time with students. He promotes collaboration and innovation. More important, he creates an environment of high expectations that nonetheless promotes a sense of respect and care for his students. He demands that students take risks, but he also stands by them when they don’t necessarily succeed the first time around. … I chose to attend graduate school at UAB in no small part because of the work and support of Dr. Clair. He motivated me to constantly push myself and to leave a positive mark with my career.
Dr. Curcio constantly encourages developing much more than just laboratory skills and helps establish a foundation for a successful future in research. Next to a broad spectrum of lab techniques she also provides advice for the development of an efficient work organization. She always is approachable and is a patient advisor who understands an individuals’ needs. … She is an extremely skilled and profoundly knowledgeable researcher whose pioneering research for the past 40 years has focused on understanding the human retina and devastating retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration.
Dr. Evans and I have spent many long hours working together in development of research design and presentation/publication materials, as well as developing ideas and concepts at the office, at her home, in airports, in transit to professional meetings and in presentation environments whereby I perceived I was being treated as a peer and colleague – conditions that encourage and energize me as a student. … Dr. Evans instilled in me a strong commitment to educate individuals about the importance, significance and impact of health education.
Robinna Gail Lorenz
I have been encouraged at every turn to expend both my scientific curiosity and my education by Dr. Lorenz. At the same time she always has been very much involved in my project and in point of fact can at any moment rapidly recall where any one of her graduate students stand in their studies. Meeting with Robin always seems to blend the right amount of encouragement, enthusiasm and professional advice (as well as chastisement when appropriate) to not only keep me on track with my thesis, but also to keep me infused with the same scientific awe/wonder that inspired me to choose this career path. … Her light-hearted nature balances her expertise and creates a stimulating environment and fascinating class discussions. She encourages her students to get involved, ask questions and interact with world-renowned researchers and physicians.
John J. Hablitz
Dr. Hablitz maintains an open-door policy; he’s always willing to concisely answer my questions regardless of how basic they are. And, for those questions without clear answers, he has helped me to begin thinking scientifically to devise possible ways of answering them. I am granted a considerable amount of independence in planning experiments, but whenever I have difficulty, he is there to provide constructive troubleshooting advice. … He inculcates the importance of scientific integrity and high ethical standards into his students and fellows from the moment they join the lab. He wants his lab members to start thinking about their career plans early.
|James Hagood |
Dr. Hagood consistently encouraged and supported my ideas and has helped me to convert them into scientific projects. He provides an ideal balance of direction and encouragement to the persons that he trains, which makes working in his lab both enjoyable and productive. … Dr. Hagood is very open and supportive of new ideas and willing to explore new research directions. He provides a well-guided yet open environment for his trainees; everyone enjoys the experience in the lab.
Gary R. Hunter
Professor Hunter has a caring attitude towards the students and always is willing to be involved. He communicates to others well and excels at conveying knowledge to the student. In addition, he demonstrates a genuine concern and respect for the student. He is encouraging and has an infectious enthusiasm. As an international student, there were times during the semester when I was overwhelmed, needed guidance and he always provided the best advice. …Dr. Hunter effortlessly balances a professional agenda that includes teaching, research and service. It is rare at a level-I research institution to find a professor who excels in all three areas and who has mentored students at the undergraduate, graduate and post-doctorate levels.
Raymond E. Ideker
When I came to work with Dr. Ideker three years ago, I was excited to be working with a world-renowned expert in arrhythmia mapping and defibrillation. Even with the high expectations that I had of him from his profession and scientific reputation, Dr. Ideker is one of the rare giants that has grown in stature as I have come to know him better. As I have worked directly with him, my respect for his leadership, vision, resourcefulness and understanding has grown. … Ray deserves a great deal of credit for not only building a world-leading research facility in cardiac electrophysiology, but for giving many beginning scientists the run of the place and opportunity to develop their research niches.
John D. Mountz
Dr. Mountz has been a great mentor who has successfully fostered many junior investigators to become independent investigators. These investigators are not only at UAB or within the United States, but also are from Asia and Europe. Dr. Mountz has provided his junior fellows and investigators extremely valuable training experience that includes the development of independent ideas and skills, development of inter- and intra-institutional collaborative opportunities, all his best research environment and all the necessary mental support and educational support. … Dr. Mountz appreciates each student’s talent. He feels sincerely happy when a student makes any accomplishment.
Peter E. Prevelige
When I joined Peter’s lab the place already was humming with activity and ideas were flying around all the time. The lab was alive around the clock with music and activity. The group meetings were tough especially for rotation students and techs but not intimidating because of Peter’s informal style. This way we had a chance to air our opinions and develop critical thinking. Peter always was available for quick chat, and most important, made us feel part of the scientific enterprise by discussing his ideas and grants with us. … The most priceless thing I learned from Dr. Prevelige is to think mechanistically, critically, out of the box and in big context.
|Robert Thacker |
Robert W. Thacker
I benefited tremendously from the guidance and mentorship of Dr. Thacker in my training both as a scientist and as an instructor. I still use the skills he taught me about time-management, student advisement and curriculum development in my teaching duties at Guam Community College. Similarly, his attention to experimental design and analysis, clear writing style and grantsmanship have made me a more effective and independent researcher. I have no doubt that he is imparting these same lessons to his current students. … Dr. Thacker’s former students are now pursuing diverse careers and include a high-school teacher, a medical student, an assistant professor in biology and a research assistant professor of marine biology.
Danny R. Welch
Dr. Welch’s passions are unmistakable. His determination to illuminate the unknown and personally produce quality contributions to science are rivaled only by his desire to propel his trainees to their own success. He surrounded himself with a group of dedicated people who also supported one another. The community he fostered would consistently eat lunch as a family, participate in extracurricular sports together, attend cultural activities together, cook together and fellowship outside of lab, despite wide cultural, age and life-stage differences. … To this day, Dan continues to be a constant source of encouragement. He always is available to lend an ear when we should need his advice.
|Dale Williams |
O. Dale Williams
Dale has demonstrated an ability to lead junior faculty through every step of the clinical research process, from the project conception and study design to data analysis and manuscript writing. His own track record of high-quality research speaks toward his vast research knowledge and expertise. However, as a mentor, Dale possesses an added sense of commitment in addition to his obvious proficiency in clinical and health-services research. … Dale is an excellent editor, and he has helped me to improve my writing skills for grants and manuscripts. His comments always are welcome because “our success as junior faculty is also his success,” as he says.