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Pettepher to receive AAMC Distinguished Teacher Award

Sep. 24, 2019, 4:03 PM

Cathy Pettepher, PhD

by Kathy Whitney

Cathy Pettepher, PhD, professor of Biochemistry and assistant dean for Assessment, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, is the recipient of the 2019 Alpha Omega Alpha Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teacher Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

The AAMC awards, which recognize individuals and institutions that have made outstanding contributions in medical education, biomedical research, clinical care, and community engagement, will be presented during a black-tie dinner and reception at Learn Serve Lead 2019: The AAMC Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.

“We are so proud of Dr. Pettepher’s receiving the 2019 AAMC Glaser Award. One of her most endearing traits is the humility with which she teaches and leads,” said Donald Brady, MD, Senior Associate Dean for Health Sciences Education at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and Executive Vice-President for Educational Affairs at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“Our students and faculty for years have recognized her efforts with multiple internal awards, and it is great that she is now getting national recognition in this form. We are so glad to have such a talented leader, teacher and mentor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.”

Pettepher led the school’s Curriculum 2.0 efforts to adopt a more integrated approach to the basic sciences and collaborative approach to content organization and academic policy.

She was named assistant dean for Medical Student Assessment in 2014. She oversees the evaluation of student academic and professional development across all four years of the curriculum and serves as the director of the Student Assistance Program that helps students with the transition into and challenges associated with medical school. She also serves on the Foundations of Medical Knowledge Leadership Team which has oversight of the fully integrated basic science preclinical phase of Curriculum 2.0.

“One of the greatest rewards of being a teacher and educator is building relationships with students and helping them meet and overcome the challenges of being in medical school. Today’s learner needs to not only have a deep foundational knowledge of the basic sciences, but they also need to know how to apply this information in context when on the clinical wards,” Pettepher said. “They also need to acquire other attributes that will help them become successful and competent practicing physicians in the years ahead. One of my responsibilities is to ensure that each one of them remains on the path to do just that. The students know that I expect a lot from them, but I am always there to walk the path with them and am available whenever advice about study strategies and professional development are needed.”

Her teaching duties include serving as co-director of the human blueprint and architecture block, the first scientific block in the FMK Phase, director of the cell and tissue biology laboratory and director of anatomy for undergraduate medical education. Pettepher is designated as a Master Science Teacher and has been a member of Vanderbilt’s Academy of Teaching Excellence since 2008. Her scholarly focus is on learning styles and their effects on study strategies and time management skills and the value of peer assessments in professional growth and development.

Pettepher has received countless awards since she began teaching in 1993 including the Shovel Award for teaching and the Denis M. O’Day Award for team-implemented curricular reform, both in 2016 and 2019.

VUSM emeritus professors Jeanette Norden, PhD, and Art Dalley, PhD, and alumnus Charles Griffith III, MD, are among previous recipients of the Alpha Omega Alpha Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teacher Award, and in 2017 George Hill, PhD, received the AAMC’s Herbert W. Nickens Award.

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