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Students tap Splittgerber to receive Shovel Award for outstanding teaching

Apr. 14, 2022, 3:40 PM


by Kathy Whitney

Ryan Splittgerber, PhD

Each year, the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine graduating fourth-year class honors one faculty member with the Shovel Award in recognition of the exceptionally meaningful impact he or she has had on their medical education.

The recipient of the 2022 Shovel Award is Ryan Splittgerber, PhD, associate professor of Surgery in the Department of Surgery.

He is one of the anatomy professors who teaches in the Foundations of Medical Knowledge (FMK) for first-year students and Immersion phases for third- and fourth-year students. He lectures and oversees the gross anatomy labs and the anatomical donations program for the School of Medicine. Splittgerber also serves as a small group facilitator in the FMK phase for the majority of the year.

“In all of these roles, he is enthusiastically engaged with educating our students on a variety of important clinically relevant topics,” said Cathy Pettepher, professor of Biochemistry and Medical Education and Administration and assistant dean of Medical Student Assessment.

“He also serves as a mentor and role model and makes himself available whenever a student reaches out for help. This was especially evident during the last few years when we were trying to teach during COVID.

“Ryan developed e-learning modules to enhance learning when students weren’t able to go into the lab, and when we were able to return to in person learning, he spent numerous hours with small groups in the lab helping the translate their knowledge from a computer to the cadavers. He was a huge part of why the students have been successful in the FMK phase.”

The class had the opportunity to present the award in person at this year’s Cadaver Ball, held for the first time since 2019 due to COVID-19.

“I am honored and humbled at their selection. We had an excellent four years together with so many of memorable moments. I was just happy that they let me be a peripheral part of their medical school experience, so receiving this was completely unexpected,” Splittgerber said.

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