October 4, 2002

Tarpley among outstanding directors in nation

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Dr. John Tarpley leads a group discussion at the VA hospital. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Tarpley among outstanding directors in nation

Dr. John L. Tarpley, professor of Surgery and program director for General Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has been selected one of 11 outstanding program directors in the nation. He will receive the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s Parker J. Palmer “Courage to Teach” award in February.

Tarpley’s nomination was among more than 200 in the nation.

As program director of Vanderbilt’s general surgery program, Tarpley is responsible for arranging and selecting applicants for the general surgery residency, arranging the curriculum, mentoring and advising residents, teaching, and making sure all the requirements for accreditation of Vanderbilt’s general surgery residency are met.

Tarpley, who is also chief of General Surgery and associate chief of Surgical Service at Nashville’s VA Hospital, is no stranger to awards at Vanderbilt and nationally. This year he won the Award for Excellence in Teaching: Teaching Medical Students, Residents and/or Fellows in the Clinical Setting from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and the Thomas E. Brittingham Clinical Teaching Award. Tarpley also won the Brittingham award in 1996. In 2000, he won the Association of VA Surgeons Distinguished Service Award and in 1999 received the Humanism in Medicine Award from The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey.

The Parker J. Palmer award was established in 2001, and in the award’s two-year history, Tarpley is the second Vanderbilt faculty member to win the award. Last year, Dr. Keith Wrenn, professor of Emergency Medicine and vice chairman and program director of the Department of Emergency Medicine’s residency program, was one of 10 selected.

“I think this is a huge award because it’s national,” Tarpley said. “But my first response was that this is a group effort, and people like Doris Risley (program coordinator for General Surgery education), Joel Vaughn (director of instructional media services for the Section of Surgical Sciences), and Mike Holzman (his partner and the associate program director) also earned this.”

Parker J. Palmer is the author of the book “Courage to Teach,” and a traveling teacher whose promotion of the concept “living divided no more” has proven relevant to teaching in academic health centers. It is in the spirit of his efforts that the ACGME recognizes a select group of program directors each year with the Parker J. Palmer Award.

Tarpley said he has read and admired Palmer for the last two decades. “He’s an original renaissance type thinker,” Tarpley said. “He’s an idea person.”

Tarpley has been an associate program director since 1993 and officially became the program director in July 2002. He will receive the award at an awards dinner hosted by the ACGME on Feb. 10.