May 12, 2000

Two VUMC professors land high faculty honors

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Two VUMC professors land high faculty honors

Two of Vanderbilt University's highest faculty honors were recently awarded to School of Medicine professors.

Dr. Terence S. Dermody, associate professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology and Immunology, received a Chair of Teaching Excellence, and Lawrence J. Marnett, Ph.D., Mary Geddes Stahlman Professor of Cancer Research and professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry, was named the Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Professor.

The awards were presented by Vanderbilt Chancellor Joe B. Wyatt during his final Board of Trust luncheon on April 28.

The Chairs of Teaching Excellence, established by Wyatt in 1993 to recognize outstanding teaching, carry three-year terms and a $10,000 annual salary supplement. Wyatt called Dermody "a person of energy and optimism" with "a love of teaching in every setting, from the classroom to the bedside."

"I am honored to be named a Chair of Teaching Excellence," Dermody said. "Vanderbilt has an outstanding tradition of teaching, and I am grateful to my faculty colleagues for being such wonderful mentors and role models and to the best students any teacher could possibly have."

In the Medical Microbiology and Immunology class, 97 percent of the students gave Dermody the highest marks on his evaluations over a period of years. Dermody also developed an innovative new course on "Practicing Caring Medicine for AIDS Patients."

Dermody, an active researcher who studies viral structure and pathogenesis, uses the laboratory as a foundation for his teaching. He has mentored seven Ph.D. students, three M.D./Ph.D. students, and six postdoctoral fellows since joining the faculty in 1990.

Chairs of Teaching Excellence become leaders in efforts to advance teaching at Vanderbilt.

"As part of my responsibilities as a teaching chair, I plan to develop an elective for senior medical students to participate in small-group, case-based teaching," Dermody said. "I will work closely with the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching to develop this elective, which I hope will foster careers in medical education."

The Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Professor Award, established in 1963, honors "distinguished accomplishment in furthering the aims of Vanderbilt University." The winner receives an engraved silver tray, a cash award of $2,500, and official designation as Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Professor for one academic year.

Marnett embodies all of the characteristics sought for the Branscomb Distinguished Professor–creative scholarship, stimulating and inspiring teaching, and service to students, colleagues, the university and society.

"There are a lot of excellent faculty members on this campus, many great scholars, so it's very unexpected and extremely gratifying to have been selected," Marnett said.

"Larry excels in all phases of academic life," said Michael R. Waterman, Ph.D., Natalie Overall Warren Distinguished Professor and Chair of Biochemistry, who nominated Marnett for the Branscomb Award. "He's a superb teacher, an internationally known investigator, and a very effective administrator–not only as a leader in the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, but also in the important role he has played in fostering the development of technology transfer at Vanderbilt."

Marnett has twice been chosen by first-year medical students as one of the top five teachers. His research at the crossroads of biology and chemistry has furthered understanding of DNA damage and repair, and his ground-breaking studies of anti-inflammatory drugs led directly to the development of the new cyclooxygenase-2 selective inhibitors–drugs that promise relief of pain and inflammation without the gastric side effects of aspirin.

Marnett, who directs the A. B. Hancock Jr. Memorial Laboratory, was part of the founding leadership of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and now serves as its associate director of Research Programs.