When Paul MacDonald, associate dean for graduate education in the School of Medicine, found out his name was being submitted for the university’s John S. Diekhoff Award for Graduate Teaching, he was surprised, but also excited.
“John S. Diekhoff was a gifted educator and an outstanding leader of graduate education,” said MacDonald, also an associate professor of pharmacology. “It was an honor just to be nominated.”
So when he actually won, MacDonald gave much of the credit to his colleagues, including Amy Wilson-Delfosse, associate professor of pharmacology, who mentored him in team-based learning and other active approaches. He also credited the students around him, especially his daughter, Amber, who attends Ohio State University.
“As a parent, Amber allowed me to ‘spy’ on her first-semester courses and her online experiences,” he explained. “I witnessed the concept of the ‘flipped classroom’ in action and saw first-hand the innovative approaches that undergraduate classes across the nation—including here at CWRU—are using to introduce active learning. It sparked my interest and pushed me to learn more.”
MacDonald, who was appointed associate dean for graduate education in summer 2013, has been involved in graduate education and mentoring for more than 20 years.
While announcing his appointment as associate dean last year, medical school Dean Pamela B. Davis noted that MacDonald “recognizes the rapid changes taking place (in medical education) and is eager to work with students and faculty to advance programs to help adapt (to those changes).”
MacDonald also believes that sharing techniques and collaborating with other education professionals is an integral part of modern medical and graduate education. Consequently, after serving as a facilitator of medical student groups, he has borrowed several ideas from the medical school’s innovative WR2 Curriculum and introduced comparable small-group, interactive team-learning approaches in his pharmacology courses.
“Never have I had a professor so obviously listening to students and taking their needs and opinions into account,” wrote a student nominator. “His enthusiasm for the subject as well as for helping us learn the material was obvious from the first day to the last.”
MacDonald was thrilled to be selected as one of two 2014 Diekhoff Teaching Award recipients.
“To be recognized for contributions to graduate education by the award that bears Diekhoff’s name is quite simply the most humbling event that I have experienced in my entire scientific career,” he said. “There really is no greater reward than to be recognized by my students and to have them think that I may have positively impacted their education at Case Western Reserve University.”