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University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston professor Dr. Bernard Karnath has been awarded the prestigious Herbert S. Waxman Award for Outstanding Medical Student Educator by the American College of Physicians.
Karnath, who has been teaching at UTMB since 1997, is the first physician-educator from Texas to receive the national distinction.
“Dr. Karnath is an educational superhero, and there is no Kryptonite that can contain him,” said Dr. Steven Lieberman, UTMB’s vice dean for academic affairs. “He has an incredible level of dedication to students and education, and truly deserves this award.”
Lieberman cited Karnath’s devotion to student-centered education and his ability to relate to medical students on their own level as contributing factors in his success as a teacher — a success already attested to by the nine student-conferred Golden Apple Awards Karnath has received in his 16-year teaching career at UTMB.
“He’s extraordinarily focused on the students and their learning,” said Dr. Mark Holden, vice chairman for undergraduate and continuing education in the UTMB department of medicine. “He’s also innovative and very proactive about bringing technology into teaching, whether using audience-response devices to do ‘instant-polling’ during lectures or technological simulators — mechanical arms for blood pressure and mannequin cardiopulmonary simulators that reproduce heart and lung sounds with great fidelity.”
Karnath, who also graduated from UTMB’s School of Medicine and did his residency at UTMB, credits his own mentors at the university with sparking his interest in academic medicine and providing inspiration for his own teaching style.
“There’s no formal education in medical school or residency in how to be a teacher,” Karnath said. “So you learn by watching the faculty, and we had good role models through medical school and residency.”
Today, Karnath co-directs the second-year Practice of Medicine course and the third-year internal medicine clerkship. The first is predominantly classroom-based while most of the second is conducted in the hospital, at patients’ bedsides.
In addition to teaching medical students, Karnath sees patients three days a week. The combined load results in 12-to-14-hour days, with many nights spent at home in front of the computer.
“Finding a balance between patient care needs and education needs has been challenging,” Karnath said. “Both arenas need you, and it’s hard to balance it out.”
Education offers unique rewards, however. “Students will personally tell you thank you — they sincerely appreciate your time,” Karnath said. “And it’s good to see them do well, in their residency match and on board scores. That’s the most rewarding part — seeing students succeed.”