UTMB’s Academy of Master Teachers celebrates 10 years of recognizing outstanding teachers, promoting educational excellence

Nov 20, 2017, 11:16 AM by KirstiAnn Clifford
(L-R) Former AMT directors Drs. Ruth Levine, Vicki Freeman and S. Lynn Knox with current director, Dr. Bernard Karnath.
There’s no question—Dr. Ruth Levine has always loved teaching.

“When I see students get that ‘spark’ of understanding and start putting things together, it’s exciting for them—and me,” said Levine, assistant dean for educational affairs and director of the Office of Clinical Education within the School of Medicine. “Any kind of learning should be fun. If it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right.”

If you ask students, she is doing it right. Since joining UTMB as a faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in 1991, she has served in numerous educational roles and received many teaching awards, including the University of Texas System’s highest teaching honor, the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award.

It’s only fitting that Levine also was chosen as the inaugural director of UTMB’s Academy of Master Teachers. The AMT is an honorary service organization formed in 2007 to recognize UTMB’s top teaching faculty from all four schools and allow them to give back to the educational community.

Over the last decade, the AMT has grown from an original membership of 18 to 63—it’s even helped inspire the creation of other academies on campus focused on master clinicians and research mentors.

AMT new membersEach member is selected through a rigorous peer-review process, with applications for membership accepted on an annual basis. The academy provides faculty development opportunities, mentoring and peer evaluation of teaching activities, as well as resources and recognition for innovative programs and educational scholarship.

“One of the biggest accomplishments for the AMT has been the way it has enabled educators from all four schools to come together,” said Levine, who served as AMT director for five years. “Interprofessional education is something we talk about all the time now, but it wasn’t a thing 10 years ago. The academy has given us the opportunity to get to know our colleagues in the other schools in a way we never have before and learn from them and collaborate with them. It’s been really meaningful.”

Levine and two former AMT directors, Dr. Vicki Freeman and Dr. S. Lynn Knox, were recognized during the AMT’s 10-year anniversary celebration Sept. 22 on the Galveston Campus, along with the academy’s newest director, Dr. Bernard Karnath.

A professor with tenure in the Department of Internal Medicine, Karnath joined UTMB as a medical student in 1990 and has been a faculty member for the last 20 years. Inspired by Sir William Osler’s humanistic and holistic principles of the practice of medicine, Karnath always tries to engage students by teaching at the bedside. You won’t see him giving any long lectures in the Practice of Medicine class; he prefers hands-on activities to help students understand the value of bedside diagnostic skills.

“I try to help students through the process of active learning—we are getting away from passive learning where you sit in a classroom all day,” said Karnath, who has received numerous teaching awards and was inaugurated in 2008 as a William Osler Scholar in the John P. McGovern Academy of Oslerian Medicine, the highest honor bestowed to teaching faculty at UTMB. “I also teach students that medicine requires lifelong learning. Even 20 or 30 years out of medical school, you need to study every day.”

As AMT director, Karnath looks forward to expanding the academy’s impact throughout the region by continuing to collaborate with UT Houston’s McGovern Medical School and Baylor College of Medicine on a spring symposium that supports lifelong learning and growth for faculty throughout the area. He also wants to further collaborate and build bridges with the existing academies at UTMB by co-sponsoring activities and bringing in visiting professors.

“We have built a great academy and I want to continue to grow in terms of opportunities for our faculty,” said Karnath. “It means a lot to our educators to know there is an academy that will provide support to them in terms of resources and continuing education.”

Levine said Karnath will do an excellent job and looks forward to seeing how the AMT evolves and continues to promote the art of teaching.

“We have the opportunity to influence quality of patient care through the way we teach our learners, so providing a good education is paramount,” she said. “We are bringing up the next generation of health care providers. What’s more important than that?”