Dr. Vicki Freeman currently serves as interim dean for the School of Health Professions, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. She first joined UTMB in 1996 as chair of the school’s clinical laboratory sciences department and is responsible for leading the program into becoming one of the largest and most dynamic in the country. In 2016, she established the Doctorate in Clinical Laboratory Sciences degree program, the second of its kind in the nation. She also has served as associate dean for faculty development within SHP since 2014.
Freeman began her academic career at the University of Nebraska Medical Center after earning a PhD in community and human resources and a master’s degree in adult and continuing education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She earned bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry and medical technology from the University of Texas at Austin.
We recently celebrated UTMB’s tremendous success with Best Care. What are your thoughts on how UTMB can maintain its fivestar performance long-term?
In order for UTMB to maintain its five-star performance, we must involve the entire health care team in the management of our patients—each profession brings expertise to the table. When we all are able to value each other’s knowledge, then we can provide better care to the patient. Initiatives such as the diagnostic management teams introduced by Dr. Michael Laposata, chair of the Department of Pathology, will be important, as they bring experts from different disciplines together to discuss the best diagnostic testing for critical patients.
What are your goals as interim dean of SHP?
My goal is to build trust in the school through open communication and dialogue, as well as transparency in processes. I am committed to increasing innovative, progressive, faculty-led programs of research across departments; to look at faculty and staff retention and salary benchmarks; and to expand competency-based and interprofessional education. Also, as this year marks SHP’s 50th anniversary, my hope is to have a big celebration at UTMB’s 2018 Homecoming that brings together faculty, staff, students and alumni.
You’ve won numerous teaching awards and served as the Academy of Master Teachers director from 2010-2014. What has contributed most to your success as a teacher?
I believe that my success comes from putting myself into the shoes of my students and seeing each one as an individual. Since we all learn in different ways, I try to provide educational experiences to students in a variety of settings and delivery methods. I have had many great mentors along the way, each who have contributed to my success and helped to guide me as I developed as an educator. In several ways, my background is similar to many of our students. I am a first-generation college graduate who went from a small rural high school to a large urban university. I began my teaching career during my first year in college, when I served as an informal tutor for students who were having difficulties in general chemistry and microbiology. I enjoyed working with students and found it rewarding when they “saw the light” in terms of understanding the material. Even now, my most rewarding teaching experiences are when the students finally “get it” as they apply what they have learned.
Describe yourself in three words.
Focused, flexible and fearless
What has been your greatest achievement?
I believe that my greatest success is not what I have personally accomplished, but it is seeing the accomplishments of those individuals who I have guided and mentored. It is rewarding to see a variety of individuals—including my daughters, Girl Scouts, students, faculty and other people I have worked with over the years—find success both personally and professionally in their chosen vocation. Both of my daughters completed their Girl Scout Gold Awards and obtained college degrees in fields in which they are professionally successful. Faculty in the Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences have been able to easily transition into new roles and responsibilities as I moved into the interim dean position. I’ve traveled to Maua Hospital in Kenya regularly since 2005 to help laboratorians assess and update laboratory quality systems, and professionals there are able to provide better care to patients because they are working together more as a team. These are just a few examples of where I think I have had some impact.
What energizes you?
Family, travel and enabling others to grow. I especially like it when I can put all these together. I love to be with my family, especially traveling with them to new places and introducing them to new cultures. I find that we learn so much about other cultures when we actually visit their country. Some people think that I never take a vacation because many of my trips are “working” trips, i.e. mission trips or cultural trips where I get to know the people of the land, not just go to the tourist sites. A few years ago, I took my 19-year-old granddaughter to Kenya, where she worked with the local missionaries at Maua Methodist Hospital. It was a great experience to introduce her to the African culture.
What book are you currently reading?
I like to read mystery novels as well as books on leadership. I have been reading a series by Louise Penny, the latest being “Glass Houses.” This series is about leadership in the Sûreté du Québec—the provincial police force for the Canadian province of Québec. Not only does it include the mystery element, but it also shows how you can be a compassionate leader even in the face of adversity. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, as head of homicide, demonstrates his compassion with those under his command and how he has to stand up for what he believes is right.
What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
Many people know that I am a Girl Scout, but not many know that I lived in England for a time and was a Girl Guide Ranger Guider (leader to girls ages 14-16). Girl-guiding is the UK’s largest youth organization for girls. With the rangers, I was qualified to take groups of girls on camping trips in the Forest of Dean and Wales. Working with girls in Hawaii, Texas, Nebraska and Europe also led to developing craft skills in candle making, macramé and cross-stitch—although ballroom dancing has replaced those pursuits in my free time.