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Distinguished Teaching

At The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), excellence in teaching is not an exception — it’s the rule. And yet, each year, a few professors stand out to their peers and students as the best of the best, earning themselves the coveted Distinguished Teacher Award.

This year, Ellen Hamburger, M.D., FAAP, associate professor of Pediatrics at Children’s National Medical Center (Children’s National), and Raymond Walsh, Ph.D., professor of Anatomy and Regenerative Biology, were honored with the award, which confers membership as a fellow in the medical school’s Society of Distinguished Teachers.

“Election to the Society of Distinguished Teachers is the preeminent teaching award for faculty of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences who teach medical students,” says Scott Schroth, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for Academic Affairs in SMHS. “Selection is a one-time honor that recognizes sustained, innovative, and highly valued teaching. Of the hundreds of dedicated and valued teachers at the institution, these represent those who, in the eyes of the faculty and students, have achieved the greatest success.”

Ellen Hamburger, M.D., FAAP

According to Mary C. Ottolini, M.D., M.P.H., vice chair for Medical Education at Children’s National, and Mark Batshaw, M.D., chief academic officer and chair of Pediatrics at Children’s National, Hamburger is “an excellent diagnostician and compassionate healer” who has been repeatedly voted as one of the city’s best pediatricians by Washingtonian magazine.

Hamburger completed her Pediatrics residency at Children’s National in 1984, and returned to GW four years later as an assistant clinical professor of Health Care Sciences and Pediatrics. In 1997, she became the director of the division of Pediatrics and later became associate program director of the Pediatric Residency Program at Children’s National. Today, she serves as director of Children’s Academy of Pediatric Educators at Children’s National.

“I have had many opportunities to grow as a teacher at GW through participation in our Master Teachers’ Program, projects in international medical education, and simply by interacting with a faculty that constantly challenges itself to improve and innovate,” says Hamburger. “I’ve been especially fortunate to work with a group of dedicated, creative pediatricians at Children’s National and in our teaching practice, Children’s Pediatricians and Associates at Foggy Bottom. No one could ask for a more inspiring group of colleagues.”

Ottolini and Batshaw say that Hamburger’s “most remarkable achievement as an educator” is her role as director of the Pediatric Graduate Medical Education in the Partnership for Eritrea, a collaborative project with the Global Health initiative at SMHS and the Orotta School of Medicine and Pediatric Hospital in Eritrea. Since 2006, Hamburger has led and developed the first pediatric residency program in a country where, prior to the Partnership, there were only five pediatricians for the nation’s 1.5 million children. Hamburger has recruited Eritrean physicians to complete the program, attracted American physicians to help train them, and implemented a rigorous curriculum as well as evaluation strategy.

“She has helped to transform the clinical care that children in Eritrea receive and is responsible for saving many lives,” said Ottolini and Batshaw.

Raymond Walsh, Ph.D.

Walsh, the other 2011 award recipient, has taught Anatomy — primarily Gross Anatomy — at GW for over 30 years. He served as chair of the Department of Anatomy and Regenerative Biology for 17 years during which he created the first undergraduate anatomy course.

“I believe that [Walsh] clearly merits this award…based on his sustained and diverse contributions to the SMHS, but also to the greater GW community and to student groups outside of GW, for over a quarter of a century as an innovative educator and an outstanding teacher,” wrote Robert Hawley, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Anatomy and Regenerative Biology, in his nomination letter.

Walsh’s creativity and talent in computer technology have accentuated his classes and led to the development of cutting-edge educational tools, including the first introduced computer-assisted instructions (CAI) to be introduced into the undergraduate curriculum. The CAI was implemented in 1988 in collaboration with Ronald Bohn, Ph.D., associate professor of Anatomy and Regenerative Biology.

As technology has advanced, so have Walsh’s skills. Most notably, he is the founder of NetAnatomy.com, a continually updated Web site containing material in Gross Anatomy, Radiographic Anatomy, and Cross-Sectional Anatomy. The site was named one of the top 50 science and technology Web sites in 2004 by Scientific American and consistently receives the highest quality rating in the entire student evaluation of the undergraduate Medical Gross Anatomy course.

“Teaching is a large part of my chosen occupation and it is always nice to know that someone thinks that you do your job well,” said Walsh. “It is an honor to join those other GW faculty who have been recognized with this award in past and who have dedicated so much of their time and effort to enhancing the educational environment at the medical school.”

About the Distinguished Teacher Awards

Selection of the Distinguished Teacher Award confers membership as a fellow in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences’ Society of Distinguished Teachers. The awards serve to honor faculty members who, in their teaching abilities, demonstrate an exceptional ability to communicate information to advance students’ learning; inspire, motivate, and stimulate students; innovate in their teaching setting; and demonstrate sustained commitment to student education.

All faculty members who teach medical students and who have not previously received the Distinguished Teacher Award are eligible for nomination by GW Medical Center chairs, faculty, and students. The nominees’ letters of recommendation, curriculum vitae, list of courses taught, teaching materials, and student evaluations are considered by the existing members of the Society of Distinguished Teachers and representatives from the Medical Center Student Council, who ultimately select the winners.