For many in the lecture hall during the 9th Annual Marilyn Koering Award ceremony, devoted teacher, research scientist, mentor, and patient advocate Marilyn Koering, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), was an inspiration.
“She had a tremendous impact on my life,” said Koering’s sister, Susan, who travels from Minneapolis Minnesota each year to present the award. “Going to the same college, going into the medical world … she was an inspiration to me.”
The award is presented each year by Koering’s sister to the first-year medical student with the highest overall grade in the anatomical sciences. This year, Danish Imtiaz earned that distinction.
“I feel extremely honored to receive this award in the name of the esteemed Dr. Koering,” Imtiaz said, adding that her legacy will inspire him to continue exploring the anatomical sciences.
“I would like to thank Dr. Koering’s family for the award,” he said. “And also, I would like to thank the anatomy and histology professors at GW SMHS for their excellent instruction. I hope to continue to work hard and learn more about the anatomical sciences from them.”
Kenna Peusner, PhD, professor of anatomy and regenerative biology at SMHS, organized the award and introduced the speakers at the assembly. Peusner said that Marilyn Koering was dedicated to her students, teaching histology to more than 5,000 GW medical and graduate students. For 34 years, Koering taught in the classroom and labs at the SMHS until her retirement in 2003. She passed away in 2008 after a fierce battle against malignant melanoma.
“After Marilyn was diagnosed with melanoma, she fought the cancer for 21 years through essays, appearances on television, addressing cancer support groups, and writing letters to pharmaceutical companies and the federal government to gain support for patients who volunteered for experimental treatments,” Peusner recalled.
Mary Ann Stepp, PhD, professor of anatomy and regenerative biology at SMHS, who knew Koering both as a member of the faculty and as a student, spoke on her remembrances.
“When I came here and entered the Anatomy Department, the Chairman … saw my weaknesses in the anatomical sciences, so I was assigned to learn histology with the first-year medical students,” Stepp explained. “So I sat in the classroom with the medical students, and got to know Marilyn not only as a faculty member, but as a mentor. She was an excellent teacher; she really cared about making sure that the students understood what they were doing and how to do it well.”
During the ceremony, Susan Koering told a story of her 6-year-old grandniece, whom she said Marilyn would have loved. One day, she asked the young girl what she wants to be when she grows up. Her response: “A mommy.”
“I said, ‘Well, OK, but how about a scientist?’ And then about a month later I asked again ‘What are you going to be when you grow up?’ This time she said ‘a scientist,’” Koering said to laughter.