Faculty Excellence Awards – 2010
Enrique Gerszten, M.D. Faculty Teaching Excellence Award

For those who work in medical education, the realities of more trainees, pressures on teaching time, and financial uncertainty can cause despair. How can medical educators possibly manage these competing forces to provide the quality teaching that is so essential, and so rewarding, to students and faculty alike? Well, for an inspirational example of how this can be done, look at just some of Alan Dow’s accomplishments during the past six years:

  • Creator, Theater-Medicine Communication Curriculum
  • Creator, Medicine Admitting Team Resident Learning Experience
  • Creator, Simulation-Based Intern Skills Orientation Experience
  • Co-designer, M3 Electronic Clerkship Management System
  • Course Director, M4 Directed Readings in Internal medicine
  • Creator, Science Systems, and the Patient M3 Longitudinal course
  • Creator, M4 Integrated Critical Care Selective

When you consider that these innovations have taken place in the context of sometimes concurrent roles as Assistant Dean for Medical Education, Project HEART group leader, Foundations of Clinical Medicine small group leader, faculty adviser, ward attending, Fan Free Clinic preceptor, and Associate Residency Program Director, Dr. Dow’s commitment to excellence in education and his achievements are even more impressive.

Stephanie Call, M.D., M.S.P.H., Internal Medicine residency program director, describes Dr. Dow’s approach to teaching: “He takes an interest in each and every learner, focusing on moving each learner to the next level in his/ her development. Dr. Dow has really made his mark in developing and teaching in our residency program hospitalist track. Dr. Dow has taught them not only hospitalist medicine but also key concepts in QI, systems based practice, and healthcare administration. Several residents from this track have been chosen as future chief medical residents and many are considering academic positions, a tribute to Alan’s teaching and leadership.”

Internal Medicine resident Dr. Brenda A. Queen concurs. “My experience mirrors many opinions of students and residents alike — Dr. Dow’s enthusiasm, commitment to teaching and innovative approach to rounds create an exceptional environment for learning and caring for patients in the hospital.” Dr. Terry Siriphatnaboon (M 2010) recalls, “He has fostered my learning in internal medicine and beyond. It was by observing him that I learned how to deliver dire news with compassion, as well as how humor and a positive attitude can lighten the burdens of a weary team.”

The Theater Medicine Curriculum, developed with colleagues from the VCU Theater Department, uses techniques from theater pedagogy to teach communication skills. This innovative approach has been incorporated into teaching in VCU School of Medicine, VCU School of Nursing, and other professional groups and was recognized with the 2008 SOM Teaching Excellence Award for Educational Innovation and Research.

Dr. Dow has been particularly active in promoting professional behavior in the educational environment. He developed a new process that enables M3 students to report instances of unprofessional behavior, allowing SOM administrators to monitor and promptly address issues as needed.

Dr. Dow redesigned the M3 Workshop and M4 Update Weeks to provide more skills-based, small group learning including communication skills and simulation-based learning. As Rachel Whitney (M 2011) notes, “It’s obvious that Dr. Dow shows his continued investment in our education and experience here at VCU by the things he’s done over the past few years, but none of that would be as important or have such impact if he didn’t possess the character of someone who genuinely cares for our well-being as students, and more importantly, as people and eventual peers.”

As Dr. Isaac K. Wood, Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education and Student Affairs says, “In my eyes, he is a superstar.” Clearly, that view is shared by Alan Dow’s students and colleagues as he receives the School of Medicine’s highest recognition for teaching.