Jennifer Neel knows she teaches one of those classes.
Second-year NC State College of Veterinary students hear about her clinical pathology course before they even step foot into her classroom. They hear it’s unlike any course they’ve taken before, that it is extremely tough, that it will test them.
Clinical pathology is all that, but under Neel’s leadership it also becomes the type of class all students of veterinary medicine hope to experience.
“The way Dr. Neel taught clinical pathology reflects her understanding that students all learn in unique ways, and she clearly showed her dedication to teaching each of us,” says Annie Wang, a combined DVM/Ph.D. student who took Neel’s course last spring.
Wang’s experience is not unique. She outlined Neel’s impact in a nomination letter for her to receive one of NC State University’s top academic honors — the Outstanding Teaching Award. Neel, who also serves as assistant dean of student development at the CVM, is one of 18 professors across the NC State campus receiving this year’s honor, recognizing extraordinary and innovative educational approaches.
It is difficult to fully convey what receiving this honor means to me,” says Neel. “It means a tremendous amount to me. It speaks to the overall excellence of our college and of the caliber of students we attract. I can’t say thank you enough.”
Neel among several CVM faculty members receiving big honors this year. Lizette Hardie, head of the Department of Clinical Sciences and professor of general surgery, received the Faculty Achievement Award from the American Association of Veterinary Colleges.
Lysa Posner, professor of anesthesiology, received this year’s Zoetis Distinguished Veterinary Teacher Award and was nominated for the UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence, the most prestigious award given for teaching within the UNC System. Jorge Piedrahita, the Randall B. Terry, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Translational Medicine and director of NC State’s Comparative Medicine Institute, earned an NC State Alumni Association Distinguished Professorship Award.
“The NC State CVM has breadth and depth in educational excellence that is rare and remarkable among U.S. colleges of veterinary medicine,” says Laura Nelson, CVM associate dean and director of academic affairs. “I would put our faculty up against any college in the country.”
This year’s faculty winners are the type of veterinary education leaders found throughout the CVM. Neel’s educational approaches for an intimidating course, including “pre-lecture” work that helps students thoroughly prepare out of the classroom and allows for more in-depth discussions in the classroom, showcases her dedication to reaching all of her students.
She also inspires other CVM professors, particularly through her involvement with the college’s new Academy of Educators, a discussion group on curriculum and educational techniques that’s open to all CVM faculty, staff and students.
“At the CVM we talk about how we teach, we share practices, we collaborate,” says Nelson. “We share information and we improve our practice. In other words, we teach as a pack.”
It’s a philosophy Hardie has long embraced, both as a teacher and as the longtime leader of clinical sciences, the largest CVM department. Along with mentoring staff and faculty, Hardie has guided class after class of DVM students, from fundamental suture lessons in their first year to complex surgical approaches in their fourth.
“It is truly an honor to be recognized by an organization that represents faculty clinicians and works to improve the training of house officers and junior faculty members,” says Hardie. “As someone who has spent a career in an academic teaching hospital, recognition from your colleagues is truly special because I know they share my love of mentoring and growing young veterinarians.
“I only hope that I can continue to give back to the profession that has given me such joy.”
Lysa Posner gave back to the profession in an extraordinary way this year as leader of the Face Mask Brigade. The group she organized has crafted hundreds of cloth face masks to distribute to those working on emergency and urgent cases in the veterinary hospital. That initiative was cited when Posner won this year’s Zoetis Distinguished Veterinary Teacher Award, voted on within the CVM.
As a clinical professor, she resonates. Students consistently note her generosity in time and spirit. Her positivity radiates; her lessons — big and small — stay with CVM students.
“While I love being a veterinary anesthesiologist, I also love being a teacher,” says Posner. “It is an amazing feeling to be rewarded for doing something you think is important and love doing.”
Piedrahita’s honor reflects another pillar of CVM excellence: innovative research and scientific mentorship. He’s one of four recipients of the NC State Alumni Association award recognizing outstanding graduate-level teaching across NC State.
The Comparative Medicine Institute, which Piedrahita has led since its inception in 2015, fosters collaboration between scientists in North Carolina higher-education institutions who are developing cutting-edge research in immunology, cancer treatment and regenerative medicine.
“One of the greatest joys of being a faculty member at NC State is having the opportunity to work with students, both directly in your lab and indirectly by providing opportunities for their professional growth,” says Piedrahita. “There is really nothing as personally rewarding as working with amazingly talented and passionate students.”
~Jordan Bartel/NC State Veterinary Medicine