March 12, 2017 — UF College of Medicine students agree: superior educators are those who can impart dense material in digestible chunks, who display a commitment to helping students achieve excellence.
Two former UF College of Medicine students and present faculty members Ryan Nall, M.D. ’09, and Kimberly Merkel, M.D. ’08, were named the 2018 UF College of Medicine Teachers of the Year. The pair will be recognized Wednesday evening during the Medical Education Banquet, as part of Medical Education Week.
Patrick Duff, M.D., associate dean for student affairs and recipient of a dozen teaching awards himself, says Nall and Merkel are shining examples of UF College of Medicine graduates who honor their alma maters by shaping the next generation of physicians. Nall, named Clinical Teacher of the Year, serves as an assistant professor and the assistant clerkship director in the division of general internal medicine. Merkel, named Basic Science Teacher of the Year, is an assistant professor in the department of dermatology.
“Both are relatively early in their careers and have already achieved a high level of academic excellence,” Duff says. “In essence, they are the new generation of teaching stars.”
Nall, who completed a residency in internal medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and currently serves as a physician at UF Health Internal Medicine – Medical Plaza, calls the award a “huge honor.”
“I almost feel unworthy in comparison to all the other amazing educators around me at the UF College of Medicine,” he says.
Nall’s teaching philosophy is simple: care for students above all else.
“I aim to create a safe, comfortable learning environment in which students can thrive,” he says. “I hope to instill in my students a commitment to providing wonderful patient care, teaching them to prioritize the patient above all else. I’m so often inspired by my students’ commitment. They already spend so much time at the bedside, listening to the patient and talking with families. I hope they retain how important this is as they become physicians.”
Nall names UF College of Medicine faculty like Maureen Novak, M.D., Jay Lynch, M.D., Heather Harrell, M.D., and Robert Hatch, M.D. as mentors with teaching styles worthy of emulating. He recalls working with Hatch at a rural community clinic. During breaks, Hatch would take his students on jogs, followed by a dip into Fanning Springs.
“In those moments, I learned how much an educator can care for the well-being of their students and how important it is to create an engaging learning environment,” Nall says.
Merkel, who completed an internship in internal medicine, a residency in dermatology and a fellowship in dermatopathology at the UF College of Medicine, provides services for UF Health Dermatology at UF Health — Springhill. She says being named teacher of the year came as a surprise.
“It was unexpected and I’m incredibly grateful,” she says.
Her teaching strategy is to keep things both demanding and pertinent to her students’ future careers.
“I try to take pieces from my own teachers that I’ve found stimulating and challenging and mix that into my course,” she says. “In structuring my curriculum, it was important to me to include information relevant to testing, as well as provide a broad clinical base that will translate as the students enter their third and fourth years.”
She says her course is inspired by the teachings of William Winter, M.D.; William Dunn Jr., Ph.D.; John Aris, Ph.D.; Stanton King Wesson, M.D.; Franklin Flowers, M.D. and Duff. From Duff, Merkel learned the impact of an engaging and engaged teacher.
“He cares about the whole student experience, from learning to supporting your development,” she says. “He’s someone whose lessons I’ll take with me the rest of my career.”