Guiding students toward their ‘true north’
Kyle E. Rarey, PhD, aims to help his students achieve their hopes and dreams.
When Kyle E. Rarey, PhD, a professor in both the department of anatomy and cell biology and the department of otolaryngology, stands before his UF College of Medicine students, he doesn’t simply impart principles of basic science. He aims to help his students achieve their hopes and dreams.
“It’s gratifying to help others reach their goals and make a difference in their lives,” Rarey says. “These individuals come here to realize their dreams of becoming physicians, dentists or physician assistants. There’s a gap between where they are and where they want to be. I make bridges to close that gap and encourage them to strive toward their true north.”
Rarey’s commitment to bolstering both knowledge and spirit was recognized last year when the Association of American Medical Colleges, or AAMC, presented him with the 2018 Alpha Omega Alpha Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teacher Award. According to the AAMC, the Glaser award recognizes “outstanding contributions to medical education made by gifted teachers.”
“To be selected as one out of hundreds of basic scientists from 150 medical schools is an honor,” Rarey says.
The quality of Rarey’s instruction has long been recognized throughout his 35-year tenure at the UF College of Medicine. He has received 32 awards for excellence in teaching, including five Teacher of the Year awards, nine annual Basic Science Teacher awards, eight consecutive annual UF College of Medicine Exemplary Teacher awards and the 2018 Society of Teaching Scholars Lifetime Achievement Award. Last year, the Class of 2020 established the Kyle E. Rarey, PhD, Award for Excellence in the Anatomical Sciences to recognize those students who exhibit not only academic excellence but also attributes instilled by Rarey like perseverance and passion.
Rarey, who has completed triathlons in which he swam, biked and jogged 140.6 miles each time, applies inspirational metaphors from his own experiences to illustrate to his students the effort required to make it to the finish line and receive their degrees.
“I tell my students ‘Stroke, stroke, kick, kick around each buoy of life,’” he says. “When you’re swimming 2.4 miles, you can’t see a finish line. You just see buoys. And they don’t have handles; you can’t stop and hold on for a break. I bring in actual buoys to the classroom to show them that this job takes real effort.”
Recent graduate Stephanie Socias, MD ’19, who was taught by Rarey from 2015 to 2017, sums up his teaching style in one word: “inspired.”
“Dr. Rarey teaches science by emphasizing passion and perseverance, which together make grit. He is the coach that motivates his team to show up every day and compete, regardless of outcome,” she says. “Because he knows that medicine is a lifelong endeavor, he is educating his students to be the type of physicians who never stop learning, adapting and fighting for their patients when things get tough.”
Joseph A. Tyndall, MD, MPH, interim dean of the UF College of Medicine, says, “Throughout his tenure, Dr. Rarey has not only instructed but has also invested in his students through mentorship and innovative teaching methods, instilled grit and character, inspired students to achieve excellence and positively impacted generations of physicians.”
UF College of Medicine senior associate dean for educational affairs Joseph C. Fantone, MD, calls Rarey “an exemplary role model and mentor to students.”
“He individualizes his teaching to each student, promoting active, self-directed learning,” he says.“His scholarly pursuits include researching problem-based learning, computer-assisted instruction and student competence assessment, while continually implementing innovative methods of instruction.”
This story originally ran in the Summer 2019 issue of the Doctor Gator newsletter.