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OU College of Medicine Receives $1 Million Gift to Enhance Medical Education - September 10, 2021

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Jerry Vannatta, MD, John Zubialde, MD & Sheila Crow, PhD

The University of Oklahoma Foundation has received a $1 million gift to support the efforts of the OU College of Medicine’s Academy of Teaching Scholars, a service organization that fosters excellence in teaching and health professions education. The gift, made by Dr. Jerry B. Vannatta, OU professor emeritus and former executive dean of the College of Medicine, will allow the academy to continue its important work of nurturing, recognizing and rewarding teaching excellence among the college’s faculty. As a result of Vannatta’s support, ATS will be renamed The Jerry Vannatta, M.D. Academy of Teaching Scholars.

“Dr. Vannatta’s laser focus on excellence and innovation in medical education has been unwavering over the years,” said OU College of Medicine Executive Dean John P. Zubialde, M.D. “His leadership and support have helped the OU College of Medicine become a leading medical education institution nationally. This gift furthers our ability to transform education and shows the tremendous dedication of its author. We are truly proud to have our academy named in his honor.”

The Academy of Teaching Scholars is composed of OU College of Medicine faculty members who are passionate about medical education. Members provide service to the college’s educational mission by supporting ATS activities and initiatives, which include faculty development and recognition, mentoring and scholarship, and recognition and awards. Membership in the academy is based on evidence of excellence in education.

According to OU College of Medicine officials, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted areas in which medical education and training can be adapted to fill the needs of the health care industry. The leadership of the ATS believes it has a role and a responsibility to focus on faculty development strategies and interventions that allow participants to understand that – by shaping their teaching approach to the current demands of the profession – their purpose is sustained and expanded. Vannatta’s generous gift will help ATS address these needs.

“Dr. Vannatta’s gift will also have a significant impact on the growth and development of the college’s medical humanities program, which will now be housed in the ATS program,” said Dr. Sheila Crow, OU College of Medicine dean of faculty affairs and professional development. “Under the ATS leadership, the humanities program allows us to continue the critical dialog about health, health care and the human condition. The ATS will provide students, residents and faculty with knowledge of the humanities, encourage scholarly activity, and bridge the gap between humanities and medical care to better support our community.”

Vannatta’s donation will be used to support several initiatives, including a self-paced medical teaching certificate and a teaching scholars program aimed at developing future leaders in medical and health care education with a focus on the core components of educational scholarship, curriculum development and the humanities. 

Vannatta is a David Ross Boyd Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Professor Emeritus of Humanities in Medicine at the OU College of Medicine. He served as executive dean of the College of Medicine from 1996 to 2002. He currently is engaged in curriculum design and faculty development for the Oklahoma City University Physician Assistant Program and teaches humanities of medicine at both OCU and the OU College of Medicine.

Vannatta has a long history and interest in academic teaching and faculty development. He has received numerous teaching awards from the OU College of Medicine, including the prestigious Stanton L. Young Master Teacher Award and the Edward Young M.D. Lifetime Achievement Award. He is probably best known for his love of literature and medicine and for building the College of Medicine’s medical humanities program. Vannatta was instrumental in establishing multiple curricular and extracurricular humanities educational activities, including Blood & Thunder, a medically themed arts journal published by OU College of Medicine students.

Founded in 2010 to enhance the educational mission of the OU College of Medicine, the Academy of Teaching Scholars recognizes a cadre of faculty each year for their teaching excellence and accomplishments, works to advance the skills of educators, promotes educational research, and assists with faculty development.