By Wendy Sarubbi | April 29, 2013 1:00 pm

Dr. Laurel Gorman, a UCF College of Medicine assistant professor of pharmacology, recently won a national teaching award from the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) division of Pharmacology Educators, a highly respected group of pharmacologists who are national leaders in pharmacology education. Dr. Gorman was recognized for excellence in teaching, the depth and breadth of the content she covers, and her use of innovative educational techniques.

She received the national award April 22 at ASPET’s national meeting in Boston. After a competitive review process, an ASPET panel determined the two award winners – one senior and one junior – after evaluating peer recommendations, samples of teaching materials/pedagogy used, evidence of effectiveness (student/peer evaluations/assessment measures), and an essay about the applicant’s teaching philosophy and educational career goals.

In contrast to the more traditional medical school model, UCF uses an integrated approach to teach pharmacology. Rather than have students learn about drugs in an isolated second year pharmacology course,  UCF’s curriculum ties pharmacology education to disease and clinical sciences throughout the four years of medical school. Dr. Gorman uses a variety of interactive approaches that teach both knowledge acquisition and application in ways that encourage learning and retention over memorization.  “Effective learning is integrated learning that establishes clinical relevance” said Dr. Gorman. “Pharmacology is a bridge between the basic sciences and clinical sciences in the early years of medical school.   It’s acts as a glue to hold critical concepts together.”

Because pharmacology is not as visual or hands-on as many medical subjects, Dr. Gorman uses interactive gaming, audience-response systems, case-based small groups, and clinical simulations to bring the subject to life. Students use game-based clickers and can compete as teams to test their pharmacological knowledge during interactive didactic sessions. They participate in self-learning modules, online games, and team-based learning. They also practice using drugs to treat simulated illness by treating mannequins that react to pharmacotherapy in the college’s Clinical Skills and Simulation Center.  Pharmacology and therapeutics is a rapidly evolving field that has changed drastically in the past 20 years, Dr. Gorman said, so a list of drugs memorized today may be obsolete when students start prescribing. “Drugs are powerful tools so it’s critical to patient safety that our students learn how to use them wisely” she said. The goal, she said, is to teach medical students to think critically about the principles that govern drug use and to make them lifelong learners who can find the right treatments for their patients in a fast-changing medical world.

“If you’re going to teach students to love learning,” Dr. Gorman said, “you have to love learning yourself.  That’s why I love teaching pharmacology.”

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