John Freeman Faculty Teaching Award – Han Zhang, MD

By Roman Petrowski, Office of Communications

Dr. Han Zhang John Freeman Faculty Teaching Award

Han Zhang, MD, is the 2019 recipient of the John H. Freeman Award for Faculty Teaching.

Han Zhang, MD, professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, is the 2022 recipient of the John H. Freeman Award for Faculty Teaching.

Chosen by the senior class, this is the seventh time Zhang has received the award, which is given annually to recognize McGovern Medical School’s outstanding basic science faculty member. Recipients may not win the award in consecutive years.

“I am very excited and incredibly honored,” Zhang said. “Each time I receive this award, it motivates me to work harder to make my teaching more engaging and special for the students. This award means the world to me. Teaching is my life’s work, and to know that my teaching is being well-received by students is very rewarding.”

Zhang, who is in his 30th year at McGovern said that he loves the Medical School because it allows each person to play their part and their strengths. He enjoys that everyone in the school is kind and helpful.

“I feel full, strong, and happy in this big family, and I am grateful to everyone around me,” he said.

Zhang became a teacher to follow in the footsteps of his parents who were both educators in China, where his father was a principal, and his mother was a teacher.

“I grew up witnessing their dedication to their students and their exceptional talent for teaching,” he said. “My father would always see a struggling student and sit next to them and acknowledge them, give them second chances, and adopted a compassion first approach to his teaching style. To this day, students constantly visit him and my mother to express their gratitude for their impact on their lives. They are my mentors in life.”

Zhang came to McGovern Medical School as a visiting scientist from China in 1992 to pursue research with John Byrne, PhD and Len Cleary, PhD. He stayed as a postdoctoral fellow and was appointed to the position of lecturer in 2002. Zhang graduated from Yangzhou Medical School in 1980.

In each year since 2003, he has won the Dean’s Teaching Excellence Award and has won 11 Gross Anatomy awards during his tenure. He also was inducted into the Medical School’s Academy of Master Educators and is the recipient of a University of Texas System Board of Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award.

The recipient of this award, which was established by university funds named in Freeman’s honor, must exemplify enthusiasm and drive toward effective teaching, have a personal interest in students’ problems and their educational goals, and set an example that serves as a high standard for students.

“This award doesn’t just belong to me personally, it belongs to our school, the office of education, our department, our teaching team, and without their leadership, support, help, trust, and synergy, my role in teaching would not have been possible,” Zhang said. “I am especially grateful for our new teaching curriculum, which has allowed me to play my role in teaching and make my teaching more effective.

“This award belongs to our students too. There can be no good professors without good students. These are the people that bring me the joy and motivation.”

Previous winners of the John H. Freeman Award for Faculty Teaching include: Claire Hulsebosch, PhD; 2021, 2018; Phillip Carpenter, PhD, 2020; Han Zhang, MD, 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010, 2008, 2006; Chris MacKenzie, PhD, 2017, 2015; Dawnelle Schatte, MD, 2014; Joanne Oakes, MD, 2012; Elizabeth Hartwell, MD, 2007; Margaret O. Uthman, MD, 2011, 2009, 2005, 2001, 1999, 1997; Kent Heck, MD, 2004, 2002; Norman Weisbrodt, PhD, 2003; Barry Van Winkle, PhD, 2000, 1998; Marsha L. Eigenbrodt, MD, MPH, 1996; Ron C. Philo, PhD, 1995; Harley D. Sybers, MD, PhD, 1994, 1992, 1990; Frank W. Booth, MD, 1993; and Karmen L. Schmidt, PhD, 1991.