John Freeman Faculty Teaching Award – Claire E. Hulsebosch, PhD

By Roman Petrowski, Office of Communications

Dr. Claire Hulsebosch - John Freeman Faculty Teaching Award

Claire E. Hulsebosch, PhD, is the 2023 recipient of the John H. Freeman Award for Faculty Teaching. (Photo by Dwight Andrews/Office of Communications)

Claire E. Hulsebosch, PhD, professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, is the 2023 recipient of the John H. Freeman Award for Faculty Teaching.

Chosen by the senior class, the John H. Freeman Award recognizes the McGovern Medical School’s outstanding basic science faculty member. The winner of this award, which was established by university funds and 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.

 Hulsebosch has previously won the Freeman Award in 2018 and 2021.

“This is amazing, and I am truly humbled by the selection from my fourth-year students who have now graduated,” Hulsebosch said. “To be remembered for the mentoring and educational experiences I shared with the graduating medical students during their first two years of medical school is truly an honor. I consider it a privilege to work with such highly-motivated, intelligent, diverse, and interesting people.”

Hulsebosch’s philosophy in teaching centers around her own education background, treating each of her students as if they were herself during her freshman year at Rice University, as well as implementing certain aspects of her personality into the mix.

An accomplished pupil, Hulsebosch graduated as the valedictorian of her high school and was easily able to learn new concepts and volumes of material. However, when she arrived at Rice, she saw that her peers were on the same intellectual caliber as her, and some were considered geniuses.

“I can remember feeling so challenged and still recall the feeling that I was in competition with an entire class of geniuses, and I was not one of them,” she said. “What I strive to do is catch my medical students before self-doubt or imposter syndrome sets in, and assure them that they have the talent and characteristics for success to be a great doctor.

“I can also tell when students are struggling and pick up on subliminal signals. One of the educational concepts I try to impart to the students is that the students are not competing against each other, but rather against themselves, to be the best physicians they can be.”

Hulsebosch also likes to use a multi-modal method of teaching, including different modes of learning such as auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning as well as drawing complex circuits. She says that a combination of sensory/cortical experiences will allow for better consolidation, retention, and recall of information.

For an aberration from “boring class presentations,” Hulsebosch likes to shake things up a bit by often drawing on her theatrical side.

“I try to bring some theatrics into the presentation to make it more interesting,” she said. “I have been known to bring in stuffed socks, stuffed panty hose, and moving frisbees to make body segmentation, development, and movement clear for my students.”

Following a brief retirement from The University of Texas Medical Branch, where she worked for nearly 40 years, Hulsebosch returned to teaching at McGovern Medical School in the late 2000s.

Hulsebosch is the recipient of the prestigious Irvine-Christopher and Dana Reeve Medal, for seminal contributions in spinal cord injury research, and she published her book Spinal Cord Injury Pain in 2021.

She is part of the scientific advisory board for both the Neurological Recovery Network and the North American Clinical Trials Network, scientific adviser to the National Institute of Health for Neuroscience Initiatives, on study section for National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke, and various other organizations, editorial and review boards for scientific journals, and has authored over 350 peer reviewed abstracts and publications.

Hulsebosch has been immersed in education since she was a young child. Her mother encouraged her to reach for personal excellence in everything she did, including academics, while her father gave her an Olympus microscope, saved from the dangers of a World War II bombing of a medical warehouse. The oldest of six children, Hulsebosch would often force her brothers to play “school” with her being the “teacher,” convincing them that since she was oldest, she knew much more than they did.

Outside of her family growing up, Hulsebosch was surrounded by teachers who helped guide her educational journey. She recalled her first-grade teacher Mother Mary Dennis, who made learning fun, and her fourth-grade and sixth-grade teachers, Mrs. Ashmore and Mrs. Sawyer, who were critical but kind. Her high school English teacher Mrs. Ainsworth helped broaden her ideas in education, while professors in her graduate education like Dr. Bitner (University of Texas) and Dr. Coggeshall (UTMB) gave her critical pointers on the best way to make academic presentations, without stymieing her quest to learn more and challenge dogma.

Hulsebosch thanked her family, as well as the McGovern Medical School community for helping her to achieve her third Freeman Award.

“I am indebted to the students, faculty, and administration here at McGovern who are very open to novel approaches to education, creative alternatives and additions to lectures, and put the students’ success ahead of their own. Our medical students are the most encouraging and inspiring students in supporting each other compared to the several other medical schools that I have been involved. In most schools, the students are so competitive and not helpful to each other.

“I also would like to thank Dr. Jack Byrne, who took a chance by hiring me almost 10 years ago, and my current chair, Dr. Pramod Dash, who places medical education as a top priority at McGovern Medical School.”

Previous winners of the John H. Freeman Award for Faculty Teaching include: Han Zhang, MD, 2022, 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010, 2008, 2006; Hulsebosch; 2021, 2018; Phillip Carpenter, PhD, 2020; 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.