The recipients of The University of Texas System Board of Regents' Outstanding Teaching Awards: (Clockwise from top left) John H. Byrne, Vasanthi Jayaraman, Emma Omoruyi and Grant Fowler.
The recipients of The University of Texas System Board of Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards: (Clockwise from top left) John H. Byrne, Vasanthi Jayaraman, Emma Omoruyi and Grant Fowler.

The University of Texas System Board of Regents honored a group of McGovern Medical School educators for their excellence with Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards earlier this month.

This year’s recipients of the Regents’ highest honor include:

Byrne called it a “great honor” to receive the award and be recognized by the UTHealth System and thanked those who nominated him from what he called a “group of equally deserving candidates for this high honor.”

“If I have been successful, it is due to the tremendous guidance that I received from my former mentors Eric Kandel, Ernst Knobil and Stan Schultz,” Byrne said. “They taught me pedagogy and the privilege it is to be able to teach medical students and graduate students.  I am also very grateful to McGovern Medical School for providing me with that opportunity; and, moreover, for creating an environment where excellence and innovation in teaching is fostered.”

Fowler, who celebrated 30 years at McGovern Medical Medical School in mid-July, will be leaving Oct. 23 to take up a position as founding chair of Family Medicine at the new Texas Christian University Medical School.

“It has been great to watch McGovern Medical School grow in both size and repute,” Fowler said. “Some of the faculty for me when I was a medical student are still faculty here, so there must be something good at work here. It’s been fun at UT-McGovern and I’ll miss it.”

Jayarama, who also serves as professor and co-director of the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Program, said it was an honor to be selected for the Regents Teaching Award.

“I consider teaching and mentoring as the most rewarding aspect of my career, because I am able to contribute towards shaping the future of science and medicine by educating the next generation of scientists and doctors,” Jayarama said. “McGovern Medical School and The MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences support and promote a culture of teaching excellence making it easy for me to pursue my passion.”

Omoruyi said winning the award was “a pleasant surprise” and a reflection of the mentorship she received while at McGovern Medical School. While she first attended school in Houston with the confidence she would return to North Carolina to work in a private pediatric practice afterwards, she says “God clearly had different – and better – plans” for her. She singled out Dr. Michelle Barratt who has been integral in providing vital guidance in her development as a minority faculty member.

Outside of the pediatrics department, my interest in educational research has thrived under the direction of Dr. Evan Pivalizza,” Omoruyi said. “Most importantly, the learners at McGovern help drive me, inspire me, keep me engaged, and open my mind towards new ideas (both medical and non-medical) that I would have never learned if I was in private practice medicine.”

Melanie McEwen, Ph.D., R.N., professor of nursing systems at UTHealth School of Nursing, and Deanna M. Hoelscher, Ph.D., R.D., L.D., the John P. McGovern Professor in Health Promotion and director of the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin, also received Outstanding Teaching awards.