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Rockhold Earns SEC Faculty Achievement Award

By Karen Bascom

UMMC Communications

Dr. Rob Rockhold’s commitment to creating innovative educational programs have earned him the title of 2022 SEC Faculty Achievement Award winner for the University of Mississippi.

Dr. Rob Rockhold, deputy chief academic officer at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, is the 2022 SEC Faculty Achievement Award winner for the University of Mississippi.

Rockhold, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology, was chosen for his commitment to building bridges to health careers through innovative education programs at UMMC and beyond.

Since 2012, the SEC has used the faculty achievement awards to recognize outstanding scholarship and research at its member institutions.

“I am humbled by this recognition of the value of early outreach to students who aspire to bring the healing arts and value of scientific research to the citizens of Mississippi. It has been my honor to stand shoulder to shoulder with these future professionals in advancing the mission of UMMC to improve the health of all,” Rockhold said. “I deeply appreciate the support of the SEC, University of Mississippi and UMMC as we work to bring the highest level of education to our students.”

Rockhold co-created Base Pair, the Medical Center’s mentoring partnership with Murrah High School in Jackson. Students receive classroom training in biomedical sciences and then are paired with UMMC faculty for hands-on research experience. The students also develop a true identity as a scientist by presenting their findings through conferences, abstracts and peer-reviewed publications.

In a 2011 photo, Rockhold stands with Base Pair alums Dr. Kathryn Schneider and Justin Porter. Schneider is now an associate professor of pediatrics and assistant dean for medical school admissions at UMMC; Porter works in intellectual property and public policy.

Now in its 30th year, Base Pair has trained hundreds of students. Their research presentations and publications have been cited more than 450 times. With a 100 percent high school graduation rate and 99 percent college matriculation rate among them, Base Pair alumni have earned many millions of dollars in scholarships and dozens have entered MD, Ph.D., or JD programs.

Through Base Pair training of high school educators, Rockhold also created the environment for the development of the innovative educational curricula of Student-Oriented Academic Research in Jackson Public Schools and the Rural Biomedical Initiative for rural Mississippi schools.

He is the principal investigator for Science Teaching Excites Medical Interest, or STEMI. This National Institutes of Health-funded program works with Mississippi high school teachers to create engaged classroom sessions on health.  He is also co-investigator of an upcoming award from the Phil Hardin Foundation to expand the Base Pair program to five other Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning campuses.

Rockhold’s commitment to expanding diversity in the health sciences shows through in UMMC’s Professional Portal program. This initiative for disadvantaged college students has allowed almost 80 percent of its graduates to enter into a professional degree program, many at UMMC.    

Base Pair was recognized at the University of Mississippi’s 2019 Celebration of Service. Rockhold, center, was recognized along with Tim Medley, left, a Jackson-area accountant who proposed the Base Pair idea and Jeff Stokes, right, lead teacher for Base Pair at Murrah High School.

Rockhold is a leader in UMMC’s interprofessional education programs, creating learning opportunities for students from among the Medical Center’s seven schools.

“Dr. Rockhold’s service to the institution and his contributions to the careers of scores of Medical Center graduates have been both deep and wide. As a champion for academic integrity and good educational practice, he has been a critical component of the UMMC academic machinery,” said Dr. Ralph Didlake, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.

“As an innovative educator, he has developed long-standing and important pipeline programs. As a model institutional citizen, he has given unflagging support to diversity and inclusion initiatives. We can learn much from his excellent example,” he said.

Rockhold earned his Ph.D. in pharmacology at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center in Memphis. After postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Heidelberg and UTHSC, he joined the UMMC faculty in 1983. He has held faculty appointments in the School of Medicine, School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, and School of Health Related Professions.

Dr. Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Mississippi.

“Since coming to the medical center, Dr. Rockhold has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to enabling educational opportunity for students, particularly those underrepresented in science and medicine,” said Dr. Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Mississippi. “Dr. Rockhold’s credentials embody his commitment to educational advancement for all.”

At UMMC, Rockhold is often the distributor of faculty accolades. In 2012, he introduced the Regions Toward Excellence in Advancement of Care and Health (TEACH) Prize. Sponsored by Regions Bank, this annual award celebrates the Medical Center’s most exemplary educators.

He teaches in UMMC’s medical, dental and graduate pharmacology courses, lecturing on heart function and the effects of various medications on the cardiovascular and central nervous systems.

While his current scholarship focuses on education, Rockhold also has an extensive history of basic science research. His work includes studies on hypertension, drug abuse and the cardiovascular effects of fire ant venom.

Rockhold is the fifth UMMC faculty member to represent the University of Mississippi for this honor.

Each school’s Faculty Achievement Award recipient must hold the rank of full professor, have a record of extraordinary teaching, and have a record of nationally or internationally-recognized research. Each winner receives a $5,000 honorarium from the SEC and becomes their campus nominee for the SEC Professor of the Year Award. This winner will be announced later this month.

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