By Dana Engelbert
University of Mississippi
The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy has named three faculty members as Distinguished Teaching Scholars for a term of three years.
Sally Earl, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice; Kayla Stover, professor of pharmacy practice; and Noa Valcarcel, instructional assistant professor of pharmacology, were honored for dedication to teaching and student development.
“It is an honor to be named and recognized as a distinguished teaching scholar within the school,” said Donna Strum, the school’s dean. “The history of those who have been awarded include the top echelon of educators.”
To be considered for a School of Pharmacy Distinguished Teaching Scholar award, an individual must teach for at least five years, demonstrate qualities of a great educator and be publishing research on the scholarship of learning and teaching. Colleagues or supervisors can nominate individuals or self-nominations may be submitted.
“All recipients of this award are extreme in their devotion to pharmacy student education and ensuring the School of Pharmacy produces the caliber of pharmacists that the community expects,” Strum said.
Earl, from Corinth, earned her Pharm.D. from Ole Miss in 2009. She left the state for a year of post-graduate training, then worked at Cone Health in Greensboro, North Carolina, but was excited to return to Oxford where she began teaching in 2017.
“I’m a product of this school,” she said. “I went away for eight years, experienced other places. But knowing this curriculum and this school, I came back.”
Earl’s goal is to help students learn things that will affect patients’ lives in the next few years. Besides teaching, Earl supervises fourth-year pharmacy students in her clinic at the Oxford Cancer Center, where she spends about half her time. That perspective is helpful to her students in the classroom.
“I can bring the perspective of how we apply our learning,” she explained. “Students see that it isn’t just hypothetical.”
Earl coordinates interprofessional education – exposing students to other medical professions – for first- and second-year pharmacy students in Oxford. She has nurtured innovative partnerships with community organizations, the School of Law and the School of Applied Sciences to give students interprofessional opportunities.
“Dr. Earl spent the first decade of her career practicing collaboratively in the interprofessional environments of cardiology and cancer, and those experiences show up and are beneficial on a daily basis within the school of pharmacy,” said Adam Pate, interim chair and clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice.
“Dr. Earl places patient needs above her own and is always ready and willing to serve as a resource for her clinic and her patients. She translates this into the classroom by being an example and modeling the commitment to patient care that pharmacists need to have.”
Stover teaches second- through fourth-year pharmacy students at University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
“I’m tremendously excited, but also humbled to have received a Distinguished Teaching Scholar Award because I know the quality of the teachers we have in this school,” she said.
“I’ve seen how much growth I’ve had as an educator and that’s because of the University of Mississippi – the mentorship, the support and our students.”
Stover, who specializes in infectious diseases pharmacology, also works with a practice partner and the infectious diseases team at UMMC to treat patients. That experience makes a difference for her students, she said. Her colleagues agree.
“She practices at a very high level and literally trains the next generation of infectious diseases pharmacists on a regular basis,” Pate said. “She does an excellent job of seeing opportunities for students to learn and have rich experiences by involving them.”
Stover earned her Pharm.D. from Ohio Northern University, then spent a year in postgraduate residency at West Virginia University Hospitals in Morgantown. She moved to Jackson to complete specialized infectious diseases training at UMMC.
After residency training, she began her career at the School of Pharmacy in Jackson.
“I got the best of all worlds with this role: clinical work, research and teaching,” she said.
Stover said that she always wanted to be a teacher in some way. The support she receives from colleagues makes her a better teacher.
Pate said that dedication to her learners sets Stover apart.
“She genuinely beams when our trainees succeed and do amazing things,” he said. “She takes student learning and success personal.”
Valcarcel teaches students in multiple courses and modules of the professional pharmacy doctorate program in Oxford. Valcarcel enjoys teaching because she gets to share with students her passion for understanding how medications work and help each patient, she said.
“It is rewarding to see them learn and then apply that learning,” she said. “It’s great when they start discussions on topics without prompting. Every day is different in the classroom.”
Valcarcel is a thoughtful educator who prepares for student meetings and for classes focused on learning outcomes, said Kristie Willett, chair of the school’s Department of Biomolecular Sciences.
“Student academic success underlies all that Noa does so she is constantly on the lookout for new ways to contribute to their learning,” Willett said. “She wants there to be evidence that the new ways of teaching are truly effective and not just gimmicks. Her scholarship is establishing that efficacy.”
That dedication to helping students become effective professionals spurred Valcarcel to develop a course to better help patients and pharmacists communicate.
A native of Spain, Valcarcel developed “Spanish for Pharmacists” to fill the growing demand for pharmacists who can provide detailed information to Spanish-speaking patients. She also works with Earl and other Ole Miss departments to host health fairs in communities surrounding Oxford, where she shows students how to practically apply what they learned.
“When Spanish-speaking individuals have health needs and questions, often the pharmacist is the most accessible health care provider,” Willett said. “It is essential that in a time of health need, our graduates can confidently communicate effectively with these patients.”
Valcarcel’s dedication to her students is apparent to students and colleagues. For her, it is a great recognition.
“The award is incredible,” she said. “I’ve been teaching for about five years and being recognized with the great faculty in this school is an honor.”
Nominees are evaluated by a committee, which recommends potential recipients to the dean of the school. The Distinguished Teaching Scholars program was established in 2005 and partially funded by the estate of Thelma H. Cerniglia and the Galen Order funds.