The School of Public Health Committee on Teaching Excellence honored some 60-plus instructors for teaching excellence in spring 2017.
More than 60 UC Berkeley School of Public Health educators who received high student evaluation marks for their instruction were honored during the Spring 2017 semester with the School’s Committee on Teaching Excellence (CoTE) award.
Among the recipients of the Spring 2017 semester’s CoTE awards are Sandra McCoy, for Epidemiology and Control of Infectious Diseases (PH253B), and Nicholas Jewell, for Statistical Analysis of Categorical Data (PH241). Both classes are in different fields of public health.
As a child, McCoy had always been interested in infectious diseases. After watching the 1995 movie Outbreak, she imagined herself investigating outbreaks around the world in the future. In her junior year as an undergraduate at Cal, she worked in a measles laboratory as a summer intern at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. The internship solidified her passion for infectious diseases and introduced her to many career paths in population health. When she returned to UC Berkeley that Fall, Professor Barbara Abrams allowed her to sit in on her graduate-level epidemiology course. The course sparked her love for epidemiology and she went on to pursue an epidemiology graduate degree a couple years later.
“I have known her to be an incredible professor, mentor and boss,” said Jenny Segura, a student in PH250A, Introduction to Epidemiologic Methods. “As a professor, she creates a collaborative and engaging space in her classroom, evident by the active class participation in her large lecture hall.”
Segura said McCoy, who she met in 2014, introduced her to public health and encouraged her to pursue a career in the discipline.
“McCoy challenges her students, providing them with the resources they need to succeed,” Segura said. “Professor McCoy continues to expand the way I view academia and the application of public health.”
Nicole Kelly, another student in PH250A, has McCoy as a professor and an advisor. Kelly said McCoy motivates students to think critically and also to think like an epidemiologist. Kelly added McCoy improves students’ learning experience by inviting guest speakers, providing review sessions, and leading an excellent team of GSIs.
“In her research, Sandi skillfully navigates both the Berkeley ‘world’ and the global environment,” Kelly said. “Whether she’s studying HIV interventions in Tanzania or San Francisco, she collaborates with local teams to develop appropriate programs to meet people where they are at.”
McCoy said one of her greatest accomplishments was helping establish a research site in Tanzania, which took many years to set up. Each summer, McCoy invites students to the site where they receive training and participate in research. “My teaching philosophy is to inspire students to engage with epidemiology and see it as a really useful tool for their future health career,” McCoy said.
Unlike McCoy, Nick Jewell’s passion for the public health field didn’t begin in childhood. Although he is now a professor in biostatistics and statistics, Jewell said he often found arithmetic confusing and frustrating, despite having talent in that area. It wasn’t until high school that Jewell found an appreciation for advanced mathematics, thanks in part to influence from one of his teachers.
“After college, I wanted to use mathematics in collaborative research and to help people, and that led me into biostatistics as a postdoctoral student and I never looked back,” Jewell said.
Jewell has been at UC Berkeley since 1981, holding various academic and administrative positions, including serving as vice provost from 1994 to 2000.
He said his goal is to make complex statistics understandable to those who don’t have a strong mathematical background, and to understand data that shed light on health outcomes.and health outcomes.
“His ability to communicate with students at the level of their statistical understanding is truly impressive,” said Lucia Petito, a former student who has taken several of Jewell’s classes. “He has a knack for presenting very difficult and complicated ideas as simply and clearly as possible, which is appreciated by students from all backgrounds.”
Petito added, “in addition to his immense subject-matter knowledge, Professor Jewell approaches all of his teaching with patience, kindness, and a sense of humor.”
Jewell has won many awards such as Fellow of the American Statistical Association, Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. More recently, he was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.
“At a time when the words HIV and AIDS had not even been coined, I was involved in a lot of studies trying to understand what was happening in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond and trying to develop and assess interventions to stop the epidemic,” Jewell said. “Up to the current day, I continue these interests and am now extremely excited about the possibility of eliminating diseases associated with Dengue, Zika and Chikungunya infections.”
By Jamari Snipes
Spring 2017 SPH Committee on Teaching Excellence Honorees
Deryk Van Brunt
Environmental Health Sciences
Health Policy & Management
Kimberly Mac Pherson
Health & Social Behavior
Infectious Disease & Vaccinology
Maternal & Child Health