Acceptance Statement- Pfizer Award for Teaching Excellence

David G. Kleinbaum, Emory University

2005 APHA Annual Meeting, Ritz Carlton Hotel, Philadelphia PA, December 10, 2005


I am extremely honored to receive this recognition. Let me first say that I did not decide to devote so much of my career to teaching in order to receive this or any other award. On the contrary, I have achieved this recognition because I have always wanted to be a good teacher. I have wanted to teach ever since I was a little kid growing up in Brooklyn teaching some of my neighborhood friends how to play “hearts”, later, checkers, and still later, chess. In fact, I remember my mother telling me a long time ago that I was destined to teach.

I accept this award for all teachers in the public health and medical arenas who have never received deserved recognition for the long hours of course preparation, innovative course materials and textbooks, mentoring of students, and devotion to successful and creative teaching, all of which is often done at the expense of more lucrative salaries and recognition for grant-getting and research publications. As you all are aware, teaching awards are few and far between when compared with awards for research accomplishment. The Association of Schools of Public Health and Pfizer therefore are to be commended for initiating this first award for Career Teaching in the field of public health. Such an award in public health should have been around many years before now, but finally the award now exists.

I think it is important to realize that excellence in teaching does not simply refer to being a good classroom lecturer and/or performer. There are several dimensions to good teaching, including classroom teaching at one’s home university, mentoring of students, committee work including chairing committees of master’s and PhD students, textbook writing, creating innovative teaching materials, teaching short courses nationally and/or internationally, addressing teaching issues within professional associations, and publishing research on the theory and practice of teaching in one’s profession.

To paraphrase an American hero of mine and yours, I have a dream that someday outstanding teachers will earn salaries on a par with outstanding researchers, that there will be as many awards for outstanding teaching as there are for outstanding research, that such awards will be of equal size monetarily, that salaried chairs for outstanding teachers will be the norm rather than the exception, that someday there will be an National Academy of Science for Teachers, and last, but not least, though least likely, a Nobel Prize for Teaching.