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Peer Praise

McConnell, Wanat Garner UH Faculty Awards for Undergraduate Research Mentoring, Teaching Excellence

UH College of Pharmacy faculty members Bradley K. McConnell, Ph.D., FAPS, FAHA, and Matthew A. Wanat, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCCCP, were honored as 2016 UH Faculty Excellence Award recipients for Undergraduate Research Mentoring and Teaching-Instructional/Clinical, respectively.

An associate professor of Pharmacology, McConnell is the second consecutive UHCOP faculty member – and the third since first being awarded four year ago – to receive the Early Award for Mentoring Undergraduate Research bestowed by the Office of Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Paula Myrick-Short, Ph.D.

mcconnell jpgMcConnell currently is mentoring six undergraduates students in his lab, bringing the total number of students he has mentored to 30 since he joined the college in 2008 as an assistant professor. Two of McConnell's current or past mentees, one of whom is now a Pharm.D. student at the college, received the "Audience Choice Poster Award" at the Undergraduate Research Day in 2015 and 2013. Many of his current or past mentees are in post-graduate academic programs, planning on applying to post-graduate programs or currently employed in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) related positions.

Last summer, McConnell hosted a UH Research Day for high school students of a Houston college preparatory academy. In addition, he has participated in the college's Pharmacy Summer Camp for junior and senior high schools students and the Research Convocation to encourage current Pharm.D. students to consider pursuing research projects while in school or in their careers.

"Opportunities for undergraduate research in my laboratory expose students to basic science research and, along with their interactions with other student-scientists, strengthens the UH College of Pharmacy research environment," McConnell said. "As part of these efforts, I have developed an educational curriculum that engages student’s curiosity in order to propel their scientific career goals.

"This has been achieved by incorporating various teaching tools, including hands-on experimental applications as well as personalized mentoring, to enhance student ability and learning styles and create an effective instructional and mentoring environment."

wanat jpgA clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Translational Research, Wanat was recognized in the Instructional/Clinical division of the Teaching Excellence Awards by the Office of the Provost.

Wanat has implemented a variety of new teaching pedagogies, including a postgraduate training track to better prepare participating fourth-year students for success in residency and fellowship programs following completion of their Pharm.D. education as well as converting the Critical Care elective to a "flipped classroom" hybrid online course in which lectures are delivered via video recordings between in-class skills labs and review sessions.

"My philosophy of teaching centers on passion in your career and interest in your students," Wanat said. "I felt a strong desire and motivation as a student to learn from my preceptors that genuinely seemed interested in me and were excited to have me around as a mentee.  

"I remember being much more interested in what they were teaching because they enjoyed what they were doing and enjoyed seeing my growth. I felt a need to make them proud of my work. I continue to feel that the passion and energy an educator gives off to their students can be just as strong as the knowledge they teach."

In just four short years since joining the college, Wanat has amassed several teaching and faculty leadership awards from the Phi Lambda Sigma Pharmacy Leadership Society, the Rho Chi Honor Society (in 2013 and 2015), the college's Faculty Affairs Committee, and the Society of Critical Care Medicine-Texas Chapter (for which he currently serves as President-elect).

In addition to his primary faculty appointment at UHCOP, Wanat maintains a critical care practice site at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center and a clinical instructor appointment at Baylor College of Medicine.