Miller School Professors Recognized for Promoting Positive Learning Environment in PULSE 360 Survey

Feng Gong, Ph.D., enjoys helping first-year students at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine develop learning strategies for his classes in biochemistry and genetics. Paolo Romanelli M.D., strives to instill deep respect for patients in teaching dermatology, and Marilia Menezes Nery, M.D., is inspired by those “lightbulb moments” when her family medicine students grasp a difficult concept.

The three faculty members were among 33 Miller School professors who received the highest scores for promoting a positive learning environment in the first PULSE 360 Survey for Faculty-Learner Engagement. The survey was performed by the Physicians Development Program Inc., an independent organization, to allow comparison to national data and to assure anonymous feedback to individual faculty members.

“The most important outcome of this study is that it has allowed us to identify those faculty whose values and behaviors contribute in a meaningful way to the establishment and maintenance of a positive learning environment,” said Laurence B. Gardner, M.D., executive dean for education and policy. “We hope this program will encourage all UM faculty to continue to demonstrate to our learners the priorities we place on their education and the ways in which they learn.”

Dean of the Miller School, Henri R. Ford, M.D., MHA, said the specific comments from students “demonstrate that we have many inspiring medical educators, and it’s those distinguished teachers who attract our students. We are committed to retaining and attracting even more faculty who demonstrate that commitment to education.”

All Miller School medical students, all UM/Jackson Memorial Hospital residents and fellows, and all Miller School faculty members were invited to participate in the survey by selecting faculty role models and providing feedback about the ways they create an optimal learning environment that contributes to education, research and patient care.

In total, 68 UM faculty exceeded the national average in positive teamwork scores. Here are 10 faculty members who had among the highest scores in the PULSE 360 survey.

Feng Gong, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Feng Gong enjoys the interactive aspects of teaching M.D. and M.D./MPH students and training residents. “Our students are smart in different ways, so I take an individual approach to teaching,” he said. “I also try to help our first-year students feel comfortable, while making the best use of their time.” For instance, Dr. Gong talks about preparing for an exam as a group, using peer-teaching techniques, and forming closer relationships with other students in the class. “I feel very fortunate that our medical school leadership really values medical teaching and creates a very supportive and motivating environment,” he said

Paolo Romanelli, M.D.
Professor of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery

Although Paolo Romanelli has been teaching dermatology to Miller School students for 15 years, he says he still learns something new in every class. “It’s a mutual learning process between faculty and students,” said Dr. Romanelli, whose teaching style was called “incomparable” by one of his students in the survey. Noting that he comes from a family of academicians, Dr. Romanelli said one of his goals is to instill “tremendous respect for the patient” right from the start of their medical education. “Our patients deserve the best possible treatment as individuals,” he added. “That’s one of the ethical foundations for providing care to everyone regardless of age, income, gender, ethnicity or other factors.”

Marilia Menezes Nery, M.D.
Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health

While teaching her students about bones, muscles, skin and cardiopulmonary topics, Marilia Nery focuses on developing their problem-solving skills. “I want them to think through a problem, without jumping to a premature conclusion,” she said. “That’s building a lifelong skill that translates into being able to take good care of patients and families.” As part of that learning process, Dr. Nery also emphasizes the importance of looking carefully at each individual patient. “It’s not just making a diagnosis,” she added. “It’s finding out how an issue is affecting the patient and how we can help this person enjoy better health in the long term.”

Luis M. Ramos Gonez, M.D.
Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health

As a family physician, Luis M. Ramos Gonez spends plenty of time teaching students and residents in an in-patient setting. “We have a great training environment at Jackson Memorial Hospital,” he said. “Our students see patients with a wide range of conditions. I encourage them to present individual cases, and participate in a full discussion with their peers.” Dr. Ramos Gonez also draws on his international clinical experience in stimulating his students’ thinking. “I want them to be motivated to look closely at each patient, analyze the data, and draw an evidence-based conclusion. The more enthusiastic they are today, the better doctors they will be in the future.”

Marcio R. Soares, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine

In teaching students, residents and fellows in patient-care settings like the Miami Jewish Home & Hospital for the Aged, Marcio R. Soares doesn’t rely on slides or PowerPoint presentations. “I will pull out a blank sheet of paper, and ask my students to work through the clinical problems without feeling pressured about making mistakes,” he said. “They start with what they know about the patient, and keep building until the paper is full of information.” He also encourages a collaborative approach to explaining the patient’s condition. “One of the biggest things in medicine is to be inquisitive and keep asking questions,” he added. “That helps you organize your thinking as you work through the patient’s issues.”

Justin Percival, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology

In teaching first-year M.D. and M.D./Ph.D. students about the drug classes used to treat inflammation, Justin Percival will often stop his lecture and give a quick, three-question quiz. “It’s a way of giving my students a mental break from listening, while emphasizing the most important points,” he said. “I also encourage my students to ask questions and give them real-world examples from my own research.” Dr. Percival’s students appreciate his lecture style, and keeping the class interactive, according to their survey responses. “Science and medicine are all about unlocking mysteries,” he said. “I want to inspire their curiosity and enthusiasm, while giving them a strong basic understanding of pharmacology.”

Amiethab Aiyer, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics

Along with teaching about orthopedics to medical students and residents, Amiethab Aiyer serves as an individual mentor and advisor to the Orthopedic Student Interest Group. “I want to help our students prepare for their careers in medicine, so they can ‘pay it forward’ to those who come afterwards,” he said. In turn, Dr. Aiyer’s students called him a “great educator” who is “always accessible” in the PULSE 360 survey. “Teaching keeps me young, and helps me stay grounded,” said Dr. Aiyer. “It’s a pleasure to engage with students as a mentor, discuss the nuances of surgery and explain the importance of research. I also try to instill the value of honest communication with patients who put their trust in us.”

Holly Neville, M.D.
Professor of Clinical Surgery

Holly Neville is a mentor for Miller School students considering a career in surgery, and sponsors the UM chapter of the Association of Women Surgeons. Her students call her “approachable” and urge her to keep sharing her love of pediatric surgery. “She is a strong role model for women physicians, and we are very lucky to have her at the Miller School,” said one survey respondent. Dr. Neville enjoys teaching third- and fourth-year students in a clinical setting, where her students present cases in a grand-rounds style. “I want our students to be curious and keep an open mind, looking at the whole patient along with the specific diagnosis,” she said. “I appreciate the empathy and compassion that our students bring to our service. That inspires me in my clinical work, as well as my teaching.”

Marie-Denise Gervais, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health

Marie-Denise Gervais wants her students to get to know their patients, answer their questions and treat them as equals in the clinical setting. “That is one of the foundations of family medicine,” said Dr. Gervais, who teaches a wide range of topics, including physical, mental and women’s health issues. In keeping with her values, Gervais enjoys spending time with her students, building an understanding of their learning styles and individual goals, while instilling the value of respect for others. “I want them to be able to apply their intelligence and curiosity as caring human beings,” she said. “In turn, my students inspire me and help keep me on top of my game.”

Douglas C. Broadfield, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Cell Biology

Douglas Broadfield’s first- and second-year students appreciate his approachability, including his willingness to discuss the fine points of anatomy before, during and after their laboratory sessions. “Thank you for coming to the lab before the exam to show us structures that we missed during dissections,” wrote one student in the survey. “Whether in the classroom or the lab, I try to do more than convey basic information to our students,” Dr. Broadfield said. “I want them to appreciate the differences among the patients they will see and treat each individual with respect,” he said. “My students also encourage me to stay on top of the material and keep growing as a teacher.”

The following 23 faculty members were also highly ranked in the PULSE 360 survey:

• Ramses Ribot, M.D.
• Jenny Drice, M.D.
• Jonathan Jagid, M.D.
• Alberto Caban-Martinez, D.O., Ph.D., MPH
• Willa Thorson, M.D.
• Atil Kargi, M.D.
• Coleen Atkins, Ph.D.
• Stephen McLeod-Bryant, M.D.
• Stefanie Furlan, D.O.
• Mathias Lichtenheld, M.D.
• Juan Solano, M.D.
• Yiliam Rodriguez Blanco, M.D.
• Carlos Medina, M.D.
• Ricardo Martinez-Ruiz, M.D.
• Ivan Gonzalez, M.D.
• Daniel Sussman, M.D.
• Maureen Lowery, M.D.
• Dante Durand, M.D.
• Carmen Gomez, M.D.
• Sethuraman Swaminathan, M.D.
• Edgardo David Rivera-Rivera, M.D.
• Cristiane Takita, M.D., MBA
• Leticia Tornes, M.D.

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