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University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Maverick Educator to Lecture at Academy

Dr. Jeanette Norden, who is teaching medical students at Vanderbilt University how to be better human beings as well as doctors, will discuss her innovative approach to personal development as the keynote speaker for UALR’s Academy for Teaching and Learning Excellence on Monday, Nov. 26.


Recognized nationally for her innovative approach in integrating “humanity” into basic science courses, Norden has received national medical educator recognition as well as every award given by medical students at Vanderbilt in Nashville.

She twice has received the school’s Shovel Award given by the graduating class to the faculty member who has made the most positive influence on them in four years of medicine.

Her talk at UALR, “Inspiring Students to Achieve Deep Learning,” will be at 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 26, in the Student Services Center auditorium. Her discussion will be followed by a noon to 1:30 p.m. lunch and workshop in Donaghey Student Center Room G.

“The mission of UALR’s teaching and learning academy is to foster excellence in teaching and learning, and to demonstrate the value UALR places on high-quality teaching,” said Dr. Julien C. Mirivel, one of ATLE’s three directors. “Dr. Norden exemplifies teaching excellence, and she will help faculty and students think about deep learning in a powerful presentation. She will leave an inspiring spark on campus.”

Norden, a neuroscientist and professor of cell and developmental biology for more than 20 years, began in 1998 to devote her time to medical, graduate, and undergraduate education. She is currently the director of medical education in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt.

She is considered a maverick in medical education, stressing not only intellectual, but also personal and interpersonal development in students. Long before it was common in medical schools, she saw that students needed to learn how to deal with the emotional side of medicine.

In an article in the journal Women in Higher Education, Ken Bain, vice provost for University Learning at Montclair State University, said Norden saw that case studies to develop clinical reasoning skills weren’t enough to teach medical students how to deal with emotions around illness, disability, and death – realities that some doctors protect themselves from with cold detachment.

“She could not teach compassion, but she could help students express the compassion that brought them into medicine,” Bain wrote. “She studied grief counseling and brought it to her classes. She invited surviving family members to speak with the class about how doctors had treated them during the loved one’s fatal illness. She brought in a woman who had cared for a husband with Alzheimer’s disease to talk about it.”

Bain said Norden’s approach makes other class materials more meaningful and memorable.

“Her students perform extremely well on the national exam. They report how well her classes prepared them for their rotations, the National Boards, and their medical careers,” he said. “Great teachers transform lives.”