Garnet Apple Award: Shanna Williams – UofSC News & Events

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Biomedical science teacher never asks students more than they are capable of giving



Shanna williams
Assistant Clinical Professor, Biomedical Sciences
Greenville School of Medicine
Ph.D., anthropology, University of Florida, 2008
Apple Garnet Teaching Prize 2021
Joined UofSC faculty: 2012

I consider myself a track master, introduce students to this kind of circus in the medical school. I take center stage and help them get through this overwhelming, often frightening experience, but I also try to instill in them a sense of confidence that I will never ask for more than I know they are capable of giving. I set the scene very quickly in the very first lecture – “Here are my expectations in terms of how you behave, how you approach this material.” I want them to understand that it should be fun, but it’s not fun and games – we’re here to do a job. I’ll try to make it as accessible as possible to you, but that’s where we need to go. That’s where the finish line is, and I want you to cross it.

The most impactful teacher that I had was one of the instructors who taught coarse anatomy [at the University
of Florida]. He had all these funny stories in his presentations about things he’d done when he was 20, how he’d been around the world. And then he went back to teaching. It was almost like a little break to catch your breath, listen to the funny story, and then return to the content. He was very clear on what was important and what was not, so you weren’t confused as to what was being asked of you. And then when you started to feel a little tense with the volume of information, he would stop and tell another story. This learning experience and the fact that it was in coarse anatomy, which was one of the most impactful courses I have ever taken, is what really inspired me to teach and take pieces from it. and trying to integrate it into my own teaching.

As a brand new instructor you are going to say something wrong and it’s OK. You won’t be an expert to begin with, but you will get better and better with each passing year. Give yourself a little grace for mastering this learning curve, because it’s okay to be wrong – we’ll all be wrong. That doesn’t mean you’ve lost your legitimacy with students as long as you’re cleaning up and hiding behind a mistake.

I had a third year student come to my desk, and he was bragging about how he got a good answer during surgery. The surgeon had asked a question about a particular anatomical structure, and he had first asked the question of one of the residents and the resident did not know the answer. My M3 student knew the answer because of something I had said two years earlier in my class. What I taught him in his freshman year of medicine was a clinical application of a basic anatomy concept, and that’s important to me because sometimes students don’t see that connection. For him to remember this detail two years later, it’s a job well done in my mind.


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Subjects: Faculty, Academics, Recognition, Medicine (Greenville)


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