Prescription for teaching success

Working her way through Wofford College and pharmacy school at the Medical University of South Carolina, Brie Dunn never really pictured herself behind the lectern, but a move into academia has worked out very well — for her as well as her students. A national association, the American College for Clinical Pharmacy, agrees, naming her the 2014 New Educator of the Year.

“If you had asked me six years ago, I would never have thought I would become a teacher,” says Dunn, an assistant professor in the South Carolina College of Pharmacy. “I have a quiet nature and a public speaking environment is not my comfort zone. But there is not one second that I would question my decision, because I love my job and the rewards of teaching.”

Half of Dunn’s appointment involves clinical work at Columbia’s William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center, where she does inpatient consults in cardiology, but her real passion is teaching and, more specifically, her students.

“I’m dedicated to ensuring that my students understand and learn,” says Dunn. “I will devote as much time as they need — extra review sessions, study sessions, out-of-class assessment tools, emails or communication. I want to make sure they truly understand the concepts.”

That dedication has led her to explore a variety of new technologies to improve the teaching and learning process. The College of Pharmacy recently incorporated electronic testing in the classroom, and Dunn was one of the major forces behind its smooth implementation. The Blackboard-based system gives much more immediate feedback to students, she says, making for a more active learning environment.

She and her colleagues plan to use this spring as a means of eliciting questions in real time in the classroom. And the College of Pharmacy just implemented NiaRx, an academic electronic medical record that allows students to navigate through mock patient records as they work up a case for discussion.

The new technologies are important because of the nationwide shift toward adopting active learning, distributed learning models and classroom engagement. The South Carolina College of Pharmacy has a particular understanding of the nature of that beast, Dunn says, given that its students are in Columbia, Charleston and Greenville.

“From online learning to electronic testing, the expertise at SCCP runs the gamut,” Dunn says. “We are committed to guidance — always willing to facilitate the process, help with change or share experiences.”

Whether it’s teaching classes in cardiology, handling an online alternative medicine course or overseeing a critical care elective, Dunn has found where she wants to be.

“Pharmacy is an ever-evolving environment, so teaching students self-directed learning and critical thinking is very important,” she says. “It is a joy to connect with students to enhance their knowledge. Having a career that’s fun and ever-changing is very gratifying.”

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To learn how you can support teaching and research at the South Carolina College of Pharmacy, visit Carolina's Promise.

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