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Enrique Gerszten, M.D. Faculty Teaching Excellence Award
“An unparalleled commitment to fostering growth in those around him from medical students to faculty colleagues.” This describes J. Christian Barrett, M.D., Professor and Associate Chair of Clinical Affairs, Department of Internal Medicine, Director, Central Virginia Center for Coagulation Disorders, Director of the School of Medicine (SOM) MS2a Marrow Division, and Program Director, Hematology-Oncology Fellowship Training Program. Dr. Barrett was recruited to VCU in the summer of 2005 and has had an enormous impact, not just on a broad spectrum of medical learners, but on the organization of curricula and the methods our faculty in environments from UME, GME, and CME use to teach.
In addition to his current roles, Dr. Barrett has served education over the past 16 years, including past roles as the Associate Program Director and Core Educator for the Internal Medicine Residency, GME Education Committee (voted position), Chair of the SOM Curriculum Committee, and as a member of the Clinical Competency and Program Evaluation Committees. He is a dedicated and highly rated clinical teacher on the inpatient hematology service, including the consult service, the fellows’ clinic and in the ambulatory hematology clinic, directing a rotation for students, resident and fellows.
When our UME curriculum was redesigned, Dr. Barrett was already recognized as an excellent teacher, but embraced change, introducing interactive POGIL-based sessions and additional TBL modules. Dr. Barrett developed a self-reflection exercise for students to share how they had been personally affected by cancer; students have reported this reflection helps them to better understand the impact of the clinical information they are learning. Using digital stories, Dr. Barrett recorded video vignettes by medical students who were affected by cancer or bleeding disorders, helping students to understand the patient’s perspective of experiencing illness.
“ … [B]oth of my sons are medical students at VCU. Over the dinner table, after telling me how much they enjoyed Dr. Barrett’s lectures, they mentioned that he contacted them after the course was completed to get feedback. … I doubt I know of any other faculty member who goes to this length – contacting students directly – to solicit input on their performance and who take that feedback to heart as much as Christian does,” attests John E. Nestler, M.D., MACP, Professor of Medicine, Former Chair of Internal Medicine.
Dr. Barrett constantly works to learn more and do more to serve learners. He draws ideas from colleagues worldwide, implementing innovations here to improve our learning environment. He has completed formal programs to strengthen his leadership and teaching skills, including the VCU TiME (Teaching in Medical Education) certificate program and the Grace E Harris Leadership Institute. “He openly acknowledges if he does not know something and will eagerly look for an answer. In doing so, he exemplifies the definition of lifelong learner. Years from now I am certain his example will constantly remind me that becoming a great doctor does not end when training ends … ” explains former resident and fellow, Zachary Benson, M.D., Division of Hematology, Oncology, and Palliative Care, VCU.
In recognition of his numerous contributions to Internal Medicine educational programs he was awarded the department Innovation in Teaching Award in 2015 and the Jeff Krystal Award for Best Teacher-Mentor in Hem/Onc in 2020. In 2017 he was awarded the SOM Leadership in GME award. Dr. Barrett has received 12 teaching awards spanning the learner spectrum for his teaching, mentoring, and leadership and he is a 2-time winner of the VCU SOM Educational Innovation in Teaching Award.
Former VCU resident and fellow Haeseong Park, M.D., M.P.H., now Associate Professor of Molecular Oncology at Washington University SOM, speaks for so many of Dr. Barrett’s students, “Dr. Barrett simply is the best teacher that I have had in my whole life. Throughout all 7 years of my medical training, Dr. Barrett gave me the right advice at very precise moments, and I cannot thank him enough for leading me to where I am now, where I had only dreamed of being when I first started training as an intern.”