SBMI student body votes assistant professor as this year’s distinguished educator

Published May 09, 2013 by Sarah Kelly


HOUSTON – (May 9, 2013) – Trevor Cohen, MBChB, PhD, was awarded the 2012-2013 John P. McGovern Outstanding Teacher Award at The University of Texas School of Biomedical Informatics at Houston.

“My discussions with Dr. Cohen are always a scientific journey,” One SBMI student said. “He guides students to find the solution or understand the question—lots of thinking, lots of learning, and at the end of the day, you feel very accomplished and proud of being a researcher or a ‘geek’.”

Cohen taught Foundations of Health Information Sciences II (HI 5311) in the Fall 2012 and Spring 2013 semesters, which is a required course for all students enrolled in the master of science and doctor of philosophy health informatics programs.

The course concerns ways in which information is processed by humans and machines, with an emphasis on the modeling of biomedical data using geometric, probabilistic and other approaches. Lecture material is combined with laboratory assignments that, whenever possible, leverage systems and datasets that are both publicly available and practically significant.

When accepting the award at yesterday’s commencement ceremony, Cohen thanked the student body, his wife and his teachers over the years, mentioning clarity of expression and enthusiasm as two things that he strives to accomplish as an educator.

“I think about the excellent teachers that I’ve had when considering the qualities that I aspire to in teaching,” said Cohen. “The two qualities that stand out to me are clarity of expression and enthusiasm in the subject being taught. With respect to clarity of expression, I think that some credit for this – if it manifested in my teaching – is due to my wife, Lauren, and to the students who, over the years, have helped me to understand if my articulations of the material are easily interpreted.

“As for enthusiasm, I think some credit goes to the teachers that I’ve had who’ve instilled their enthusiasm for this subject and for teaching. Also, credit is due to the students who I’ve interacted with at SBMI because enthusiasm does not exist in a vacuum. Without the brave students who’ve taken their time, trouble and effort to grapple with this material with great enthusiasm, I don’t think that quality would have manifested in my teaching either.”

The John P. McGovern Outstanding Teacher Award is presented annually to a faculty member who provides information and substantially contributes to students’ ability to think critically. The recipient must cultivate student confidence in the roles for which they are being educated, while stimulating their further quest for knowledge and ongoing professional development.

The SBMI student body nominated five faculty members for the award this year, including Trevor Cohen, MBChB, PhDAmy Franklin, PhD; Yang Gong, MD, PhDM. Sriram Iyengar, PhD; and Hongbin Wang, PhD

In submitting their nominations, students were asked to explain how the faculty member demonstrated deep knowledge of their area of expertise, sustained enthusiasm for teaching, continued interest in understanding students, responded quickly to student questions and encouraged independent thinking.

View past winners of the John P. McGovern Outstanding Teacher Award

Watch the presentation of the award in SBMI’s Commencement Ceremony video (at the 10 minute mark).