Excellence in Teaching: Memoona Hasnain

Memoona Hasnain
Memoona Hasnain

Each year, UIC honors some of its most dedicated and outstanding teachers with the Award for Excellence in Teaching. The winners, who receive a $5,000 salary increase, are selected by past recipients of the award from nominations made by departments and colleges.

Memoona Hasnain
Professor of Family and Community Medicine

Years at UIC: 24

What does it mean to win an Excellence in Teaching Award?
I am humbled and honored to receive this award, and it gives me renewed inspiration as I greatly value the gift of education. My father was orphaned at the age of 2 and was unable to fulfill his dream of studying medicine due to financial constraints. My mother was denied formal education due to gender-based discrimination. After my father’s early demise in a plane accident, my mother raised her six children as a single mother and made sure each one of us received formal education. By investing my energies in teaching and educational development, I believe I am paying it forward. Education to me is a continuum, a chain with unending links. I firmly believe that who I am today has been shaped by the influence of many people, especially my teachers and students. I’m also very grateful for the incredible support I have had from my husband and sons along my professional journey.

What do you teach?
I am the principal architect of several educational innovations, including UIC College of Medicine’s longitudinal Patient-centered Medicine Scholars Program, which has special emphasis on vulnerable populations and social determinants of health, and includes a Service Learning Program and a course on Interprofessional Approaches to Health Disparities. I am co-director of ENGAGE-IL, a Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program funded by HRSA. By giving students community-engaged and team-based experiences early on in their education, my goal is to improve students’ attitudes, values and competencies to prepare them as health care leaders with skills to effectively address the rising burden of key public health concerns and advance health equity. I have developed and implemented academic programs organized in four themes: interprofessional collaborative education and practice; civic role, service learning and community engagement; cultural sensitivity, humility and inclusiveness; and leadership, wellness and resilience. These themes are woven into successful ongoing programs for various levels of learners, with a special emphasis on building the health workforce pipeline, including faculty development.

How do you engage students in your courses?
Central to my teaching philosophy is learner-centered education, hence I organize my teaching around explicitly defined learner interests and needs. My focus is on fostering critical thinking and self-directed learning, rather than simply mastery of the content of a class or course. Whether teaching a structured course or elective, or mentoring and advising medical students, family medicine residents, graduate students, faculty, or allied health professionals, I find it stimulating and rewarding to help develop and nurture learners’ ideas and passions to shape their values, as well as to build their confidence, knowledge, abilities and skills.

What do you enjoy most about teaching at UIC?
I believe it is my responsibility to pass on to my students the gifts given to me by my teachers: gifts of intellectual curiosity, humility, empathy, compassion, humanism, integrity and excellence.

As a public health scientist and medical educator, I have found my natural home in family and community medicine, which, as a discipline, embraces the principles and values that I personally hold. I am very fortunate to work with a talented team of colleagues who share my passions and vision. I greatly value the long-term relationships and friendships with my colleagues. I have successfully forged collaborative linkages with other departments, colleges and schools, including the UIC Department of Medical Education, the colleges of Nursing, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Applied Health Sciences, Social Work and the School of Public Health. As Faculty-in-Residence, I also enjoy the opportunity to provide ongoing mentoring and advising for students living in campus residence halls.

Being a teacher is a gift. I feel privileged to be able to influence the learning of a wide variety of learners and never cease to be amazed by their wisdom, resilience, commitment and drive. I am committed to continuing to give my very best to my students and to my colleagues. I consider their contributions to my own learning invaluable; I truly believe that I gain as much as I give.

What are your research interests?
My research interests span two interlinked areas that converge on building a more kind, compassionate, just, and equitable world: addressing health disparities, with a special interest in health equity, social justice, social determinants of health, women’s health and quality care issues for understudied and at-risk populations; and development and evaluation of educational interventions that promote humanism, leadership and scholarship and ensure that future health care professionals can effectively address equity and health disparities issues.

What is your advice to students considering a teaching career?
It is a unique honor and privilege to be a teacher and one of the best careers that I would encourage students to pursue. Educational development, particularly developing and sustaining educational innovations, is hard work though, and needs commitment and perseverance. Find something that you care about and are passionate to transform; build in small incremental steps, utilize the power of teams, be kind to yourself and others, and do everything with love, joy and gratitude.

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