Excellence in Teaching: Richard Stringham

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.

Richard Stringham
Richard Stringham, associate professor of clinical family medicine and assistant dean for curriculum in the College of Medicine.

Years at UIC: 11

What does it mean to win an Excellence in Teaching Award?
I am humbled to receive this prestigious award but I am most honored when I receive recognition directly from those whom I teach.

What do you teach?
I teach in the UIC College of Medicine and specifically most of my teaching is in the last two years of medical school, which is when medical students are incorporating their basic science knowledge in the clinical setting with real patients. I teach dermatology and outpatient orthopedics to our family medicine clerkship students and in my role as Assistant Dean for Curriculum of the third and fourth years of medical school, I also teach about various topics including how to avoid diagnostic errors, improving patient-care handoffs and improving the learners’ well-being as they go through their medical education.

How do you engage students in your courses?
I think an important goal of a teacher is to inspire his or her learners.  A way I do that is to not hold back on showing how much I enjoy teaching and for me being a family physician. By showing enthusiasm and creating a comfortable learning environment students are more likely to speak up and engage rather than be worried they could be insulted and put down for not knowing something. I try to have my teaching sessions be, as some students say, “an interactive conversation.”

What do you enjoy most about teaching at UIC?
I love the students and specifically the diversity of students here at UIC.  I am so proud to teach at the medical school which graduates the most Hispanic physicians in the country and the most African American doctors with the exception of a couple of medical schools which focus almost exclusively on that goal. Diversity, however, goes beyond the color of one’s skin. I have met a number of Caucasian medical students here at UIC who are the first in their family to go to college. As I have heard Chancellor Amiridis say, “UIC helps bring people up socioeconomically.” Our medical students are also very intelligent, hard-working, and humble.

What are your research interests? 
My research focuses on medical education. I have looked at the psychological factors that affect people’s involvement in the evaluation and assessment process in medical education. I am looking at the factors involved in why patients say “yes” or “no” to having medical students see them in the clinical setting. I have been involved in a number of projects seeing how to utilize student involvement to improve our medical school curriculum. 

What is your advice to students considering a teaching career?
One does not have to be the smartest person to be a good teacher. I am fortunate to have mild dyslexia. By having dyslexia I developed a very strong work ethic as a child that continues to this day. I had to learn concepts different ways in order to understand them well which helps now because I can teach things different ways to different students when needed. Most importantly having dyslexia has given me patience and understanding when it takes someone longer to learn something.