Medical educator empowers students to fulfill potential

Ilena Harris

“The greatest gift you can give students is to listen to them and provide feedback,” says Ilene Harris, head of medical education. Photo: Joshua Clark/UIC Photo Services


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. 

“One of the reasons I came to UIC is that a colleague who worked here said, ‘I learn so much more from my students than I can possibly teach them,’ and I thought to myself, ‘this is where I want to be,’” says Ilene Harris, professor and head of medical education.

The department in the College of Medicine is one of just a few of its kind in the world, Harris says. Its missions include education, scholarship and service for programs in Medicine and other health sciences colleges.

Units within the department include the Graham Clinical Performance Center, Hispanic Center of Excellence, Office of Assessment and Evaluation, and the Essentials of Clinical Medicine Program.

Harris, who joined UIC in 2003, is the department’s director of graduate studies and director of the master of health professions education program. The program prepares health professionals for leadership roles in education and management. Graduates of the program include deans, department heads and residency program directors at UIC and other institutions around the world.

Harris is a researcher in curriculum studies and development, methodology and qualitative methods, performance assessment and program evaluation. She’s the author of more than 120 peer-reviewed papers and several book chapters.

“It is a great privilege to be a teacher, to instill in others a joy in learning and empower them to fulfill their potential,” Harris says. “And if one is to credibly teach and write about principles and practices of education, I believe it is essential that one should be an exemplary educator.”

She developed and teaches several courses in the program, including curriculum development and program evaluation, assessment methods and writing for scientific publications. Her teaching philosophy emphasizes discussions and projects that use both conceptual frameworks and real-world problems. This encourages students to use critical thinking and reflection, preparing them to apply their knowledge to new problems, she says.

“The greatest gift you can give your students is to listen to them and provide feedback,” Harris says.


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