James O'Dell, M.D., named Educator Laureate

by Elizabeth Kumru, UNMC public relations | February 06, 2019

Image with caption: James O'Dell, M.D.

James O'Dell, M.D.

For James O'Dell, M.D., teaching is a family tradition -- a proud tradition he has continued and one that he will be honored for Thursday.

Award ceremony Thursday

The Impact in Education Awards ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, in the Durham Research Center Auditorium, with a reception to follow. The ceremony can be viewed via livestream here.

Awardees are:

Varner Educators Laureate:
James O'Dell, M.D., Stokes Shackleford Professor and vice chair in the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine, and chief of the UNMC Division of Rheumatology; and

Paul Paulman, M.D., professor in the UNMC Department of Family Medicine

Innovative Practices in Education Award:
Danish Bhatti, M.D., assistant professor, UNMC Department of Neurological Sciences

Interprofessional Education Scholar Award:
Elizabeth Beam, Ph.D., assistant professor, UNMC College of Nursing Omaha Division

Inspirational Mentor of Educators Award:
Shannon Boerner, M.D., assistant profession, UNMC Department of Internal Medicine

Research in Education Scholar Award:
Kendra Schmid, Ph.D., professor and interim chair, UNMC Department of Biostatistics

Valor in Educational Service Award:
James Newland, M.D., emeritus professor, UNMC Department of Pathology & Microbiology

Visionary Leadership in Education Award:
Karen Gould, Ph.D., vice chair of education and associate professor, UNMC Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Anatomy

Dr. O'Dell, the Stokes Shackleford Professor and vice chair in the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine, and chief of the UNMC Division of Rheumatology, will be named one of the Varner Educators Laureate for 2018-19.

The award for his excellence in teaching will be presented at the Academic Affairs Impact in Education Awards Ceremony at 2 p.m. in the Durham Research Center Auditorium. Paul Paulman, M.D., professor in the UNMC Department of Family Medicine, also will receive a Varner Educators Laureate award.

Dr. O'Dell's mother was a teacher, his grandfather a scoutmaster for 50 years, and, two years ago, his younger brother, David O'Dell, M.D., professor, internal medicine, was named the inaugural Educator Laureate.

"When I got into medicine it became clear to me that I had the wonderful opportunity to pursue both my passion for patient care and teaching. To do this I made the decision during my residency to go into academic medicine."

Dr. O'Dell readily recognizes all the mentors whose shoulders he stands upon. His list includes some of UNMC's most legendary educators -- the late internal medicine professor LeeRoy Meyer, M.D.; rheumatologist Gerald Moore, M.D., senior associate dean for academic affairs, College of Medicine; Bob Wigton, M.D., assistant dean of special projects, College of Medicine; James Armitage, M.D., Joe Shapiro Professor of Medicine; Lynell Klassen, M.D., professor, rheumatology; and the late Bob Waldman, M.D., dean of the College of Medicine from 1985-1991.

But, the most profound impact was made by Michael Sorrell, M.D., world-renowned liver physician who built UNMC's transplant programs and was chair of the internal medicine department during the 1980s. He chose Dr. O'Dell as his first-ever chief resident.

And, it was Dr. Sorrell who lured him back to UNMC from the University of Colorado, Denver, where Dr. O'Dell had just fallen in love with research. The promise of directing the internal medicine resident training program sealed the deal.

Just like that, Dr. O'Dell became what's known as a 'triple threat' - a clinician, educator and researcher. Since 1984, he has trained the majority of internists and many of the subspecialists who are currently practicing throughout Nebraska, developed medical breakthrough therapies for rheumatoid arthritis and provided compassionate care for thousands of patients and their families.

Advice: "Teaching is its own reward. Have fun with your students and don't miss the opportunity to learn from them. Sometimes it takes a while to see the fruits of your efforts -- sit back and enjoy the tremendous ripple effect of your teaching."


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Tom O'Connor
February 06, 2019 at 8:42 AM

Congrats to Dr. O'Dell on this great recognition. He is truly one of our Hall of Fame faculty members. So glad he's on our team!