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School of Medicine profiles

November 18, 2013

Clive M. Baumgarten, Ph.D.

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Enrique Gerszten, M.D. Faculty Teaching Excellence Award

In 2010, Clive Baumgarten, Ph.D., Professor of Physiology and Biophysics, Internal Medicine, and Biomedical Engineering, was recognized as a “Heart Hero” by the American Heart Association Atlantic Affiliate for dedicating his career to advancing science that saves lives. Today we recognize him for over thirty years of dedication to helping VCU School of Medicine students understand this science.

“The essence of his success has been that he brings the same rigor of thought and careful preparation to his teaching that is also the hallmark of his research; he is a clear and logical thinker and he realized early on that these are also the underpinnings of the best teaching,” observes his friend and colleague Linda S. Costanzo, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Physiology and Biophysics and 1999 Faculty Teaching Excellence Award winner.

“I remember how he could take one of the most difficult subjects, cardiac electrophysiology, and make it seem so simple, so logical,” recalls Susan R. DiGiovanni, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Assistant Dean for Pre-clinical Medical Education, who learned physiology from Dr. Baumgarten as an M1 student.

Current M4 student Alison Setia also recalls Dr. Baumgarten’s M1 Physiology class. “He has an outstanding knowledge bank and eagerly answers our multitudes of questions, which he never hesitates to answer or to expand upon.” The Class of 2015 Curriculum Representatives Jade Kindley, Stephanie Marshall, and Allison Hastings agree, “Despite his many obligations … his devotion to his students makes it seem as if he has time for each and every individual in the class.”

Emily Dilger, Ph.D., recalls Dr. Baumgarten’s Ion Channels class, her favorite in her graduate school career, “One of the ways in which Dr. Baumgarten was an excellent teacher was that he hardly ever answered a student’s question directly. Instead, he would ask the student questions to help guide them towards the answer. By leading the student through his or her questions in this manner, Dr. Baumgarten helped them understand the underlying concepts and remember them more easily.”

MD-PhD Student Mohammed Mamdani describes rotating through Dr. Baumgarten’s laboratory, “I began the rotation without much knowledge of electrophysiology and the learning curve was steep. However, Dr. Baumgarten’s commitment to teaching and his accessibility throughout the rotation allowed me to learn to patch-clamp primary cardiomyocytes with high fidelity, assess their function, and assist the post-doctoral fellow with several experiments.”

Gordon Archer, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Microbiology/Immunology, Director of the MD-PhD Program, and Senior Associate Dean for Research and Research Training, states, “I don’t think that I have encountered a more dedicated and committed teacher in all of my many years at the medical school. Clive just loves to see a student’s eyes light up when he or she “gets it” and he relishes the opportunity to take them as far as they can go.” Dr. Baumgarten also leads the M1 MD-PhD Journal Club and presents yearly at the M2 Science and Disease Seminar for the MD-PhD students.

Dr. Baumgarten’s influence extends beyond physiology content. “Dr. Baumgarten has a strong, purposeful sense of compassion,” states Mohammed Mamdani. “This approach elicits better, more thoughtful results, whether it’s in an interview, a classroom, a laboratory, or meeting. And, as medical students, we learn to hone this sense of compassion in order to enhance the experiences and outcomes of our patients.”

As Mike Waters, MD-PhD student, summarizes, “I feel that he is deserving of this Faculty Teaching Excellence Award because of his refusal to rest on his laurels. Dr. Baumgarten’s effort towards improving his craft is inspiring, and he stands as the personification of ideals that our university holds dear.”