In addition to having a strong commitment to excellence in research, the department is responsible for and committed to the teaching of the contemporary contents of the traditional disciplines of physiology, pharmacology, and therapeutics in the College of Medicine. In the health-care profession programs this includes the MD students in medical school, MS students in the Physician Assistant program and MS students in the Human Donation Science program. The department also teaches these disciplines and other basic sciences to students in the interdisciplinary Ph.D. and M.S. programs that are designed to prepare students for careers in biomedical sciences. Currently, this adds up to about 600 hours of didactic teaching per year in addition to the individual training received by research students. Department faculty also play an important role in organizing the curricula and oversee about 1000 scheduled hours as directors of blocks, courses and units within courses.
For the medical student curriculum in the College of Medicine, the department faculty present close to 60% of the lectures in the Organ Systems block which is taught in the second year. This important block includes most of the key physiology and pharmacology integrated with pathology and clinical presentations. The department faculty also make important contributions to the Cellular and Molecular Biology block taught in the first year and the Immunity and Infection block taught in the second year.
For the physician assistant students, physiology and pharmacology are also essential for they also will be healthcare providers with prescriptive privileges. The department has been responsible for directing and teaching pharmacology in the physician assistant program since its inception in 1996. Since that time the program has flourished and now recruits about 45 students each year. We now teach about 130 hours of material spread over three courses Fundamentals of Pharmacology, I-III taught in the spring, summer and fall semesters with about 7 faculty members participating. The department is also responsible for teaching two other courses in the PA program Human Physiology and Basic Genetics.
For the Human Donation Science students the department has begun providing basic knowledge of pharmacology, by teaching a pharmacology module in the course Scientific and Clinical Foundations for Human Organ Donation and Transplantation. This is a unique program that trains individuals who wish to become human organ procurement coordinators, who need to understand how drugs can be used to maintain the viability of organs in brain dead organ donors prior to transplantation.
The department also has important teaching duties in the College of Medicine graduate programs. A physiology course is taught to students in the MSBS in Medical Sciences program. This program is designed to prepare students for more advanced studies in medicine and primarily application for medical school. For students wishing to develop careers in research, by earning a PhD or MS degree in Biomedical Sciences, the department plays an important role in teaching key didactic courses including the four first year core courses of the curriculum related to proteins, biomembranes and cell signaling and genes respectively, as well as other key courses including Methods in Molecular Cell Biology and other advanced courses.
The department has a long history of excellence and dedication to teaching. This is exemplified by the legendary record of Dr. Dan Koechel, now retired, who received the "Golden Apple" award for teaching medical students for 31 consecutive years. “Golden Apples” have also been awarded to Joana Chakraborty, PhD in 2010 and Andrew Beavis, PhD in 2012. Dr. Beavis has also been selected by the Physician Assistant students for an “Outstanding Faculty” award each year from 2009-2015 and is the 2015 recipient of the Dean's award for Excellence in Education.