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October 1, 2001

Former Student, Now on Faculty, Recognized for Excellent Teaching

Thomas Manger used to watch established Health Center faculty such as Bruce Koeppen and Achilles Pappano teach medical and dental students. And he was among those who voted for them to receive teaching awards.

But when he himself won the Health Center's foremost teaching award, the 2001 Charles N. Loeser Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Basic Medical Sciences, his reaction was "Disbelief!"

"I'm fairly young faculty and this is a prestigious award," says Dr. Manger, an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine and a clinician with Internal Medicine Associates. "I went to school here and I know what it meant to me to be able to vote for the award."

The Loeser Award, named in memory of anatomy professor Charles Loeser, is awarded annually to a Health Center faculty member by second-year medical and dental students. It was presented for the 27th time this year. The winner must possess scholarly curiosity; the ability to evoke in students an enthusiasm for learning; and a desire to give wholeheartedly of him- or herself to advance the welfare and education of students.

A cell biologist as well as a physician, Manger specializes in kidney physiology. He is a UConn alumnus and 1994 graduate of the Health Center's M.D./Ph.D. program. Dr. Koeppen, now dean for academic affairs and education, used to be his mentor.

"I took something away from the wonderful teachers I had here, like Bruce Koeppen and Dr. Achilles Pappano and Dr. (Anthony) 'Bud' Ardolino in the clinical phase," Manger says. "I've come full circle. I'm now able to emulate them - to give back to the students what I learned from my teachers."

Pappano, a four-time Loeser Award-winner, says he was thrilled to be joined by Manger at the awards banquet this year. "Here was a person we had in class doing precisely what we hoped our students would do: turn around and pass the information on to the next generation," he says.

"Tom Manger is very thoughtful," adds Pappano, "and his efforts on behalf of the students capture their attention and affection."

Manger started teaching as part of his M.D./Ph.D. program. He says it took some time to become comfortable in his role as teacher.

"It's taken a fair amount of practice," he says. "You have to know your information, but no one can know everything.

"Honesty and humility are important parts of teaching," he says. "If you don't know something, say so. The students are smart and you have to square with them because they're going to do their research and find out anyhow.

"The same holds with patients, too," he adds. "They appreciate honesty."

Another important factor is to set realistic expectations. "Medical and dental students are bombarded with facts," he says. "It's vital for the teacher to sift through the chaff and bring out the key principles."

Manger says teaching is one of the most satisfying aspects of his professional career. "Teaching teachers is just a blast," he says, "and all of our students are going to be teachers - if not in the classroom, then in their practices with their patients."

Pat Keefe

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