Celebrating a golden anniversary is a special occasion usually reserved for birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Marking 50 years at work at UTHealth Houston's McGovern Medical School is one faculty member, who plans to celebrate with another milestone – retirement.
Gary Rosenfeld, PhD, joined the Medical School faculty in 1972 as one of the first faculty members – before the Medical School had a large permanent building.
“We did research at Center Pavilion Hospital for five years before moving into the new Medical School Building,” Rosenfeld said.
Rosenfeld started his career at the Medical School as an assistant professor in pharmacology, with an affiliation in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS). He earned his PhD in pharmacology from the University of Chicago, followed by training in molecular endocrinology at the Max Planck Institute for Cell Biology in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, and at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Nationally recognized as an educator with decades of experience working with medical students to enhance their academic and professional development, Rosenfeld has taught nearly every student who has attended McGovern Medical School as the course director for Pharmacology and a facilitator in Problem Based Learning (PBL).
“In the early 90s, the Medical School sent me to Harvard to learn about PBL. That was when I first saw what professional educators could do for medical education. I became a zealot, and we started laying the groundwork for PBL here, introducing it in 1994,” he said. “It is still an outstanding way to educate students.”
Rosenfeld focused the first 30 years of his career at the Medical School as a researcher, investigating the actions of opioids and second messengers on the central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. He then turned his focus to medical education.
Rosenfeld was instrumental in growing the Summer Research Program into what it is today. “When I started heading up the program, we had two dozen students – today we have more than 100,” he said.
When scholarly concentrations started to make their way into medical education, Rosenfeld was tapped with leading McGovern’s efforts. In 2009, students were able to select a concentration to hone their career path, and today there are 14 offered, providing a great breadth of interests.
He also championed and organized the Medical Student Research Office and was appointed its founding director in 2022. This new office supports all of the activities that relate to medical student research across the curriculum.
“The Medical School has been great in providing continuous opportunities, intellectual stimulation, and the chance to create new programs for students and faculty,” Rosenfeld said.
In pursuit of elevating the role of medical education, he was selected the founding chair of the Academy of Master Educators. Supporting faculty who excel in medical education, the Academy now includes nearly 100 McGovern Medical School faculty members.
Nationally, Rosenfeld was a member of the MCAT committee (2008-13), which thoroughly reviewed and suggested revisions to the exam for the first time since 1990. “Those changes had a profound effect on medical school applications,” he said.
He also championed and was the founding chairman of the American Society of Pharmacology and Therapeutics Division of Pharmacology Education.
His numerous honors include the AAMC Group on Educational Affairs Merrell Flair Award in Medical Education, the AAMC Southern Group on Educational Affairs Career Educator Award, the UT System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, and the UT System Distinguished Teaching Professor.
Rosenfeld said he will miss the intellectual stimulation and colleagues the most, once he retires in late August.
“There are two people I owe a lot to – George Stancel, who was the right chairman at the right time for me, and Dr. Patricia Butler, with whom I worked for 30 plus years,” he said.
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