Leonard E. White, PhD
Associate Professor in Neurology
Department of Neurology
Duke University School of Medicine
As associate professor in neurology at Duke, Dr. White has set the bar for medical education through impressive foresight, anticipating student needs and pioneering new approaches well ahead of others in the field. He helped establish team-based learning at Duke, developed the first modular videos for hybrid flipped-classroom learning, and integrated humanities into medical education — long before these strategies became well-known and adopted across the country.
In his “Drawing Brains” sessions, for example, first-year medical students complete visual arts projects connecting neuroscience to humanities. He incorporates poetry from neurodiverse authors and challenges students to think openly and equitably about people with disabilities. He is also the co-founder of the Duke master of biomedical sciences program, which includes partnerships to recruit and support talented underrepresented students who aspire to provide health care in underserved communities, and a volunteer with BOOST (Building Opportunities and Overtures in Science and Technology), a multidimensional program designed to excite young people about science and inspire them to pursue careers in medicine and related fields.
In addition to developing and teaching courses in foundational neuroscience and clinical neuroanatomy, Dr. White mentors his colleagues as they develop their own curricula and address student concerns. He has led the university in student-centered education with courses that emphasize active learning, real-time problem-solving, and collaboration. Students regularly join his weekly “neur-runs” to informally discuss neuroscience while running through Duke Forest. His tradition of inviting his class of over 100 students into his home for an end-of-course celebration each semester is also well-known.
Dr. White’s work extends beyond the university’s campus. He has coauthored and edited the leading undergraduate medical education textbook on neuroscience, which is used by medical students around the world. In addition, Dr. White created and teaches Medical Neuroscience, a medical school-caliber online course experienced by over 500,000 learners from more than 190 countries since it began in 2013. The course was named one of the “Top 50 Free Online Courses of All Time” by Class Central in 2016.
At Duke University School of Medicine, Dr. White has received the prestigious student-selected Golden Apple Award five times in the past 10 years — the maximum number of times the award can be received. He has also received the Master Clinician/Teacher Award and, from doctor of physical therapy students, the school’s Excellence in Teaching Award. In 2019, Dr. White earned the highest teaching honor conferred by Duke University, the Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award.
Dr. White received his PhD in neural biology in 1992 from Washington University in St. Louis. After his postdoctoral training at Duke’s Department of Neurobiology, he joined the medical school faculty, where he continues to teach. You can find Dr. White’s research in leading scientific journals, including Nature, Science, and The Journal of Neuroscience.