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2018 Alpha Omega Alpha Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teacher Award

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Gail Morrison, MD, William Maul Measey President’s Distinguished Professor in Medical Education, Executive Director, Innovation Center for Online Medical Education, Former Senior Vice Dean for Education and Director of Academic Programs, Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

It’s not often that a single educator makes sweeping and lasting changes to an entire medical school curriculum, but Gail Morrison, MD, a pioneering leader in medical education, did just that.

Upon her appointment in 1995 as vice dean for education and director of academic programs at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (PSOM), Dr. Morrison began a 20-year odyssey during which she would envision, build, and implement a medical school curriculum that transformed how students acquire knowledge, cultivate leadership skills, and develop clinical competencies.

Realizing that self-directed online learning was how future learners would keep pace with advances in medicine, Dr. Morrison enabled students to access much of the curriculum’s instructional content online at any time. Rather than attend compulsory live lectures, students focused on small group study, seminars that required information analysis and synthesis, and individualized elective experiences.

The result was the highly successful Curriculum 2000 (now called Learning for Life), which emphasizes integrated, cross-disciplinary learning with a focus on humanism — an approach that Dean J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, calls “groundbreaking, unprecedented, and ahead of the times.” At the 2011 Aspen Ideas Festival, Dr. Morrison noted that the new curriculum reflects 21st-century medical practice is a model in which doctors “need to be continual learners.”

Since its implementation, more than 3,000 PSOM students have benefited from the program’s flexible, highly integrated design. Other institutions have noticed the program’s success and are implementing similar changes. Says Dean Jameson, “Since 1998, over 40 U.S. and 20 international medical schools have sent delegations to Penn to learn about the process, development, and implementation of Curriculum 2000.”

Dr. Morrison recently stepped down as the senior vice dean for education and director of academic programs. Her medical education work continues in her current capacity as executive director of the Innovation Center for Online Medical Education.

Dr. Morrison has received numerous accolades, including the University of Pennsylvania’s most prestigious educational award, the Lindback Award, in 1988. She has also received the Daniel C. Tosteson Award from the Carl J. Shapiro Institute for Education and Research at Harvard for her leadership in medical education. In 2018, she became only the fourth person to receive the PSOM’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Morrison graduated from Boston University and earned her medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed her residency at Georgetown Hospital and served as staff associate for the director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute before returning to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine to complete a fellowship in nephrology.

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