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IHN Faculty Member Receives Presidential Teaching Award: Dr. Akabas Among Columbia University's Outstanding Educators

Institute of Human Nutrition Faculty Member Receives Presidential Teaching Award:

Photo Caption: Claude M. Steele, Ph.D., Provost of the University and Professor of Psychology;

Sharon R. Akabas, Ph.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Nutrition in Pediatrics and the Institute

of Human Nutrition and director of the M.S. Program in Human Nutrition

 

Sharon R. Akabas Among Columbia University’s Outstanding Educators

IHN’s Sharon Akabas, PhD. Receives Presidential Teaching Award

May 18th, 2010 was a proud day for 63 Masters degree and 7 PhD students from the Institute of Human Nutrition and a memorable one for the Institute’s faculty, students and staff, as well. In addition to marking the entry of the 2010 graduates to the growing ranks of Institute alumni all over the world (see Alumni Survey Story, P), the 256th commencement exercise also marked the presentation by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger of a Presidential Teaching Award to the IHNs Sharon R. Akabas, Ph.D, Director of the MS Program in Human Nutrition and Associate Clinical Professor of Nutrition in Pediatrics and the Institute of Human Nutrition.

Dr. Akabas was one of only five Columbia University faculty members to receive the 2010 award which recognizes academic excellence and an outstanding commitment to the university and its students. The honor was awarded in acknowledgement of Dr. Akabas’ extraordinary contributions as an educator during her fifteen year tenure at the Institute of Human Nutrition MS Program.

An 1988 alumna of the Institute’s Ph.D. program, Dr. Akabas has served as a member of the Institute faculty since 1995, developing many courses and training programs. She was appointed as M.S. program director in 2006. Under her leadership, the IHN has strengthened and expanded the M.S. program, broadening research and thesis opportunities for MS students within the fifty departments and institutions affiliated with the Institute of Human Nutrition. 

Dr. Sally Ann Lederman, Special Lecturer in the Institute of Human Nutrition and the Mailman School of Public Health co-teaches the IHN’s Special Studies course with Dr. Akabas – or Sharon as she is known to colleagues and students alike. She expressed the sentiments of many saying, “I have known Sharon for nearly 30 years.  During that time I have come to recognize her special teaching ability, a skill that was the combined effect of her broad science and nutrition knowledge and her deep interest in people and in understanding them.  Over the last four years, Sharon has drawn together a talented and dedicated faculty, revised most of the courses in the program, and developed support systems that make it possible for all of the students to reach their potential, and for most to exceed their original aspirations.”

Dr. Akabas is particularly interested in educating health professionals about the importance of nutrition in disease prevention and treatment. As the Institute’s Associate Director for Educational Initiatives, she has created programs and curricula that target childhood obesity, in particular.  In addition to continuing medical education courses on topics such as Women and Micro-Nutrients and Obesity Co-Morbidities, she has developed symposia for practicing health care professionals and initiated collaborations with community groups to develop obesity prevention programs.  Gerald Friedman, MD, PhD, MS, Director of Nutritional Medical Undergraduate Education at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, for whom Dr. Akabas served as thesis mentor in 1998, observed that, “Before the current health care crisis, Dr. Akabas recognized the pivotal role of nutrition education in preventive medicine, particularly with reference to cardiovascular disease and the pervasis impact of pediatric and adult obesity on morbidity and mortality. Her teaching excellence was demonstrated by creating multi-level courses emphasizing the nutritional bridge between the basic science and clinical application.”

A popular professor and mentor who teaches the M.S. courses on obesity, Special Studies, and Essentials of Nutrition Counseling and Medical Nutrition Therapy, Dr. Akabas is admired by colleagues and students alike as a dedicated and gifted educator. Sigrid Collier, a current MS student spoke of Dr. Akabas’ “positive outlook” and ability to “project both academic authority and maternal nurturing”, noting that the “firmness of her convictions and academic curiosity earn the respect of her students.”

Institute Director, Richard J. Deckelbaum, M.D. spoke on behalf of her colleagues in the Institute and throughout Columbia University Medical Center noting, “Sharon Akabas has truly had a key role in advancing the Institute of Human Nutrition’s mission to provide outstanding academic, professional education, and training programs in human nutrition. “

Written by Pamela Cooper

pc203@columbia.edu

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