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Health Sciences' Dickson Despommier Receives 2003 National Golden Apple for Teaching Excellence

By Leslie Boen and Stephanie Berger

Dickson Despommier

Dickson Despommier, professor of environmental health sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health (MSPH) and professor of microbiology at Columbia's College of Physicians & Surgeons, has been named the 2003 winner of the American Medical Student Association's (AMSA) National Golden Apple for Teaching Excellence award. Chosen from a pool of student-nominated candidates from across the country, Despommier was singled out by AMSA's selection committee for his deep commitment and singular contributions to excellence in medical education. He recently received his award at AMSA's 53rd annual national convention in Washington, D.C.

"I am deeply touched to have been chosen for this award," said Despommier. "As a teacher, there is nothing more important and fulfilling than having your students and their peers recognize and appreciate you for your work. I thank AMSA for this considerable honor and would like to share the award with my many equally deserving colleagues at Columbia."

A graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University (B.S. biology, 1962), Columbia University (M.S. medical parasitology, 1964), and the University of Notre Dame (Ph.D., biology, 1967) -- and a member of Columbia's faculty since 1970 -- Despommier today has a wide variety of teaching and curriculum development responsibilities at Columbia, serving as course director for educational programs in parasitic diseases, ecology, medical ecology, emerging infections, and the environmental health sciences. Despommier is also the author of a textbook on parasitic diseases published in 2000 and is widely acclaimed for his book "West Nile Story," an account of the West Nile virus epidemic that began in New York City during the summer of 1999.

"As one of the students who nominated Dr. Despommier, I am particularly delighted to hear of this award," said Puneet Masson (P&S '05). "I'm sure all my classmates would agree that Dr. Despommier has made a significant difference in the lives and educational experiences of many students here at the Health Sciences campus. I can't think of a worthier honoree than Dr. Despommier, and I'm glad that I had the opportunity to play such an important role in the nomination process that led to his selection."

"Though Dr. Despommier has been acknowledged many times on our campus for his extraordinary gifts as a mentor and educator, we believe it is fitting and appropriate that he has received national recognition as well," said Gerald D. Fischbach, executive vice president for health and biomedical sciences and dean of the Faculty of Medicine. "Without question, Dr. Despommier exemplifies the very best of what the American medical education system has to offer. He is richly deserving of this award, and we commend AMSA for its decision."

The American Medical Student Association, with a half-century history of medical student activism, is the oldest and largest independent association of physicians-in-training in the United States. With a membership of more than 30,000 medical students, pre-medical students, interns and residents from across the country, AMSA continues its commitment to improving medical training and the nation's health.

Published: May 05, 2003
Last modified: May 02, 2003

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