News Release: People

Nov. 16,  2010

Emory Eye Center Residency Program Director Awarded Prestigious Teaching Award

Emory Eye Center ophthalmologist Maria Aaron, MD, has been awarded the Parker J. Palmer "Courage to Teach" Program Director Excellence Award. The award is presented through the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to 10 outstanding residency program directors for their commitment to teaching and their innovative and effective teaching methods. The awardees are nominated by faculty members, institutional officials and residents and selected from numerous program directors throughout the country.

The award is named after Parker J. Palmer, PhD, a noted sociologist and teacher who wrote The Courage to Teach, among other books on teaching and vocation.

"I am humbled and honored to be the recipient of this award," says Aaron.  "I've truly enjoyed the rewards of teaching residents over the years and look forward to the successes of these future ophthalmologists."

"Maria Aaron has worked very hard in advancing our residency program over the past decade," says Timothy W. Olsen, director of Emory Eye Center. "She is a gifted teacher, educator and resident advocate within our department.  Her skills have clearly been recognized and valued at Emory where she is frequently asked to advise and consult on GME related complex issues. We’re all very proud that she has gained this much deserved national recognition for her expertise and leadership."

Aaron served as Emory Eye Center’s residency program director from 1999 to 2010, training and mentoring more than 70 residents and 30 medical students. She is actively involved in Graduate Medical Education (GME) at Emory University and serves on the GME Documents Review Committee, which provides oversight for all program accreditation at Emory. During her tenure as Emory Eye Center’s residency program director, the program received two successive five-year accredited reviews by the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

On a national level, Aaron served as president of the Program Directors’ Council of the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology (AUPO) (2008) and currently serves as vice-chair of the Ophthalmology Residency Review Committees for the ACGME. She has received an Achievement Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and is an associate examiner for the American Board of Ophthalmology’s Oral Board Examination.

As president of the AUPO Program Director Council, she helped establish ophthalmology’s position on the Institute of Medicine Duty-Hours Recommendations and future changes in the application process for ophthalmology applicants.

Aaron earned her medical degree from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She completed her internship at Georgia Baptist Medical Center, Atlanta, and her residency in ophthalmology at Emory Eye Center then joined the Emory faculty. She became residency program director in 1999. Since 2000, she has been the chief of service in ophthalmology at Emory University Hospital Midtown, and was promoted to associate professor of ophthalmology in 2006.

She has published a number of articles and chapters on resident education and has lectured widely at national ophthalmic meetings on a variety of competency and accreditation topics. Her most recent interest is in the area of generational differences in academic medicine.

Each "Courage to Teach" honoree will receive $1,000 and a plaque, to be presented at the 2011 ACGME Annual Educational Conference, March 3−6 in Nashville, Tenn.

The ACGME is a private, nonprofit organization that accredits approximately 8,800 residency programs in 133 specialties and subspecialties that educate 111,000 residents. Its mission is to improve the quality of health care in the United States by assessing and advancing the quality of resident physicians’ education through exemplary accreditation.

About Emory Eye Center

Emory Eye Center has a mission to conduct pioneering research into blinding eye diseases, to educate and train eye professionals, and to provide excellent patient care. The Department includes 33 ophthalmologists, eight optometrists, 11 basic scientists, 11 post-doctoral fellows, and nine researchers in other Emory departments who hold joint appointments in the Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology. Ophthalmology research is supported by current NIH funding of $20 million through 2010. The Department remains in the top rankings (#14 – 2010) by U.S. News & World Report for the 15 years the magazine has held a ranking for Ophthalmology. It also ranks in the Top Ten in the peer-reviewed Ophthalmology Times annual report.

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