Kernick Receives 2010 Distinguished Teaching Award

Edward Kernick, D.P.M., Assistant Professor in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology in the UNC School of Medicine, received a 2010 Distinguished Teaching Award for Excellence in Post-Baccalaureate Instruction in January. The awards are presented annually at UNC-Chapel Hill to recognize inspirational teaching at all levels.

“I was tremendously surprised,” Kernick said of receiving the letter of congratulations from Holden Thorp. “I thought it was a letter telling me that I’d been nominated. It took me half the letter to realize that it was saying I’d won. I take it as an honor not just for me, but for my department.”

Kernick, who came to UNC in 2000, is director of the gross anatomy course for physical therapy students, and co-director of the course for medical students. He teaches five courses every year. In addition to the three basic anatomy courses for medical, dental and physical therapy students he teaches each fall, Kernick teaches neuroanatomy for physical therapy students in the spring and a regional (head and neck) anatomy course for dental residents each summer.

“Students appreciate his attention to detail, clear presentations, laboratory expertise, wit, and most importantly, his interest in them,” said his colleague Dr. Kurt Gilliland, who co-directs the medical school anatomy course with Kernick. “Ed is the epitome of an educator: he never gives the same lecture twice, he constantly evaluates the students and changes his instructional methods, and he truly cares about students learning to think clinically.”

Kernick has a doctorate of podiatric medicine and surgery from the William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine. Before he came to UNC, he owned a Podiatric Medical and Surgical Practice in Pittsburgh.  Selling his private practice and moving his family to North Carolina was a big change, but Kernick realized that he wanted to focus more on research and teaching, and UNC was an ideal place to do that. 

Although his first two years at UNC were primarily research-focused, Kernick also taught an anatomy class and realized teaching was really his passion. “I just fell in love with it,” he said. So, in 2002, Kernick transitioned into a full-time teaching position. “Research was a little slow for me. I like the interaction with students and the classroom interface,” he said. “Maybe I’m a better motivator than I am a deep thinker,” he joked.

"Dr. Kernick is the man," said April Edwards, a second year medical student, who had Kernick for anatomy last year. "He learned all of our names - and he still knows them and uses them when he sees us, which I think is great as it's been more than a year and 160 new students since he taught me anything. But he remembers."

The Distinguished Teaching Award for Excellence in Post-Baccalaureate Instruction was first given by the university in 1995 to recognize the important role of post-baccalaureate teaching. A committee selects the recipients based on interviews with deans or department chairs, reading of student evaluations, and telephone interviews with randomly selected students and sends its final recommendations to the chancellor.

This and the other university teaching awards were announced during the halftime of the men’s basketball game on Jan. 16. “I grew up loving Tar Heel basketball so just being down on the floor was a big thrill for me,” Kernick said. “It was great.”

Although the Distinguished Teaching Award is the highest honor Kernick has received at UNC, he has received countless other teaching awards in the School of Medicine and School of Dentistry, including Freshman Basic Science Teacher of the Year, Larry Keith Excellence in Teaching Award, Freshman Basic Science Course Award, Excellence in Teaching Award, Basic Science Faculty Appreciation Teaching Award, and, in 2007, Kernick was the Richard Whitehead lecturer. In fact, one wall in his office is nearly covered by these plaques. Kernick has been teaching for less than 10 years. If he is here much longer, he may need a bigger office. 

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