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MED SCHOOL'S AXELROD GOES THE EXTRA MILE FOR STUDENTS
April 22, 2010
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Peter Axelrod (right), winner of this year's Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching.
Photo by Joseph V. Labolito, Temple University
There is an unseen force at the School of Medicine – someone who is rarely, if ever, in the spotlight, yet has been instrumental in helping many students get through med school for the past 23 years.
He’s a quiet, humble man – “not one to toot his own horn,” says a colleague – yet he makes a big impact on his students. They consistently praise his ability to convey very complex information in a simple way, and also his willingness to put in extra time and give extra guidance for those who are struggling.
For these reasons, Peter Axelrod, Professor of Medicine in the Section of Infectious Diseases at the School of Medicine, has been awarded the 2010 Christian and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching.
Axelrod received his medical degree from Yale University and came to Temple for his residency in 1980. After completing his fellowship in infectious diseases at the University of Pennsylvania in 1987, he returned as an Assistant Professor and became fast friends with Tom Fekete, the current Chair of the Department of Infectious Diseases.
“He has the most caring and warm spirit,” said Fekete. “He’s been that way since I first met him, always willing to go that extra mile, and then another mile after that.”
It’s that commitment that stands out to his students. He is with them through all stages of their schooling, teaching microbiology and epidemiology in the basic science years, and internal medicine and infectious diseases in the clinical years. They praise him as a “wonderful teacher,” and “a great role model from which to learn medicine.”
“I recall the long hours Peter spent teaching me the principles of epidemiology and how to use the statistical software…despite his clinical duties,” said Reina Turcios-Ruiz, a former student of Axelrod’s and now a clinical epidemiologist with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Peter identified my interest and aptitude in epidemiology, and nurtured it.”
In addition to his commitment to teaching, he is considered an excellent clinical epidemiologist and biostatistician, having published nearly 80 peer-reviewed research papers and abstracts, and has been invited to speak at institutions across the city and state.
“All residents are required to give a talk to fellow students and faculty on their elective,” he said. “He did a talk on bacterial adherence that I still remember to this day. I’ve heard similar talks from world renowned experts, and I thought Peter’s was better.”
Lorber said that Axelrod’s clear understanding of such sophisticated topics translates into an amazing ability to make them accessible to all audiences, especially students.
“It’s easy to work with students who get the information and understand it, but for students who don’t get it, it’s harder,” he said. “Peter will spend hours with a student, making sure he or she can process and master the material.”
Axelrod, who became a full professor in 2004, said his teaching style is steeped in a belief that there is no such thing as a “bad" student. He believes for medical students, this should be an absolute given, since admission to medical school requires both academic success and dogged persistence.
“Some teachers can be quick to assess a student –‘poor,’ ‘mediocre,’ ‘ok,’ or ‘great’ – and from those ‘poor’ students, they don’t expect a lot,” he said. “I think that if you can take the time, and if you’re patient, you will see what’s good about every student.”
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