By Karen Blum
When working with students interested in teaching, Sharon Park, PharmD, MEHP ’17, encourages them to think of their favorite, and least favorite, teachers.
“We tend to teach based on our most memorable teachers, whether the person was good or bad,” says Park, an associate professor of clinical and administrative science at Notre Dame of Maryland University School of Pharmacy in Baltimore, and an adjunct faculty member with the MEHP program. The reflective exercise is a good wake-up call for learners, she says. It forces them to think about what resonated and stayed with them, sometimes for years after, and to make sure to emulate the good teachers.
Park’s passion for and dedication to teaching—whether pharmacy students at Notre Dame; MEHP students; or residents and interns at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, where she serves as a clinical specialist in medication use policy and clinical informatics—led her to receive this year’s MEHP Excellence in Impact Award.
“Sharon has been a dedicated MEHP faculty member who has brought the perspective and the scholarship of pharmacy into the MEHP,” says MEHP Director Toni Ungaretti. “She epitomizes the accomplished scholarly pharmacist who is dedicated to the advancement of her learners and the field.”
Park came to teaching when she transitioned to academia in 2010, after a few years working as a pharmacist, a drug information specialist for the University of Maryland, and in publishing for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
When she started teaching, Park says she would think of how to teach so students would show mastery of their subjects by the end of the course, and work backward, trying to come up with exercises and instructional strategies that fit the bill. She quickly decided she needed to learn more about teaching. When she received a postcard advertising the MEHP program, she investigated and enrolled in what she says was a challenging but rewarding program.
“What I learned was a huge wake-up call and sort of an epiphany for me,” Park says. “The best teachers are those that teach based on evidence…of the best methods and how we can best demonstrate the outcomes we want out of our students. Reflecting on teaching from the perspective of a learner helped me see the gap in my instructional strategies.”
Park revamped her teaching methods using lessons learned in the program, and the work paid off: During exit interviews, graduating pharmacy students at Notre Dame have rated Park’s courses as among their most valuable consistently for years.
“A huge component of teaching is being empathetic, understanding that learning is really tough,” she says. “When you show your students you empathize with the difficulty of learning something brand new for the first time, that speaks volumes and sets the tone for how you approach teaching.”
It’s especially important for those in the health professions, she adds: “We demand the highest level acuity in accuracy and efficiency, so students are under a lot of stress. But knowing that and sharing with them that they are understood is still in my philosophy and professional development.”
Park has served on numerous committees and task forces related to education at Notre Dame and Johns Hopkins. At MEHP, Park teaches courses in education research design and implementation, and mentors Fellows on their final Capstone research projects. She also is a pharmacy exemplar for medical, nursing, and pharmacy students at Notre Dame and Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Interprofessional Education (IPE) events. She recently assumed the role of co-director for a new Health Systems Science Distinction Track, part of IPE, at Johns Hopkins for post-licensure trainees.