James Schmidley, M.D.
Professor of Medicine (Neurology) at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
Excellence in Teaching Award by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Virginia Tech
The award, presented by the center to approximately nine Virginia Tech faculty members each academic year, recognizes a faculty member's effective, engaged, and dynamic approaches and achievements as an educator.
Among the goals of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning are advancing experiential learning at Virginia Tech and improving student learning through research-based instructional practices and student-centered design. According to Schmidley, his approach to teaching begins with remembering what it is like to be a student: “My general approach to teaching is to never forget what it’s like to be a med student, with masses of information presented to you daily, often without enough context. I just try to remember how tough it was to understand some things in medical school and that students today are sometimes just as overwhelmed as we were. This is particularly the case in the clinical setting, where events move extremely rapidly at times.”
When asked to recall his most memorable and meaningful moment as a teacher, Schmidley said, “My most memorable experience as a teacher was having my son, who is definitely not a doctor, relate a story about meeting a medical student I had taught years ago, who then regaled him with a story about how well I had explained a certain difficult topic, resorting to a somewhat unusual pedagogical device.”
Elizabeth Sugg, one of Schmidley’s former students, explained Schmidley’s positive influence on her during medical school: “Dr. Schmidley had a big influence on me during my time at VTC. He is an incredibly dedicated teacher and mentor. For example, when he learned that I was interested in Neurology, he would take extra time after a long day seeing patients to discuss more advanced topics with me. He approached teaching with a lot of patience and a dry sense of humor, which kept things entertaining along the way. He has since helped guide me through the beginning of my career and has been someone whose insight I've greatly admired. I hope to continue learning from him and would feel fulfilled if I could make an impact on others the way he has.”
April De Stefano completed a neurology rotation with Schmidley as her teacher and she described how Schmidley’s teaching made a major impact on her career: “Dr. Schmidley has had an immeasurable impact on my career. When I started my neurology rotation, I was undecided between neurology and emergency medicine. His enthusiasm during morning lecture, paired with his ability to break down complex concepts into mentally digestible bits of information made neurology exciting, fun, and the obvious choice. That decision was solidified when I saw him carry out his physical exam. His clinical skills are unmatched, and the man has truly set the bar for practicing neurologists. All these things made Dr. Schmidley a good teacher. But what makes him a brilliant one is the way he interacts with his students while doing all these things. He creates a team dynamic where the med students’ input is just as important as his, and he never misses a moment to use a student’s suggestion as a jumping off point to either discuss the care plan or teach a concept. I will forever keep a red coin and a collection of plastic utensils in my pocket thanks to Dr. Schmidley, and am thankful to have him as a teacher, mentor, and friend.”
Schmidley provided the following advice for new college teachers: “Remember what it’s like to be a student!”