Richard Vari, Ph.D.
Senior Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Physiology at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM)
Excellence in Teaching Award from 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 Vari, his approach to teaching focuses on “engaging the learners and having them actively participate in the learning process.”
Vari became interested in teaching early on when he first taught nursing students as a postdoc. “I really enjoyed it and the experience unleashed in me a passion for teaching,” he said.
One of Vari’s current students, Michaela Pesce, described Vari’s positive qualities as a teacher. “Dr. Vari is a wonderful teacher and mentor with a palpable passion for education and a remarkable dedication to his students,” she said. “Students often go out of their way to interact with Dr. Vari, whether that means waking up early to attend his lectures or chasing him down in the hallway just to say hello, because his warmth and enthusiasm is contagious.”
William Reis, another one of Vari’s students, acknowledged his dedication to teaching and his willingness to go beyond the call of duty for his students. "Though I doubt Dr. Vari would ever seek credit for it, it is evident that Dr. Vari does a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes to develop lectures, programs and many administrative tasks that are strategically, and uncompromisingly crafted to ensure student success," Reis said.
In fact, one of Vari's most meaningful experiences as an educator was when he was involved in the process of improving the traditional medical curriculum that had been used in medical schools since the 1900s. “I realized that the curriculum changes I led in North Dakota made a dramatic, positive impact on the way medical students were learning medicine in the first two years of their training,” Vari said.
Vari has displayed an exceptional commitment to teaching excellence. As an Assistant Dean for Medical Education, he directed and coordinated teaching sessions to help faculty implement basic science education in a Problem-based learning (PBL) hybrid educational model. That experience provided him with the confidence to help design the innovative curriculum at a brand new medical school, VTCSOM in Roanoke.
One of Vari’s colleagues at VTCSOM, Helena Carvalho, commented on his efforts as an assistant dean: “[A]s a block director since the beginning of VTCSOM, I have had the pleasure to attend all of his teaching sessions. Year after year, his enthusiasm for teaching combined with his deep knowledge in renal physiology, kept me engaged during all of his talks, as well as our medical students.”
Vari provided the following advice for new college teachers: “Enjoy every opportunity to help students learn. Prepare your own synthesis of the content thereby making your approach novel. Your passion will motivate them to want to master the material.”