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Teacher (M. Desai), Mentor (T. Kershaw) and Fellow (S. Whittaker) Recognized for Excellence by YSPH

May 14, 2015
by Jennifer Kaylin

Two Yale School of Public Health faculty are each being honored for the third time for their skills with students. Mayur Desai was named the 2015 Teacher of the Year, and Trace Kershaw was named the 2015 Distinguished Student Mentor.

While they have each been honored before, the new element this year is a Teaching Fellow Award, which was given to a YSPH Ph.D. student who demonstrates outstanding performance as a Teaching Fellow and promise as a future teacher. This year, the award went to Steve Whittaker.

YSPH Dean Paul Cleary said students lauded Desai for his ability to effectively teach complex subject matter, his humor, transparency, accessibility, compassion, academic support and advice, and his engagement in student activities.

“He has an ability to engage students above and beyond course material, and his compassionate understanding that SAS (a software program for data analysis) is not second nature to many of us makes him one of our favorite faculty members at YSPH,” Cleary said. Desai was chosen by the class for his exceptional teaching in two courses, “Principles of Epidemiology 1” and “Applied Analytic Methods in Epidemiology.”

“Mayur’s dedication to student education and their future success as public health leaders is evidenced by this being his third Teacher of the Year Award since 2009,” Cleary said.

Kershaw received a previous Teacher of the Year award and this year marks his second as Distinguished Student Mentor. He was chosen for his accessibility above and beyond classes, his support and his “incredibly chill vibe,” Cleary said.

The Distinguished Student Mentor Award recognizes the recipient as a leader in shaping the next generation of public health professionals and one who serves as a role model, conveys their passion for public health and their specific field of study, has clear and high expectations of their students, encourages their students to grow and achieve their full potential, is sensitive to students’ needs and concerns, and provides feedback and makes efforts to help.

Commenting on his award, Kershaw said, “The best part of my job is working with the students to help foster their creativity, knowledge, passion, and commitment to public health.

Desai said that it is a privilege to be a part of the students’ educational experience. He called the class “an amazing group of individuals who are poised to use what they’ve learned at YSPH to address some of the world’s most vexing public health challenges. Their compassion, dedication, creativity, and optimism are truly inspiring.”

The new Teaching Fellow Award recognizes Fellows who convey their passion for public health and for their specific field of study; demonstrate outstanding effort in supporting the course instructor and assisting students; and explain difficult concepts in innovative ways.

Whittaker said he was “genuinely shocked but immensely grateful to have received this honor. “ He said the award “validates more than just me. It validates the abilities of all my teachers and mentors, from my grandmother, mother and aunts, through my teachers in high school, all the way up to the professors and other teaching fellows here at Yale.”

Students used an online ballot to select award recipients. They will be honored at the YSPH Commencement ceremony at Battell Chapel, and their names will be inscribed on plaques that hang outside Winslow Auditorium.

Submitted by Denise Meyer on May 14, 2015