The Changing Man
Sitting Down With... Ivan Damjanov, Professor of Pathology, The University of Kansas School of Medicine, Kansas City, Kansas, USA.
Fedra Pavlou |
You’ve had a long career as an educator and won many awards for your teaching. How did you get involved in pathology education?
At first, reluctantly. When I entered academic pathology in the US in the 1960s/1970s, the common adage among the key thought leaders at the time was that those who can’t do research do hospital pathology, and those who can’t do that, teach. Teaching was relegated to the lowest branches of the academic tree; even popular teachers who did not do any research were considered “losers” by their peers. So it took some courage to become a “professional teacher.”
I soon became aware of the negative connotation assigned to full time teaching. I was genuinely interested in research, though, so I applied for grants and luckily managed to establish an NIH-funded laboratory, which I ran for 25 years in Philadelphia. I now have over 300 published papers in peer reviewed journals, over 12,000 citations and an" h factor" of 50 and some 30 books to my credit. In spite of these achievements and my numerous academic qualifications, some of my detractors insist on calling me “just a teacher.” There is no point citing my official abbreviated titles MD, MSc, PhD ,Dr h.c., FAC, which in real-life are more often used by lawyers in court to prove my legal qualifications than for establishing my academic credentials. At my age of 75, though, I don’t care how they label me anymore. As I was taught early in my career, all the accolades are sham unless they are garnered by an occasional derogatory comment. If I never believed in a 100 percent vote of confidence – the norm for the voting communist parliament in Titoist Yugoslavia of my youth – how could I ever believe that all students would like me unconditionally and give me 100 percent approval? When it comes to teaching, it’s worth paraphrasing Henry James, who said, "We do what we can, we give what we have and the rest is madness of the art."
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