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A personalized approach to education

Posted by Emily Cote on December 15, 2016 in News
Cheryl Murphy, Psychiatry, is this year's recipient of Dal's teaching award for early-career faculty. (Danny Abriel photo)
Cheryl Murphy, Psychiatry, is this year's recipient of Dal's teaching award for early-career faculty. (Danny Abriel photo)

Cheryl Murphy knows not all students she mentors during clinical rotations in psychiatry will want to specialize in the field. She also knows that doesn’t make those rotations any less important.

“My goal with every student is to help them see the relevance of mental health in whatever they are going to do," says Dr. Murphy, an assistant professor, undergraduate director and clerkship director in Dal's Department of Psychiatry.

To that end, Dr. Murphy sits down with each of the students to ask them what their goals and interests are in order to target her teaching to the individual. While she says she rarely takes her clinical work with patients home with her in the evenings, teaching is another story.

"I find myself thinking about teaching a lot," she says, "and I find it really exciting."

Dr. Murphy's success over the past 10 years at Dal in crafting lessons that suit the unique needs of her different students — whether they want to be a family doctor, a surgeon, or a psychiatrist — has earned her this year's Early Career Faculty Award of Excellence for Teaching.

Former student Amy Gough says Dr. Murphy goes above and beyond to ensure her students get what they need.

“She was very engaged in my learning before I even started,” says Gough. “She asked me all about specifically what I wanted to gain from the experience. She really took the time to make sure that I was going to learn and meet my own personal goals through working with her.”

Staying open-minded and enthusiastic  

Both Gough and Christine McClelland, another former student, say they were inspired by Dr. Murphy’s open-mindedness and enthusiasm in both academic and clinical settings.

“Her approach and her rapport with patients were inspiring,” says McClelland. “She really was committed to them.”

Dr. Murphy’s commitment extends beyond her own patients and students. She has carved out a name for herself at Dal and nationally as an expert in teaching medical education and publishes regularly on the subject.

At Dal, she helped form a small group to bring together other medical education experts to explore this complex aspect of psychiatry. Together, they have a journal club and work to build educational scholarship within the Department of Psychiatry.

While juggling the demands of work and home can be a challenge — she actually found out she won the award on the same day  gave birth to her fifth child — Dr. Murphy says it hasn’t dimmed her enthusiasm for the job in the slightest.

She describes winning the award as an honour and says it has pushed her to work even harder.

“It has just confirmed that this is what I want to do,” she says. “It has re-inspired me.”

Learn more about Dal's University-Wide Teaching Awards.