Teaching Excellence

Anyone has the ability to impart knowledge, but it takes a truly exceptional teacher to keep inspiring students for decades. KU Medical Center is fortunate to have two such teachers, and their merit as educators earned them prestigious Chancellors Club Teaching Professorships in 2017. Professors Gary Gronseth and Karen Wambach will each receive an annual $10,000 award for the next five years and retain the designation throughout their career. These professorships were established in 1981 by the Chancellors Club through unrestricted contributions to the Greater KU Fund. 

Gary Gronseth, M.D.

Professor and Interim Chair, Department of Neurology, KU School of Medicine
2017 Awardee Chancellors Club Teaching Professorship

Gary Gronseth is considered to be the “face” of neurology at KU Medical Center. He joined the faculty in 2002 and is professor and acting chair of the department. He is also the program director of the Vascular Neurology Fellowship. A trained flight surgeon, he retired after 20 years in the Air Force with the rank of colonel.

What do you love about teaching neurology?
I love to see the progress of the residents. It is particularly evident when residents struggle early on and you work with them until one day they get everything right. 

What do you think makes you an effective teacher?
I take a complex topic and distill it to the core concept. Then I tell a story to build out the more complicated aspects. Humans love stories. 

What do you find the most satisfying about your work?
When we are able to make a really sick person well, it is very satisfying. A patient may come in with an acute stroke affecting half of his brain. When medical intervention helps the patient get better, everyone is happy. It’s a great outcome.

What makes KU a great place to teach and do research?
That small town feeling I got in the Air Force is what you have here. KU isn’t small, but you develop relationships with basic scientists, statisticians and other physicians. The environment fosters interaction. 

If your students only remembered one thing from your classes, what would you want it to be?
Can I say two things? The first thing they need to remember is that 90 percent of what you do as a doctor is social. And you need to choose to be good at that. It is a choice. Second, they need to know when to be skeptical about what they are being told or about procedures we are doing, about whether they really work or not.

Karen Wambach, Ph.D., RN, IBCLC

Professor, KU School of Nursing
2017 Awardee Chancellors Club Teaching Professorship

In her 25 years at the KU School of Nursing, Karen Wambach has taught extensively and across all program levels. Her focus is in breastfeeding and lactation research, and she has received worldwide recognition for her teaching and scholarship. Wambach coordinates the BSN honors program and became the inaugural doctoral program director in 2016. 

What do you love about teaching nursing?
I teach students at all program levels, and it is so rewarding to see the growth in students in learning the art and science of the nursing profession.

What makes you an effective teacher?
I think it is the way I guide students. My approach is to be a facilitator of learning as opposed to a deliverer of content. 

What does this recognition mean to you?
To be honored for my teaching is humbling. At the same time, it is a recognition of what I’ve done with students. To my knowledge, I am the only faculty member from the School of Nursing to receive a Chancellors Club Professorship. That’s pretty special.

Why did you decide to become a nurse and professor?
My high school counselor thought I would be a good nurse. Later, a maternity teacher in my BSN program made a lasting impression on me because of the way she taught us. I knew then that I wanted to be a mother-baby and labor and delivery nurse. I also knew teaching was in the forecast.

What makes KU a great place to teach and do research?
KU gives you the support you need to pursue your areas of interest. I’m the editor of a textbook on breastfeeding and lactation. That’s a little bit different, but I’ve been given the freedom to do those kinds of things. I do interventional research to support and promote breastfeeding and this includes a lot of education. I’m the only one at the school who does this kind of research, and it is very well accepted.