Graduate Education

Teaching Spotlight

The Office of Research and Graduate Education is highlighting faculty within the HSC who are dedicated to excellence in teaching.

Dr. Mark Paternostro

A Professor in Physiology and Pharmacology, Dr. Paternostro cares about his students and attempts to make the learning experience as personal as possible. Per one student: “He ensures that each assignment or in-class activity is pertinent to the goals and outcomes of the lecture, and provides ample opportunity for constructive student/instructor self-assessment and feedback. As an educator, he is well-prepared, intelligent, and committed to continual self-improvement for the betterment of his students' educational experiences.”

Dr. Bill Stauber

According to his students, his superb organization makes learning easier, especially in this era of COVID-19. One student comments, “Dr. Stauber is a very good teacher and his lectures are very detailed. His notes are really well written and his lectures are very nicely organized. Outside the classroom, Dr. Stauber is very helpful and helped to make the Prelims examination easy for us in an online setup.”

Dr. Stan Hileman

The current pandemic has demanded that educators become creative now that many students must rely on remote learning. According to student Nairrita Majumder, Dr. Hileman made this transition an easier one for students. “Stan is an excellent teacher and a great program director. He is always available for help. He is very caring towards the graduate students, and always reached out to us during the lockdown to make sure we were doing fine.”

Dr. Karen Woodfork

Karen made the transition to online learning during the pandemic a breeze for her students: “Karen has been a great help during our Prelims examinations. She helped us to go through the exam online, which was a new thing for all of us. We didn't have to worry about all of that and she took care of everything”, said one grateful student.

Dr. Ruchi Bhandari

Assistant Professor in Epidemiology. Ruchi’s interest in her students’ success continues once they leave her classroom. One student says, “Dr. Bhandari really cares about her students. She goes above and beyond to help her students even after they have completed her course. She checks in with us to see how we are doing with our research and is always available to provide advice and guidance to her students. In her courses she thoroughly covers materials and provides additional sources for us. She encourages discussions and debates about topics and is always saying she is learning from her students as well. WVU needs more instructors like her.”

Dr. Danielle Davidov

Assistant Professor in Social and Behavioral Sciences. Danielle goes out of her way to make sure students feel comfortable. One student says, “Dr. Davidov goes above and beyond to help her students. When I first arrived at WVU she was so welcoming and helpful. Since then, she has been my teacher and my mentor. I do not think I could have made it through this spring semester without her.”

Dr. Roger Carpenter

Associate Professor in the School of Nursing. Roger’s enthusiasm encourages students to seek his guidance. One student says, “Dr. Carpenter is a highly energized instructor. He is passionate about nursing science and totally engaged with his students. He understands the pressures that come with being a student and guides me in my journey through his course. He focuses on helping me learn the material that is important for me to succeed. He also directs me to references he knows I will use throughout my scholarly career. He has taught me the value of finding my own mentor by sharing stories of the mentors he has found.”

Dr. Jarena Kelly

An Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing, Dr. Kelly's encouragement and responsiveness are deeply appreciated by her students. One student says, “I really have to say I love Dr. Jarena Kelly at the School of Nursing. She is so kind, so approachable and so knowledgeable. If I have a question, I don't feel worried about emailing her or calling her. She always gets back to me. She is personable and professional. You just don't find that combination very often. Our school is very blessed to have her and I just want to say THANK YOU!”

Dr. Angel Smothers

A Clinical Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing, Dr. Smothers' dedication inspires her students. According to Elizabeth Morrissey, “Angel Smothers is the most engaged research mentor and instructor I have ever had. She’s mentored me in community health nursing during my undergraduate and challenged me to become involved in community research in the faith community. Without Angel, I would not be the student, nurse, researcher, or person that I am today. She never settles for average and will help anyone and everyone receive access to care regardless of their location or situation.”

Dr. Laurie Theeke

Director of the PhD program in the School of Nursing, Dr. Theeke makes every effort to help her students succeed. Student Stacy Russell says, “Through my experience as a PhD student I have had many personal obstacles. Dr. Theeke has gone above and beyond to be helpful and understanding and has guided me throughout the program with patience and integrity! As my mentor, she encompasses what it is to be a teacher and researcher and I look up to her! She deserves many kudos for going above and beyond the call!”

Dr. Paul Lockman

Dr. Paul Lockman, Assistant Vice President of Experimental Therapeutics at the HSC, and Professor and Senior Associate Dean for Research and Strategic Initiatives in the School of Pharmacy, like many of our other outstanding educators, has creatively managed the challenges of the pandemic while helping his students. One student says, “He encourages learning even during COVID by providing opportunities through access to seminars or organizing Zoom discussions with scientists from the industry or other labs and universities. He makes sure to check in with us to see if we are doing well even outside of the lab and is always available to provide advice and guidance.”

Dr. Vince Setola

Dr. Vince Setola, Assistant Professor, PI/Director - Laboratory of Neuroscience and Genetics of Substance Abuse. Student Lyn Yuen Choo tells our office that Dr. Setola cares deeply about the learning experience of his students, looks after their well-being, and gently pushes them to reach their full potential. She also says, “As an educator, he has very clear expectations for his students and supports their learning goals. He asks questions to facilitate discussion among research group members. Dr. Setola is always available to his students as well. He responds to emails promptly after hours and even on weekends.”

Dr. Caroline Groth

Dr. Caroline Groth, Assistant Professor, Biostatistics in the School of Public Health. Student Brittany Smith tells our office that Dr. Groth’s exceptional approach to teaching hasn’t suffered at all during the pandemic: “Despite being in the midst of a pandemic she went above and beyond to connect with her students. She is always available! Biostatistics and R programming are complex concepts, however, Dr. Groth explains each step and concept clearly to make sure her students understand the foundations.”

Dr. Kesheng Wang

Dr. Kesheng Wang, Associate Professor, Family/Community Health Department. One student told our office, “Dr. Wang is knowledgeable, attentive to students, helpful and kind. He is a great representation of WVU excellence of teaching.”

Dr. Peter Mathers

Dr. Peter Mathers, Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Neuroscience. One student told our office that Dr. Mathers provides excellent teaching and encourages student engagement.

Dr. Scott Galster

Dr. Scott Galster, Director of Human Performance and Professor in Neuroscience. Student Lauren Rentz said, “Dr. Galster is very supportive and encouraging, but what makes him such a great mentor is his flexibility in teaching styles. He acknowledges that teaching is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach and adapts his mentoring methods based upon the specific needs of the student. He is one of the few that encouraged me to use my untraditional learning styles to my advantage.”

Nicole Ludwig

Nicole Ludwig, Assistant Professor in Human Performance. Student Julia Hays said, “During a year marked by unprecedented times, Professor Ludwig has offered consistency, stability, and support. As part of a new program in brand new global circumstances, she has proven to be an incredibly dedicated instructor and ally to all students. Not only is she incredibly organized, but she is also adaptable and uses our feedback to help improve our learning. The discipline and care that she puts into our education and into us as individuals is invaluable.”

Dr. Lauri Andress

Lauri Andress, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Policy, Management, and Leadership. One student says, “Dr. Andress has gone above and beyond as a professor and a mentor. She supports her students in their academic and professional lives as well as their personal ones, providing encouragement and opportunities for us to grow and develop our interests.”

Michelle Costas

Michelle Costas, Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology, Anatomy and Laboratory Medicine, as well as Director of the Pathologists’ Assistant Program. One student praised both Michelle and her colleague Justin Falcon for helping students through a tough year. “Michelle cares about her students’ well-beings and future careers. She reaches out to us to make us feel connected no matter the circumstances. Holding classes online through the year was not easy, especially with the subjects we were studying. Michelle and Justin Falcon both tried their best to get us what we needed to succeed. Now we are starting our clinical rotations, and Michelle and Justin are still reaching out to us to make us feel confident and ready to practice what they have taught us. They truly care about our futures.”

Dr. F. Heath Damron

F. Heath Damron, Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology, as well as the Director of the Vaccine Development Center at the Health Sciences Center. One student says, “Dr. Damron's teaching of the vaccinology course gives real-world applications and context to the fields of microbiology and immunology in ways that are incredibly important in our new "normal" world. He goes in-depth on the history of important figures in the field, relating everything they did to what we can do now, and what we might do in the future. And the lab portion of the course takes it up a notch further! Best class ever!”

Dr. George Kelley

George Kelley, Professor in the School of Public Health. Student Joel Steadman says, “Dr. Kelley clearly goes above and beyond for his students. He is incredibly responsive to student questions, involves everyone in the class, and goes out of his way to personalize his teaching to the interests of the students in each specific class.”

Dr. Ronnie Sparks

Ronnie Sparks, DDS. Orthodontics resident Miranda Fabrega says, “Dr. Sparks is the epitome of an excellent dental educator. Not only is he caring towards patients, but he is compassionate about teaching the orthodontic residents. Dr. Sparks drives several hours from Charleston to Morgantown to teach in clinic on a monthly basis. He prepares residents to take written and clinical board exams by organizing study sessions, as well as a mock board examination. He makes himself available to residents via email/phone to help with clinical cases and treatment planning while he is not in clinic. His clinical skill is unparalleled, and is an invaluable asset to the department of orthodontics.”

Dr. Christiaan Abildso

Christiaan Abildso, Associate Professor, Department of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences. One student says, “Dr. Abildso is one of the few professors that I've experienced who has taken SEI comments each semester and completely reworked what isn't working about a class. He goes out of his way to make sure that students understand the practicality of what they are learning by setting up the class to actively practice the skills being taught. He pushes students to be able to explain and use the text but also to question the text…he understands why students are here-to learn and practice the skills they will need to succeed in life.”

Michelle Witt

Michelle Witt, Teaching Instructor in Microbiology, Immunology & Cell Biology. Student Kelly Weaver says, “Michelle goes above and beyond to help students both in the classroom and out of the classroom. While she mainly teaches undergraduate students, I would venture to say that many graduate students have looked to her for mentoring in some capacity. Michelle always greets you with a smiling face and positive attitude. She is always willing to offer a helping hand and check in to see how you are doing. Her service to our WVU family most definitely deserves to be recognized.”

Dr. Marina Galvez Peralta

Marina Galvez Peralta, Assistant Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences. Student Jeremy McCarty says, “Dr. Galvez is simply the most considerate instructor I have ever worked with throughout my educational career. She always places her students ahead of herself and is flexible in working with her students through the ebb and flow of exams from other courses. She honestly cares about the material that she presents and that the students truly learn and grasp the concepts and information.” And Casey Mingle says, “She works so hard to make sure we understand the material and that our schedule is flexible so that our exams are not too close together. She will do absolutely anything to help us-the kindest and sweetest professor I have honestly ever had.”

Dr. Roberta Leonardi

Roberta Leonardi, Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry. One student praises Dr. Leonardi for being, “Very straightforward and goal oriented.”

Dr. Emily Zier

Emily Zier, Assistant Professor, Health Policy, Management and Leadership. Student Abbey Lewis says, “She is, undoubtedly, the most encouraging, relatable, and knowledgeable professor I have had within my last 5 years at WVU (at both the undergraduate and graduate levels). Dr. Zier has always pushed me to be the absolute best student and human being I can be, and encouraged me to ask difficult questions.” Another student says, “Dr. Zier is the first professor to make a whole effort towards a class in which her students fully grasp the concepts being taught. She makes sure each student understands the concepts while hearing and engaging with each student’s perspective. She teaches whole truths and is fully focused on creating strong leaders. Dr. Zier is one of the best professors, if not the best, in the School of Public Health and she holds her students accountable while creating a comfortable environment. Lastly, she pushes her students, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, and will no doubt create a group of people who are strong in themselves and their training.”

Dr. Mariette Barbier

Mariette Barbier, Assistant Professor, Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology. One student says, “She is always looking for student feedback on what we need and ways to improve our program and when she looks for this input, she acts on it. She is someone I know I can go to talk to about any concern or thought and she will support me to her full ability. When she doesn't have an immediate answer or resource, she does her best to find one. She is enthusiastic about her role as a scientist, as an educator, and as a mentor and it is obvious in her attention to detail in every aspect of her work.”

Dr. Tim Nurkiewicz

Professor and Chair, Department Physiology and Pharmacology. Student Sarah Kemp says, “Dr. Nurkiewicz goes above and beyond to make his lectures interesting and exciting. He is extremely knowledgeable on the topic that he teaches and it shows. There is nothing better than having a professor who is passionate about teaching and one you genuinely understand and then enjoy the class as a result.”

Dr. Shelby Alexander

Assistant Professor, School of Dentistry. Student Nathaniel Chertok says, “Dr. Alexander has been teaching at the WVU School of Dentistry for 6+ years with an unwavering commitment to educating and training dentists and specialists. She stands out as a fantastic instructor in both didactic and clinical situations. Her patience to explain complex ideas and concepts to ensure the students fully grasp the concept is a skill that not many educators have and are able to do well. Her skills in helping in clinical situations and providing immediate feedback to ensure positive patient outcomes are ones that are unmet by other clinical faculty I have encountered. Dr. Alexander deserves the recognition for her hard work and commitment.”

Dr. Emily Zier

Assistant Professor-Health Policy, Management, and Leadership. One student says, “Dr. Zier is the first professor to make a whole effort towards a class in which her students fully grasp the concepts being taught. She makes sure each student understands the concepts while hearing and engaging with each student’s perspective. She teaches whole truths and is fully focused on creating strong leaders. Dr. Zier is one of the best professors, if not the best, in the School of Public Health and she holds her students accountable while creating a comfortable environment. Lastly, she pushes her students, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, and will no doubt create a group of people who are strong in themselves and their training.”

Dr. Michael Cavender

Assistant Professor-Dentistry Endodontics Department. One student says, “Since beginning his full-time position July 1st of this year Dr. Cavender has gained much respect amongst dental students and residents. He is very compassionate and understanding towards students with minimal background knowledge and has a unique way of explaining clinical procedures and techniques to students who are new to endodontics. His enthusiasm towards teaching is phenomenal. Dr. Cavender allows students and residents to feel comfortable asking questions and enables an open learning environment. As a resident I feel it's vital to have a positive learning atmosphere. Dr. Cavender in his few short months here has been transforming the attitudes towards endodontics in our department.”

Dr. Keith Zullig

Professor, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. One student says, “Dr. Zullig is fun and genuinely enjoys teaching class. He makes class and grad school enjoyable. He’s also very knowledgeable, doesn’t judge students, and is excellent at reminding students of deadlines if he sees they have yet to complete something.”

Dr. Mark Byron

Director of Post Doctoral Programs, School of Dentistry. Endodontics resident Yasmin Hoffman says, “Dr. Byron's contributions to the teaching mission of the Department of Endodontics and to the school at large are numerous and outstanding. He is an organized educator who builds a bond with his students like a guardian as well as a guide. He has always been so dedicated to developing his teaching skills since he started his career. His ability to connect with the students is superior. His way of educating is exceptional and the techniques he uses in his teaching are highly recommendable. He is knowledgeable, compassionate, and patient.”

Dr. Samuel Dorn

Chair, Department of Endodontics. One resident says, “Dr. Dorn is the epitome of excellence as an educator. His professionalism and commitment to student outcomes is unsurpassed in his field. Dr. Dorn's attention to detail and organization is second to none. He also has many years of experience to relate to his students and staff, giving them a wealth of education every day.” We thank Dr. Dorn for continuing to provide excellence in teaching!