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Dr. Haydar Kurban

Kunle Kassim, Ph.D., M.P.H.
March 2014


Winner of the Kaiser Permanente Award for Excellence in Teaching, microbiology professor Kunle Kassim has reinvigorated teaching and learning in the College of Medicine, especially through Case-Based Teaching (CBT).  For more than 30 years, he has instructed and inspired not only medical students, but also pharmacy, dental, and graduate students at Howard. He has taught them bacteriology, parasitology, and epidemiology and supervised numerous dissertations.  He has also developed and coordinated a Global Health elective for 4th-year medical students, directed the Microbiology Teaching Laboratory, directed Graduate Studies for the Department of Microbiology, and coordinated Organ Systems I and II for 2nd-year medical students.  Yet his most significant contribution to teaching and learning at Howard may be his development and dissemination of a case-based model for active learning.

Dr. Kassim developed his CBT model in response to a call from the Dean of the College of Medicine to redesign the preclinical curriculum so that students would spend at least 50% of the time engaged in active learning.  As the Associate Chair of the College Curriculum Committee recalls, Dr. Kassim immediately stepped up to the plate:  “In less than a month, Dr. Kassim…restructured his whole unit [Organ Systems] by reducing the number of didactic lectures, increasing the number of small group sessions and personally writing the case studies for the initial small group sessions.  His response to the Dean’s charge and his model of small group sessions resulted in a 100% pass rate for any organ system and the most positive student evaluations of the unit…. Dr. Kassim’s model of small group sessions was successfully duplicated for the subsequent organ systems for the year and is now the model of choice for all organ systems.”

Dr. Kassim’s model for case-based teaching engages students in learning inside and outside the classroom and then holds them accountable for that learning. For instance, instead of simply requiring students to regurgitate information from the lectures, his cases push students to explore new concepts and search for new materials. (Click here to see a sample case and a video of Dr. Kassim leading a small group discussion.) All small group facilitators meet before each session to discuss the cases so that they can agree on how they want students to respond to the case questions.  Although the students collaborate in groups, each student is held responsible for answering all of these questions.  In fact, all students must complete a 15-minute quiz at the end of each session to ensure that they prepare and participate. 

Dr. Kassim enriches his case studies and the curriculum as a whole by integrating his research and fieldwork, including his international experiences.  With hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, he has helped build a vibrant curriculum in international public health issues.  For instance, in 1996, he helped establish a series of summer training programs about tropical diseases in Ghana, Ethiopia, Cameroon, and Mali, and these programs continue to train Howard medical, graduate, and undergraduate students today.   Meanwhile, at Howard he developed a Global Health course that introduces students to global health issues and even teaches them how to design sanitation systems and strategies for developing and distributing vaccines.

As a result of his dedication and innovation, Dr. Kassim has garnered many honors and awards for his teaching.  In addition to the recent Kaiser Permanente award, he has earned multiple Teacher of the Year awards from the College of Medicine’s Student Council as well as mentoring awards from the American Heart Association and the National High School Student Summer Research Apprentice Program. As the citation for his Kaiser Permanente award declares, he has, indeed, “displayed teaching effectiveness, and… used new innovative teaching techniques and methodologies while motivating students.”

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