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Two KU Medical Center educators honored with Chancellors Club professorships

September 25, 2018

By Michelle Tevis, KU Endowment

LAWRENCE - Two professors from the University of Kansas Medical Center, both well-known as scientists, researchers and educators, now share an additional distinction of being recognized as Chancellors Club Teaching Professors for 2018.

The honorees are V. Gustavo Blanco and Joseph Fontes, both of whom are at the KU Medical Center campus in Kansas City, Kansas. Blanco is a faculty member in the Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology; Fontes is a faculty member in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. Each will receive an annual $10,000 honorarium for each of the next five years.

V. Gustavo Blanco, M.D., Ph.D.

V. Gustavo Blanco has been a faculty member in the Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology since 2001, where he currently serves as professor and the Kathleen M. Osborn Chair.

During his tenure at KU Medical Center, Blanco has repeatedly been recognized for his teaching accomplishments. In his letter nominating Blanco, Paul Cheney, professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology, said Blanco set a record for a new faculty member: He won the Student Voice Award for Excellence in Teaching after only one year at KU. He has since won the Student Voice award every year from 2003 to 2018, and in 2006, he received what Cheney described as the "triple crown of teaching" at KU Medical Center: the William T. Kemper Fellowship, the Ruth Bohan Teaching Award and the Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award.

He has consistently carried a substantial teaching load since his arrival at KU Medical Center, and students effusively praise his classes. One student's comments from a 2015 evaluation said, "[Dr. Blanco's] lectures are very clear, and the notes he puts under each slide are tremendous. His enthusiasm and how much he cares for the students really shines through."

Career highlights:

  • As an educator, Blanco has been active in the development and implementation of the ACE (active, competency-based, excellence-driven) curriculum in the School of Medicine and is a regular contributor to the interdisciplinary graduate curriculum.
  • He is a well-respected researcher with internationally recognized contributions to the study of the alpha 4 isoform of the sodium potassium ATPase. His work in this area has created a collaboration that started with his project in 2003 and continues to this day. He is also working in another project to investigate the role of sodium potassium ATPase in polycystic kidney disease.
  • Blanco has a robust research publication record with 70 peer-reviewed papers, and he has also co-authored the textbook Química Biológica, a Spanish-language textbook now in its second edition widely used throughout South America. Recently, he co-authored the English version of the book under the title Medical Biochemistry.

Joseph Fontes, Ph.D.

Joseph Fontes joined the KU Medical Center faculty in 2007. During his tenure, Fontes has consistently demonstrated a commitment to teaching and service.

He presently serves as the block director for Molecular & Cellular Medicine, the second course taken by first-year medical students. In addition, he is the director of Foundational Sciences, helping to ensure the integration and delivery of basic scientific content in the Phase I curriculum.

"[Fontes'] approach requires students to become active participants in their education at the earliest point in medical school," said Dr. Robert Simari, executive dean of the KU School of Medicine and executive vice chancellor for KU Medical Center. "This active approach prepares them for learning in a clinical environment."

Fontes has been an active member of the Phase 1 Committee and has served as both a member and chair of the Education Council. Most recently, Fontes has played a key role in the development and implementation of the School of Medicine's ACE (active, competency-based, excellence-driven) curriculum.

For his skills as a medical educator, students and colleagues have described Fontes as "extremely accessible and available" and "consistently viewed by the students as a faculty member fully committed to their success."  

Career highlights:

  • Fontes has filled a variety of roles throughout the inception of the ACE curriculum, including block director for Molecular & Cellular Medicine and discipline leader for Molecular & Cellular Science.
  • Students and colleagues have repeatedly recognized Fontes with several awards: Student Voice Awards (2008, 2009, 2011-2016), the Ruth Bohan Teaching Award (2012) and the Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award (2014).
  • Fontes is a respected researcher in the area of gene transcription in the immune system. "He achieves so much in education while continuing an active research program that is rapidly developing a national reputation in key areas of neuroscience," said Anne Walling, professor of family & community medicine and associate dean of faculty affairs and professional development at KU School of Medicine in Wichita.

The Chancellors Club, formed in 1977 by KU Endowment, recognizes both donors of major gifts designated for specific purposes on any of KU's campuses and annual donors to the Greater KU Fund. KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

Last modified: Sep 25, 2018
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