News Releases

Nov. 12, 2010

Residency Program Director Awarded Prestigious Teaching Award

Media contact:
Joy Bell, 404-778-3711

Maria M. Aaron, MD(ATLANTA) Emory Eye Center ophthalmologist, Maria Aaron, MD, has been awarded the Parker J. Palmer “Courage to Teach” Program Director Excellence Award. The award is presented through the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to 10 outstanding program directors for their commitment to teaching and their innovative and effective teaching methods. The awardees are selected from numerous program directors throughout the country. They are nominated by faculty members, designated institutional officials and residents.

The award is named after Parker J. Palmer, PhD, a noted sociologist and teacher who wrote The Courage to Teach , among other books on teaching and vocation.

“I am humbled and honored to be the recipient of this award,” says Aaron. “I've truly enjoyed the rewards of teaching residents over the years and look forward to the successes of these future ophthalmologists.”

“Maria Aaron has worked very hard in advancing our residency program over the past decade,” says Timothy W. Olsen, director of Emory Eye Center. “She is a gifted teacher, educator, and resident advocate within our department. Her skills have clearly been recognized and valued at Emory where she is frequently asked to advise and consult on GME related complex issues. We’re all very proud that she has gained this much deserved national recognition for her expertise and leadership.”

Dr. Aaron served as Emory Eye Center’s (EEC) Residency Program director from 1999 to 2010, during which time she trained and mentored more than 70 residents and 30 medical students. She is actively involved in Graduate Medical Education (GME) at Emory University and serves on the GME Documents Review Committee, which provides oversight for all program accreditation at Emory. She has chaired an ad hoc Grievance Committee, unrelated to ophthalmology, and has recently been asked to chair the Citations Committee for the Institutional Internal Review.

She is a sought-after speaker, particularly for residency program director sessions on a variety of GME topics. During her tenure as EEC’s residency program director, the Ophthalmology Residency Program at Emory received two successive five-year accredited reviews by the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

On a national level, Dr. Aaron served as president of the Program Directors’ Council of AUPO (2008) and currently serves as the vice-chair of the Ophthalmology Residency Review Committees for the ACGME. She has received an Achievement Award from the AAO and is an associate examiner for the American Board of Ophthalmology’s Oral Board Examination.

Dr. Aaron has also participated in the Heed Ophthalmic Fellowship Retreat for the past four years to promote academic careers in ophthalmology. As president of the AUPO Program Director Council, she helped establish ophthalmology’s position on the Institute of Medicine Duty-Hours Recommendations and future changes in the application process for ophthalmology applicants. In addition, she is currently involved in the working group for the development of the ACGME Milestones and the assessment of these milestones via the Portfolio Project.

Dr. Aaron earned her medical degree from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She completed her internship at Georgia Baptist Medical Center, Atlanta, and her residency in ophthalmology at Emory Eye Center. Upon completion of her residency, Dr. Aaron was appointed to a faculty position in comprehensive ophthalmology at Emory and became the Residency Program director in 1999. Since 2000, she has been the chief of service at the Emory University Midtown Hospital facility and was promoted to associate professor of ophthalmology in 2006.

She has published a number of articles and chapters on topics related to resident education and has lectured widely at national ophthalmic meetings on a variety of important competency and accreditation topics. Her most recent interest is in the area of generational differences in academic medicine.

The following program directors are the 2011 Courage to Teach Award recipients.

• Maria Aaron, MD, ophthalmology, Emory University, Atlanta, Ga.
• Stanley Ashley, MD, general surgery, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Mass.
• Mark Bugnitz, MD, pediatrics, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, Tenn.
• Christian de Virgilio, MD, general surgery, Los Angeles County-Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, Calif.
• Byron Joyner, MD, MPA, urology, University of Washington, Seattle, Wash. • Gregory Kane, MD, internal medicine, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pa.
• Tsveti Markova, MD, FAAFP, Wayne State University/Crittenton, Rochester, Mich. • Vijay Rajput, MD, internal medicine, UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (Camden)/Cooper University Hospital, Camden, N.J.
• Karen Souter, MBBS, FRCA, anesthesiology, University of Washington, Seattle, Wash.
• Ann Van Heest, MD, orthopaedic surgery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.

Each “Courage to Teach” honoree will receive $1,000 and a plaque, along with registration and travel to the 2011 ACGME Annual Educational Conference, to be held March 3-6 in Nashville, Tenn. The “Courage to Teach” recipients will be recognized at an awards luncheon at the conference and will also be invited to attend a professional retreat in Vermont.

The ACGME is a private, nonprofit organization that accredits approximately 8,800 residency programs in 133 specialties and subspecialties that educate 111,000 residents. Its mission is to improve the quality of health care in the United States by assessing and advancing the quality of resident physicians’ education through exemplary accreditation.


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