Dr Marcin Nejthardt from the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Department of Anaesthesia joins two of his colleagues as the recipients of the 2022 Distinguished Teacher Award (DTA) – the university’s highest teaching accolade.
The other recipients are Associate Professor Pippin Anderson of the Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences and Associate Professor Tasleem Ras from the Division of Family Medicine.
“Teaching does not happen in isolation; you need time and space that others have afforded you to make it happen. Without phenomenal colleagues who tirelessly balance clinical and academic commitments, this would not be possible,” Dr Nejthardt said in an interview with UCT News.
Kamva Somdyala (KS): How did you get into teaching? Was it by choice or chance?
Marcin Nejthardt (MN): It was never a conscious or an intentionally chosen path. As a student, I was inspired by phenomenal clinicians and academics who had mastery of their trade and could capture our complete attention. I loved that intimate learning space and the high that it gave to the group. I also realised that learning through teaching was a constructive way to identify my own gaps in understanding – and that motivated growth.
KS: What do you teach and to whom?
MN: The practice of anaesthesia, from basic sciences to clinical skills. Most of my teaching is postgrad focused but I do have some exposure to undergrads too.
KS: How would you describe your teaching style?
MN: Informal, clinically relevant and rooted in the application of basic sciences. I try to get the student to see the topic in the bigger context and not get bogged down with detail. I ask questions, engage in conversation, use drawings, flow diagrams, and attempt to summarise.
“Many undergrad students still must find out for themselves what is important.”
KS: What do you love most (and least) about working with students?
MN: Their energy and eagerness and passion for trying to come to grips with a particular topic or clinical skill. My least favourite: students who are unprepared, disinterested, and late. Fortunately, this is almost never the case in the postgraduate programme. I realise that we all have our own journeys, and many undergrad students still must find out for themselves what is important.
KS: Which other stumbling blocks in your career have shaped you as a teacher?
MN: Accept that you will make mistakes. Learn from them. I sometimes tended to be quick to teach. Listen and observe – you may well be the one who learns.
KS: How significant is this DTA recognition to you?
MN: It is very special. Teaching is a commitment that is seldom recognised beyond your immediate circle of influence. The DTA is a humbling validation of a meaningful contribution as a teacher. Finally, and most importantly, I must acknowledge my biggest supporter, mentor and teacher, my wife, Dee.
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