Congratulations Dr. Fernandez-Funez!

Dr. Fernandez-Funez has been selected by the Medical School Honors and Awards Committee as the recipient of the Year 1 + 2 Educational Innovative Award 2022.

Pedro Fernandez-Funez, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the department of Biomedical Sciences at the Medical School, Duluth Campus. His bench research focuses on using the common fruit fly, drosophila, to develop models to study neurodegenerative disease.

Dr. Fernandez-Funez started his teaching and research career at the Duluth campus in 2016. In 2017 he became the director of the Neurological Medicine course on the Duluth campus. He primarily views himself as a “curriculum developer and innovator.” The Neurological Medicine course is the longest course in the MS1 curriculum, and he has applied his creative and innovative approaches to teaching to improve learning for his students.

Holding the student’s best interest is at the heart of his curriculum development or as he would say, “putting students at the center” is a priority. Dr. Fernandez-Funez strategy is to develop and offer teaching content that aligns with the school’s mission to enhance the student learning experience. Dr. Fernandez-Funez is a mentor who empowers his students. He encourages open dialog and includes students’ suggestions in his future courses.

When teaching medical students, it’s imperative to emphasize “independent work, life-long learning, and self-improvement.” Dr. Fernandez-Funez believes that “active learning environments based on clinically relevant cases” provide better learning outcomes. For instance, Problem-Based Learning or PBL provides a hands-on framework for a better understanding of disease through basic science knowledge. Overall, his goal is to educate students who can think critically, but who are also respectful, collaborative, and taught to demonstrate leadership skills.

Pedro’s most ambitious project was integrating the Neurological and Behavioral content into a new Neuro/Behavioral Medicine course, involving faculty from multiple departments. This content belongs to different disciplines that emerge from the same complex organ, the marvelous brain. Studying all normal and abnormal properties of the brain in the same course is the natural way to learn this content. The new Neuro/Behavioral Medicine course was successfully delivered in January 2022. This new course holds great possibilities, and will bring important experience to the development of the new bi-campus curriculum for AY2023.

Recent social events also motivated contributions to our anti-racist curriculum, including the Neurobiology of Racism session co-developed with my Twin Cities partners and increasing diversity and inclusion in our PBL cases.

A virtual Dean's Tribute to Excellence in Education event is slated for May 4th from 5 to 6 pm to celebrate educational achievements of Medical School faculty, including Dr. Fernandez-Funez’s achievement, and will feature a video compilation highlighting the impact of Medical School educational experiences.