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ImageA Teacher at His Peak
Douglas Black
Associate Professor, School of Pharmacy
The students of Douglas Black climb mountains. Literally. At least once a term, Black takes his students hiking in the Cascades, because, in his opinion, everyone should do it at least once. “It floors me that people live here who have never been over there. On the other hand, there are always a couple of students who have made it a part of their life,” he says.

That’s just one of the many ways that Black creates a memorable experience for his pharmacy students, who appreciate the teacher’s availability and flexibility, and are even working to create the Douglas Black Endowed Pharm.D. Award in his honor. It will be given to a student who exemplifies Black’s work ethic, passion and dedication to his field.

“I have never seen a professor take teaching so personally,” says Tom Gilginas, ’06, a pharmacy graduate. “He frequently took student feedback and adjusted his teaching style immediately.”

Black has had his share of challenges in learning how to reach his students. “I don’t think I had any idea [in the beginning] how difficult it is to be effective. It really isn’t about standing up in front of a lecture hall and talking.” Where once Black spent 90 percent of his time preparing materials he thought conveyed the most important ideas to his students, today he finds it more effective to devote more time to thinking about his students’ perspectives. “I think about the audience,” he says. “If I can’t communicate effectively, it doesn’t matter how much I’ve prepared the materials.”

Black’s passion for his work is evident; after all, not many people can describe infectious diseases as “enthralling” and “thrilling” as Black does. Staying on top of his specialty, however, can be as tricky as the mountains Black loves to scale. “Medicine changes so fast. It’s hard year after year to read everything new that comes out.”

Meanwhile, Black is preparing to add to the body of that hard-to-keep-up-with information on infectious diseases. Though he laughingly admits that “the world doesn’t need another book on antibiotics,” he will soon be getting at least some of his expertise down on paper, in the form of a regular column in his department’s monthly newsletter: “It’s time to start writing this stuff down.”

As for personal goals, he and a former student, who has been climbing with him since the late 1990s, are hoping to scale Mount McKinley within the next two years.

His teaching goals are far more down-to-earth. “I don’t have any grand ideas about teaching anymore,” says the award-winner. “I get on the same level as students, don’t like the ‘Dr. Black’ stuff, don’t have office hours—they can come in whenever I’m there.”—Niki Stojnic