UW News

June 17, 1998

Dr. George Novan of Spokane honored for excellence in teaching adult medicine to University of Washington medical students

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Dr. George Novan will be honored by the Department of Medicine at the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine for his outstanding contributions to teaching medical students at the WWAMI community clinical training unit in internal medicine in Spokane.

WWAMI is a partnership among the states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho to educate new physicians for the region. Among the training opportunities WWAMI provides is the chance for third-year medical students to take their required clinical courses, called clerkships, at several towns and cities in the five-state region. Internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology clerkships are offered in Spokane.

Novan will receive a 1998 WWAMI Teaching Excellence Award in Internal Medicine, given for the first time this year. Recipients were selected from a pool of nominees on the basis of their enthusiasm and dedication to medical student teaching.

Novan has coordinated Spokane’s WWAMI internal medicine clerkship since 1990. In addition to teaching medical students, he also directs the Internal Medicine Residency Program at Sacred Heart Medical Center and Deaconess Medical Center. The residency is a UW affiliate.

Novan has given may presentations at state and national scientific meetings on infections such as Legionella pneumonia, Lyme disease, cat scratch fever, encephalitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, as well as infections of the heart. He has lectured nationally on innovations in medical education, including games, which he calls “Education Lite,” that foster learning, and collaboration with other generalist disciplines in training primary-care doctors.

A colleague, Dr. Sam Palpant, associate director of the residency program, said that Novan is particularly skilled in teaching how to take a medical history, perform a physical exam, and write patient records. He meets weekly with students to give helpful comments on their progress.

“Except when he is in a confidential meeting with a student, patient or colleague, the door to Dr. Novan’s office is always open,” Palpant said. “Students and residents feel free to ask him about their studies or to talk with him about their personal struggles.”

Novan not only exemplifies the attentive diagnostician; he is, Palpant said, “a role model of a real gentleman in every sense of the word, who treats everyone courteously and fairly. He has a great sense of humor and is known for his hospitality. Students and residents regularly go over to his house to have dinner with him and his family.”

In the clerkship and residency, Novan has expanded training experiences in outpatient settings. With other Spokane health professionals, he has created more opportunities for students in the required third-year clerkship to learn in the local community and at charity clinics. He has formed new elective courses in Spokane for fourth-year medical students, and has augmented the continuing education options for Spokane-area doctors.

One aspect of his teaching style that students and colleagues alike enjoy is his weekly “Teaching Pearl.” At morning report, Novan frames a challenging question and asks who wants to take a shot at it. By explaining their way of looking at the problem, participants can sharpen their observations and improve their clinical reasoning with supportive advice from others.

Novan is a alumnus of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) where he earned B.A. and M.D. degrees. He was on the clinical faculty of the University of California Irvine School of Medicine and directed the Internal Medicine Program at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif. before moving to eastern Washington.

Other WWAMI faculty receiving Teaching Excellence Awards in Internal Medicine this year are Dr. Wesley Wilson of Missoula, Mont., Dr. Ronald Smith of Billings, Mont., and Dr. James Branahl of Boise, Idaho. Along with award presentations in each city, a commemorative plaque has been installed in their honor at the medical school’s Seattle campus.