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Medical School Professor to Receive National Honor for Contributions to Clinical Anatomy

Michael Nolan, professor of basic science education at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and a trailblazing figure in the field of clinical anatomy, has been awarded Honored Membership in the American Association of Clinical Anatomists.

He will receive the award at the organization’s annual meeting in June. In announcing the award, which is comparable to a lifetime achievement award, the organization recognized Nolan for his “unparalleled commitment and contributions to the field.”

In a career spanning more than 50 years, Nolan, who was originally trained as a physical therapist, has dedicated himself to the clinical importance of anatomy in medical education.

“Mike is the real deal,” said John McNamara, associate professor of basic science education and director of anatomy instruction at the medical school. “He has the ability to take a dense amount of material such as neuroanatomy, which is his area of expertise, and make it relevant to the student in terms of what they will need to know in the clinical setting. By doing so, he’s helping to build better doctors.”

Nolan has received more than 30 awards for excellence in teaching, both at Virginia Tech Carilion and the University of South Florida where he spent 34 years, rising from the rank of instructor to professor emeritus. He was recruited to Roanoke in 2009 to help build the curriculum for medical school before it opened.

“My focus is not to prepare students for examination success. They can do that on their own.” Nolan said. “Instead, my goal is to prepare them for the requirements of their clerkship [rotation] years.”

Nolan’s teaching evaluations from students are, in the words of McNamara, “consistently stellar.”

Michael Nolan, center, stands with first-year medical students at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. “There’s no better job for me,” he said. “Every day I come to work with young people who are among the smartest in the country. I consider myself very lucky.” Photo by Ryan Anderson for Virginia Tech

One student recently wrote, “It is easy to tell that Dr. Nolan has a passion for teaching, and we are lucky to have him as an anatomy instructor.”

Another wrote, “He is a focused lecturer and engaging anatomist who consistently helps to further my understanding and build my confidence.”

And another, “Thanks for focusing on what’s important.”

In addition to teaching, Nolan has a robust collection of scholarly works. He has written four textbooks and two works of anatomy review materials. He has more than 35 peer-reviewed publications and has presented at more than 40 regional and national meetings. Nolan has been a reviewer for seven academic journals and was founding editor of the Journal of Clinical Electrophysiology.

In receiving the award, Nolan joins some of the most distinguished clinical anatomists in history, a number of whom authored textbooks and other learning materials that his students still use today.

“These are some of the biggest names in anatomy,” McNamara said. It’s a prestigious list, and only one name is added each year.”

Nolan has left an indelible mark on the field of clinical anatomy, including the hundreds of students he has taught since 1975.

“There’s no better job for me,” he said. “Every day I come to work with young people who are among the smartest in the country. I consider myself very lucky.”

Nolan earned a bachelor’s degree and completed postgraduate studies from Marquette University and a Ph.D. in anatomy from the Medical College of Wisconsin.

The  American Association of Clinical Anatomists was founded in 1983 to support, promote, and advance anatomically and clinically-based scholarship in research, teaching, and curricular matters within the health science professions. More than 30 countries are represented among its membership.

By Catherine Doss

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