FACEM Dr Zafar Smith has picked up the highest honour bestowed on a teacher by medical students across Australia.

Dr Smith, an emergency medicine physician from James Cook University in Townsville, recently won the Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) National Award for Teaching Excellence.

He was chosen as the winner for what students described as ‘completely revolutionising the ED teaching’ in their course, including creating additional learning aids like flash-cards, YouTube videos, and Kahoot quizzes to aid in their learning.

The AMSA represents 17, 000 medical students in Australia. Their National Awards are based on nominations from around the country, and represent students’ appreciation and recognition of teachers who have made an especially positive impact on their studies.

Dr Smith said: “It was a complete shock and honour to receive this award. I must admit I have never lectured before and was certainly apprehensive about taking on this new role teaching nearly 200 medical students for the first time.”

Dr Smith paid tribute to the help he has received in his career.

“First, having a mentor, like educational guru, Vic Brazil who taught me to think outside the square and gave me the confidence to really try some new teaching tools,” he said.

“Second, the book ‘Make it Stick’ by Peter Brown taught me about spaced repetition, the flipped classroom, flashcards and using quizzing as tools for memorisation.

“Third, teaching as a clinician - recognising that I am not a 'content expert' and I won't have all the answers, but that as a practicing emergency clinician I have a unique perspective that can help students start to develop the skill of 'clinical synthesis'.

“Finally, flexible rostering – the senior staff at Townsville ED, Luke and Natalie, were extremely supportive giving me fixed rostered days off to attend lectures on a weekly basis.”

AMSA President Alex Farrell said: “Although it is such an important part of the doctor’s role, the teaching culture across different hospitals varies widely.

“Despite a recent focus and positive steps in the last few years, it is not unusual to hear reports of bullying, harassment, and teaching by humiliation.

“AMSA is proud to encourage a positive teaching culture within medicine. These awards are a fantastic way of showing students’ gratitude and appreciation to their nominated clinicians.”

In announcing Dr Smith as the winner, the AMSA released the below quotes from his students:

Dr Smith has gone above and beyond teaching us Emergency Medicine in our 3rd year. He completely re-vamped the course making it much easier to learn and more enjoyable. Every single person I know has enjoyed his lectures, tutorials, and approachability. He uses interactive methods of teaching which engage the class, such as gosoapbox and kahoot quizzes to test us, and has even created a deck of cards with Emergency medicine case studies that we were all able to get our hands on and use for our exams. As this is his first year of coordinating and lecturing this course, he has outdone himself and, on behalf of Med 3 at James Cook University, we would like to recognise his efforts and generosity, and the fun spirit he has brought to sometimes difficult topics.”

Picture below: Dr Smith, (Centre of photo), with students from James Cook University