Portraits of the 2021 Professors of the Year

Student-led awards honour contributions of four professors to student experience

Four professors teaching at U of T’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy have been selected as the PharmD 2021 Professors of the Year. Naomi Steenhof, Ian Crandall, Sandra Bjelajac Mejia and Scott Walker were recognized for their excellent teaching and support.

“Excellent professors  deliver the content in an engaging way to students, and link and situate the content within the curriculum and the broader practice of pharmacy,” said Natalie Crown, director of the PharmD program. “They also demonstrate that they are invested in the student experience in their course.”

The awards are student-driven, with students in each year of the program voting for the professor that they want to recognize.

“What’s  special about this award is that it’s student-led and chosen,” said Crown. “As a faculty member, it’s really rewarding to be recognized by the students for the effort you’ve put in to developing and delivering the course, and that makes this award so meaningful to faculty members.”

Portrait of Naomi Steenhof

Class of 2T2: Naomi Steenhof

Courses: Medication Therapy Management 4 (PHM305), Pharmacotherapy in Older Adults (PHM352H1)

Students appreciated Steenhof’s approachable teaching style. Samantha Cesario and Aya Akrwai, 2T2 class president and vice-president, respectively, highlighted that Steenhof’s engaging lectures demonstrated her passion for pharmacy and included interesting anecdotes, and that she provided insightful feedback that helped each student learn and grow.

“My pharmacy career has been intertwined with learning and teaching, especially since I began as a hospital resident. The privilege of supervising and teaching students is a sort of bond with the mentors and colleagues who first taught me. . . . Many courageous students have provided me with direct feedback about my teaching. Feedback can be difficult to both give and receive; however, I owe much of my improvement as a professor to the advice of previous students. Given the value that I place on student feedback, I may be prouder of this award than any other professional achievement!” — Naomi Steenhof

Portrait of Ian Crandall

Class of 2T3: Ian Crandall

Courses: Microbiology (PHM242H1)

Students noted that Crandall is an engaging, fair and understanding teacher, who makes complex content easy to grasp and always has time to answer student questions. They also noted his enthusiasm for teaching and learning. “He's passionate about infectious diseases, but he's also passionate about our development into pharmacists — and that meant so much to everyone in my class this year,” said Kevin Galido, 2T3 class president.

“Whenever I talk to our students, I am acutely aware that I may be working with this person in the future, and I hope it will be a long and warm relationship. So from day one, I look on our students as my future peers. . . . I enjoy putting together the lectures and interacting with our students, so to have evidence that I am doing a good job is a thrill that lasts and keeps me motivated. I love teaching our students because they are intelligent, motivated and professional. Who could ask for more?” — Ian Crandall

Portrait of Sandra Bjelajac Mejia

Class of 2T4: Sandra Bjelajac Mejia

Course: Pharmaceutical Calculations (PHM130H1)

Students appreciated Mejia’s supportive and positive approach to teaching, and they noted that her knowledge and insight helped to instill confidence in a challenging topic. “Professor Mejia was a kind, compassionate and empathic individual who took the time to work through any challenging concepts and engage the class. She went out of her way to support the class as a collective, but also as individuals,” said Al-Amin Ahamed, 2T4 class president.

“I enjoy giving students insight into the profession of pharmacy and teaching content and skills that are foundational to their future practice as pharmacists. . . . I love teaching and my enthusiasm for telling pharmacy practice stories helps me to contextualise for the students what would normally be a dry content area. It is truly an honour to be recognized by the students because it means that my efforts to make the best possible learning experience have positively resonated with them. Not only were the students successful in achieving the requirements of the course, but they enjoyed the journey as well.” — Sandra Bjelajac Mejia

Portrait of Scott Walker

PharmD for Pharmacists program: Scott Walker

Courses: Pharmacokinetics (PharmD for Pharmacists PHM616H1, and PharmD PHM144H1) 

PharmD for Pharmacists students commented on Walker’s knowledge and his comprehensive course materials that helped students to learn and build confidence in a difficult subject. Tara Farquharson and Brandon Toner, representatives of the PharmD for Pharmacists program, also noted that he was an empathetic and accommodating professor; with his students practising pharmacy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, he worked with them to find ways of completing the course requirements while serving their communities.

“The questions from students allow you to recognize that each concept can be approached from multiple angles, and the approach we often think is the best will not work with every student. It is very enlightening and gratifying to see students learn and understand each concept. . . . It is indeed an honour to be recognized by the students of this program from amongst a group of truly knowledgeable and stellar educators. I have genuinely enjoyed being part of their learning experience while they juggled this course, the program, work, family and COVID.” — Scott Walker

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