Monaco, Weinberger presented with School’s highest honors for teaching, mentoring

May 20, 2013
Drs. Morris Weinberger (left) and Jane Monaco

Drs. Morris Weinberger (left) and Jane Monaco

Jane Monaco, DrPH, clinical assistant professor of biostatistics, and Morris Weinberger, PhD, Vergil N. Slee Distinguished Professor of Healthcare Quality Management in the Department of Health Policy and Management, have received the Gillings School of Global Public Health’s highest awards for teaching and mentoring. The McGavran Award for Excellence in Teaching and the John E. Larsh Award for Mentorship were presented to Monaco and Weinberger, respectively, at the School’s commencement ceremony on May 12.

The McGavran Award

The McGavran Award for Excellence in Teaching honors Edward G. McGavran, MD, MPH, dean of the UNC School of Public Health from 1947 to 1963 and proponent of “hands-on” field training for public health students. First given in 1975, the award recognizes career-long excellence in teaching by a faculty member at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Monaco, who serves as director of undergraduate studies for the biostatistics department, received glowing reviews from a wide range of learners, from college students to established professionals returning to school to hone statistics skills.
Current Duke medical student Hari Ramalingam had not initially intended to study biostatistics. As a freshman, he knew he wanted to push himself in math and science and learn real, applicable skills, but he wasn’t sure of a direction. One meeting with Monaco sold him on biostatistics. “That early in my education, having someone who encouraged me to push myself was amazing,” Ramalingam said.”Without Dr. Monaco’s help, I would not have been able to have such an extensive undergraduate research experience,” said another undergraduate biostatistics major. “She helped me make course selections, introduced me to faculty members, put me in touch with my honors thesis adviser and advised me as I applied to graduate schools in biostatistics.”

Dr. Monaco (left) accepts the McGavran award from Dr. Anna Maria Siega-Riz, associate dean for academic affairs.

Dr. Monaco (left) accepts the McGavran award from Dr. Anna Maria Siega-Riz, associate dean for academic affairs.

Vicky LeGrys, DA, professor in the UNC Department of Allied Health Sciences, has taught in the School of Medicine for more than 25 years. As she returned to the classroom to strengthen her knowledge of biostatistics and apply it to her teaching and research, she found that Monaco eased her concerns and made her feel comfortable with the technology and course materials.

“Dr. Monaco sincerely wants students to be successful, and she provides all the tools necessary for that,” LeGrys said. “She was very approachable, helpful and respectful whenever I contacted her for help. When I did not understand a particular answer, she framed it in a different way, drawing more diagrams and providing additional examples until I ‘got it.’ She never asked anything on an exam that she had not prepared you for.”
LeGrys said Monaco had set high standards for herself and her students. “As an educator, I appreciate that,” LeGrys said. “Just as important as the content was Dr. Monaco’s exemplary performance as a master teacher, which inspired me to be a better teacher.”
Colleagues agree. “Jane is an outstanding [teacher],” said Michael Kosorok, PhD, chair of the biostatistics department. “While she generally flies under the radar and avoids self-promotion, she should be honored for her contributions. She receives extremely positive evaluations for teaching one of the most challenging courses in our department (BIOS 600), and she spearheaded the online version of the course, which has become quite popular. It is difficult to overestimate her impact on our BSPH program. She has transformed it [such that it produces] phenomenal students, and she has increased the awareness of biostatistics across campus.”Monaco received Master of Science degrees both in mathematics and in biostatistics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and returned to the Gillings School for a Doctor of Public Health degree, which she received in 2003. She joined the School’s faculty in 2004.

The Larsh Award

Established in 1997, the highly competitive John E. Larsh Award for Mentorship honors Dr. Larsh, a faculty member in the School’s Department of Health Behavior and Health Education from 1942 to 1981. The award is presented to a current member of the School’s faculty who best exemplifies the mentorship and commitment to students for which Larsh was well known.

As was true of Jane Monaco’s nominators, Morris Weinberger’s came forward en masse in gratitude for his care of and personal attention to those whom he teaches and with whom he works, particularly praising his balance of work and personal life and the ways he is able to lead his students toward that balance.
Dr. Weinberger (right) signs in at commencement with student services manager Carmen Woody, as Jane and Michelle Weinberger look on.

Dr. Weinberger (right) signs in at commencement with student services manager Carmen Woody, as Jane and Michelle Weinberger look on.

“Dr. Weinberger’s character, integrity and personality have impacted my life in ways that no other individual has,” one nominator said. “From him, I have learned that personal rewards come best through the success of those I help. His example has taught me the meaning of scholarship, service and sacrifice.”

“In a field where our reputations rest on our individual work, Dr. Weinberger gauges his success by the success of those he mentors,” another said. “Without hesitation, he nurtures and grows my research as if it were his own.”
He was described repeatedly as being passionate about mentorship, maintaining high standards for mentees, and serving as a nonjudgmental and humble role model, despite his long list of accomplishments.
“Morris is astute about checking in about people’s ‘master career plans,” one junior faculty member said. “He takes a long-term view of our careers even when we don’t. He convinced me, a health economist, to brave trying intervention research when I was a new faculty member. When I have had my doubts or questioned the wisdom of this choice, Morris has listened, digested the concerns, and offered practical, positive and tangible options that led me to a solution and better balance.”Perhaps the most telling anecdote came from this doctoral student:

At 10 p.m. on the night before [graduate school] decisions were due, I was still at a loss. I emailed Morris asking him if he could answer a few questions. He emailed back immediately and told me to call him at home. I explained all my concerns, my worries about the possible pitfalls of doctoral work, and Morris answered with the following: ‘Whatever I can do to make this PhD program a good experience for you, I will do.’ Morris has fulfilled this promise 100 percent. When I have told other health policy and management students about this conversation, they answer, ‘That’s Morris!'”

It is clear to me that Morris delights in the work of mentorship. His commitment to student success makes his students want to succeed.

An alumnus of Purdue and Duke universities, Weinberger joined the Gillings School faculty in 2001. He is also a senior research career scientist at the Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care at the Durham (N.C.) Veterans Affairs Medical Center, research professor in UNC’s School of Medicine, member of the Cancer Prevention and Control program at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and research fellow at UNC’s Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research. He is director of the health policy and management doctoral training program at the Gillings School and holds adjunct professorships in UNC’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy and Duke University’s School of Medicine.


Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or