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Gary Dunnington, associate professor of surgery, and director of the USC/Norris Breast Center, accepted an appointment as senior associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Medicine. Dunnington’s responsibilities will include coordination of medical student education, admissions, and clerkship programs.

“We need to make sure that we use the most innovative, effective methods for educating medical students,” said the new dean, who hopes to raise student educational standards by focusing on faculty teaching skills and the individual needs of different teaching environments.

Currently director of the Department of Surgery’s residency and clerkship programs, as well as its vice chairman for educational affairs, Dunnington is familiar with the intricacies of physician education on the Health Sciences Campus.

He is also a distinguished voice in the field of medical education nationwide. Each year, Dunnington is one of five surgeons to teach a week-long course for the American College of Surgeons to a select group of program directors and department chairs, on the subject of improved surgical education.

Ultimately responsible for virtually every issue related to medical student education, Dunnington says that he’d like to increase the amount of contact time between faculty and medical students, while at the same time emphasizing faculty development. He has been responsible for restructuring surgical clerkships at USC and two other universities, and feels prepared to take on the challenge of supervising clerkship programs across a range of specialties. “I learned a great deal in those efforts,” he said of past experiences in coordinating clerkships, “including how to design a program that fits an institution’s educational climate.”

Dunnington hopes to work with students and faculty alike in guiding the School of Medicine along its current route to reorganization. “Students are excellent judges of what faculty can do to enhance learning,” he said, noting that he plans to remain a vocal student advocate in his new administrative capacity.

“I have no plans to change my strong advocacy role for the student body,” he pledged. Past medical school classes have shown recognition for his efforts on behalf of improved student learning experiences, and for two years running, Dunnington has won the student-bestowed “best clinical instructor” award given at commencement.

“I’d like for us to approach medical education with the same scientific rigor with which we approach research,” he said. “There’s been a great deal of recent published research on medical education that could be used to bring innovation to medical education, and to bring the science of medical education to bear on the experiences of medical students.”

While his new position will certainly be a priority, Dunnington said he plans to continue in his role as director of the USC/Norris Breast Center, and also plans to keep up his clinical practice in surgical oncology.

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