The shoebox

Lana Lee, PhD

By Jennifer Parraga, BA'93

It’s a typical Wednesday at the University of Windsor. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about the day for Lana Lee, PhD. That is until the small package of mail hits her desk. Hidden amongst the worn and reused campus envelopes is a small, crisp, white envelope; inside is a handwritten note of thanks from one her former students.

Once again a student is thanking Lee for her guidance, direction and support. It’s a moment of recognition that she will always remember. The note will soon find its place in a shoebox with hundreds of notes from students who had the good fortune of having Lee as their professor.

Since 2008, scores of Schulich Medicine – Windsor Campus students have counted themselves among the lucky ones who have benefited from Lee’s passion for education, pragmatism and thorough approach to teaching.

Now an adjunct faculty member with Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, she teaches the small group courses on patient care, context application and integration, or PCCIA as it is affectionately and more commonly known at the School.

PCCIA are small group discussions involving seven to eight students. At the beginning of each class a case-study is presented, which has a link to the students’ current learnings in other classes. Topics can range from end-of-life care to organ donation and everything in between. Lee is there to lead the discussions.

Personally motivated by her own family’s health experiences, Lee believes that as a discussion leader, her role is to provide background information about the topics, expose students to environments that can supplement their learning and understanding, and even challenge students own belief systems and biases.

Lee approaches the discussions from the viewpoint of a patient who wants to learn more, and encourages the students to think more like a patient rather than a health care provider.

“I hope that I’m able to bring something different to the students’ learning experience,” Lee said. “In the end, we want well educated physicians, and I want them to remember that not all their patients will have a formal education, that they won’t all speak English as their first language and they will come from many different cultures.”

Always willing to go the extra mile, Lee collects patient education materials to support the student discussions and show them what is available to patients. She has also taken the class to visit clinical care programs, such as the Sexual Assault Treatment Centre in Windsor.

In doing so, Lee aims to ensure students move on to their next learning experience with not only a solid knowledge of the science, but a well-rounded understanding of how to approach their work from a patient-centred point of view.

Lee’s approach is making a difference to the students. She’s been recognized for her teaching on the honour roll at Western University for her efforts.

That recent recognition is added to past acknowledgements from the University of Windsor Alumni Association including the Excellence in Mentoring Award, and the Champions of Education Award from the local school board for her volunteer efforts in the community.

“I really enjoy teaching the medical students,” Lee said. "It’s new, different and I get to challenge the students in a way that I can’t do in my other courses.”

A passionate educator, Lee teaches undergraduate and graduate courses as part of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the Faculty of Science and in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Windsor.

Lee believes that today’s undergraduate students are under a lot of pressure, especially those hoping to get in to medicine, dentistry or pharmacy. That’s why she tries to connect her current students with former students who are already in medical or dental school. In doing so, Lee hopes that the students can get a better picture of what their future holds. The shoebox full of thank you cards is evidence that her approach is making a difference.

“I get tremendous satisfaction from seeing a student succeed,” said Lee. “I just try to give them confidence, and give them a nudge, while encouraging them to never, ever, ever give up.”

The students who do learn and respond to Lee’s no nonsense style show their appreciation to her. The thank you messages continue to arrive on her desk on a regular basis – finding their way to the shoebox already filled to the brim with notes of appreciation.