Sparking young minds with creativity

Townsville emergency specialist, Doctor Zafar Smith has been recognised for his exceptional teaching at James Cook University by the Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA). The award comes just 12 months since Zafar took to the lecture theatre, but it’s the newly-minted lecturer’s expertise in his field that has won over his students.

JCU medical students are learning from a true expert in the field of emergency medicine. As well as being a lecturer, Zafar is an Emergency Specialist at The Townsville Hospital (TTH), and works part-time in the Emergency Departments at Mt Isa and the Mater.

The AMSA National Teaching Award for Excellence in Teaching is Zafar’s first award, but it’s come early in his teaching career, having only started lecturing in 2017.

“My first lecture was in September 2017 when I took over from the previous lecturer for three months doing the ‘Introduction to Emergency Medicine’ module for the third year students,” Zafar said.

“Then I started lecturing again in July and have been lecturing for the last six months.”

Zafar was nominated by his students, and the award speaks volumes to the value he adds to their education at JCU.

“I’m thankful that the students were able to learn something from my lecturing style,” Zafar said.

“I was totally shocked and surprised because it is an Australia-wide nomination process and so I did not think at all that I would get the award.”

Zafar does his utmost to make his content appealing to soon-to-be doctors.

Doctor Zafar Smith with his award at JCU Townsville.

“The best thing I find is trying to work out creative ways to teach difficult medical concepts,” Zafar said. “I enjoy breaking things down into bite-size chunks that are easily digestible for young keen minds.”

“I use a lot of acronyms, spaced repetition, online quizzes such as Kahoot, role plays, simulated cases and group interaction platforms like GoSoapBox during my lectures and guided learning sessions.”

Zafar has acknowledged his award as a team effort, saying he couldn’t have made the leap to lecturing without the support of his fellow educators.

“I really am appreciative of the support Pete Johnson and Kim Owens have given me throughout the year,” the award winner said.

“They have encouraged me to do things differently and to go out on a limb. Obviously their advice and support has paid off.

“Also, I had the invaluable help of my five student tutors Alice, Nim, Shreya, Sar and Daryl who explained concepts and facilitated group discussions during the Guided Learning Sessions.”

If you’re an outstanding student, and want to save lives, apply for JCU Medicine.

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