Testimonials for Carl Shy
Steve Wing, January 30, 2002:
Epid 160 was a great learning experience for me, one that strongly influenced my subsequent involvement in community-driven research and understanding of the public health importance of connecting research and education.
Carl Shy's service to EPID 160 provides a great example to the rest of us of the excitement and creativity that can be found in epidemiology education.
Tom McIntosh Jones, January 24, 2002:
I will not be able to attend the wonderful celebration in honor of Dr. Shy but I wanted to send a note telling you how much I appreciated working with Dr. Shy in the Epi Department. His keen insight and gentle humor always made the work stimulating, refreshing and fun. He was a star in a super lineup of Epi faculty members who really made the discipline of Epidemiology come alive for graduate students.
Congratulations to Dr. Shy and thanks for putting together this recognition.
Ellen Heineman, January 28, 2002:
You're absolutely free to quote me. You can make up ANY complimentary thing about Carl and say I said it too. Here're another few things I'd like to say about Carl. Would you please do me a big favor and read them publicly? Thank you. If it's too long and you need me to edit it, let me know ASAP. Thanks again!
"I learned so much from Carl - too much to relate in a short time. Certainly there was all the knowledge and experience he imparted in his courses, in his afternoon Occupational and Environmental Epi "club", and as the co-chair for my dissertation. One example is a lesson I've used every time I write: his reminder to clarify what the gaps are in the literature and what my study would do to fill them.
"I learned other things from Carl. He exudes such calm. Once, when I was extremely annoyed with a recalcitrant industry person, Carl told me with JUST a hint of a smile that that guy put on his pants one leg at a time, just like me. Not exactly a line you'd expect from him, and it made me laugh.
"When I told him once that I was nervous about an upcoming talk, he reflected, 'It's a GOOD thing to be nervous. It gives your face and your voice a little extra animation.' It's something I've passed on to junior colleagues, and that I remember when I give a presentation. It ALWAYS helps.
"And finally, along with MANY other things, I learned to shut up. I found that if you interrupted Carl, he would stop and listen patiently and attentively, and then you'd miss hearing what HE was going to say. And THAT would be a mistake, because you can learn extraordinary things from Carl.
"He gave me red achillea from his garden, food from his table, and inspiration from his heart. Carl, I love you and ALWAYS wish you health, happiness, and peace."
Ode to Carl Shy
I feel honored to speak about Carl and my experience working as a TA for 160 (can you believe 5 semesters out of 3 Ĺ years in the doctoral program?).
However, let me first say, I am completely biased. I've worked with Carl for 8 years, either as a TA, on my dissertation, or research projects. The main reason I asked Carl to be my advisor were the qualities I noticed while working with Carl on Epid 160. He had and still has these qualities that make for both an excellent teacher and mentor.
What are these?
Clarity and quality
Desire for continual learning and cultivating excellence
Skill at Mentoring (I donít know if this is a quality, but I wanted to include it because I think it is a gift Carl has).
Carl has clarity in many ways. During our weekly TA meetings, I realized Carl has this wonderful ability to take complex ideas and distill them into their essence. When stumped with how to present a particular concept such as person-time, selection bias, or non-differential misclassification, you could discuss it with Carl. As TA s also provided with helpful teaching materials.
Clarity also came in the form of the course design, logistics, and evaluation. At first glance, a course such as epid 160 is daunting to any professor. With more than 100 students required to take course in an area outside their interest, itís a great challenge to spark interest in students who either donít care one iota about epidemiology or who have no idea what epidemiology is. Itís also a logistical nightmare. Carl changed the course from a large lecture format to self-regulated small groups with autonomy and a TA for assistance. No longer was there the opportunity to hide at the far back of the lecture hall and fall asleep. Epid 160 became a model for graduate level learning, moving away from spoon-feeding material to students to developing a sense of inquiry and discovery with real life problem-based case studies.
Evaluation was also standardized. Students were given the criteria for their evaluation at the outset of the course. TAs were given specific categories on which to evaluate the student. Students also had to evaluate each other on specific classroom participation, and they were more tough than the TA s! But the subjectivity of grading was greatly reduced by the standardization.
Continual learning and cultivating excellence
The evolution of epi 160 in the 5 semesters I TA'd and beyond is an example of Carlís desire for continual learning and cultivating excellence. In the fall of 1994, my first semester, Carl had already incorporated a major new technique from the on campus center for teaching and learning-small groups with case study based learning. I admit I was skeptical at first, I had never seen a whole course based on this format. Yet then I was amazed when my first two groups kept having very stimulating and intellectual discussions of the study case at hand.
Carl and Lorraine continually updated case studies with current events. For example, the students had excellent discussions about the AIDS vaccine and ethics. He also would change aspects of the course when the disadvantages outweighed the benefits, such as having each group designing and conducting their own rudimentary epidemiologic study (which was fun as a TA, but too much time for the students). Then he would add new components, such as an online list serve to post or discuss questions. Also important was incorporating topics and materials that would be of interest to the many kinds of students who take epid 160 ranging from biostaticians to Health behavior and education students to medical students. These different case studies he developed illustrated how epidemiology is the servant of public health, linking many areas such as public health policy, exposure assessment, and ethics all together.
Carl also responded to student input to a reasonable extent. There came a realization after several years of student input that out of a 100 to 150 students, you will always have a small group that will not like the current status quo. For example it took two years to find a balance between the student who complained of "too many faculty lectures" and those students who complained of " not enough faculty lectures". (Iíd like to note that many of the logistical aspects of the course were done by Lorraine Alexander, and Carl and Lorraine made an excellent team.)
Carl always treated even the most difficult students with kindness and respect. Responses to possible cheating were handled with fairness. He spent time interacting with students in special student sessions and the students were always happy to have this time with him. Carl also supporting the TAs, enabeling them to learn as well.
Epid 160 has also been a training ground for budding Phd epidemiologists. With Carl, Epid 160 was a wonderful opportunity for TA s to learn how to present material, lead a class, teach and answer questions on the spot, and develop their own autonomy and sense of classroom presence. Also they could learn how to evaluate the studentís performance in class, grade papers, and student efforts in a fair way. One thing that Carl recommended was to have yourself video-taped while teaching a class. It took me 5 semesters to get up enough courage to do this, but I highly recommend it for any one wanting to improve their teaching and presentation skills.
My lasting memories of Carl's epid 160 will be a course that engendered the collaborative spirit among students, TAs, and the faculty. Carl incorporated progressive ideas about teaching and how people learn in the classroom with basic epidemiologic principles and real world case studies. He has made a lasting template of how epidemiology should be taught.