The Department of Surgery on June 18, 2010 awarded Samuel J. McKenna, D.D.S., M.D., the prestigious Robert S. McCleery Master Teacher Award, which recognizes outstanding full-time teachers of surgical residents at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
In introducing this year’s award recipient, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Resident Adam Pitts, D.D.S., M.D., noted that while a preponderance of hyperbole exists in today’s culture when defining excellence, the use of the term “master” is not overused in McKenna’s case.
“Dr. McKenna has dedicated his entire life to providing a balance between ethics and critical thinking when teaching the basic foundations of medical care,” he said. “He specifically tailors his lessons to each individual and is available to the residents every day of the year. Outside of the classroom, he serves as a stellar example of how to interact with patients, treating each as a member of the family,” Pitts said.
McKenna completed his doctor of dental surgery degree from the University of California School of Dentistry - Los Angeles in 1980 and his medical degree from Vanderbilt in 1983. He stayed on at Vanderbilt to complete his residency, later serving as a member of the faculty as well as former director of the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Residency. In 2008, he was named to his current position as chairman of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.
“Dr. McKenna is a consummate surgical educator, mentor and role model who is beloved by his residents. I can think of no one more deserving of this award,” said R. Daniel Beauchamp, M.D., the Foshee Distinguished Professor of Surgery and chairman of the Section of Surgical Sciences.
McKenna expressed his sincere appreciation for the recognition. “I can hardly declare how much this means to me,” said McKenna. “I’m flattered that I would be considered for this award when in the company of so many brilliant teachers,” he said.
Presented at the Third Annual Robert S. McCleery Master Teacher Award and Lectureship for Surgical Resident Education, the McCleery Award was endowed in 2008 by the late Eustace H. Winn, Jr., M.D., Vanderbilt benefactor and surgical resident who trained under the late Robert S. McCleery, M.D.
McCleery was a 1938 graduate of the Ohio State University College of Medicine and surgical resident at Jackson Memorial Hospital, now the University of Miami, and the University of Minnesota Medical School.
Then chairman of the Vanderbilt Department of Surgery Dr. Barney Brooks recruited McCleery to serve as surgeon-in-chief at the Thayer Army Hospital in Nashville. The hospital was built during World War II and designated as one of the Veterans Hospitals, to be staffed by the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
The award is bestowed each year through a nomination process by surgical residents. Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery Alan Fruin, M.D., was the first recipient of the McCleery Teacher Award, followed by Professor of Surgery and Program Director of Surgery Education John Tarpley, M.D.