In a fast-paced clinical workplace, the best teaching and learning happens in the moment, when physicians, residents and medical students care for patients together.
These moments helped shape the careers of Dr. Julia Tan, MD’17 and one of her mentors, Dr. Luke Chen, who each received the Richard E. Beck Prize for outstanding contributions to clinical teaching during their medical training more than a decade apart.
“Part of the reason I chose internal medicine and rheumatology and started to engage more in clinical teaching as a resident is because I had such great mentors who took the time to teach me,” says Dr. Tan. “The moments when faculty and senior residents put in extra time and effort to pass on clinical pearls to me felt really special. When I got into a more senior position, I wanted to do that too as a way of paying it forward.”
Dr. Tan received the Beck Prize in 2020 during her residency, and Dr. Chen received the prize in 2008. The award is highly coveted by residents and fellows in UBC’s department of medicine, as many highly deserving senior residents are nominated each year.
“There’s a certain authenticity to the Beck award because faculty submit nominations, but the residents vote to select the recipient—someone who’s there in the trenches with them teaching them what they need to know in the moment,” says Dr. Chen, program director of the UBC hematology residency program. “It’s not an easy award to win, and those who have won it really stand out to me as special people. The award has made an impact on our lives.”
Born in Vancouver, Dr. Richard Edward Beck (1923-2014) returned home from his fellowship training in 1952 to become the first teaching fellow in internal medicine for the newly formed UBC faculty of medicine.
“Our family set up an endowed award in Dad’s name as an 80th birthday present to him,” says Dr. Beck’s daughter, Dr. Jean Jamieson, MD’84, MHSc’91. “Over the years, I’ve had the unique opportunity to witness the impact of kind and supportive teachers like Luke. This has made me feel that our decision to create an award in Dad’s honour has made an incredible difference to the faculty of medicine.”
Looking back, Dr. Chen believes winning the Beck Prize changed the trajectory of his career.
“I knew I wanted to be a generalist much like Dr. Beck, and I hadn’t thought about teaching,” says Dr. Chen. “When I won the award, I realized what I enjoy most is teaching and maybe I should do more, learn how to do it really well and learn how to do clinical education research.”
He completed the UBC Centre for Health Education Scholarship (CHES) clinical educator fellowship in 2010, before joining the division of hematology to focus on medical education and research into rare and orphan blood disorders.
“All of these developments were indirect benefits of being spurred to go into clinical education, become a generalist and stay curious about lots of different things,” says Dr. Chen.
“As a doctor, your number one priority is always to do the very best you can with the patient that’s in front of you,” he says. “When you do research, if you find something useful, you can help thousands, tens of thousands, maybe millions of people. Likewise with teaching, if you take the extra time to really teach someone well to become a better doctor, you’re impacting all the tens of thousands of patients that doctor is going to see. That’s the impact of clinical teaching.”
For more information about supporting awards in the UBC Faculty of Medicine, please contact Sabrina Ting at firstname.lastname@example.org.