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Director of Graduate Studies Afsie Sabokbar, Associate Professor Stephanie Dakin and Graduate Studies Officer Samuel Burnell were all winners in the Teaching Excellence Awards.

Afsie Sabokbar, Steph Dakin and Sam Burnell
Afsie Sabokbar, Stephanie Dakin and Sam Burnell

The Teaching Excellence Awards are run by the Medical Sciences Division of the University of Oxford, and recognise and reward excellence in teaching, supervision, the organisation and development of teaching, and support for teaching and learning. 

Our congratulations go to Associate Professor Afsie Sabokbar who was awarded the Lifetime Achievement accolade, Associate Professor Stephanie Dakin who was presented with Excellent Teacher, and Samuel Burnell won the Learning Support Award. Find out more about Afsie and why she won.

After starting her career as a vet working in equine orthopaedics, Stephanie Dakin decided to apply her experience to human medicine. She started working at NDORMS in 2013, and later became Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) for the Taught MSc in Musculoskeletal Sciences. She said “I am delighted to have received an Excellent Teacher Award from the Medical Sciences Division in recognition for successfully leading the Taught MSc in Musculoskeletal Sciences.”

“Having enjoyed teaching undergraduate veterinary students, I was keen to further develop my skills as an educator at Oxford. Becoming DGS for the MSc presented as an exciting opportunity to teach PGR students with an interest in the Musculoskeletal Sciences and work with a fantastic team of colleagues who support the course. I was also highly motivated by the multidisciplinary teaching programme integrating both orthopaedics and rheumatology, and the opportunity to train the future leaders in the musculoskeletal sciences.”

Since becoming Director of Graduate Studies, Stephanie has helped to raise the international profile of the course, and has also introduced a musculoskeletal symposium between students at Oxford and Toronto Universities. She has worked to help make the course more accessible by enhancing the Virtual Learning Environment, improving mechanisms to collect student feedback and introduced new modules on musculoskeletal radiology and rehabilitation to ensure the curriculum reflects current best practise within the musculoskeletal sciences. She has also worked to strengthen relationships between current students and alumni to allow them to share their experiences of the course.

In the last couple of years, there has been an increase in the proportion of female students and rheumatology trainees on the course. NDORMS has also seen the course become more international, with students coming from the USA, Canada, Hong Kong, Greece, Qatar, and the Republic of Ireland.

But we’re not stopping there. There are plans to increase the diversity of the course, and to make it more accessible to a wider group of students around the world. “The pandemic has demonstrated our capacity to provide flexible and inclusive hybrid teaching, we will maintain this practice to accommodate the busy working lives of our students (many of whom are practicing medical clinicians) and our overseas students in different time zones. We will also strengthen our alumni network across student cohorts, inviting alumni to course related symposia and social events. We aim to further expand the diversity of our student cohort and build upon the international relations we have already made, ensuring we continue to provide internationally renowned teaching for our students.” 

Stephanie has found that as well as the students, she has also benefitted personally from her work on the course. “It’s fantastic to see our students flourish, growing in confidence and knowledge which equips them with the tools to excel in their future careers. We encourage students to generate tangible outputs from their coursework by publishing their literature reviews and submitting their grant applications for funding. After a forced transition to online teaching during the pandemic, it’s been a real joy to return to face-to-face teaching, rekindling the collegiate atmosphere we missed so much in 2020. The course has inspired me to further develop my skills as an educator by successfully completing PGCert and FHEA training. Finally, running the course gives me opportunities to engage with inspiring students who always encourage us to learn more. I have the privilege of working with an incredible support team comprising our Course Administrator Charlotte Turner, Botnar DGS Prof Afsie Sabokbar, our Organising Committee, Examination Board and the many NDORMS staff who enable us to deliver internationally renowned teaching in the Musculoskeletal Sciences, to whom I am extremely thankful.” 

Also part of that team is Graduate Studies Officer Samuel Burnell, who won the Learning Support Award. He started working at NDORMS in 2015, looking after the administration of the DPhil and MSc programmes. He said “I was delighted to receive the Learning Support Teaching Excellence Award and it came as a complete shock. Thank you to those who supported my nomination.”

Sam’s line manager, Afsie Sabokbar, added “Since the start of his role as the Graduate Studies Officer at NDORMS, Sam has consistently provided exceptional administrative support for the DGSs at Botnar and Kennedy Institutes. With assistance from Robert Grayson, the departmental Graduate Studies Assistant, Sam’s ability to calmly and efficiently address numerous queries from various students/PIs, and handling the administration of the applications’ ranking/short-listing the candidate rejection/invitation (>250) to interviews etc. for two distinct institutes, has been remarkable… It is because of Sam's dedication and hard work in the department, that he was nominated for, and now successfully awarded, the Excellent Learning Support Member of the MSD.”