News Release

Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine names Educators of the Year

Grant and Award Announcement

Boston University School of Medicine

(Boston)–Five Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine faculty have been honored as 2024 Educators of the Year by the School’s Awards Committee. Nominated by students and faculty, the annual awards recognize the school’s educators who provide excellence in teaching and mentoring.


This year’s recipients are Molly Cohen Osher, MD, MMedEd, Educator of the Year, Pre-clerkship; Christine Cary Cheston, MD, Educator of the Year, Clerkship; William Lehman, PhD, Educator of the Year in MA/MS Programs; Jeffrey L. Browning, PhD, Educator of the Year in PhD Programs; and Vanessa Villamarin, MD, Resident Educator of the Year.

Cohen-Osher is the assistant dean of medical education for curriculum and Instructional design. She joined BU in 2012 as the associate clerkship director of family medicine and assistant professor of family medicine. She completed a seven-year BA/MD program from Rutgers University/University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. She completed her internship in family medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, her family medicine residency at the MacNeal Family Medicine Residency Program in Berwyn, Illinois, and a master teacher fellowship at the Tufts University Family Medicine Residency Program at Cambridge Health Alliance. She received her Master’s in Medical Education at University of Dundee, Scotland.

Cohen-Osher focuses on creating learning experiences that foster active learning, teamwork and the skills to build meaningful therapeutic alliances with patients. She supports faculty in implementing new instructional methods and curriculum.

One of her nominators said, “Molly has been a model of professional behavior, dealing with students and faculty in a caring and compassionate way. She is an active listener, and she is willing to make changes in response to feedback while holding fast to her principles as an educator. She is a superb role model for all educators at our institution. I cannot think of anyone more deserving.”

Cheston is an associate professor of pediatrics in hospital and newborn medicine and the program director of the Boston Combined Residency Program (BCRP) at Boston Medical Center (BMC). Cheston received her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia, and her MD at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She completed her pediatric residency in the Urban Health and Advocacy Track of the BCRP and received the Harvard Medical Student Teaching Award as a senior resident. She graduated as chief resident at BMC prior to joining the faculty. In 2022, she became one of the inaugural graduates of the Clinician Educator Leadership Program at BU.


According to a student nominator, Cheston is a model physician/educator who embodies a commitment to student growth, mentorship and antiracism. “Dr. Cheston models compassionate patient-centered care during rounds. She consistently prioritized patient needs by requesting in-person interpreters, finding chairs or squatting to maintain eye-level communication, and offering non-judgmental language suggestions to center the patient and minimize stigma. Moreover, Dr. Cheston empowered students to lead discussions and challenged our thought process to mitigate anchoring bias by asking for wide differential diagnoses and explanations for patient assessments based on their current clinical picture.”


Lehman, a professor and the vice-chair of the department of pharmacology, physiology & biophysics, previously served as chair ad interim of physiology & biophysics from 2021 through 2022. His research is focused on characterizing the role played by muscle thin filaments in regulating cardiac, skeletal and smooth muscle contractility using a structural approach that combines molecular biology, cryo-electron microscopy, image processing and computational tools, such as molecular dynamics. His laboratory was the first to directly visualize and identify components of cardiac and skeletal muscle actin-containing thin filaments that respond to calcium and, in turn, control muscle activity. His molecular models of thin filaments provide a framework to investigate disease-bearing mutations leading to cardiomyopathies and for discovery of drugs to counteract disease development.


Lehman received his BS degree from Stony Brook University and his PhD from Princeton. He then spent three years as a post-doctoral fellow at Brandeis University and an additional year as a Higher Scientific Officer at Oxford University before assuming his faculty position at BU in 1973. 


Lehman’s nominator commented, “Dr. Lehman is a first-class professor who is immensely passionate about the education of his students and their success within the healthcare field. His outstanding leadership has made each of his students exceptionally competent and knowledgeable, and we are extremely thankful to have had him guide us through such a challenging yet rewarding course.”


Browning received his PhD training in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin followed by postdoctoral work with Joachim Seelig, PhD, in the biophysics department of the University of Basel using nuclear magnetic resonance methods to study membrane structure; and with Louis Reichardt, PhD, in the neurobiology department at  the University of California San Francisco  researching the neuromuscular junction. From 1984-2012, he was a research scientist in the immunobiology discovery group at the biotech firm Biogen in Cambridge Mass. 


His research interests are centered on the tumor necrosis factor family of regulatory molecules notably the discovery of the lymphotoxin, BAFF and TWEAK systems and translation of modulators of the lymphotoxin pathway to the clinic in indications ranging from autoimmune disease and inflammatory bowel disease to oncology. Since 2013, he has been a research professor at BU in the department of virology, immunology & microbiology and the section of rheumatology. His current research focus is on altered vascular and stromal states in the perivascular compartment in the skin of systemic sclerosis and lupus patients and their impact on the pathology.


One of his nominators said, “Jeff is a dedicated educator who is passionate about immunology and its role in health and disease, and who consistently strives to impart his vast knowledge and excitement for immunology to students. He pays a great deal of attention to each student’s research and provides insightful comments as well as providing students with relevant papers and avenues for consideration. Importantly, he does not shy away from demanding the best of students but works hard to help them meet a high bar.”


Villamarin is a rising obstetrics & gynecology fourth-year resident at Boston Medical Center (BMC). She was born in Bronx, New York but spent most of her early childhood in Ecuador before moving to central Massachusetts. She completed her BS in psychology on the neuroscience track at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Prior to starting medical school, she worked as the lead research coordinator for clinical postpartum depression studies at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School . Additionally, she served as a volunteer at the Worcester Free Clinics. She completed her medical degree at UMMS. During her time there she was one of the student leaders for the Worcester Healthy Baby Collaborative, working to address racial disparities in infant mortality. Additionally, she served as one of the Worcester Free Clinic leaders and was on the executive board for the Latino Medical Student Association and Student National Medical Association chapters at UMass Chan.


According to a nominator, Villamarin is passionate about social justice, equity in healthcare and increasing diversity in medicine. “She has seen firsthand how dedicated BMC is to advocating for and providing equitable and excellent care to underserved communities when her mom received care at BMC as an uninsured patient.”


Another nominator described her as kind, empathetic and generous with her time with students. “From day one, she was approachable and vested in my success. She always encouraged me to ask clarifying questions on rounds and in the OR, and shared constructive feedback in a way that encouraged my growth. Additionally, she taught me how to approach challenging conversations with patients and the importance of always practicing shared decision-making. Her patients’ trust in her was palpable.”


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