AUGUSTA, Ga. - Dr. Ruth-Marie "Rhee" Fincher, Professor Emeritus and inaugural Vice Dean for Academic Affairs for the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University, has received the Association of American Medical Colleges' Abraham Flexner Award for Distinguished Service to Medical Education.
The AAMC established the Flexner award in 1958 to recognize extraordinary individual contributions to medical schools and to the medical education community as a whole. Fincher will receive the award during the AAMC's Annual Meeting Nov. 2-7 in San Francisco.
Over three decades Fincher, who retired from MCG in May 2012, worked to link medical education with the rigor of science, one of Flexner's most important tenets.
"The Flexner Award is the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for medical education and Rhee is truly the quintessential rock star of medical education," said MCG Dean Peter F. Buckley. "Her knowledge, enthusiasm and commitment to our profession and its future are unparalleled. She taught our students to be lifelong learners and contributors to their community. She helped inspire and mentor young educators. Through her dedication and persistent efforts, undergraduate medical education is now a legitimate career choice for faculty with a passion for teaching medical students and educational scholarship has been redefined and recognized across the nation. We simply could not be more proud of her and proud for our medical school and university for this distinct honor."
Fincher helped direct the education of more than 5,000 MCG students who have given her more than 20 teaching awards. Fincher also launched a distributed model of medical education in which MCG students learn alongside physicians across the state, enabling growth of the medical school class to help alleviate Georgia's significant physician shortage.
Early in her career as MCG's Internal Medicine Clerkship Director, Fincher cofounded the Clerkship Directors in Internal Medicine and the Alliance for Clinical Education to promote excellence in clinical education and create a nationally recognized career development track for faculty to focus on medical education. At the former, she started and ran for 20 years a training program for faculty new to the clerkship role. In 2006, that group renamed its annual service award to honor Fincher. The Alliance for Clinical Education fosters collaboration among clerkship directors across specialties, and Fincher led the organization's production of two landmark reports to help medical educators understand the role and value of clerkship directors.
"There has been no single figure in American medical education who has done more to define and nurture the roles of the clerkship director as an essential leader in student education," said Dr. Louis N. Pangaro, Past President of both groups.
In a 25-year volunteer role, Fincher began as an author and reviewer of test questions for assessing medical students' clinical skills through the National Board of Medical Examiners and ultimately was named to the group's Executive Board. "The changes in the examination programs during her leadership that support the medical education and licensure communities have had enormous effects on medical education and the expectations of competencies for doctors entering practice," said Dr. Donald E. Melnick, President.
In addition to paving a way for medical education scholarship at the national level, Fincher helped develop and implement MCG's Educator's Portfolio, which aids in the training and promotion process for faculty educators, as well as the Educational Innovation Institute, a unique resource to develop and disseminate best practices in medical education and support collaborative research in education.
Fincher has served the AAMC in many capacities. She has been highly engaged with its Group on Educational Affairs for 20 years, which she chaired from 1997-98. "Dr. Fincher brought the concept of scholarship to educating medical students, and infused it with rigor and never let the topic slip from the agenda of the GEA," said M. Brownell Anderson, Senior Academic Officer of International Programs at National Board of Medical Examiners and former GEA program leader. Fincher has been a member of the AAMC Board of Directors since 2011 and has participated in 12 accreditation site visits on behalf of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education over the last decade.
Fincher is a 1976 graduate of Emory University School of Medicine. She earned bachelor's degrees in biology from Colby College and in medical sciences degree from Dartmouth Medical School.
She is the first Georgia and first female recipient of the Flexner Award.
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