Joseph Stoklosa, MD, Receives Harvard Medical School’s 2021 Cynthia N. Kettyle Teaching Award

April 6, 2021

A placard in the office of Joseph Stoklosa, MD, reads, “Qui docet discit”: He or she who teaches learns. As a dedicated educator who just won the 2021 Cynthia N. Kettyle Teaching Award for Medical Student Education in Psychiatry, Stoklosa embodies the truth of this proverb.

Since 2004, the award has been presented annually to Harvard Medical School (HMS) faculty members who have inspired medical students by their warmth, character, and dedication to medical student teaching in psychiatry and have exemplified for students the vitality and relevance of psychiatry to medical practice.

“I feel humbled to win this award knowing Cynthia Kettyle and her great legacy as a brilliant, compassionate educator,” Stoklosa said. “She sets the standard for excellent teaching and serves as an inspiration to so many of us.”

Stoklosa added that he became an academic physician because he was drawn to the idea of the diversity of experiences one could have through research, teaching, and other academic pursuits. “I always imagined that teaching would be some part of my job,” he said. “I feel very blessed that it’s become a very central part of what I do, who I am, and my vocation.”

A Career in Mentorship

In 2014, Stoklosa, clinical director of McLean’s Division of Psychotic Disorders and assistant professor of psychiatry at HMS, along with Heather Vestal, MD, MPH, (currently at Duke University) cofounded the MGH-McLean Adult Psychiatry Residency Training Program’s Clinician Educator Program.

The Clinician Educator Program aims to help psychiatry residents become better educators and create a community among those in the field. Residents are assigned mentors and participate in monthly core didactics, various teaching opportunities, educational projects, and conferences. They go on to have diverse influences, from teaching medical students to researching effective pedagogical methods.

Stoklosa also teaches clinically at McLean within a variety of disciplines, from medical students to psychiatry residents to interdisciplinary staff, on the hospital’s inpatient psychotic disorders programs.

Joseph Stoklosa, MD
Dr. Joseph Stoklosa

His favorite way to teach is apprentice style, which has been his primary clinical method at McLean for the past decade, working alongside his students while inspiring and challenging them. But you might also see him sharing pearls of wisdom, offering a quote of the day, giving feedback, or leading in-service trainings on clinical topics for nurses, social workers, and mental health specialists about the patients they are taking care of together.

Within the past four years, Stoklosa co-founded a mentorship program to facilitate the career development of mental health specialists, community residence counselors, and research assistants in fields of health care, including social work, occupational therapy, nursing, psychology, and medicine. And for the last two years, he has also grown interested in and has been developing postgraduate training for nurse practitioners to offer mentored intensive education and clinical training.

Specifically for medical students, Stoklosa has been one of the teachers of the core psychiatry course at HMS for several years, co-leading case-based collaborative learning sessions. For the last 10 years, he has taught psychiatric interviewing, including a chance to model interviews, during the students’ time at McLean. He has relished speaking on several medical student career lunch panels to inspire students to consider a career in his passion: psychiatry.

Stoklosa is often called a “teacher of teachers,” leading workshops for other educators on how to connect with your learner or teach on a busy clinical service.

Leading by Example

Reflecting on his years at McLean, Stoklosa recalled an interaction with a resident on an inpatient unit who had worked hard to connect with a patient.

The patient had been reticent at the time. “And then the resident earned the almighty smile and silent connection from the patient,” Stoklosa said. “It was a beautiful moment where we looked at each other across the table and knew he succeeded in exactly what he sought out to do.”

Such shared experiences, when he sees someone light up—whether it is a patient or a learner—are especially meaningful to Stoklosa. But so are the times when he fosters medical students’ interest in psychiatry and then mentors them through residency, his clinician educator program, and beyond.

According to Stoklosa, a good teacher “is not a scribe in the front of the room, but is a guide by the side and someone who can help someone grow.”

In his teaching, he emphasizes the practice of teaching with vulnerability to connect with one’s students and make a safe learning space. The practice involves being unafraid to make mistakes.

“Teaching with vulnerability is singing your mistakes from the rooftops so that you can keep polishing yourself and create that same mindset in your learner,” he said. “They call it practicing medicine for a reason because we’re all practicing and trying to get better. Teaching with vulnerability is about having that growth mindset to keep growing.”

Lifelong Learning

Stoklosa has been passionate about teaching from a very young age. Starting in elementary school, he studied for his tests by teaching the course material to his friends. In college, he tutored people for classes he had never taken. “I always felt that teaching wasn’t necessarily about mastery of the material so much as helping enable learning, which you can do even if it’s not your topic,” he said.

“I love that moment in your learner where something clicks, and a new fire is born that can spread into new ideas or new abilities,” he added. “I love the dialogue with the learner where they teach me just as much as I teach them. I love being challenged every day by my learners to do better and then be better.”

McLean President and Psychiatrist in Chief Scott L. Rauch, MD, praised Stoklosa for his contribution to teaching at HMS and McLean. “This is a tremendous and well-deserved acknowledgement of Joe’s devotion and skill in the realm of medical student education,” Rauch said. “His passion, expertise, and selflessness are now legendary. We could not be more grateful for all that he contributes to the HMS community and beyond.”

“I feel like winning an award like this is really a testament to all those who have given me opportunities to teach and a testament to the learners that I’ve been able to interact with,” said Stoklosa. “It motivates me to want to keep teaching and touch more people’s lives during their education at any stage.”

Stoklosa was honored during the Kettyle and Borus awards presentation at the virtual HMS Symposium on Medical Student Education in Psychiatry on Tuesday, April 6, 2021.

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