Assistant professor of epidemiology Patrick Bradshaw has a curious spirit, a sharp outlook, and an easy way of talking. “I’m a rambler,” he admits, with a welcoming smile. After only one semester teaching on the UC Berkeley faculty, Bradshaw is receiving an award from the School’s Committee on Teaching Excellence (CoTE), along with many other more senior School of Public Health faculty members and lecturers.
Since forming in 2013, the CoTE has awarded instructors for teaching excellence each semester. Among the Spring 2016 honorees is Patrick Bradshaw, for teaching Epidemiologic Theory (PH250C). This specific course hadn’t been formally taught since legendary Professor of Epidemiology Ira Tager retired in 2011, and one of the reasons Bradshaw came to Berkeley was to revive it.
“Patrick is exceptional,” says Lisa Barcellos, professor and CoTE chair. “Not only did he step in as a new faculty member to teach the course—it was popular with the students and scored very well.”
Bradshaw found his way to epidemiology through earlier academic work in econometrics and statistics. He still works with population data, but now he applies his methods to public health issues such as post-diagnosis lifestyle changes for cancer patients and understanding metabolic syndrome.
Throughout his career, Bradshaw has mastered many techniques to help clean up data, and he has even pioneered methods to account for missing data. In his class, he confronts his students with actual, historical datasets.
“They should be touching data that feels like data they’re going to touch in the real world,” Bradshaw says, “and real-world data are messy.”
“The material we covered could be very daunting at the outset,” says Jennifer Ames, a student in Bradshaw’s class last semester, “and Patrick helped us embrace that learning is a lot more successful and fun when you can be transparent and open about the struggle of it.”
“The literature can be daunting,” agrees Holly Stewart, another student. “But he made it easy to get excited about the course material.”
Stewart enjoyed Bradshaw’s three-lecture introduction to Bayesian Statistical models so much that she requested Independent Study with him this semester. “Patrick's enthusiasm for epidemiology and biostatistics is infectious,” she says.
Bradshaw describes teaching as a process of continuous learning. “The students challenge me to really understand the material,” he says. His left eyebrow rises slightly when talking about his students’ curiosity, feeling it as his own. “A student may be focused in on one aspect of something, and that forces me to understand it as well as they do.”
Ellie Colson Matthay, another student from Bradshaw’s class last semester, will help Professor Bradshaw teach the class next semester as his GSI. “At times the class felt like a technical lecture from someone with a lot more expertise than us, and at other times it felt like we were all colleagues discussing our work,” she says. “He had been in our shoes recently enough to remember what it was like.”
“I like the idea that you have academic children and grandchildren,” Bradshaw says. “You can see your lineage going forward.”
All of the following teachers can look forward to seeing their impact on the world reflected positively through the future work of their students. To receive a CoTE award strict criteria are applied. Both instructor and course must receive a median score of 6 or higher (out of 7) on evaluations and have five or more enrolled students. The course must also include formal evaluation of student performance and have at least 70% of evaluations returned. Courses must be formally recognized by the Educational Policy and Curriculum Committee (all courses) and the Senate Committee on Curriculum and Instruction (permanent courses).
By Jaron Zanerhaft
The faculty members and lecturers honored for teaching excellence in Spring 2016 are:
Infectious Disease & Vaccinology/Infectious Diseases & Immunity
Environmental Health Sciences
Mi-Suk Kang Dufour
Health Policy & Management
UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program
Community Health Sciences