In recognition: Barbara Lewis selected for 2020 Chancellor’s Hilldale Award for Excellence in Teaching

With the 2021 nominations for the UW–Madison Academic Staff Excellence Awards currently open, it’s an opportune time to honor 2020 winners who had their awards ceremony postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barbara LewisBarbara Lewis, RN, MS from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health Department of Urology received one of the 2020 Academic Staff Excellence Awards. Lewis is the department’s Urology Simulation Education Program Director.

Academic staff members bring UW–Madison’s mission to life — they are gifted teachers, world-class researchers and dedicated administrators. None of that has changed with COVID-19 — indeed, academic staff ingenuity and dedication has enabled the university to weather the pandemic from a position of strength.

Note for 2021 nominations: All are encouraged to nominate deserving candidates for 2021 Academic Staff Excellence awards. While nominations can be made directly, Dean Golden will support a small number of candidates for nomination. If you’d like to submit a nomination for consideration of the Dean’s support, please submit the nomination packet, as complete as possible, to the Office of the Dean ( no later than January 4, 2021. Because clinician-teacher (CT) and clinical health sciences (CHS) faculty tracks are classified by campus as academic staff appointments, nominations of faculty in these tracks for these awards are welcome and encouraged as well.

Lewis, who earned the 2020 Chancellor’s Hilldale Award for Excellence in Teaching, has been with the university for nearly two decades. She was part of the Department of Surgery for 13 years, followed then by six years with Urology as the manager of educational programs before taking on the role of simulation education director.

“The goal of teaching and education is not to put the spotlight on oneself, but to enable others to achieve their goals,” Lewis says. “It has been an honor and privilege to assist with the education of medical students and urology residents for the past twenty plus years.”

Dramatic changes in health care have necessitated adjustments in the training of medical residents, including a greater reliance on cutting-edge simulation activities. Lewis was tasked with developing an entirely new curriculum, one that would allow future surgeons to hone complex skills without risk to patients. This meant she had to simulate real medical exams and surgeries. These kinds of simulations allow learners to learn at their own pace and have repeated practice, all in a low-risk environment.

Her supervisor, nominator, and Director of Simulation Education professor Sara Best, MD says she has exceeded all expectations and been an asset to the university throughout her many years of service and commitment to medical and surgical education. These sentiments were echoed by Daniel Williams, MD, the department’s Vice Chair for Education and Urology Residency Program Director.

“Barb has gone above and beyond in both helping design and fully coordinate the simulation labs that comprise our current educational program,” Best says. “She has been the major workhorse in our going from having no simulation education program to one of the strongest in the country for urology. It’s her ingenuity, hard work, and ability to foster relationships that have made this possible.”

Lewis and Best actually met in 2001, when Best was a medical student in her surgery rotation. Little did she know that years later she would join Lewis again when she joined the faculty of Urology.

“She’s been a mentor to me since I was a medical student and continues to teach me educational skills weekly,” Best adds. “Our trainees have always felt comfortable approaching her to help deal with the various problems that come up during residency, knowing she will have a compassionate ear and sound advice.”

In large part, programs interested in using simulation have to develop their own curricula. Lewis has championed the development of take-home simulation kits for students to check out for additional practice, as well as on-demand simulation activities that can be arranged on short notice — all in addition to the larger labs built into the curriculum. In just a few years, the department has gone from having no simulation education program to one of the strongest in the country.

“It’s been a privilege to see and contribute to the growth and progression of the medical students and residents into highly successfully faculty and attendings,” Lewis says. “It’s an honor to be recognized and awarded for something that I truly enjoy doing.”

by Kaine Korzekwa