CHANNELING CURIOSITY

Dr. Webster calls on her own childhood interest in science to inspire others

Danielle Webster, PhD, began teaching Microanatomy and Cell Biology at OUM three years ago. She is also an Academic Adviser and sits on the University’s Faculty Development Committee. Many of you already may know that.

But, you may not know that in 2011, Dr. Webster co-founded the Society for Scientific Advancement (SOSA), a non-profit foundation made up of working scientists and educators who promote STEM education (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) throughout the Caribbean and beyond. They work to promote and increase interest in science through workshops for elementary, middle school, and high school students, helping them to view science as an accessible career option. Chances are, Dr. Webster may have seen herself in some of those students she and her colleagues have mentored.

Always curious

 “Growing up, I knew that I was interested in science and scientific discovery,” says Dr. Webster, who grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, and returns there several times each year to visit family and facilitate foundation outreach. “I was always curious about biology, about how things happen, why things occur. But I did know that I didn’t want to be a doctor,” she admits with a chuckle in her voice.

Nevertheless, a chance co-teaching assignment with a medical doctor is what landed her at OUM.

Dr. Webster came to the US to attend college, beginning with Broward College in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which led to the University of Florida for a BS in Microbiology and Cell Science. She earned her PhD in Cellular Biology from the University of Georgia (UGA). After UGA, Dr. Webster served as an Assistant Professor in the School of Allied Health at Hodges University in Naples, Florida, where she met Paula Diamante, MD.

Firsthand view

When Dr. Diamante, Director of Faculty Affairs, found OUM in need of a lecturer for Microbiology and Cell Biology, she reached out to Dr. Webster.

“We were looking for a good lecturer who could really engage our students in Cell Bio. I immediately thought of Dr. Webster,” says Dr. Diamante. “She has a wonderful rapport with her students and is able to present difficult subject matter in ways that they can both comprehend and appreciate. I was fortunate to see that firsthand when I had the occasion to co-teach with her.”

Dr. Webster has embraced the University, both her colleagues and students.

“The OUM experience has been great. I love how it gives all of us – faculty and students – the opportunity to interact with and learn from many cultures,” says Dr. Webster, who appreciates both OUM’s diversity and the privilege to watch students fulfill their lifelong dream of becoming physicians.

Mentoring continued

 It was during graduate school at UGA that Dr. Webster began going with one of her professors to visit local elementary schools to talk about science. Once on the Hodges faculty, she continued the science outreach, working with under-resourced schools and after-school programs to help students understand and appreciate how interesting and fun science could be.

School visits and workshops advocating for science literacy extended to the Caribbean, growing in number and prominence. Dr. Webster and academic colleagues from around the globe eventually turned their passion for science into SOSA. She brings that fondness for international collaboration here to OUM.

At Hodges, Dr. Webster was the faculty facilitator for student organizations and a 2011 nominee for Professor of the Year. During her PhD studies, she received the Outstanding Graduate School Teaching Award (2004) and the University of Georgia Graduate Student Excellence in Teaching Award (2008). In 2017, Dr. Webster received the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award at the University of Central Florida (UCF), where she is also a faculty member.

In 2012, Dr. Webster earned a “Teaching with Blackboard” certificate (OUM uses the Blackboard platform as its virtual classrooms). In 2015, she was part of a conference presentation titled “Using Virtual Worlds to Create Engaging Learning Environments.” From 2014 to present, she has chaired the College of Health and Public Affairs Diversity Committee at UCF. Perhaps she was destined for OUM.

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