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Laura de Lima Xavier, MD
Laura de Lima Xavier, MD

Adult Neurology resident Dr. Laura de Lima Xavier received a Kaiser Permanente Excellence in Teaching Award at the 2021 UNC School of Medicine’s Whitehead Lecture and Awards ceremony on August 4. UNC medical students vote on the award to honor residents and interns who contribute in an exemplary way to the education of medical students. Award winners display an enthusiasm for teaching, include students in patient care decisions, and promote the involvement of students on the medical team.

“This award was such a delightful surprise coming at the end of an incredibly challenging year. For me, it was particularly challenging to practice medicine for the first time in the U.S. as a Latinx international medical graduate after a three-year clinical hiatus as a research fellow in neuroscience. But for the UNC School of Medicine (SOM) Class of 2022, it meant having their very first clinical experiences during a global pandemic.

We made it through the year by learning together, through the uplifting gift of friendliness, and thanks to regular doses of gallows humor. I take this award as an affirmation of my career path as a physician-scientist and clinician-educator in neurology, as my passion for apprehending and communicating complex medical processes played a large role in my choice of this specialty. I also believe that this award is a testament to how UNC can welcome and celebrate diversity.” Laura shared.

When asked about her teaching approach, Dr. de Lima Xavier said, “Pedagogically, I prefer transparent, dialogical collaboration instead of unidirectional quizzes and formal lectures. When discussing cases, my experience has been that being open about what led me to my medical assessment and straightforwardly acknowledging any relevant uncertainties often encourages students to think critically with me in a reciprocal learning process. I also strive to help students avoid burnout by walking them through how to achieve greater work efficiency without compromising patient care, and by taking timely coffee breaks to chat about interests outside of medicine. The challenge of staying human in the crucible of medical training cannot be overstated, and I have found that nurturing camaraderie within and outside the wards is a necessary survival skill.

I am excited for the many teaching opportunities available now that I am a neurology resident, and I hope to contribute to a revisiting of the issue of including neurology and neuroscience education in the curriculum for UNC medical students.”

Dr. de Lima Xavier is from Porto Alegre, Brazil where she also attended medical school. Now entering her second year as an adult neurology resident (PGY-2), her areas of special interest are movement disorders, neuromodulation and neuro imaging.

The UNC SOM Student Government, formerly known as the Whitehead Medical Society, was named in honor of Dr. Richard H. Whitehead, who served as Dean from 1890-1905. The Whitehead Lecture was established in 1947 to recognize the high standards and leadership of Dr. Whitehead and has been an annual event since 1980.