John Otis Gets Med School’s Highest Teaching Honor

Stanley L. Robbins Award goes to psychiatry professor

John D. Otis, associate professor psychiatry, was recognized for his teaching. Photo courtesy of the BU School of Medicine

John D. Otis, associate professor of psychiatry, has been recognized with the 2016 Stanley L. Robbins Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest teaching honor awarded by Boston University School of Medicine (MED).

The award honors an outstanding educator and acknowledges the importance of teaching skills and commitment to students and education. Established in recognition of the exceptional teaching and devotion to students exemplified by Stanley L. Robbins, former professor and chair of pathology, the award is presented annually at the BU School of Medicine graduation convocation.

Otis, from Newton, Massachusetts, completed his graduate training in clinical and health psychology at the University of Florida, specializing in the assessment and treatment of chronic pain. For the past 16 years he has been a clinical research investigator for the Department of Veteran Affairs, where he has focused his research career on the development of innovative approaches to pain management, tailored to specialized patient populations.

Otis joined MED in 2012 and teaches across all four years of the medical school curriculum. He has served on a number of committees including the Preclinical Curriculum Subcommittee, Clinical Curriculum Subcommittee, Student Evaluation and Promotions Committee and the Electives Curriculum Subcommittee.

Those who wrote letters in nomination of Otis said: “His comfort and skill with overseeing multiple levels of educational activities simultaneously made a big impression on me, and I believe that this is a sign of a master educator.”

A colleague said, “In addition to being a superb teacher, Dr. Otis also is a true team player. He often shares his teaching resources with other faculty, and is a highly sought-after guest speaker.”

From a student: “I can still vividly recall our first day of Introduction to Clinical Medicine…where Dr. Otis walked us through the basic outline of collecting a patient’s history. It’s now almost three years later, and though I don’t remember all the nuances of the lecture that day, I still clearly remember the warm, comforting presence Dr. Otis provided as we all ventured into uncharted territory…He encouraged us to really listen to our patients…To this day, I use Dr. Otis’ principles when I interview patients…”

Otis has had a long history of grant-funded awards from the Department of Defense and VA Rehabilitation, Research and Development. He travels nationally giving talks and workshops to both clinicians and patients on how the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy can be used to help people lead healthier and more productive lives.


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