The Board of Governors of the 17-campus University of North Carolina has selected University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill distinguished associate professor Jane F. Thrailkill, department of English and Comparative Literature in the College of Arts and Sciences, for a 2017 Award for Excellence in Teaching. Thrailkill is one of 17 recipients, nominated by special committees on their home campuses and selected by the Board of Governors’ Committee on Personnel and Tenure.
Initially on a pre-med track as an undergraduate, Thrailkill changed course and earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Amherst College, followed by master’s and doctorate degrees in English and American literature from Johns Hopkins University. Through her love of literature and interest in medicine she developed a passion for the interdisciplinary field of medical humanities.
Thrailkill is being recognized for her commitment to interdisciplinary teaching and scholarship and her leadership in the medical humanities field.
“Jane Thrailkill’s exemplary teaching and mentoring skills excite the imaginations of our students,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “The immersive experiences Jane provides students – inside and outside of the classroom – is revolutionizing the delivery of compassionate, people-focused healthcare and clinical training. We congratulate her on this well-deserved recognition and honor.”
Shortly after joining the English department in 2000, Thrailkill developed a series of interdisciplinary medical humanities classes, including, “Doctors and Patients,” which examines the nature of the relationship between healers and those who are ill. She also collaborated with Honors Carolina to create an undergraduate minor and a graduate program in literature, medicine, and culture.
Thrailkill is the co-founder and co-director of HHIVE lab (Health and Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Venue for Exploration), one of the first research-based health and humanities labs in the country. HHIVE provides undergraduate, graduate and professional students with interest in health humanities the opportunity to participate in research and outreach projects at the intersection of the arts. All Thrailkill’s curricula and programs offer a better understanding of how patients interpret illness, how definitions of disease are shaped through cultural understandings and how professionals can better reflect on their values and communicative practices.
Numerous undergraduates note that Thrailkill provided the means within and outside of the classroom for producing excellence in thinking, writing and communicating from a humanist perspective. One future physician testifies to the lasting impact she has had on many students’ academic and professional futures, “She laid the foundation for what I hope to be a lifelong pursuit of the medical humanities and the compassionate, humanistic practice of medicine.”
Thrailkill is currently teaching at UNC School of Medicine, as part of an interdisciplinary team of clinicians and scholars leading seminars for medical students during clinical rotations. She will receive her award during Carolina’s spring graduation ceremony.