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Walden Magazine // Jan 31, 2014

Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence: Training Scholar-Practitioners

Dr. Angela Witt Prehn, a faculty member in the School of Health Sciences, was honored with Walden University’s 2014 Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence at a ceremony in Orlando,
Fla. Dr. Prehn received this award in recognition of her detailed instruction, approach to mentorship, and push for academic excellence.

“When Dr. Prehn was nominated by a group of her graduate students, they voluntarily submitted comments about her teaching and mentoring excellence,” explained lead nominator and PhD in Public Health student Donna L. Sullivan. “She is adaptable and flexible, but motivational and demanding in challenging students to achieve stretch goals. She fosters discussion and is highly accessible within the classroom, by email, phone, Skype, and LinkedIn.”

Dr. Prehn credits the mentors in her own life for shaping her teaching style. Her mother, who is a retired high school teacher, inspired her to teach by example, she says. In addition to her faculty advisors in graduate school, she was fortunate to have exceptional early career mentors who pushed her to strive for excellence in conducting, writing, and disseminating research.

She also credits the work she’s done at the Minnesota Center for Health Care Ethics for her attention to detail in verbal and written communications. “If there’s one thing you learn when you work with philosophers, it’s how to write—they take every word very seriously,” Dr. Prehn says. “These experiences contributed to my ability to help students write with clarity, precision, and logic.”

Contributing to the Field as a Scholar-Practitioner

Dr. Prehn began her career as a descriptive epidemiologist at the Northern California Cancer Center (now the Cancer Prevention Institute of California). In addition to analyzing cancer registry data for the San Francisco Bay area, she was charged with disseminating the information to the public. This role allowed her to establish her roots as a scholar-practitioner.

She found another rewarding position at the Minnesota Center for Health Care Ethics as a project manager for surgical research. There, she not only applied what she’d learned in California, she expanded her role to include policy development. “This work reinforced my passion for the social and policy aspects of health,” she says.

For one major initiative, the team she was on studied the ethical issues surrounding how researchers conducted surgical studies of patients with Parkinson’s disease. Did the researchers themselves understand the ethics of the research they were conducting? Since the patients had advanced stages of Parkinson’s, did they or their caregivers truly understand the research study they were a part of? “This experience strengthened my understanding of how complicated health research can be,” Dr. Prehn says. “It also reinforced connections between research, policy, and practice.”

As a faculty member at Walden, Dr. Prehn brings not only her personal experiences into the classroom but also encourages students, who are practitioners themselves, to talk regularly about challenges they face in their workplaces. “That’s the advantage of Walden—we have students in the field around the world, and they can have extremely enriching discussions.”

Her personal social change mission is to advise budding scholar-practitioners and challenge them to continue to grow, she says. “When I mentor students, I really challenge them to stretch their boundaries. I think they’re capable of more than they give themselves credit for.

“Being a doctoral graduate means you’re a lifelong learner, no matter which field you enter,” she concludes. “You need to contribute to the field. Public health is all about social change. We’re tasked to meet that mission.”

About the Award
The Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence is selected by the university president from the elite pool of Faculty Excellence Award honorees. This faculty member demonstrates unmatched dedication to the university, its mission, and its vision and exemplifies the Walden educator’s role in empowering students to advance positive social change in their communities.

Read more about the Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence.