The AOF Educator of the Year inspires greatness in others and changes lives—and shapes the future of the osteopathic profession. In 2012, the American Osteopathic Foundation is honoring two such educators: Alan D. Cundari, DO, MSHPE, chair of the department of family practice at the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP) and Wolfgang Gilliar, DO, FAAPMR, chair of the osteopathic medical department at the New York
2012 Educator of the Year
October 6, 2012
Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYCOM).
These leaders are passionate about osteopathic medicine and have made a significant impact on the academic achievement of osteopathic students as well as long-standing contributions
to the profession in the academic arena.
Dr. Cundari has served as a dedicated and compassionate educator at his alma mater, Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif., for more than 20 years. The former physician assistant and U.S. Air Force veteran received his D.O. in 1985 and then began his teaching career at Western University in 1988 as an adjunct assistant professor. He joined the faculty full time in 1990, became chair of family medicine in 1999, and oversaw a revamp of the curriculum in 2005—which improved the school’s academic standing. Throughout his career at COMP, he has mentored more than 1150 physician assistant and osteopathic medical students.
Committed to evidence-based education, patient-centered care and community service, his students have nominated him multiple times for “Teacher of the Year,” and “Mentor of the Year” awards. Dr. Cundari leads by example and maintains a practice at a local nursing home and hospital, has volunteered in the community as a high school football team physician for 15 years, has ensured the continuation of a homeless outreach project that provides free medical care and has dedicated time to supervising students at community health fairs for underserved populations.
He says he tries to instill a sense of dedication and pride in his students for their chosen career and the importance of “paying it forward” by giving back to the community. He says, “It is my hope that my students realize the various aspects of healthcare by working with and reaching out to the underserved.”
Admitting that while his students would describe him as compassionate and dedicated, that they might also say he was intimidating. “My basic (teaching) philosophy is mirrored in Socrates. I continue asking questions until a student runs out of answers, then direct them to the resources needed or advise them on what they can do to enhance and improve their knowledge and skill,” he says, adding that’s what some of his most favorite teachers did with him.
“The key to his success is listening—to his patients, to his colleagues, to his students—and modeling that invaluable skill to all with whom he comes in contact,” says Philip Pumerantz, PhD, president of Western University. Dr. Cundari has received numerous awards such as COMP Facilitator of the Year, Distinguished Alumnus of the Year, a Pumerantz Lifetime Fellow of Excellence in Osteopathic Medical Education and the Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons of California Physician of the Year. What does receiving the 2012 AOF Educator of the Year mean to him?
“It reinforces my motives in the education I provide our students and tells me that I am
making a difference,” he says.
Dr. Gilliar, a leader, gifted physician, innovator and mentor has dedicated a majority of his life to the advancement of the osteopathic profession, and inspires colleagues and students alike with his passion for osteopathic education. He went into teaching to make a difference. “We all want to improve the world a little bit,” he says.
Recently named dean of NYCOM—which will become effective in Jan. 1, 2013—Dr. Gilliar has been a professor and chair there since 2004. He received his D.O. from Michigan State University in 1986, and completed his residency at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, DC, where he also was Chief Resident. He went on to direct the traumatic brain injury unit at Tufts’ Greenery Rehabilitation Center and also served as an assistant professor/instructor at the Tufts University School of Medicine.
Dr. Gilliar then moved to the West Coast, and founded an osteopathic medical center there, later becoming an adjunct assistant clinical professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine before returning to the East Coast to join the faculty at NYCOM.
At NYCOM, he drove change of the osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) curriculum, and oversaw the creation of an educational Web-based catalog that includes more than 500 state-of-the-art videos.
He developed the Web series to provide student access to information 24/7, to standardize curriculum in order to minimize teacher-to-teacher variation and to stimulate feedback. “The innovation rests in providing small bits of information—the videos are 1 to 2 minutes long—that are easily accessible, clear in their demonstration and meaningful for the practice of medicine,” he says.
Born in Germany, Dr. Gilliar also worked in Africa and Japan and has given lectures around the world. He helped to create and execute a 400+ hour OMM curriculum for allopathic physicians, a curriculum that became standard in Germany for professional osteopathic medical education. He is the co-author of ten textbooks, two that were also in German, and has contributed to ten others—all in osteopathic or musculoskeletal medicine. He also has authored and contributed to many published articles.
The accomplished academic says, “While a good amount of learning occurs from books and videos, nothing, in my opinion, equals that based on guidance we receive from our mentors and patients with whom we interact directly.”
Known for his good sense of humor, a trait he tries to instill in his students, Dr. Gilliar models the passion and rigor needed to succeed as a physician. He believes that “Trusting the students and treating them with true respect as our future colleagues within an environment of excellence is key,” when teaching.
Dr. Gilliar has been lauded for his teaching skills; he received two teaching awards at Stanford, was named the 2012 NYCOM Clinical Sciences Faculty of the Year and became a member of the American Osteopathic Foundation Mentor Hall of Fame in 2007. “He is a teacher and mentor beyond the classroom—an osteopathic physician that teaches to the
body, mind and spirit,” Nicholas Beatty, DO, a former student says. “He makes osteopathic medicine not just a job, but a calling.”
Dr. Gilliar says he feels honored and privileged to be named a 2012 AOF Educator of the Year. “This award equally belongs to my mentors and good teachers as well as all the students who have taught me over the years. Education is truly a two-way street,” says the award recipient, who has truly made a difference in the world.
Western University of Health Sciences