Faculty of Health professors recognized with teaching, research and service awards

Professors Raymond Mar, Mazen Hamadeh, Will Gage and Faculty of Health Dean Paul McDonald
Professors Raymond Mar, Mazen Hamadeh, Will Gage and Faculty of Health Dean Paul McDonald

Recognition of excellence within the Faculty of Health at York University was highlighted on Dec. 5, when three professors were presented with awards for teaching, research and service.

The annual Faculty of Health Awards went to: Mazen Hamadeh, associate professor in the  School of Kinesiology & Health Science – Award for Teaching; Raymond Mar, associate professor in the Department of Psychology – Award for Research; and William Gage, professor in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science – Award for Service.

Professors Raymond Mar, Mazen Hamadeh and William Gage, and Faculty of Health Dean Paul McDonald

The annual awards alternate each year between “early career” faculty and “established career” faculty in the categories of Teaching, Research and Service. This year’s awards cover the 2017-18 academic year for established career faculty.

“These Faculty Awards recognize the excellence of three individual faculty members whose dedication and expertise have enabled us to achieve our mission of providing an innovative and supportive environment for learning, teaching and discovery,” said Faculty of Health Dean Paul McDonald. “On behalf of all faculty, staff, students and community partners, congratulations and thanks to this year’s winners.”

The awards were adjudicated by the Research & Awards Committee.

Award recipients for the 2017-18 academic year include:

Faculty of Health Award for Teaching – Mazen Hamadeh, associate professor, School of Kinesiology & Health Science

Mazen Hamadeh’s leadership in teaching and student engagement has greatly benefited students in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science (KHS) program and also extends well beyond the school itself due to his involvement with Stong, Bethune and Calumet Colleges. He is being recognized for his efforts to bring new, current, and innovative approaches to create excellence and relevance into the classroom, ensuring high-quality experiential learning opportunities and his desire to help students develop into strong citizens personally as well as academically.

Since beginning at York in 2006, Hamadeh’s teaching focus has been in the area of nutrition, with a particular emphasis on its interactions with exercise and/or disease. He has taught five different nutrition courses, ranging from introductory and advanced to graduate levels. As his first task in the role of junior faculty member, Hamadeh conducted a complete course redesign for the core kinesiology course KINE 4020 – Human Nutrition and he continues to contribute to the enhancement of this course with his colleagues. He introduced an experiential education opportunity that has students integrate their own personal dietary record into course content as well as fostering opportunities for critical thinking and writing through the review of scientific research and its effects on the many aspects of health and disease in both the young and elderly. The results of his student evaluations speak volumes for his dedication to student learning and are a testament to his ability to deliver a high quality-educational experience.

Hamadeh has integrated his philosophy of helping students achieve personal and academic success through the successful training of nearly 70 undergraduate independent study/thesis students and technicians at York and 12 graduate students at York, and as an adjunct assistant clinical professor at McMaster University.

As a final testament to his commitment to fostering an environment conducive to student learning and success, Hamadeh’s work with Bethune and Stong Colleges should be noted.

“It is difficult to conceive a stronger example of an established career faculty member who has demonstrated the level of commitment to helping students achieve, both academically and as proud citizens of York University,” said McDonald. “He has continually demonstrated a genuine passion and dedication to the success of student learning. His leadership in the area of teaching and student success is second to none.”

Faculty of Health Award for Research – Raymond Mar, associate professor, Department of Psychology

Raymond Mar is most well-known for pioneering research on how experiences with narrative fiction (e.g. novels, films) might influence real-world cognition. His PhD dissertation, for example, provided evidence that exposure to narrative fiction is associated with better social abilities, such as the inferring of mental states. He has continued to conduct research at this novel intersection of literary studies and social cognition since being hired at York. Notably, this area has now burgeoned into an active topic of research for labs all around the world, culminating in two notable meta-analyses on the topic being published in the past year.

Mar’s seminal contributions to the study of how stories might promote social cognition have been recognized in numerous ways. For example, he was invited to publish a short review on this topic in Current Directions in Psychological Science, one of psychology’s premier journals.

His contributions have recently been recognized by the Society for Text & Discourse, which awarded him the Tom Trabasso Young Investigator Award in 2017. Also in recognition of his expertise and scientific contributions, Mar has been invited to speak on six separate occasions during the award period.

Mar has been an ardent supporter of science translation. One of his major contributions has been the construction and upkeep, since May of 2010, of a website dedicated to disseminating research findings to the lay public (onfiction.ca). The website publishes short research bulletins written in accessible language, and receives around 6,000 to 7,000 hits per month on average, originating all over the globe. In the past three years, Mar and his colleagues have been responsible for 15 publications. This includes three invited book chapters, two of which were for major handbooks in the field, and an invited commentary on a target article in the high-impact journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

“For his seminal contributions to the study of how narrative fiction might promote social cognition, and for his ardent support of science translation, Dr. Mar is highly deserving of the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research,” said McDonald.

Faculty of Health Award for Service – William Gage, professor, School of Kinesiology & Health Science

William Gage has assembled an outstanding dossier of service at all levels. His efforts to transform student education as associate vice-president teaching and learning are numerous and receive praise from the highest levels of leadership at the institution. He leads a group of senior academic and staff leaders to design, develop and deploy a comprehensive artificial intelligence-based system that augments staff capacities in student advising and enhances the student experience. Additionally, Gage also led the creation and implementation of the Leadership Development Program for Academic Chairs and Directors, which enhances leadership and change management capacity across the University.

As former associate dean of research and innovation, there are many examples of the impact he made on numerous individual faculty. Indeed, many new hires and pre-tenured faculty received face-to-face guidance through the critical steps of constructing a research program. In addition to the excellent administrative support in the office of the Faculty of Health, he was also well known for working one-on-one with faculty for developing strategies to acquire appropriate laboratory space for new and expanding researchers, student recruitment and grant applications. In the latter context he has acted as a champion and liaison for faculty’s applications that are competitively vetted at VPRI and SPORT, including CFI and other funding. Through this hands-on leadership, many of us have successfully established research programs that would have otherwise faced considerable restrictions.

Gage’s energy for linking the University with community and professional partners has led to extensive integration with numerous stakeholders, panels and committees with a broad spectrum of focuses. Specifically, his active role as a member of the Ontario Long Term Care Association Applied Research Committee highlighted his sustained involvement in the direction of research initiatives focused on applied outcomes that impact the broader long-term care activities in communities across Ontario. Likewise, his role as a member of the York Central Hospital Research Ethics Board involved intensive, continuous reviews of research proposals focused on improving effective hospital procedures, administration and practices.

“It is difficult to conceive of a stronger example of a faculty member who engages and supports the University at all levels – school, faculty, institution – in addition to community partners and his profession,” said McDonald. “Dr. Gage has clearly demonstrated an exceptional passion, dedication and sense of mission to our students, the University and these broader community and professional stakeholders.”