The 2019 C. John Tupper Prize for Excellence in Teaching, UC Davis School of Medicine’s highest award for teaching, went to John Richards, professor of emergency medicine. Created by the founding Dean of the School of Medicine, the prize recognizes sustained and enduring lifetime contributions to medical education and outstanding teaching.
Richards is a highly distinguished educator who has over two decades of experience teaching residents and medical students. Dedicated to undergraduate education, which is unique for School of Medicine faculty, he also has developed and taught classes on medical ethics, health care economics and drugs of abuse on the Davis campus. A mentor to many residents and students interested in clinical research, he also pursues studies on ultrasound, solutions to emergency department crowding and evidence-based treatments of stimulant, alcohol and cannabis toxicity.
Richards is the first faculty member from the Department of Emergency Medicine to win the Tupper Prize, as well as the first in his department to receive the UC Davis Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award in 2017. He was also elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine in England in 2017.
“This award is especially meaningful to me as I was probably the last medical student to get to know and work with Dr. Tupper, who had retired as dean in 1980 and had been elected president of the American Medical Association in 1990," Richards said. "I was the AMA medical student representative at that time, and we worked together to present Health Access America, the AMA’s plan to cover all uninsured Americans. This was in the pre-managed care era, and the plan was progressive. It was an honor to work with Dr. Tupper nearly 30 years ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday.”
A graduate of the UC Davis School of Medicine and emergency residency training program, and well-established member of the faculty, Richards has touched many lives.
In their letters of support for the nomination, faculty described him as a "wonderful colleague" who is always ready to lend a hand and a dedicated, understated, effective teacher who serves as an inspiration.” They also highlighted his in-depth knowledge of pathophysiology and ability to make complex medical conditions understandable to students.
Current and past residents wrote of "his unique ability to have full awareness of the 20+ patients in his section – many of whom are critically ill – while giving his residents the autonomy and independence to learn-by-doing, crystallizing experiential learning points by continuously debriefing and reflecting on cases." They said he radiates kindness and tranquility even in the frequent chaos of the emergency department and practices thoughtful decision making, caring about the well-being of each of his patients.