Joel Schechter joined the faculty at the University of Southern California School of Medicine in 1969. He is now Professor of Cell and Neurobiology and Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and of the Basic Science Curriculum. He obtained his Ph.D. from UCLA in 1968, and came to USC after spending one year as a postdoctoral fellow in the UCLA Mental Health Training Program. For many years his research was developmental biology and tumor biology of the pituitary gland, but more recently he has shifted to studies of the lacrimal gland (tear gland). His research is funded by the National Eye Institute.
Schechter has longstanding interests in education and how to promote and improve teaching. Early in his career he received a USC Dart Award for Innovations in Teaching for creating a course on the Philosophy and Techniques of Teaching in the Health Sciences and recently he received the USC Associates Award for Excellence in Teaching. The course he designed targeted graduate students in health science disciplines, i.e. the future teaching faculty in medical schools, a group which traditionally receives no training in teaching.
He has twice received private funding for another unique course entitled "Fusions of Art and Science" in which Bravo High School students participate in various projects at the medical school that combine art and science.
Some years back he decided to incorporate some theater and humor into his lecture presentations, and has continued experimenting to this day. His presenting rap music summaries for his lectures accompanied by the music of Herbie Hancock was enthusiastically received by the medical students, and earned Schechter the nickname "Rap Doc." Schechter believes that the use of a little theater and humor in the classroom can be very stimulating both for the students and for the faculty member.
"I am delighted to report that teaching of medical students has remained an enriching and rewarding experience for me," notes Schechter. "My goals are to continue to improve my teaching skills and to help mentor and guide younger faculty and graduate teaching assistants to optimize their effectiveness as teachers."