As of Sept. 1, Kara Sawarynski, Ph.D., has been continuing to tap the problem-solving/critical thinking skills she developed as an academic throughout her education and career, but in a new capacity – as the vice chair of Foundational Medical Studies at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine.
New vice chair named for OUWB Department of Foundational Medical Studies
Kara Sawarynski speaks at the podium.
Sawarynski joined the Department of Foundational Medical Studies as a full-time faculty member in 2012. Sawarynski, a recently tenured associate professor, will continue teaching cell biology in the basic science courses, as well as co-directing the Embark research program.

As of Sept. 1, Kara Sawarynski, Ph.D., has been continuing to tap the problem-solving/critical thinking skills she developed as an academic throughout her education and career, but in a new capacity – as the vice chair of Foundational Medical Studies at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine.

As vice chair, her primary responsibilities are to support the department’s ongoing development of research programs, assist the chair in promoting faculty development and collaborations, and serve as a sounding board for faculty ideas and issues. She hopes to use her substantial connections at both Oakland University and Beaumont Health, to help foster Foundational Medical Studies strategic mission and goals.

Sawarynski said she’s excited about the opportunity and plans to begin by learning more about her colleagues — what their respective strengths are, and what their goals are with respect to careers and research.

“I really hope to offer assistance and help build connections between shared interests that might be undiscovered, so that I can help others succeed,” she said.

Sawarynski joined the Department of Foundational Medical Studies as a full-time faculty member in 2012. Sawarynski, a recently tenured associate professor, will continue teaching cell biology in the basic science courses, as well as co-directing the Embark research program.

Sawarynski received her bachelor of science degree in Biomedical Sciences from the Lee Honors College of Western Michigan University. She completed her doctoral work in cancer biology at Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute.

When Sawarynski completed her work at Karmanos, she started working as a research associate at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, in the infectious disease lab of Matt Sims, M.D., director of Infections Disease Research, Beaumont Health, and OUWB professor.

While still at Beaumont, Sawarynski became an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences (since changed to the Department of Foundational Medical Studies) and was involved with helping to plan the basic science curriculum. She also taught some of the school’s first sessions to its charter class in 2011.

Kara SawarynskiFinding her passion as an educator
Sawarynski said it didn’t take her long to realize how much she liked being an educator. After the inaugural OUWB class completed its first year, Sawarynski made the move to OUWB on a full-time basis as a tenure-track assistant professor.

“I love research and I love everything that comes with it,” she said, noting her research career has included molecular and cellular biology, cancer biology, infectious diseases (and now medical education techniques).

“But the bacteria you’re working with (in research) doesn’t talk back to you,” Sawarynski said. “Being a people person, I realized it’s a lot more fun engaging with students. I also came to realize how fulfilling it can be.”

That’s why she also finds it rewarding to be co-director of OUWB’s Embark research program — an OUWB required scholarly concentration that provides a mentored introduction to research and scholarship. The four-year longitudinal curriculum consists of structured coursework in research design and implementation, compliance training, research communication, and scholarly presentation, with protected time to develop mentored projects in a wide-range of community and health-related settings.

Sawarynski’s responsibilities include development and implementation of the longitudinal research design courses, directing of the first year through fourth year medical students in the conception and execution of their required independent research projects, and oversight on Embark program events.

“It’s so energizing to not necessarily be a specific expert in all of the fields students are trying to research, but help them look at specific problems and analyze them,” Sawarynski said. “I enjoy helping them realize that while there can be frustrating aspects of what they’re doing, they gain from every experience.”

With regard to her work as a department vice chair, Sawarynski said she plans to begin by learning more about her colleagues — what their respective strengths are, and what their goals are with respect to careers and research.

Sawarynski said that it’s an exciting time at the school as it moves into its next phase.

“Someone says ‘You know, I have this idea’ and I start brainstorming. I think about all the different ways that we could think about the idea, or how to attack different goals,” she said “We can really start to look for ways to involve the mission of the school, our own experiences and expertise, and look for ways to work together to do some pretty cool things.”

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at adietderich@oakland.edu

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