David Mills, recipient of the Distinguished Teacher Award, 1987

Health Studies

David Mills has been teaching at Waterloo since 1981 as assistant professor in the Department of Health Studies, but he won't be doing that for much longer. From July 1, he will be teaching there as associate professor. Health studies is an energetic young department at the forefront of this university's thrust in the health area. As you know, this university does not have a medical school. Our chosen role is to study and promote health maintenance and disease prevention. Our concern is wellness rather than illness. David Mills is one of the bright young scholars who make health studies hum. He is a physiologist interested in stress physiology, hypertension, and nutrition, and he has already made important research contributions to his field. However, today he is being honoured for his extraordinary accomplishments as a teacher. Writing in support of David's nomination, his department chairman used these words: “As a teacher, he is an absolute virtuoso.” That virtuoso seems to have a very wide repertoire. He teaches introductory courses to first and second year classes of several hundred students, he teaches advanced courses to upper year classes, he supervises fourth-year undergraduate theses, he teaches graduate courses, and he supervises graduate students. And he does all this very effectively, with great competence, good organization, humour, and a rare ability to convey knowledge to students at all levels. Professor Mills is a demanding teacher and his students know it. In the words of one student: “he sets high standards for himself and expects the same in return from his students.” His students and colleagues appreciate the intellectual breadth of his teaching. The chairman of health studies puts it this way: “outstanding teachers tend to have broad interests, and a capacity for helping students understand the general implications of material being presented. This is certainly true of David, although his formal training is in physiology, he is knowledgeable about the behavioural sciences. Hence, he is able to talk in an incisive way about the interplay between behavioural and physiological processes. David embodies the truly interdisciplinary perspective we are attempting to nurture in our students.” Such success does not come easily. Many of the undergraduates who wrote letters in support of David's nomination have remarked on the effort he puts into helping them learn. One has noted his “unusual zeal for teaching.” Another comment was that “(he) answers questions (inside and outside) the classroom with the same eagerness that he displays in presenting the material.” He is a very busy man, who makes himself available to students when they need him. In the words of one student writing on behalf of many, “His door is always open to advise and counsel students.” Another student put it this way: “(he gives) a sense of guidance and warmth to his students.” Some of the students writing to the selection committee indicated a concern. They were concerned that health studies was a small department, and that the case they were making on behalf of David Mills might not be noticed by the committee. They need not have worried.