Opening Plenary

Portrait of Jeanette Norden

We are pleased to announce that the Opening Plenary speaker will be Dr. Jeanette Norden from Vanderbilt University. 

Plenary Title 

Promoting the Intellectual and Personal Development of Students in a Way that Embraces Diversity

Short Description

This keynote presentation will focus on how to create a safe learning environment in which both the intellectual and personal development of students may be stimulated.  Creating such an environment allows diversity in all of its forms, from differences in learning styles to differences in cultures and worldviews, to be appreciated.  Examples from Dr. Norden’s own teaching of medical, graduate and undergraduate students will be used to illustrate how such an environment can be “transformative” for students.


Jeanette Norden, Ph.D., is a Neuroscientist and Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. For over 20 years, she conducted research on nerve regeneration, focusing on GAP-43, a protein involved in nervous system development, regeneration, and plasticity. Since 1998, she has devoted her time to medical/graduate/undergraduate education. Dr. Norden is currently a Master Science Teacher and the Director of Medical Education in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt University. She has been a maverick in Medical Education, stressing not only intellectual, but also personal and interpersonal development in students. Her emphasis on personal development and her innovative approach in integrating ‘humanity’ into a basic science course has been recognized at Vanderbilt and nationally.

Dr. Norden has won every award given by medical students, including the Shovel (twice; given by the graduating class to the faculty member who has had the most positive influence on them in their four years of medicine), the Jack Davies Award (seven times; for teaching excellence in the basic sciences), and the Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award (four times). She was also awarded the first Chair of Teaching Excellence at Vanderbilt University, and was the first recipient of both the Gender Equity Award of the American Medical Women’s Association, and the Teaching Excellence Award given by the Vanderbilt Medical School. In 2000, Dr. Norden was the recipient of the Robert J. Glaser Award, a national teaching award from the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society of the American Medical Association. In recognition of her devotion to helping medical students develop into caring, compassionate physicians, she was awarded the 2008 Professional Award from The Compassionate Friends, an international support group for bereaved parents.  In 2010 she was presented with the John Chapman Award for “transformative effects on medical education nationally”.

For a number of years, she has taught extremely popular courses in Neuroscience at Vanderbilt. She has traveled extensively to foreign countries to give scientific presentations, talks and workshops on teaching, or to teach Medical School (Nepal); in 2004, she was a delegate to AIDS clinics in rural South Africa as part of a cross cultural humanitarian and educational program in palliative care. Dr. Norden served as the external reviewer for a Keck Foundation grant to revise undergraduate science education in 16 colleges in the South. She was highlighted as one of the most effective teachers in America in What the Best College Teachers Do (Ken Bain, Harvard University Press, 2004), and was the focus of a documentary made by the Korean Public Broadcasting network on Teaching Excellence in America. Dr. Norden has given more than 100 invited presentations on teaching at Universities and Medical Schools. In 2007, she completed a 36-lecture DVD Understanding the Brain as part of the Great Courses series for The Teaching Company in an effort to help inform the public about the brain and common neurological disorders.