Rebecca German, Ph.D., is known as many things—a researcher; a professor of anatomy and neurobiology; an advocate for women and minorities in science; and a valued team leader and mentor.
“Dr. German teaches in a way to push students to understand material through critical analysis. She challenges students to self-learn material—a skill that is crucial for future physicians, like myself. She heavily supports her students’ unique aspirations, whether they are academic goals or learning skills to be a productive health care provider,” says Andrew Gross, a student who has worked in Dr. German’s lab throughout his four years in the College of Medicine.
When presented the NEOMED Outstanding Faculty Research Award at Employee Recognition Day on March 27, Dr. German spared no time before offering her gratitude to those who work alongside her, asking them to stand in the audience and share the recognition.
Every year, this award honors a NEOMED faculty member who is an outstanding investigator. Dr. German fills the bill for nationally and internationally recognized excellence and productivity: Over the years, she has garnered 15 National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation grants. She has over 100 scientific publications.
Making an impact on research
Since joining NEOMED in 2013, Dr. German has focused her studies on swallowing dysfunction (dysphagia) and the protection of respiratory airways in pre-term infants. Her research with the youngest population has potential applications for the elderly, who often develop swallowing problems along with neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s.
To better understand those swallowing difficulties, Dr. German, her lab team, and a handful of medicine students study baby pigs. Don’t assume Dr. German is above doing the grunt work (pun intended).
“There have been times when I have been on pig-watch and had to call Dr. German at 3 or 4 a.m. Just like the medical students in the lab, she will also spend eight-plus hours watching the newborn pigs. Dr. German is dedicated to and treats her animals as if they were human babies in the NICU,” says Katherine Wu, a first-year student in the College of Medicine who was initially paired with Dr. German for NEOMED’s Summer Research Fellowship Program.
Guiding the next generation
Dr. German’s guidance extends outside of her lab and across campus through lecture halls and the Gross Anatomy Lab.
“Dr. German is a wonderful mentor. She constantly looks out for her students’ interests by ensuring the tasks we work on in her lab add professional value to us. Her high expectations for us encourage us to rise to the challenge. Dr. German creates an environment where we are comfortable communicating with others, herself included,” says Clementina Aiyudu, a second-year College of Medicine student who works in Dr. German’s lab.
“Working with her as our principal investigator feels less like a stratified job with a boss and employees, and more as mentor and mentee. She encourages us to follow our interests, even if they don’t necessarily involve dysphagia research. Her goal is not to push us into that given field, but to teach us lessons that can be applied and utilized in whatever discipline we choose,” adds Nathan Dean Anonuevo, a second-year College of Medicine student who also works with Dr. German’s research team.
At the end of the day, Dr. German is making a lasting impact on students, inside and out of the lab.