2021-22 WSU Applebaum Teaching Excellence Awards announced

The Wayne State University Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences has announced the recipients of its 2021-22 Teaching Excellence Award: Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences Randall Commissaris and Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Joseph Roche.

This annual award recognizes WSU Applebaum faculty members – one in Pharmacy and one in Health Sciences – who, to an exceptionally high degree, demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of their subject, superior classroom performance and high educational standards; communicate their subject matter accurately, clearly and effectively; generate enthusiasm and respect for learning; motivate their students to excel; and are accessible to students. It includes a cash prize of $1,000.

"Besides being excellent teachers, Roche and Randy have something else in common, and that is their humility," said WSU Applebaum Dean Brian Cummings. They are driven not by their own success or accolades, but by the success of their students, the college, and ultimately the advancement and impact of their fields."

Dr. Randall Commissaris
Dr. Randall Commissaris

Dr. Randall Commissaris joined the WSU Applebaum faculty in 1983 and teaches extensively in the Pharmaceutical Sciences graduate programs, as well as the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program. He has been chosen as Pharmaceutical Sciences Teacher of the Year by the graduating pharmacy class ten times, most recently in 2021 and 2022. In 2018, he was recognized as the recipient of the Wayne State President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Dr. Commisaris is known for bringing innovative, memorable ideas to the classroom, and he was instrumental in the development of the current PharmD curriculum. His Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET) scores are excellent, and students frequently comment on his enthusiasm for teaching and learning. He also has been a research mentor for students all levels including master's, doctoral, PharmD, undergraduate and high school. More than 50 of these students have bylines on peer-reviewed publications from work done in Dr. Commissaris’ lab, frequently as the primary author.

In his nomination letter, Interim Chair of Pharmaceutical Sciences Steven Firestine wrote, "Dr. Commissaris truly ‘mentors’ his students. He helps them to articulate their goals and then achieve them. Whether it’s writing letters of recommendation, arranging shadowing experiences for pre-pharmacy students, or just listening to them talk through some of the issues in their lives, Dr. Commissaris is always there to support them with a smile, an available ear, and some sage and caring advice."

Dr. Joseph Roche
Dr. Joseph Roche

Dr. Joseph Roche has been a member of the WSU Applebaum faculty since 2014. He is perpetually refining and customizing his classes to make them as effective as possible, and he takes considerable initiative when it comes to integrating his research and teaching. 

Physical Therapy Program Director Kristina Reid gave an example of this in her recommendation letter, explaining how Roche revamped and customized the Pharmacology course for both Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students and undergraduate Radiologic Technology students.

"Now, it would have been much easier to teach a broad course designed for the masses," Reid said. "However, Dr. Roche recognized that one size doesn’t fit all and carefully tailored the content to meet the needs of both programs."

Roche has said that the knowledge he gained from redesigning and teaching Pharmacology in both the DPT and Radiologic Technology programs was instrumental in the publication of his paper, "A hypothesized role for dysregulated bradykinin signaling in COVID-19 respiratory complications," which was one of FASEB Journal's top-cited articles of 2020-21. An invited speaker around the world, Roche also consistently seeks opportunities for his own learning and mentoring.

About us

The Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is built on more than 100 years of tradition and innovation in the heart of Detroit. We have grown deep roots in our city, harnessing its powerhouse hospital systems and community service organizations as vibrant, real-world training grounds for students, with an ongoing focus on social justice in health care. And our research at all levels – from undergraduates to veteran faculty members – translates into creative solutions for healthier communities.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering approximately 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 25,000 students.

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