A life-long relationship with students-2010 Award for Excellence in Teaching

By Sherri McGinnis Gonzalez

Arden Handler, community health sciences: her true legacy will be her “amazing students and what they are going to do.”

The Award for Excellence in Teaching, a $5,000 salary increase, is UIC’s only peer-selected teaching award. Winners are chosen by those who received the award in past years.

“I love the research, I love the work that I do, I love advocacy,” says Arden Handler.

But she believes her true legacy will be her “amazing students and what they are going to do in the next 25 to 50 years.”

Handler is widely sought-after as an adviser and mentor to master’s and doctoral students.

“It’s a life-long relationship with a lot of these students,” she says.

She takes extreme pride in following their career paths.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to see people progress, and you feel as though you somehow had responsibility for what they’re up to.”

Handler is known nationally as a teacher and leader in maternal and child health epidemiology. She also led the development of continuing education programs for practicing maternal and child health professionals.

She is co-director and principal investigator of the Maternal and Child Health Training Program and director of the Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Program, both in the School of Public Health.

Handler, who began her career as a women’s health activist, didn’t plan on becoming a teacher.

When she was completing her doctoral degree at UIC in 1987, she created a course on maternal and child health policy and advocacy; she’s been teaching it ever since.

She often spends the entire summer revising and updating the course, “because when you teach policy you have to constantly be on the pulse.”

Handler strives to give her students a world view and context for what they are learning. She includes discussions of poverty, income supports, tax policy and the welfare system to help students understand the impact of socioeconomics on health.

Her research interests include the factors that increase the risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes, and ways the health care delivery system, particularly prenatal care, can reduce these risks.

“Aristotle’s observation that excellence is a habit rather than a single event truly applies to all facets of Dr. Handler’s teaching career,” wrote colleague Bernard Turnock, clinical professor and director of community health sciences, in recommending her for the Award for Excellence in Teaching.

“Because I’m passionate, and very analytic in my thinking, I think I do a good job of pushing students to really push their limits,” she says.