By Dirk Hoffman
Published February 17, 2023
Nicholas J. Silvestri, MD, clinical associate professor of neurology at the University at Buffalo, has been named a recipient of the 2023 A.B. Baker Teacher Recognition Award by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN).
The award “demonstrates respect and appreciation for neurologic teaching,” according to the AAN website.
Silvestri, who is also associate dean for student and academic affairs at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, says he is “truly humbled to have been chosen to receive such a prestigious teaching award by the academy.
“I credit all of the outstanding teachers that I’ve been fortunate to learn from throughout my medical career, both here at the Jacobs School and during my post-graduate training at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center,” he says.
“This is especially poignant for me as one of my mentors who I would consider to be among the best I’ve trained under, Dr. Michael Ronthal, was chosen for this exact award several years ago.”
Silvestri teaches medical students in the clinical practice of medicine and musculoskeletal modules during the first year of medical school, the neuroscience module during the second year, and the neurology clerkship during the third and fourth years.
He also teaches neurology residents on the inpatient wards, outpatient clinic and in didactic sessions throughout the year.
When asked about his teaching style, Silvestri says he feels it is essential to “take the learner’s specific educational goals and objectives into account.
“This varies from student-to-student or resident-to-resident and I think that it’s really important that we take an individualized approach as much as possible to ensure that our learners are able to attain the knowledge and skills necessary to provide the best care of their patients throughout their careers,” he adds.
In his nomination letter for the award, Gil I. Wolfe, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor and the Irvin and Rosemary Smith Chair of the Department of Neurology, said that he has come to deeply trust and value Silvestri’s opinions on numerous academic and clinical matters. “He brings thoughtful and timely commentary to a wide variety of issues that impact the department, medical school and the field of neurology as a whole.”
Wolfe noted that Silvestri’s teaching is unparalleled, according to a teaching metric the department recently developed to incentivize and reward teaching.
The metric includes trainee evaluations, participation and direction of didactic lectures series, clinical mentorship of students and housestaff, and teaching awards.
Wolfe also pointed out that Silvestri’s “evaluations from both medical students and residents are at the top for my department — they are in essence as close to perfect as these evaluations can be.”
Silvestri is triple boarded in neurology, electrodiagnostic medicine and neuromuscular medicine and serves as co-director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association Clinic for UBMD Neurology.
He served as director of the adult neurology residency training program from 2011 to 2020, stepping down as he assumed the larger role of associate dean in the Office of Student and Academic Affairs on behalf of the entire Jacobs School.
Melissa L. Rayhill, MD, clinical assistant professor of neurology and the director of the adult neurology residency program, also supported Silvestri’s nomination for the AAN award.
“Nick really is a gem. Students identify him as someone that they can talk to when things aren't going well, as someone who they can have fun with, and as someone who is an exceptional clinician and educator,” she says.
“There aren't many people in most medical schools who can fill all those roles for students simultaneously and with so much empathy, expertise and pragmatism.”
Rayhill says during Silvestri’s time as residency program director — and even now after stepping down from the position — “our residents look to him as one of the best clinical neurologists in our department. He is a true role model in his careful, caring and efficient approach to neurological patient care.
“He has provided steadfast support for me and does the same for all of our junior faculty, both in and out of our department.”
Silvestri will accept his award at the AAN’s 2023 annual meeting April 22-27 in Boston and has agreed to serve on a panel at the event.
The award is named in honor of A.B. Baker, MD, who was a major figure in American neurology, and who in 1948 was a moving force in founding the American Academy of Neurology.
Baker was a “neuropolitician,” as he came to be known in the field, who lobbied long and effectively for federal support of training programs for academic neurologists.
He was editor of Clinical Neurology and was a neuropathologist with a particular interest in cerebrovascular disease.