David C. Van Essen, PhD
David C. Van Essen, PhD, the Alumni Endowed Professor of Neuroscience, professor of biomedical engineering and past chair of the Department of Neuroscience, is honored for his many contributions to enhancing medical education in the field of neuroscience.
Van Essen is, according to the Office of Medical Education, the only department chair who also has served simultaneously as a course master at Washington University School of Medicine. He is passionate about medical student education and is recognized for artfully combining steady leadership in the department, support for the department’s longstanding commitment to medical education, and real innovation in curriculum enhancements.
For more than 20 years, Van Essen has enthusiastically embraced and championed new learning methods while also offering lively and relevant lectures to his students. Far beyond discussing fundamental topics, Van Essen leads highly interactive laboratory sessions and encourages critical thinking. He is widely respected for his teaching style of combining basic and clinical concepts of neuroscience and neuroanatomy. His approach has strengthened the foundation upon which future physicians will interpret brain maps and brain function in the rapidly evolving field of neural sciences.
With all his academic and educational responsibilities, Van Essen also is a world-renowned neuroscientist who has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of the central nervous system. He is a leader of the Human Connectome Project, a multicenter effort to map brain functional connections.
Van Essen earned his doctoral degree in neurobiology from Harvard Medical School in 1971. He joined Washington University School of Medicine as the Edison Professor of Neurobiology and chair of the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology (now the Department of Neuroscience) in 1992. He stepped down as chair in 2012.