Layla Simmons, Thao Vu Honored with 2023 Faculty Excellence Awards

By News Staff

Simmons’ extensive, consistent and meaningful involvement in curriculum development and improvement, student advising, innovative teaching activities, grant-funded activities for teaching and teaching development, and scholarship related to teaching illustrate why she is deserving of this award.

According to colleagues and students, she has demonstrated excellence in several areas.

  • Demonstrates an in-depth knowledge of subject matter and curriculum.
  • Communicates subject matter accurately and clearly.
  • Challenges, inspires and supports students to do their best work.
  • Demonstrates enthusiasm in learning and teaching.

Simmons consistently receives course evaluations in the range of excellent (94-100%). She continuously assesses the program’s curriculum and implements innovative changes. For example, she has developed an active learning workshop to help students better understand fetal lie in a pregnant female and also has incorporated TED Talks with follow-up activities to address specific subject areas that are challenging to students.

One student wrote that Simmons should “continue to keep her enthusiastic voice, breaking the material down to where everyone understands and continue to provide study tools.”

Other students have praised her for not having “unrealistic expectations” of them and for helpful “advice for any situation that life throws at us.”

Simmons’ contributions to student education extend beyond the department. She has worked collaboratively with faculty across all colleges to develop and implement meaningful interprofessional education opportunities for UAMS students.


Thao Vu, M.S., MLS, assistant professor in the college’s Department of Laboratory Sciences, was the recipient of the 2023 Excellence in Service Award, which recognizes an educator whose significant contributions through service are instrumental in achieving the UAMS mission.

Vu has demonstrated excellence through her service to others at the national, state, and local levels.  Her nominators highlighted her exemplary service efforts in several award criteria:

  • Education of Exemplary Health Care Providers
  • Provision of Standard-setting, Comprehensive Clinical Programs
  • Scientific Discovery and Research
  • Extension of Services to the State of Arkansas and Beyond

“Due to the pandemic, the Laboratory Sciences Student Association had become a neglected opportunity,” one nominator stated. “She resurrected LSSA to include collaboration lunches, an internal t‐shirt fundraiser, and a fundraiser supporting the American Society of Clinical Laboratory Sciences virtual 5‐K run.”

She serves as a Career Ambassador for the American Society of Clinical Pathology and a monthly periodical contributor to the American Society of Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS). Vu has published two peer-reviewed journal articles in ASCLS Today and presented a peer-reviewed poster at the UAMS Teach the Teacher Symposium on evaluating assignments and quizzes as opportunities for course content mastery.

The Association of Schools Advancing Health Professions competitively selected her to serve as a key member on its diversity equity and inclusion committee. She is also a supporter of the local Arkansas Chapter of ASCLS. Finally, Ms. Vu supports the American Cancer Society as a volunteer driver to give patients reliable transcription to treatment centers.