Faculty Friday Spotlight: Dr. Margaret Colden

Dr. Colden earned her PhD in Pharmacology at the University of Texas Medical Branch and completed postdoctoral training at Baylor College of Medicine and the Armed Forces Radiobiology Institute, where she also served as a Research Physiologist. Dr. Colden taught at Morehouse School of Medicine for many years before joining the AUC faculty in 2012 as Professor of Physiology and Course Director/Instructor in the Physiology I course. Through her research, she has made significant contributions to understanding the role of ion channels in macrophage and endothelial cell function during adhesion events.

Describe an experience that helped form you as an educator.

Early in my teaching career as a professor, I worked with a medical student on a weekly basis who was having a very difficult time academically in Physiology. The fact that this student went from failing to honoring the course was a testament to her determination and her recognizing she needed guidance.  I would like to think I played a small part in motivating her to change her study strategy that led to her success.

How did you become convinced that you should come to AUC, or what attracted you to AUC?

My previous medical school had small class sizes (less than 60) and a family atmosphere with the professors always available for students. I found the same collegial environment with concerned faculty working with students at AUC when I visited St. Maarten for my interview.  It was an easy transition for me since the institutions had similar philosophies about caring for students.

What is your favorite thing about teaching at AUC?

Every semester I have the opportunity to meet new Physiology I students to challenge them to think about how the human body works and get them excited about building the foundation in physiologic concepts that will be crucial for their subsequent understanding of pathology and pharmacology.

Are you involved with any student organizations or other student activities?

I have been most involved in the activities of the Black Medical Student Association (BMSA) and have participated in the Community Action Day events. I would love to be more involved in BMSA.  

What are some of your favorite things about Sint Maarten?

The year-round warm climate with seasonal trade winds is my absolute favorite thing about Sint Maarten!  I also love the fact that I have been able to visit many surrounding Caribbean islands in the Lesser Antilles since I have been living and working in Sint Maarten. 

What is an underappreciated aspect of AUC?

The small class sizes allow for the faculty to have more interactions with students in the class and during office hours. It is so important to have a rapport with students early in the course to give them a comfort level to visit you so if they have academic difficulty later, the connection has already been made.

Dr. Colden with students during office hours

How would you like for students to describe you years from now?

I hope that students describe me as a caring, enthusiastic professor who made them critically think about physiological concepts that provided an essential foundation to build upon in their subsequent courses, clinical clerkships, and eventual medical career.

What makes you look forward to the start of a new semester?

Every new semester gives me the opportunity to be a better instructor.  I read student and colleague feedback from the previous semester and work to improve my delivery and/or content for each semester.

What’s something about you that not many people know about you or that your students would be surprised to learn?

I am from a family who was educated by four different Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs). While caring for four children and working during the day, my mother earned her bachelor’s degree in English from St. Augustine’s University and became a beloved high school English teacher. After serving 20 years in the US Air Force as a Master Sergeant Senior Medic and Senior Air Crew Member, my father earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Norfolk State University while working full-time and enjoyed a second career as a sales representative. My sister earned her engineering bachelor’s degree from Virginia State University the same year our father earned his degree and is a Contracting Officer for the US Air Force. And I graduated from Hampton University with a bachelor’s in biology.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work? 

The fact that I can go scuba diving every weekend is wonderful as I am currently working on earning several diver certifications such as Nitrox and Rescue Diver. I also love going to different beaches to enjoy the crystal clear water and the beautiful, diverse people of Sint Maarten.