Dr. Mark Teaford Discusses the Love of Art and Science

High Point University's Professor of Physical Therapy Mark Teaford

Dr. Nido Qubein, HPU President

Our students are fortunate to have faculty who are true teacher scholars.  A recent tweet from student Cara Patricia Read said it best: “They want so much to see us all succeed #grateful.” Cara’s describing a group of faculty who are more than teachers, they are genuine mentors.  In the classroom our faculty effectively share the knowledge of their discipline.  But outside the classroom – in the hallways between classes, or outside the Slane Center Starbucks, or strolling across the promenade – faculty are planting seeds of greatness in the hearts and minds of HPU students.  I continue to marvel at the potent combination of knowledge and encouragement that our professors share.   As an advocate for HPU, you would be proud of these esteemed scholars.

Below you’ll find my conversation with professor of physical therapy, Dr. Mark Teaford.  As we talked, I began to understand how Dr. Teaford’s “scientific” brain and his “artistic” brain inform one another – an illustration of the balance maintained by holistic learning and values-based living.

-Dr. Nido Qubein

Tell me about your love for science, when did it begin?

High Point University's Professor of Physical Therapy Mark Teaford

Dr. Mark Teaford, professor of physical therapy

My love for science began when I was a child.  I always loved science and history – in particular, fossils, animals, primates, and bones. At first, I just wanted to know who they all were. But once I got to know their names, I wanted to know what else they could tell me. For instance, how could a fossil tell me something about life in the past?  How could a bone tell me something about the life of an animal or person?  As many of my high school classmates didn’t go to college, and those who did went into business, I briefly forgot about my lifetime interests and started in business school. But I quickly missed the excitement I felt for science and switched into anthropology in my sophomore year.  Fortunately, my parents and advisors were exceptionally understanding, and I’ve been blessed to make a career of it.


What led you to teaching?

I started teaching because I had some truly outstanding teachers through the years – people I really admired. I felt that if I could help students understand complex issues, and if I could even occasionally help them reach their dreams, it would be a fun, exciting undertaking – which it certainly has been!

I’ve heard from some of your colleagues that you enjoy writing Japanese poetry? 

I’ve been writing English versions of various forms of Japanese short poetry (haiku, senryu, tanka) since 2005. I noticed the work of a couple of poets, Nick Virgilio and John Stevenson, and was really struck by their remarkable perception of day-to-day life and their uncanny ability to elicit an emotional response in their readers while using a minimal amount of words. It gave me pause for thought – about how I approach my life, and how I approach my scientific writing.

So you use the creative outlet of poetry to inform your scientific work?

Writing helps me be more perceptive, but then, being a scientist, I still tend to say too much in my poetry, which can yield something that’s more descriptive than enlightening. But I think and hope I’m getting a little better at it. It tends to have a calming influence on me, forcing me to stop and think about subtleties around me, while also helping me to feel I can occasionally open people’s eyes to things they might normally miss. So I write about anything that strikes me – could be research-related, family-related, and or just something I notice on the street.

Teaford earned a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a Master of Arts and a Doctorate in anthropology from the University of Illinois, where he began his training in anatomy. He comes to HPU from Johns Hopkins University where he served as the director of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s anatomy course.

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