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Dental Branch Faculty Earn Teaching Awards

The John P. McGovern Award for Outstanding Teaching

Shiwei Cai, DDS, PhD

Shiwei Cai, DDS, PhD

Third- and fourth-year dental students at The University of Texas Dental Branch have chosen Assistant Professor Shiwei Cai, DDS, PhD, of the Department of Endodontics as the 2009 winner of the John P. McGovern Award for Outstanding Teaching. 

Cai earned his dental degree in 1988 and completed a residency in oral surgery in 1994 at the Capital Institute of Medicine in Beijing, China. While at the University of Washington School of Dentistry, he earned a certificate and MSD in oral medicine (1999 and 2000), a master of science degree in oral biology (2000), a doctorate in oral biology in 2004 and an endodontics certificate in 2006.

He joined the faculty at UTDB in 2006 and is a first-time winner of the McGovern Award.  "I am extremely honored and grateful for being chosen as the recipient of this prestigious award by my students," he said. "They are truly my inspiration and motivation to be a teacher."

He noted that the senior class started their lab and clinical endodontic training when he started his job at UTDB, and it was his first time to be a course director of a junior (third-year dental) endodontic course.

"I feel that I have grown up as a junior faculty member with these two classes, as they learned clinical dentistry and developed into future dentists over the past two years," he said.  "We have been growing together during this process. My students have contributed a great deal to helping me learn to teach and be a teacher, so I owe them a huge debt of gratitude. I feel a bond with them."

Cai said teaching is about passion, respect, understanding and tolerance among different people, opinions and philosophies. "Teaching makes me feel rejuvenated and energized. Teaching helps me to contemplate, be vigilant and keep improving myself," he said. "I love research and teaching, so school is the ideal place for me. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to educating future dentists and endodontists."

Lorna J. Bruning Award for Clinical Teaching Excellence

Holly C. Rice, RDH

Holly C. Rice, RDH

Associate Professor Holly C. Rice, RDH, of the Department of Periodontology, School of Dental Hygiene, is the students' choice for the 2009 Lorna J. Bruning Award for Clinical Teaching Excellence. The Bruning Award recognizes dental hygiene faculty who demonstrate the most knowledge, competency and enthusiasm for teaching dental hygiene, along with the encouragement of critical thinking.

Rice earned a dental hygiene certificate at UTDB in 1972, followed by a bachelor of science degree in technology and master's degree in education, both from the University of Houston.  She has been on the Dental Branch faculty a total of 17 years, full time since 2006, and in addition to her regular workload offers hands-on clinical tutoring for first-year students. It's a time-intensive effort, but she believes the results are worth it.

 "You don't always know what your clinical skills will be prior to attending hygiene schools," she said. "You can learn the didactic part, but the hands-on part ... a lot of students don't have the dexterity at first.  I tell them to bring their instruments and come to clinic. They get individualized instruction, and it definitely helps them gain the skills and confidence they need."

Rice is a first-time winner of the Bruning Award, and she said the fact that winners are nominated and chosen by students makes it especially meaningful.   "I really do enjoy teaching, and I like being in the clinic with the students," she said. "I still see patients in the faculty practice, so I have the best of both worlds.  Students keep you on your toes -both mentally and in keeping up with the latest facts and techniques in dentistry."

John H. Freeman Award for Outstanding Non-Clinical Teaching

William H.

William H. "Bill" Tate, DDS

Associate Professor William H. "Bill" Tate, DDS, of the Department of Restorative Dentistry and Biomaterials, is the students' choice for the 2009 John H. Freeman Award for Outstanding Non-Clinical Teaching. 

A native of Texarkana, Ark., Tate grew up in Houston and is a 1985 graduate of The University of Texas Dental Branch. He spent time in private practice and joined the Dental Branch faculty in 1987, at first teaching part-time while continuing to practice, then moving into teaching full-time. Currently, he is course director for Operative I and II, works with Inlay/Onlay, Dental Anatomy and Intro to Clinic, teaching first- and second-year dental students and occasionally lecturing in graduate courses. As a prior winner of the Freeman Award, Tate said he is honored to have been chosen again, but he stressed that many other faculty are just as deserving of the recognition.

Tate's fourth-floor office is a living collage of his travels, interests, sense of humor and of his students' cultures.  Curios from Iran, Egypt, Poland, Honduras and dozens of other countries and regions line walls and clutter his desk, putting visitors at ease as they try to take in the view.  And that's the point, he says. Students who stop by to visit often see something that reminds them of home.

The best lessons in a course always come from the people in the class, he said. Even so, he has a clear idea of what he wants his students to gain. "I want the students to be better than they ever thought they could be. I want them to wonder, to question, to feel safe within their courses, clinics and my office," he said. "I want students to understand and use the gifts they were given, to work hard, to focus, to accept the elevated level of responsibility the profession requires. I want the students to develop an unwavering sense of care for their patients and for their families. ... I want them to succeed."

By Rhonda Moran, Dental Branch