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ADA honors mentors with Golden Apple Awards

Three educators lauded for guiding students, junior faculty

Three educators from the dental schools at the University of Pittsburgh, University of California-Los Angeles and University of Detroit-Mercy were honored with ADA Golden Apple Awards this year for serving as outstanding mentors to students and junior faculty, especially those interested in pursuing academic careers.

The Golden Apple Awards have long provided an opportunity to recognize the achievements of dental society leaders, members and staff. In more recent years, the Council on Dental Education and Licensure has enhanced the annual program by adding awards for dental educators.

The Inspiring Careers in Dental Education awards are presented to faculty for outstanding mentoring of dental students at the predoctoral and postdoctoral levels. This year, three awards were presented to faculty members. The deadline for nominations for next year's awards is Feb. 1, 2010. Dental students and faculty are encouraged to nominate faculty members who are deserving of these honors.

Recipients of 2009 Golden Apple Awards for Inspiring Careers in Dental Education at the predoctoral level are:

Dr. Mark W. Ochs—associate dean and chair of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. "Dr. Ochs is a tireless worker in his role as professor and chair of the department of oral and maxillofacial surgery; yet has been able to simultaneously meet individually with students and residents on a daily basis to assure their progress," Dr. Thomas W. Braun, dean of the School of Dental Medicine, wrote in nomination papers.

Dr. Ochs not only agreed to be the keynote speaker for the students' 2009 Steel City Dental Expo, but also served as faculty advisor and obtained sponsors to cover costs. Student Elizabeth E. Cole, who led Dr. Ochs' nomination for the ADA award, called him "an engaging and enthusiastic teacher" from the outset of dental school. "He has the unique ability to explain difficult information in such a way that the class not only understands the material, but is interested in learning more. Because of his example, I hope to one day work in a school providing both excellent patient care and inspiring students to do the same," she said.

Dr. Richard G. Stevenson III—professor of clinical dentistry and chair of restorative dentistry at the University of California-Los Angeles School of Dentistry. "During my final year in dental school, Dr. Stevenson has fostered and supported my interest in a future in dental academics," wrote Jane A. Refela, a student who nominated him for the Golden Apple Award. (She graduated in 2009.) "His excitement and knowledge has inspired me to strive to increase my clinical skills beyond competency and towards excellence," added Dr. Refela. Dr. Stevenson encouraged her to participate in the R.V. Tucker Cast Gold Study Club, and students' growing interest in cast gold led Dr. Stevenson to start a student chapter, for which he volunteered to advise one Saturday a month.

Added student Adrienne Hecht, who Dr. Stevenson mentored through UCLA's Senior Select satellite clinic: "[His] knowledge of dentistry and natural talent for it is truly inspiring. He gives us enough freedom to make our own decisions but at the same time, offers suggestions and teaches us techniques that we were never taught in dental school but that are common in private practice."

John A. Molinari, Ph.D.—professor and head of biomedical sciences at the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Dentistry. In his 31-year career at the dental school, Dr. Molinari has built a national reputation in infection control. Students who nominated him for the award—Anish Gupta and AnneMarie Badalamenti—said that Dr. Molinari teaches not only infection control "but also the compassion, equality, and understanding" that "eliminates any judgments and stigmas" associated with patients who have infectious diseases.

Dr. Mert Aksu, UDM dean, and colleagues Dr. W. Choong Foong and Megan Jennings stated in a nomination letter: "He has acted as a mentor for students, encouraging many to pursue graduate studies and advising many more in their career paths. He has been an advocate of academic and teaching as a potential career for students, and has influenced many students to pursue a teaching career."

Mr. Gupta and Ms. Badalamenti said they plan to pursue teaching careers one day and credit that decision to Dr. Molinari, who is retiring this year from the UDM School of Dentistry.