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Students, Faculty Sweep Texas Dental Hygiene Awards

Friday, February 21, 2014 - 1:43pm

Esmeralda Diaz with award

Texas Outstanding Dental Hygiene Student for 2014 Esmeralda Diaz (right) receives the award from Kirsten McGee, Membership Services Council Chair for the Texas Dental Hygienists’ Association.

University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston dental hygiene faculty and students won big earlier this month when the Texas Dental Hygiene Educators Association and the Student Chapter of American Dental Hygienists (SCADHA) met in San Marcos for an annual gathering hosted by the Texas Dental Hygienists’ Association. 

Fourth-year dental hygiene student Esmeralda Diaz was named Outstanding Dental Hygiene Student in Texas for 2014, and Assistant Professor Joanna Allaire, RDH, MDH, won the 2014 Procter & Gamble Teaching Excellence Award.

Other students won first- and second-place awards in a statewide table clinic; three won scholarships; another was elected to serve as a delegate; and two others won third place in a whimsical “Dental Product Fashion Show.”

UTSD students Meghan O’Donnell, Jenna Lovette, Sarah Pollitt and Rebecca Lucero won first place in the state dental hygiene student table clinic competition for “Is Your Mouth Affecting Your Memory? A New Link Between Alzheimer's Disease and Periodontal Pathogens.” Second place went to Ann Seelbach, Erika Smith, Lyn Hunter and Stephanie Webb for “Photobiomodulation: Shining a Light on New Dental Applications.” The table clinic was sponsored by Procter & Gamble, Colgate and Philips Sonicare.

Heather Ellis won the B.J. Long Memorial Scholarship Award sponsored by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. Hoa Nguyen received the Texas Dental Placement Network Scholarship, and Rebecca Lucero won the Omega Seminars’ Scholarship of Student Excellence.

Third-year student Jennifer Ward was elected by SCADHA members to serve as an alternate delegate to the association.

In the Dental Product Fashion Show sponsored by Procter & Gamble, Heather Ellis and Brandy Cao won third place. The fashion show is a runway-type event, where the student create costumes using things that could be found in a dental office.  As “Sergeant Listerine and Private Fluoride,” Ellis and Cao wore costumes made with gauze, patient napkins, floss, gowns, masks, etc. and also performed a skit.

Esmeralda Diaz, the Outstanding Dental Hygiene Student in Texas, is a lifelong Houston resident and 2009 graduate of Spring High School. She was selected by the Member Services Council of the Texas Dental Hygienists’ Association and succeeded 2013 winner Nadia Garza to mark the second consecutive year a UTSD student has won the honor.

Joanna Allaire with teaching award trophy

Joanna Allaire, RDH, MDH, has won the 2014 Procter  & Gamble Teaching Excellence Award.

Teaching Excellence Award winner Joanna Allaire earned a dental hygiene certificate in 1978 at UTSD, returning for a BSDH in 2007.  She received a Master’s Degree in Dental Hygiene from The University of Tennessee Health Science Center in 2012.

In nominating Allaire for the award, UTSD Dental Hygiene Program Director Jayne McWherter, RHD, MEd, noted that Allaire has assumed more and more responsibility for both clinical and didactic teaching since joining the faculty full-time in 2012 after working part-time since 2007.  At the same time, she has been a leader in developing virtual patient cases and teaching them in the simulation lab, even launching two research studies to assess students’ critical-thinking skills related to working with virtual patients. She presented her findings at annual sessions of the American Dental Education Association and the American Dental Hygienists’ Association.

She was awarded the Lorna J. Bruning Award for Teaching Excellence in 2010 and 2012, based on student nominations and voting.  In 2013, she received the Dean’s Teaching Excellence Award for Innovation in Teaching, and was inducted into the University of Texas School of Dentistry Dean’s Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars.