Dentistry professors win national teaching awards

(Edmonton) Two dentistry professors at the University of Alberta were recognized for their teaching excellence with national awards from the Association of Canadian Faculties of Dentistry.

Steve Patterson, associate chair of academic affairs at the U of A’s School of Dentistry in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, was named the recipient of the association’s Bisco National Dental Teaching Award. The award is presented annually to an outstanding teacher at a Canadian dental school.

Sharon Compton, associate chair and director of the dental hygiene program, received the ACFD’s W.W. Wood Award for Excellence in Dental Education, given annually to one member of each Canadian dentistry faculty.

Steve Patterson: Developing well-rounded citizens

Patterson, an alumnus of the U of A, started his career as a general dentist in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, and later followed his passions into the practice of dental public health and teaching.

When he wasn’t shuttling one of his six kids to sports practice, piano lessons or dance recitals, he was in Edmonton working hard to teach dental students to be more than just dentists.

“Steve works incredibly hard to ensure that we are graduating well-rounded dentists who are not just academically strong and clinically competent, but also professionally responsible and socially aware,” says colleague Anthea Senior, clinical assistant professor of radiology.

“Dr. Patterson is one of those professors who inspires his students to be passionate about their field and want to better their society,” says Linda Lan, a member of the class of 2015 and one of the many future dentists Patterson has helped train. Students consistently identify Patterson as one of the best teachers in the School of Dentistry.

In 1994, Patterson began teaching undergraduate students in the doctor of dental surgery, dental hygiene and doctor of medicine programs at the U of A. During this time he discovered his true passion for teaching.

“I made a conscious choice to be a teacher early in my professional career,” he says. “I wanted to make an impact on the lives of students and future colleagues.”

“I consider Dr. Patterson one of the best educators in Canada and highly deserving of this award from his peers,” says Paul Major, professor and chair of the School of Dentistry and senior associate dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. “He is an innovative and visionary education scholar who has made a major impact at the University of Alberta and beyond.”

Patterson will be presented with the award June 17 at the 2013 ACFD Biennial Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Sharon Compton: Mentor and role model

Sharon Compton’s classroom is bigger than the U of A’s largest lecture hall. Through online distance learning, Compton teaches and mentors practising dental hygienists who are completing their degrees while working in communities across Alberta.

“It’s a very different way of educating,” notes Compton, who recently shifted her teaching away from the classroom to distance delivery. “This method of teaching can be challenging to make connections with the students online. But I believe that through consistent and frequent online interactions, providing pertinent feedback as students progress through the course, connection can be achieved.”

“Sharon’s immense work and guidance in the dental hygiene program goes far beyond our department,” says Carlos Flores-Mir, associate professor and head of the Division of Orthodontics. “She’s raised the profile of the program through her leadership, teaching and incredible commitment to foster dedicated professionals.”

Compton has been director of the U of A’s dental hygiene program since 2002. She began her teaching career in 1984 as a clinical instructor in the program. In 1990, she accepted a full-time tenure stream academic appointment. Her teaching responsibilities included senior clinical co-ordination and teaching, ethics and professional practice, and medical emergencies.

“Dr. Compton has been a mentor for me, and more recently, I had the privilege of Dr. Compton supervising my master’s degree,” said registered dental hygienist Richelle Beesley. “She has encouraged me to reach high standards, and always inspired me throughout my research and academic journey.”

“I want to instil in students a deep sense of quality work and practice ethic, and part of this development process begins with setting an example through role modelling,” says Compton.