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Laman receives McGovern Outstanding Teaching Award

Dr. Stephen Laman (right) presented his framed certificate for the John P. McGovern Outstanding Teaching Award by Student Council President Ali Al Hatem during the annual DDS Senior Awards.
Dr. Stephen Laman (right) presented his framed certificate for the John P. McGovern Outstanding Teaching Award by Student Council President Ali Al Hatem during the annual DDS Senior Awards. Photo by Brian Schnupp.

Associate Professor Stephen Laman, DDS, has been named the 2023 recipient of the John P. McGovern Outstanding Teaching Award at UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry.

Chosen by third- and fourth-year dental students, the McGovern Award recognizes excellence in clinical teaching.

Laman said he was stunned to be announced as the award winner during the School of Dentistry’s annual DDS Senior Awards in late April.

“Receiving the McGovern Award is completely humbling,” said Laman, who serves as the director of the Orange Practice. “There is a certain significance to this happening. The majority of students are partial to their own group practice director. The fact that the students in Orange Practice were able to influence their classmates to vote for me is overwhelming.”

For Laman, receiving a teaching award is hard to quantify, as it far exceeds his expectations when he first joined the School of Dentistry faculty in 2002.

“I’ve had the pleasure of being taught by and teaching with several individuals who I would describe as ‘master teachers,’” he said. “To be recognized for teaching blows my mind. I came to work for the School of Dentistry full time almost 21 years ago after 16 years in private practice. I really had no aspirations or expectations other than to teach dentistry. The recognition and affirmation of one’s peers and students is one of the sweetest experiences one can have. I’m so very grateful and thankful my students wanted me to be recognized.”

Laman describes his teaching philosophy as simple, but the end-goal for his students is two-fold — for his students to grow to a level in which they can treat someone he loves and cares for, and that he can wholeheartedly recommend them to a friend or colleague to work in their dental practice.

A 1986 alumnus of The University of Texas Dental Branch (now the School of Dentistry), Laman lists Kenneth Porter, DDS; Rodney Beetar, DDS; Kenneth “Ken” Brady, DDS; Sam Adkisson, DDS; Edgar Starcke, DDS; H. Philip Pierpont, DDS; and Jay Ferguson, DDS, among his teaching mentors, several of which he learned from as both a student and on faculty. However, through the years, he considers it a greater honor for the friendships made with his mentors.

One mentor Laman credits for showing how to teach with kindness and empathy is his wife, Melinda, a retired kindergarten teacher who taught for over 30 years. She, their three children, nine grandchildren, and extended family are among those he thanks for their support throughout his dental career.

Additionally, Laman thanks Gary Frey, DDS, chair of the Department of General Practice and Dental Public Health; Jesse “Jay” Welch, DDS; Amity Gardner, DDS, assistant dean for clinical education; and his teaching team of Vinu Sista, DDS; J. Robert “Bob” Stephen, DDS; Sepideh Carvounis, DDS; and Pierpont.

“Last but not least, I owe the students of what we affectionately call ‘The Orange Nation’ a huge debt of gratitude,” Laman said. “They are truly wonderful and exceptional people. They are exceedingly bright. They are amazingly talented. They are thirsty for knowledge and eager to learn. They make coming to work a joyful experience. I’m so blessed to be their group practice director and to work with the exceptional people I’m privileged to work with.

“I was and am completely fascinated with dentistry. Students, patients, and our profession, I’ve tried every day to help someone.”

The McGovern Award comes with a cash prize. Previous winners include:

  • Bonita A. Wynkoop, RDH, DDS, 2022
  • Long D. Tran, PharmD, DDS, 2021
  • Dianna M. Arriaga, DDS, MEd, 2020
  • Cleverick (C.D.) Johnson, MS, DDS, 2019, 1993
  • Dan Bentley, DDS, 2018
  • Rodney Beetar, DDS, MS, 2017, 2012, 2010, 1996, 1989
  • Amity Gardner, DDS, 2016
  • Ralph Cooley, DDS, 2015
  • Trevor Treasure, DDS, MD, MBA, 2014
  • Debra Stewart, DDS, 2013
  • Dan Bentley, DDS, 2011
  • Shiwei Cai, DDS, PhD, 2009
  • Robert (Rod) Dosch, DDS, 2008
  • Donald Belles, DDS, MS, 2007
  • Richard Bebermeyer, DDS, MBA, 2006, 1990
  • Gary Frey, DDS, 2005
  • Donna Warren Morris, RDH, MEd, 2004, 2002
  • Gene Stevenson, DDS, MS, 2003
  • Jayne McWherter, RDH, MEd, 2001
  • Maribeth Stitt, RHD, MEd, 2000
  • Jeffrey Chang, DDS, 1999
  • Sam Adkisson, DDS, 1998, 1994, 1992, 1985
  • Leslie Roeder, DDS, 1997
  • Edmund Strickler, DDS, 1995
  • Cornelius Sullivan, Jr., DDS, 1991
  • Kenneth Porter, DDS, 1988, 1986
  • Willis Smith, DDS, 1987
  • Clyde Coe, DDS, 1984
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