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Patel garners Bruning Award for Outstanding Teaching

Associate Professor Tulsi Patel, RDH, MHA, holders her certificate for the Lorna J. Bruning Award for Outstanding Teaching.
Associate Professor Tulsi Patel, RDH, MHA, holders her certificate for the Lorna J. Bruning Award for Outstanding Teaching. Photo by Kyle Rogers.

Associate Professor Tulsi Patel, RDH, MHA, has been named the 2023 recipient of the Lorna J. Bruning Award for Outstanding Teaching at UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry.

Chosen by second-year dental hygiene students, the Bruning Award recognizes a faculty member who demonstrates exceptional knowledge and competence towards effective learning.

Patel, whose honor was highlighted during the annual Dental Hygiene Awards in May, was quick to compliment her fellow dental hygiene faculty.

“I was honestly very surprised, because I’m not in clinic nearly as much as I was when I first started teaching,” Patel said. “We have so many talented dental hygiene educators on our team right now — who spend countless hours in clinical teaching — so I’m humbled to be named the winner amongst my esteemed colleagues.”

The 2023 nod marks Patel’s second time to receive the Bruning Award. She previously won the dental hygiene honor in 2018.

“It is an incredible honor winning this award for the second time,” she said. “The first time I received this award was in 2018, shortly after joining the School of Dentistry. Being recognized by a new crop of students for this award five years later feels special. I hope I’ve been able to create some impact in the lives of our graduating seniors.”

Patel takes a reflective style in her teachings, addressing each student with understanding, respect, and patience, an approach she credits to becoming a mother in 2021.

“I teach the way I would like to be taught,” Patel said. “As a new mom, I’m constantly learning something new and have to be mindful of how and what I say. I carry these learnings into my teaching approach to create a positive space for students to fail, ask for help, and learn to understand.”

Patel earned her bachelor’s in dental hygiene and master’s in healthcare administration from Pacific University. Prior to joining UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry in 2016, she practiced and instructed on dental hygiene in Oregon.

Among her mentors, Patel lists Harold Henson, RDH, PhD; and Deborah Vayon, RDH, MEd, from the School of Dentistry; and Amy Coplen, RDH, MS; Kathryn Bell, RDH, EdD; and Gail Aamodt, RDH, MS, of Pacific University.

“I’d also like to thank my dental hygiene colleagues and students. I learn something new from them every day,” Patel said.

Patel is a didactic course director for several dental hygiene courses at UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry. She is also a laboratory director, a course contributor to some dental courses, and an instructor in all dental hygiene clinical courses.

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

  • Anahita Mortazavi, BSND, BSDH, RDH, MEd, 2022;
  • Raha Naderi, RDH, MEd, 2021
  • Kathy Colston, RDH, BSDH, 2020
  • Amber Lovatos, RDH, BSDH, 2019
  • Tulsi Patel, BSDH, MHA, 2018
  • Deborah Vayon, RDH, MEd, 2017
  • Ruth Conn, RDH, MSDH, 2016
  • Darla McKitrick, RDH, MS, 2015
  • Donna Warren Morris, RDH, MEd, 2014
  • Harold Henson, RDH, MEd, 2013, 2008
  • Joanna Allaire, RDH, MDH, 2012, 2010
  • Nina Bay Infante, RDH, MS, 2011
  • Holly Rice, RDH, MEd, 2009
  • Ann O’Kelly Wetmore, RDH, MSDH, 2007
  • Jayne McWherter, RDH, MEd, 2006
  • Amy Murphy, RDH, BS, 2005
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