UW School of Dentistry

Drs. Truelove and Wataha receive Rothwell Teaching Awards

Dr. Edmund L. Truelove and Dr. John C. Wataha received Bruce R. Rothwell Distinguished Teaching Awards, the School of Dentistry’s highest faculty recognition, during the School’s faculty retreat on Dec. 14.

Dr. Edmund Truelove

Dr. Edmund Truelove

Dr. Truelove, Professor and Director of Oral Medicine Clinical Services, received the Rothwell Lifetime Achievement Award. It recognized a four-decade career at the UW that saw him lead UW Oral Medicine from a minor diagnostic service to one of the nation’s foremost departments in its field. He retired as department chair in 2010, after setting a school record for longest tenure as chair, to devote more time to teaching, patient care and research.

At that time, Dr. Rod Wentworth, then incoming president of the Washington State Dental Association, said: “Under his leadership and vision, we have seen the Oral Medicine Department develop into one of the best programs in the world.”

Said Dr. Hal Oien of Hillsboro, Ore.: “Dr. Truelove’s impact on patient care throughout the world has been immeasurable, and his legacy of research, dental education, administration and patient care will endure for generations.”

Dr. Truelove, who is about to assume the vice chairmanship of the American Dental Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs, was unable to attend the presentation ceremony, but sent a recorded video message. He thanked the teachers and clinicians who guided his education, plus his wife and children for their support through the years. He also thanked UW faculty and staff, especially department colleague Dr. Earl Sommers, who taught him at Indiana University dental school and accompanied him to the UW.

Dr. Truelove’s emotional message also included a remembrance of his father, a small-town Indiana grocer who told his son, “If you’re a teacher, you give people the skills to live their dreams.”

Dr. John Wataha (center) receives his Rothwell Teaching Award from Dr. Mark Drangsholt and Tracey Hawk.

Dr. John Wataha (center) receives his Rothwell Teaching Award from Dr. Mark Drangsholt and Tracey Hawk.

Dr. Wataha, formerly Chair of Restorative Dentistry and now closely engaged in the work of task forces revamping the school’s clinical systems and processes, received the Rothwell Distinguished Teacher Award for outstanding and innovative teaching. He came to the School of Dentistry as Restorative chair in 2008 after serving as Professor in the Department of Oral Biology and Maxillofacial Pathology at the Medical College of Georgia, where he received the Teaching Excellence Award. As a teacher earlier at the University of Michigan dental school, he was voted Instructor of the Year for three straight years by second-year students.

At the UW, his teaching has continued to earn high marks from students, who have chosen him to be keynote speaker at the annual White Coat ceremony for rising third-year students for the last three years. In November, he temporarily yielded the Restorative chair to Dr. Ricardo Schwedhelm to focus more closely on his work as chair of the School’s Task Force on Project Management. The group is leading a comprehensive analysis that is expected to change most of the School’s clinical, academic and curriculum development processes.

At the awards ceremony, Dr. Wataha said he views teaching as a collaboration among faculty, students and staff, and that he feels privileged to be part of it. “I often tell students that I get more out of teaching than they do,” he said.

The awards are named for the late Dr. Bruce R. Rothwell, who was chair of Restorative Dentistry from 1993 until his death in 2000 at the age of 52. He was also the longtime director of the School of Dentistry’s Graduate Practice Residency program. The awards recognize qualities including effective and innovative teaching, motivation of students, contributing to School of Dentistry goals, and activity in the community.

Dr. Rothwell, a leader in forensic dentistry, worked with Dr. Thomas Morton, then also a faculty member, on one of Puget Sound’s most celebrated murder cases in the mid-1980s. The two created a computer program that used dental records to identify victims of the notorious Green River killer. Dr. Rothwell also won acclaim for creating the Rothwell Solution, a painkilling mouthwash for oral cancer patients undergoing radiation and chemotherapy.

In 2001, friends and colleagues started an endowment to establish the teaching awards in his honor. To date, the endowment has received more than 400 gifts.

The awards were presented by Rothwell selection committee chair Dr. Mark Drangsholt, who is Chair of the Department of Oral Medicine, along with Tracey Hawk, Dr. Rothwell’s niece.