Professor and Dental Hygiene Program Director Donna Warren Morris, RDH, MEd, of UTHealth School of Dentistry at Houston has been honored with a 2017 President’s Scholar Award for Excellence in Teaching in recognition of her trailblazing work in distance learning and online education.

She was one of five UTHealth President’s Scholar Award winners recognized at a luncheon in The Denton A. Cooley, MD and Ralph C. Cooley, DDS University Life Center in December. UTHealth President Giuseppe Colasurdo noted that the President’s Scholar Awards “are the most distinguished acknowledgements we bestow on our faculty in teaching, research and, this year and going forward, in clinical service.“

Morris has focused her professional career and research on interprofessional education, faculty development, geriatric oral health, preventive dentistry and distance education learning. Currently, she is developing two new master’s programs in dental hygiene to be of­fered at the School of Dentistry.

One of her early teaching positions opened her eyes, she said, to how education can be a stepping stone for disadvantaged students — especially women — to move beyond dead-end jobs, drug addiction, bad relationships and poor self-esteem. “I learned how important it was to a student’s success to have someone believe in them,” she added.

Morris is the recipient of multiple national, regional and local teaching awards, including The University of Texas Board of Regents Outstanding Teaching Award, the 2017 American Dental Hygienists’ Association Excellence in Dental Education Award and multiple Dean’s Excellence Awards from the School of Dentistry.

Michael Blackburn, PhD, executive vice president and chief academic officer for UTHealth, said the five 2017 President’s Scholar Award winners were selected from a field of superb scholars — “any one of them deserving of recognition for their outstanding accomplishments and contributions. The selection committee this year had a daunting task.” The other four honorees included:

  • Deanna M. Hoelscher, PhD, RDN, LD, CNS, of UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin’s Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living; President’s Scholar Award for Excellence in Research 
  • Donald A. Molony, Jr., MD, McGovern Medical School; President’s Scholar Awards for Excellence in Teaching
  • Carmel B. Dyer, MD, McGovern Medical School; President’s Scholar Award for Excellence in Clinical Service (inaugural)
  • Rodney E. Kellems, PhD, McGovern Medical School; President’s Recognition of Excellence Award (inaugural)

Blackburn and Kevin Morano, PhD, associate vice president for faculty affairs and development, presided over the ceremony and luncheon. In addition to the award recipients, guests included several UTHealth Development Board members.