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Nguyen garners Bruning Award for Outstanding Teaching

Published: May 22, 2024 by Dylan Allen

Assistant Professor Leanna Nguyen, RDH, BSDH, MS, holds her certificate for the Lorna J. Bruning Award for Outstanding Teaching.
Assistant Professor Leanna Nguyen, RDH, BSDH, MS, holds her certificate for the Lorna J. Bruning Award for Outstanding Teaching. Photo by Dylan Allen.

Assistant Professor Leanna Nguyen, RDH, BSDH, MS, has been named the 2024 recipient of the Lorna J. Bruning Award for Outstanding Teaching at UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry.

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

Nguyen was recognized during the annual Dental Hygiene Awards in May and was immediately thrilled to have won the award.

“My initial reaction was excitement,” she said. “I am overcome with joy to know that I have been able to make a positive impact on my students. This was such an incredible honor to be chosen by them.”

Nguyen follows an innovative student-centered approach to her teaching and is always willing to adjust based on student and colleague feedback to make learning outcomes more effective. 

“My teaching philosophy is to create a safe environment for my students that is conducive to successful learning both didactically and clinically,” she said. “I believe the most impactful teaching happens when you can adapt to each student’s learning style and individual needs.”

Nguyen earned associate degrees in arts, science, and dental hygiene from Lone Star College. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene and a Master of Science in Health Studies from Texas Woman’s University.

Before joining the UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry faculty in 2023, Nguyen practiced clinical dental hygiene for six years and served as a dental hygiene clinical instructor at Lone Star College.

Nguyen gives credit to two former Bruning Award recipients for helping her achieve this year’s award — Tulsi Patel, RDH, MHA, for her guidance and insight, and Joanna Allaire, RDH, BSDH, MDH, former associate professor, who has supported Nguyen both as a student and as a colleague.

“I’d like to thank all of my colleagues and students for helping me become the educator I am today,” she said. “I have learned so much from each one of them.”

Nguyen is the course director for Clinical Seminar IV (Ethics) and is also an instructor in preclinical and clinical courses with first- and second-year dental hygiene students. Along with teaching, she has been co-advisor of the Student Chapter American Dental Hygienists’ Association and will also begin working with dental students within the Center for Health Promotion starting in the summer.

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

  • Tulsi Patel, RDH, MHA, 2023, 2018
  • Anahita Mortazavi, BSND, BDSH, RDH, MEd, 2022
  • Raha Naderi, RDH, MEd, 2021
  • Kathy Colston, RDH, BSDH, 2020
  • Amber Lovatos, RDH, BSDH, 2019
  • 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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