Vuvi H. Nguyen, MS, PhD, is UTHealth School of Dentistry at Houston’s 2020 recipient of the John H. Freeman Award for Faculty Teaching.
Chosen by first- and second-year dental students, the Freeman Award winner is recognized for excellence in preclinical teaching.
Nguyen, assistant professor in the Department of Diagnostic and Biomedical Sciences, is the seventh faculty member to win the award more than once, having also captured the laurel in 2018.
A student nominator said Nguyen brings “a youthful joy to what she teaches. Her passion is easily seen in her lectures, and this passion enables a more enjoyable and effective learning environment for us students. I have had nothing but excellent experiences as a student of Dr. Nguyen.”
Known for her enjoyment of teaching head and neck anatomy, Nguyen is grateful to win the award for a second time.
“This truly is an honor,” she said. “I’m very thankful to my mentors, colleagues, and especially the encouragement from the student body for their positivity and support in my teaching.
“My students have told me I get excited when giving instruction, and that’s true. I do get excited, because I was once in their shoes, and now I have the privilege of teaching them what I learned.”
Nguyen joined UTSD’s faculty in January 2017, just one month after receiving her doctoral degree in biomedical sciences from the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth.
A self-proclaimed “newbie teacher,” Nguyen believes perspective is key. Not too far removed from being a student herself, she draws on her years spent on the other side of the classroom.
“In some ways, I still see myself as a student,” she said. “I was a student far longer than I’ve been on faculty, and I think that resonates in my instructions to them. I teach as if it’s the first time I’m learning the material as well.”
Nguyen, a first-generation college graduate in her family, admits she wasn’t the best student, but believes her struggles then are her advantages now.
“I learned from my mistakes and apply them in my teaching. Concepts I didn’t understand as a student, I turn in a way so my students don’t have to struggle in the same way I did,” she said.
Nguyen also attributes her successful transition into a faculty member to the support of her colleagues, but when they ask, “What’s your secret?” She jokes back, “I can’t tell you that.”
The Freeman Award comes with a cash prize. Previous winners include:
- Ashley Clark, DDS, 2019;
- Vuvi Nguyen, MS, PhD, 2018;
- Raymond Koeppen, DDS, MS, MBA, 2017, 2012;
- Robert Spears, PhD, 2016;
- Carla Rogers, PhD, 2015;
- Shelly Patel, DDS, 2014;
- Yasmine Haddad, DDS, PhD, 2013;
- Ryan Quock, DDS, 2011;
- Gary Frey, DDS, 2010, 2004;
- William Tate, DDS, 2009, 2007, 2002, 1991, 1989;
- Robert (Rod) Dosch, DDS, 2008, 2003, 2000, 1998;
- James Ferguson, DDS, 2006;
- Barry Rittman, MS, PhD, 2005;
- Franz S. F. Mong, PhD, 2001, 1997, 1992, 1990, 1988, 1986, 1984;
- Kenneth Porter, DDS, 1999;
- John McMahon, PhD, 1996, 1987;
- Mary (Cindy) Farach-Carson, PhD, 1995;
- Gene Stevenson, DDS, MS, 1994;
- Kathleen Gibson, PhD, 1993;
- James Newland, DDS, MS, 1985;
- H. Philip Pierpont, DDS, 1983;
- Matthew Seals, DDS, 1982;
- Richard Madden, DDS, MS, 1981;
- Rodney Beetar, DDS, MS, 1980;
- William Radentz, DDS, 1979;
- Thomas Wild, DDS, 1978.