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M. Lamar Hicks, DDS, MS, Receives Lifetime Educator Award

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Written by Adam Zewe

During his 40-year career as a dental educator, M. Lamar Hicks, DDS, MS, clinical professor in the Department of Endodontics, Prosthodontics and Operative Dentistry, has had an impact on the lives of thousands of dental students and residents. The American Association of Endodontists (AAE) recognized Hicks' dedication by presenting him with the I.B. Bender Lifetime Educator Award. "I feel honored to have been selected from among a large pool of highly deserving educators," Dr. Hicks remarks.

The Ohio native never set out to be an educator. After earning his DDS from The Ohio State University in 1963, Hicks planned to serve two years in the Navy and then establish a private practice. He quickly found his niche in Navy dentistry, where he spent the next 28 years of his career. After earning his certificate in endodontics and a master's degree from Ohio State, Hicks was assigned to a destroyer tender in the Mediterranean Sea. But his Mediterranean tour was cut short when Hicks was called back to Maryland to serve on the faculty of the Navy Postgraduate Dental School in Bethesda in 1975. "I did not want to go. I hated public speaking. But I had some really great faculty colleagues who nurtured me through that really difficult first year. After that, something clicked and I started to feel comfortable in an educational setting," Hicks states.

He developed a passion for education as he rose through the administrative ranks, serving as endodontics department chairman and program director at Bethesda before being named dean of the Navy Postgraduate Dental School in 1987. Even after retiring from the Navy, Hicks couldn't stay away from the classroom. He accepted a position as chairman and director of the endodontics residency program at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, where he served for 12 years, along with an appointment as an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He came to the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) in 2005, first as a part-time clinical professor and now as a volunteer on the Dean's Faculty. At UMSOD, Hicks has enjoyed getting back to his educational roots by working closely with endodontic residents clinically. "One of our responsibilities as educators is to give back for what we have received over the years. I've had so much help along the way. This is my way of paying it back," says Hicks.

Working alongside residents helps Hicks stay up to date with the latest techniques, and advances in the science of the specialty, which have been critical to his success as an instructor. He believes it is also important for a dental educator to help students develop more than technical expertise. "I hope my students become lifelong learners and that they will seek out the new, the uncomfortable and the difficult, rather than just relying on what has been given to them during their training," Hicks says.

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