2023 Accolades



Head shot of Dr. Suman Challa.SUMAN N. CHALLA, BDS, MPH, associate professor, comprehensive dentistry, has been appointed as the interim chair of the Department of Developmental Dentistry. He will continue his roles as director of the dental public health residency program and associate dean of advanced education programs and strategic initiatives. Challa is a 2006 alumnus of the school’s dental public health program and has been on faculty since 2008.

Head shot of Professor de la Torre.MAGDA DE LA TORRE, MPH, RDH, clinical assistant professor, periodontics, has been appointed as the interim director of the Dental Hygiene Division. She has dedicated over 20 years of her career to education, and more than 35 as a dental professional. She is a recognized educator, honored for her teaching and leadership in health care organizations. Also an accomplished author, de la Torre specializes in areas such as behavioral health and cultural competency.

Head shot of Dr. Diogenes.ANIBAL DIOGENES, DDS, PHD, professor, endodontics, was appointed as interim chair of the Department of Endodontics. He has served the department as vice chair since 2019. After completing his endodontic residency at the School of Dentistry in 2009, he accepted a faculty position while also maintaining a robust research profile. Diogenes has been recognized for his teaching and research excellence locally, nationally and abroad.

Head shot of Dr. Farrell.JENNIFER R. FARRELL, DDS, has been named the inaugural director of the Phil and Karen Hunke Special Care Clinic within UT Dentistry. She moved to San Antonio from Chicago, where she provided for patients with special needs at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center for more than 28 years and directed the Special Patient Care Dental Program there for 13 years. Farrell is a diplomate of the Special Care Dentistry Association.

Head shot of Dr. Riccio Leach.ELENA RICCIO LEACH, DDS, MS, clinical assistant professor, comprehensive dentistry, was appointed to the position of director for the International Dentist Education Program in August 2023. She is also an alumna of the program, graduating from the School of Dentistry in 2016. Riccio has been on faculty since 2018, most recently appointed as an assistant general practice group leader overseeing the daily clinical activity of dental students.

Head shot of Dr. Stafford.SCOTT STAFFORD, DDS, MBA, FICD, was named interim chair of the Department of Comprehensive Dentistry. He has been on faculty since 2001. Stafford developed and has directed the Dental Practice Readiness Curriculum for the past 18 years, which teaches predoctoral dental students dental practice economics and management skills. Seven other dental schools are now using the curriculum. Stafford will continue his role as director of Continuing Dental Education. He is an alumnus of the class of 1996.

Head shot of Shan Zhao.SHAN ZHAO, MBA, FACHE, joined the school’s leadership team as the vice dean of finance and administration on March 1. Zhao brings more than 25 years of experience in health care finance and administration to the school.


Head shot of Tyler Childs.TYLER CHILDS, a third-year dental student, was appointed as a 2023 Presidential Ambassador Scholar by university President William L. Henrich, MD, MACP. Childs will represent School of Dentistry students and the university at official functions throughout the academic year.


Head shot Dr. Ojeda.DAVID OJEDA DIAZ, DDS, clinical assistant professor, comprehensive dentistry, received a 2023 Presidential Award in Teaching Excellence- Emerging for demonstrating emerging excellence and innovation in teaching and gaining regional and national recognition by making an educational impact in his field of oral medicine.


Head shot of Max Shaw.MAX SHAW, senior dental student, was awarded a scholarship from the International College of Dentists and the Washington University Dental Alumni Association Scholarship Program. Shaw is the third consecutive UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry student to be selected. Shaw has demonstrated his passion for global oral health through his active roles in organized dentistry and clinical volunteer work.


Residents MARY KATHERINE SPINELLA, DMD, MD; JASON P. JONES, DDS, MD; and MEGAN A. SULLIVAN, DMD, MD; and faculty members FELIX JOSE AMARISTA, DDS; and EDWARD ELLIS III, DDS, MS, in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, were awarded the 2023 Daniel M. Laskin Award for having the year’s most outstanding article published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. The article is titled “Most Facial Fractures Do Not Require Surgical Intervention.”


Head shot of Dr. Palaiologou.Head shot of Dr. Ruparel.ANGELA PALAIOLOGOU-GALLIS, DDS, MS, professor, periodontics, and NIKITA B. RUPAREL, DDS, PhD, MS, endodontics, were selected as the School of Dentistry’s 2023 Master Clinician Award recipients for consistently demonstrating in-depth knowledge in their fields of practice and providing compassionate high-quality patient care.

Head shot of Dr. Akopian.ARMEN AKOPIAN, PhD, professor, endodontics, was named the School of Dentistry’s 2023 Outstanding Research recipient due to his 27 years of exceptional pain research and multidisciplinary approach that includes electrophysiology, behavioral physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, biochemistry and cell biology.


Head shot of Dr. Hanlon.Head shot of Dr. Wright.Head shot of Dr. Nation.School of Dentistry faculty JOHN P. HANLON, DMD, clinical assistant professor, comprehensive dentistry; EDWARD F. WRIGHT, DDS, MS, professor, comprehensive dentistry; and HALEY L. NATION, PhD, associate professor/clinical in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, were named Professor of the Year by the dental classes of 2024, 2025 and 2026, respectively.


Head shot of Brandon Breard.Head shot of Thunayan.BRANDON BREARD, DDS, periodontics resident, was selected as the winner of the 2023 Southwest Society of Periodontists’ 2023 John F. Prichard Graduate Research Competition in the Basic Science category. MASHAEL AL THUNAYAN, DMD, fellow resident, also participated in the competition and was selected as one of six finalists.

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In the 2023 issue of Salute

Salute is the official magazine for the alumni and friends of the School of Dentistry at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Read and share inspiring stories highlighting our dental alumni, faculty and students who are revolutionizing education, research, patient care and critical services in the communities they serve.

View the 2023 issue

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