Edward J. Ireland, Jr., DDS, M.Ed., Professor in the Department of Comprehensive Dentistry, is the 2010 winner of the coveted Allen A. Copping Award, the highest honor in teaching given by the LSU Health Sciences Center. The purpose of the award is to recognize faculty members who are excellent teachers, demonstrate a lifelong quest for discovery and inspire their students.
“This is an unexpected thrill,” Dr. Ireland said, “the highlight of my 37 years of teaching.”
Dr. Ireland started teaching at the dental school in 1973, one year after its first class had graduated. In all that time, his enthusiasm has not waned. What he enjoys most is finding students who can outperform the teacher. “That’s what I call the ‘wow moments,’” he said, “when students produce an especially beautiful piece of work and then go on to do that consistently, so you know they will be a blessing for the profession when they start to practice.”
Taking time to be an effective mentor is also a big component of teaching. “So much of what we have to give our students is unspoken,” he said. “As a role model, there are many unplanned ways to impact the student, many by observation…how to work with patients, how to deal with their problems.”
Dr. Ireland’s love of dentistry comes from a lifetime of satisfaction in dealing with patient problems. “So often, there’s instant gratification in being a dentist,” he said. “It’s a wonderful to relieve pain and suffering, to restore the person’s dentition and ability to eat, smile, and be comfortable. The benefits of dentistry can be seen so quickly.”
Dr. Thomas Spranley, his colleague for the last 24 years, said that Dr. Ireland has had a significant impact on students. “Many students light up when they see him. He is exacting and he wants everything the way it’s supposed to be. He’s shaped the lives of a lot of people, some in fantastic ways.”
The award is named after Dr. Copping, a former dean of LSUSD who went on to become chancellor of LSUHSC and president of the LSU System. It is awarded each year during commencement exercises for LSUHSC.