Skip to content

Passing Our Thanks On


Today is a day for giving thanks. Americans celebrate Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday of every November (Canadians in October), but it’s a good reminder that all of us, no matter where we live, have a lot to be thankful for. We offer thanks for the many blessings we have been given. We can also thank the people in our lives who have helped us in ways big and small, and had a hand in making us the people we are. 

One man – Dr. Richard Simms – has come up with a way to demonstrate his thanks to a former teacher in a concrete way, and pay it forward. 

Simms, a dentist practicing in Harbor City California who has been very involved with the American Dental Association, has created and endowed an award that recognizes and encourages dental student programs serving underserved populations outside of the US. The name of the award? The American Dental Association’s Thomas J. Zwemer Award.  Simms created the award in honor of his mentor and longtime friend, Dr. Zwemer. 

Regular readers of the Spectrum blog will recognize the name!

Simms was one of Zwemer’s graduate students at Loma Linda University.

“I always wanted to express my appreciation to Tom Zwemer for accepting me for the 1961 class and for my excellent orthodontic training,” Simms said. “He was/is a wonderful man and teacher. The Foundation gave me unexpectedly the perfect means of saying thank you, as in many instances the words thank you don’t express the depth of one’s true feelings.”

Zwemer is now vice president emeritus of academic affairs and professor emeritus of orthodontics at the Medical College of Georgia.

The $5,000 award is in his name is making  difference.

The first annual award was given to the Stony Brook project. A team of dental students and faculty from the Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine in New York travel to Madagascar each summer to provide dental care to hundreds in remote villages. The Zwemer award will fund a student to go on the trip.

Dr. Laurence Wynn, a Stony Brook University clinical associate professor and project adviser, feels that earning the Zwemer award will be seminal for Stony Brook students. “Hopefully receiving this award will stimulate other schools to do volunteer outreach missions as well,” he said. “The things we do for ourselves die with us; the things we do for others live on.”

For more information about the Zwemer Award, visit the American Dental Association Foundation website.

Information and image (Haley Zamer, a second-year dental student, uses a typodont to instruct village children on proper brushing techniques) from the American Dental Association News.


Subscribe to our newsletter
Spectrum Newsletter: The latest Adventist news at your fingertips.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.