Pam Hanson Scholarship: Honoring a Compassionate Leader
Pam Hanson was someone you couldn't forget.
Her buoyant optimism touched everyone in her orbit. She made a difference
not only through her inclusive, compassionate leadership over nearly 30
years in Kirkwood's dental programs, but also in her caring support and
mentoring of colleagues, students, friends, and family. At the end of each
email, she added Life is short - smile often.
Even through 13 years of ongoing, debilitating treatment for breast cancer,
Pam rarely missed work and kept strong her upbeat attitude. But in October
2018 she passed away, leaving a void that those around her still feel.
So, what better way to honor Pam than through an endowed scholarship in her
name for students in Kirkwood's Dental Assisting program. Thanks to her
colleagues Shaunda Clark, Dental Hygiene program director, and Kristee
Malmberg, Dental Assisting program director, that remarkable effort planted
a seed that quickly grew.
It requires $15,000 to endow a scholarship. The scholarship in Pam's name
drew contributions throughout 2019 from nearly 100 sources, thanks to
outreach by the two dental programs working with the Kirkwood Foundation.
In less than a year, the effort raised $16,345, setting a record for the
most funds raised by faculty for a scholarship at Kirkwood.
Contributions came from alumni, current and retired Kirkwood dental
faculty, Kirkwood dental advisory committee members, the University of Iowa
dental office, local dental offices, current and retired dentists, dental
vendors and partners, and Pam's family and friends.
"We're trailblazers," Kristee says, smiling. "We're the first faculty
department to raise more than the goal in less than a year. It was so
inspirational. I know Pam is looking down from somewhere. She'd be
Pam's scholarship will perpetuate her legacy, providing key support for
Kirkwood Dental Assisting students. The first scholarships will be awarded
to students in fall 2021.
Shaunda and Kristee's bond with Pam ran deep. Shaunda and Pam started
working together in 1997. Kristee and Pam were classmates in Kirkwood's
dental program, graduating in 1977. From there, Pam completed her Master's
degree in Dentistry at the University of Iowa's College of Dentistry and
worked there. Kristee worked at the Veterans Administration Medical Center.
They reconnected working in Iowa City years later and worked to establish a
VA Dental Clinic/Kirkwood connection enabling Kirkwood dental students to
rotate through clinical experiences.
"She did a lot of work behind the scenes with student involvement," Kristee
recalls. Kristee became an adjunct and then full-time faculty member at
Kirkwood. During Pam's medical leave and retirement, Kristee was interim
and then full-time director of the Dental Assisting program.
"Pam was such a compassionate person and always an advocate for the
underdog," Kristee says. "She was always positive."
Through Pam and those she mentored, Kirkwood's dental programs have made
remarkable connections within the community and gained respect for their
training. And, Shaunda added, the two programs work seamlessly together, a
partnership that is unique among dental programs.
"Sometimes we have to set aside our personal needs to get things done,"
Shaunda says. "Pam taught me how to understand the other side in any
Pam modeled that approach in working with peers as well as students. She
also stressed the importance of teaching students how to work to
learn key concepts and practices, Shaunda notes, pointing to a sign on her
desk that Pam gave her:
The best teachers show you where to look but don't tell you what to
Professionals in the community respect Kirkwood's dental programs and hire
its graduates because they know the training is solid. That's something on
which Pam, Shaunda, and Kristee agreed.