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Carol YakiwchukMARCEL VAN WOENSEL [B.Sc.(Dent.)/94, DMD/94, LLB/02]
Recipient of the UMDAA Alumni of Distinction Award

Dr. Marcel Van Woensel is a dentist of integrity, committed to engaging, upholding and advancing the profession.

A University of Manitoba alumnus in both dentistry and law, he is a past president of the Manitoba Dental Association (2007 to 2008), was a longstanding MDA board member, and served for nine years (2008 to 2017) as registrar of the organization.

He has contributed insight and guidance to students, dentists and countless provincial and national boards, committees, task forces, commissions, regulatory groups and advisory councils.

“Marcel is a man of humility, great patience and a firm commitment to both personal and professional ethics,” his award nominators wrote about him.

Van Woensel was born and still lives in the rural community of Swan Lake, Man., two hours southwest of Winnipeg. He has practised in the nearby town of Somerset since earning his dental degree in 1994. He pursued his law degree part-time while practising dentistry, receiving it in 2002.

He has served as a dedicated part-time instructor in the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry for the past 15 years. His teaching of dental jurisprudence imparts to fourth-year students a vital understanding of the relationship between dentistry, ethics and the legal system. 

Van Woensel has helped to advance the excellence of the college, participating as a member of the dean’s advisory council, the Centre for Community Oral Health advisory council and several other committees.

He has served on numerous committees that advise the Manitoba government. His national service has included roles with the Canadian Dental Regulatory Authorities Federation and the Dental Assisting Regulatory Authorities of Canada.

He is a fellow of the International College of Dentists and of the Pierre Fauchard Academy. In 2010 he received the MDA’s highest honour, the President’s Award of Merit.

Van Woensel’s profound sense of duty to the profession has inspired others and left an enduring mark on dentistry in Manitoba. He is a most worthy recipient of the 2018 Alumni of Distinction Award from the University of Manitoba Dental Alumni Association. 

Dr. Jean BodnarGAYLE HALAS [DIP.D.HYG./87, PhD/16]
Recipient of the UMSDHAA Alumni of Distinction Award

Dr. Gayle Halas has built upon her educational foundation in dental hygiene to become an outstanding health-care researcher, educator and leader.

Halas earned her diploma from the U of M School of Dental Hygiene in 1987. While practising as a clinical hygienist and raising her family, she completed a master of arts in integrated studies (specializing in educational studies) from Athabasca University via distance education.

For nine years, she served as a skilled and supportive part-time clinical instructor in the School of Dental Hygiene. In 2006, her career shifted when she became a research associate in the department of family medicine at the Max Rady College of Medicine.

In this role for the next 10 years, Halas grew increasingly passionate about primary health-care research. In 2016, she completed her PhD through the U of M’s individualized interdisciplinary program, with advising from the College of Nursing.
With a strong interest in patient education, rooted in her original training as a dental hygienist, she focused her doctoral research on patients’ engagement with educational health information.

Of more than 800 submissions to the North American Primary Care Research Group, her PhD thesis was recognized as one of three distinguished papers. This led to an invitation to present her paper to the Society for Academic Primary Care in England. 

In 2016, Halas was appointed assistant professor and research director in the department of family medicine. As part of this role, she leads the interdisciplinary Manitoba Primary and Integrated Health Care Innovation Network, which connects people, resources and opportunities for research and knowledge sharing.

“She has been an exemplary advocate for interdisciplinary practice,” her award nominator wrote about her. “Gayle exemplifies a professional who is patient-centred, caring, evidence-based and a critical thinker.”

Respected by her mentors, colleagues and students for her exceptional research and interpersonal skills, generosity of spirit and commitment to excellence, Halas is a most deserving recipient of the University of Manitoba School of Dental Hygiene Alumni Association 2018 Alumni of Distinction Award.