Whitlock, Boteler shine as School of Dentistry honorees
JACKSON, Miss. – They trained in different states, but their careers and desire to teach the next generation brought them together at the School of Dentistry on the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus.
Longtime friends Dr. Acie Whitlock and Dr. Bill Boteler of Madison were honored for their achievements and contributions by the school’s Dental Alumni Board. Whitlock (SOD ’86), a part-time clinical professor in the Department of Endodontics and the Department of Care Planning and Restorative Sciences and owner of Acie Whitlock Family Dentistry in Jackson, is the 2023 Dental Alumnus of the Year.
Boteler, a 1977 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry and an associate professor in Care Planning and Restorative Sciences, is the 2023 Distinguished Friend of the Year. The two were recognized by the Dental Alumni Board and dental community Jan. 27 during the annual Dental Alumni and Friends Awards Dinner.
“I had the honor of being taught by both in my tenure as a dental student,” said Dr. Alexa Lampkin, an assistant professor in Care Planning and Restorative Sciences and 2017 SOD graduate. She serves as president of the Dental Alumni Board.
“As professors, they took on the role of advocates for students by discerning their individual needs and moving effectively to provide resourceful information, recommendations or direction as they navigated many trials, which ultimately turned to triumphs,” she said.
“I am a living witness.”
“I didn’t feel deserving. I was pleasantly surprised,” Boteler said of his emotions when he got word of his selection. “And when they told me that Dr. Whitlock was being honored, I felt even more honored. He has been a blessing in my life.”
Boteler, Whitlock said, is “a fine man.”
When Lampkin called him to tell him of his honor, Whitlock was taken by surprise. “We serve on the Admissions Committee together. I thought she was calling because I forgot to do something on the committee,” he joked.
A native of Philadelphia, Miss., Whitlock graduated from Mississippi State University in 1977 with a degree in microbiology, then worked for five years at the Mississippi State Department of Health. But then, Whitlock said, his life took a turn.
After he’d risen in his work area as far as he could without a graduate degree, the MSDH lab’s assistant director at first told him he’d need to get a master’s degree. “But the next week, she said, ‘Have you ever thought about going to dental school?’” Whitlock remembered.
“I had not. I talked to the director of public health dentistry at MSDH (Dr. Rueben Warren), and from there, the rest is history,” Whitlock said. Warren, who went on to become dean of the Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry, a longtime public health expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and director of Tuskegee University’s National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care, became a significant mentor to Whitlock.
Whitlock completed a General Dentistry residency at the SOD following graduation, then joined the Department of Endodontics faculty in 1987. Five years later, “being a fairly new graduate, I thought I’d touch base with private practice,” Whitlock said.
But he’s continued as a part-time faculty member at the SOD since he left full-time service in 1991. His private practice office off Woodrow Wilson Avenue on the stadium circle is close enough for him to walk to the SOD on clinic days.
Teaching, Whitlock said, is “my déjà vu experience. It’s being able to work with students and instantly flash back to when I was a student, and what it took for me to learn. I can look at a student’s eyes and remember.”
In the SOD clinics, he creates many teachable moments. “I lead them into the answers,” he said. “I say, ‘I want you to think about this for five minutes, and I’ll be back. I leave them.
“And when I come back, if they’re still stumped on the answer, I’ll call some of their classmates over. Everybody learns at that point.”
His memories of his SOD student days include his class size. “It was the largest that ever graduated. here were 47 of us. For a long while they were just taking 25, and we’re just 40 now.
“The bulk of my teachers had previously been in a military career, and they still had that military demeanor,” Whitlock said. “It was different. They were very good clinicians and pretty strict, but we learned well from that.”
Raised in Raymond, Boteler graduated from Hinds Community College, then received his bachelor of science in chemistry from Mississippi College. Following graduation from dental school, he completed studies at the L.D. Pankey Institute of Advanced Dental Education in 1986.
Boteler earned Fellow designation from the Academy of General Dentistry and is a 2022 inductee in UMMC’s Nelson Order, an honor recognizing faculty in each of the Medical Center seven health profession schools.
While in private practice in the Jackson metro, Boteler said, he began volunteering at the SOD in 2008. “In 2009, I was hired part-time, and my hours increased as my health issues decreased,” he said. “In August 2016, I was hired full time.
“It’s been a blessing for me. I love working with our students,” he said. “I get to work with faculty, staff and students that I really deem the best society has to offer.”
Boteler is passionate about making the SOD a space that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion. He was one of the original four members of the SOD’s Admissions Board of Directors charged with attracting a faculty and student body that is inclusive and better reflects Mississippi’s demographics. The board was formed in 2021 by SOD Dean Dr. Sreenivas Koka and is led by Dr. Kristin Nalls, director of admissions and assistant dean of student affairs and inclusion.
Boteler in mid-January returned to the SOD after a sabbatical of sorts. He technically retired in May 2022, but asked to be rehired. “They were kind enough and flexible enough to work with me to do that,” Boteler said.
While many who retire say they finally get to spend their days doing exactly what they’d like, Boteler finds himself doing just that, even though he’s still working.