Alabama Dental Association annual meeting in Orange Beach, Ala.Hearn received the award, Alabama’s highest dental professional honor, on June 14, 2013, at the
“The recipient of the Fuller Award is someone who has made outstanding contributions to the dental profession, and Dr. Hearn is certainly deserving of this honor,” said Carol Merkle, D.M.D., president of the alumni association. “He epitomizes the standard of excellence for which the UAB School of Dentistry is known; and his dedication to the school, to organized dentistry and to his patients were key factors in his selection for this award. I can think of none more deserving than Joel."
Hearn, a native of Tuscaloosa and 1972 graduate of the school, was honored for his significant contributions to the School of Dentistry. He is chair of the UAB Dentistry Leadership Council and is chair of the Excellence for Endodontics Campaign for the school.
“The Fuller Award means a great deal to me,” Hearn said. “My mentor, Dr. Luther Hughes, was a past recipient. I also had the honor to present the award to two other mentors, Drs. David Greer and Mario Martinez. I am really surprised to receive it. It's humbling, flattering and overwhelming.
“I'm grateful to the committee for honoring me with this prestigious award. Dentistry is a great profession and very rewarding. The most satisfying part comes from interacting with the people, whether they're patients, dental colleagues or our students. And, the School of Dentistry is very near and dear to me. It really is a labor of love.”
In 2012, Hearn received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the school, and he was president of the UAB School of Dentistry Alumni Association in 1992. Hearn also is an American College of Dentists Fellow, International College of Dentists Fellow, Pierre Fauchard Academy Fellow, and he received the Alabama Dental Association’s Most Excellent Fellow Designation in 1997. He was president of the Alabama Dental Association for 2005-2006.
The Fuller Award is named for Dr. Moren H. Fuller, of Centerville, Ala., one of the first members of the school of dentistry advisory board. Fuller was not well known by his Alabama colleagues but was highly respected by his community, which earned him his spot on the board. He spent a lot of time at the school during its early years. Many of the first students were World War II veterans with impeccable credentials to enter dental school, but they could not to find a spot in out-of-state universities. Because of his day-to-day involvement with the school from the beginning, the students saw Fuller as their personal benefactor, and the Dental Alumni Association chose to honor Fuller and make the award his namesake. In 1955, Fuller was the first recipient of the award.