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Image combining headshots of Kellie Watson and Dr. Aaron Kim.

Dental hygiene alumna Kellie Watson (L) and dentistry alumnus Dr. Aaron Kim will receive awards on Sept. 22.

Distinguished UM alumni to be honoured by dental hygiene, dentistry peers

August 31, 2023 — 

Two distinguished UM alumni – a dental hygienist who has worked tirelessly to advance the profession and a dentistry professor who leads humanitarian dental missions – will be honoured by their peers at a gala on Homecoming weekend.

At the annual Alumni of Distinction Awards Evening at the Fort Garry Hotel on Sept. 22, Kellie Watson will receive the Alumni of Distinction Award from the UM School of Dental Hygiene Alumni Association.

Dr. Aaron Kim will be recognized with the Alumni of Distinction Award from the UM Dental Alumni Association.


Kim, associate professor of restorative dentistry at the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry and practising dentist at Sturgeon Creek Dental, immigrated to Canada from South Korea as a teenager.

After earning a bachelor of science at UM in 1982, he completed his doctor of dental medicine degree at UM in 1987 and soon returned to the dental college as a part-time instructor. He joined the full-time faculty in 2011 and is the former associate dean (clinics) at the college. He is a fellow of the International College of Dentists (ICD), recognizing that he has brought honour to the profession.

In 2002, Kim organized a humanitarian dental mission to Zambia. He has returned to Africa three times, screening and treating more than 1,000 children per trip, and has extended his philanthropic dental care and education work to Zimbabwe.

On his trips, he takes along a team of about 10 Winnipeg dentists and non-dental volunteers who pay their own way. In addition, he has made eight solo trips to provide care in Guatemala. He has led the establishment of dental clinics in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Guatemala, supported by funding from the ICD and his Winnipeg church.

In Winnipeg, he recently organized a partnership between 40 local dentists, support staff and dental students and the Access NorWest Co-op Community Health Clinic to provide free care for people in need.

Last year, Kim was honoured with the Manitoba Dental Association’s inaugural Lyle Best Humanitarian Award.

“Dr. Kim continues to give the best of himself,” wrote one of his nominators for the Alumni of Distinction Award, calling him “a visionary with a determined spirit.”


Watson, who grew up in Winnipeg, earned her diploma from the UM School of Dental Hygiene in 1995. Ten years later, she completed her master’s of business administration at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) and went on to hold a management role with the Saskatoon Health Region.

In 2007, Watson returned to Winnipeg and became the inaugural registrar and executive director of the College of Dental Hygienists of Manitoba. With dental hygiene then a newly self-regulating profession, she built the college from the ground up, developing policies, procedures and systems. She also joined the teaching faculty at the School of Dental Hygiene.

In 2011, Watson was hired as registrar and CEO of the Saskatchewan Dental Hygienists Association, a position she held for eight years. Her accomplishments there included advocating to improve access to oral health care and working with the province to revise outdated oral health professions legislation.

Her many other leadership roles have included chairing the Saskatchewan Oral Health Coalition and serving as president of the National Dental Hygiene Certification Board.

After teaching as a clinical instructor at USask, Watson joined the faculty full time in 2020 as assistant dean of the dental assisting program. The next phase in her career will see her working for the Saskatchewan Health Authority to improve oral care for residents of long-term care homes.

Watson’s award nominators wrote about her, “Her background in clinical client care, coupled with her experience as an administrator, leader and educator, demonstrates the breadth of her knowledge and expertise.… [She] has brought distinction and honour to the profession of dental hygiene.”

Tickets for the Sept. 22 Alumni of Distinction Awards Evening at the Fort Garry Hotel, honouring Kim and Watson, can be purchased through the UM Dental Alumni Association website. The event will also pay tribute to the Classes of 1973 and 1971. 

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