Dr. Royce Montgomery, visiting lecturer at the ECU School of Dental Medicine and anatomist extraordinaire, received a Living Legend Award from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine during the 38thAnnual Zollicoffer-Merrimon Banquet at the Carolina Club in Chapel Hill February 8, 2019.
The Zollicoffer Living Legend Award was established in 2012 by Dr. Michael Zollicoffer to recognize the dedication of faculty, staff, physicians, educators, mentors, and community members who have made lasting impacts on the lives of students and communities.
Award honorees are recognized as change-agents in their community. Nominated by the staff of the UNC School of Medicine’s Office of Special Programs’ Medical Education Development (MED) Program, Montgomery was selected for the award in honor of his passion for and dedication to teaching and mentoring medical students over a 50-year career at UNC.
Montgomery taught over 7,000 students in both the medical and dental schools at UNC-Chapel Hill over the course of his career, as well as directed the school’s MED anatomy course from its inception in 1974 to his retirement in 2013. He has also been a guest lecturer in the foundational biological sciences at the ECU School of Dental Medicine for the past three years, instructing beginning dental students in their first and second terms on basic head and neck anatomy.
Dr. Todd Watkins, the ECU dental school’s assistant dean for dental education and informatics, was a student of Montgomery’s in the 1980s.
“Royce Montgomery had a profound impact on my life,” Watkins said. “Yes, he taught me gross anatomy in dental school, but, more importantly, he was a tenacious partner in making me want to be a dental educator. He demanded that his students strove to understand the content instead of settling for passing tests.”
The two spent countless hours together, Watkins added, making precise cross-sections through human brains to build one of the first 3-D wireframes of human neuroanatomy using AutoCAD 1.0 in 1986. Watkins won awards for that research. Their project was the first American Dental Association table clinic with computers; that project led Watkins to his first teaching job after dental school, and Watkins credits Montgomery for building the foundation for everything he achieved thereafter.
“Royce once told me, ‘Son, people don’t come by knowledge easily. Learn it to the level that you can teach it to others.’ I have tried to meet that challenge and have been incredibly fortunate to have been mentored by this living legend. Most importantly, I am proud to have him as a friend and colleague. Nobody deserves this honor more.”
Montgomery has been recognized by UNC-Chapel Hill on at least 14 prior occasions for excellence in teaching. He devotes time and financial support to fundraising campaigns for the MED Program. The staff of MED looks forward each summer to his annual “History of Anatomy” lecture to begin the gross anatomy course. He also continues to reach the next generation of learners. He has guest lectured for visiting school groups from across the state and a host of other medical and dental groups and organizations all of whom benefit from this legendary lecturer and enthusiastic educator.
Dr. Alvin “Rocky” Underwood, clinical assistant professor of endodontics at ECU, was a student at the UNC School of Dentistry in the 1970s, and he remembers well the classes taught by Montgomery.
“It has been 44 years since I was his student,” Underwood said. “He is a legend among many generations of dental and medical students. Our students are extremely fortunate to have him as their gross anatomy instructor.”
In a letter of support for Dr. Montgomery’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Medical Education from the UNC medical school in 2009, Dr. Kurt Gilliland, associate professor of cell biology and physiology at UNC, wrote the following:
“Dr. Montgomery’s teaching has been recognized on many occasions, as evidenced by 13 teaching awards. In 1994, The News and Observer featured Dr. Montgomery with a full-page article and photograph series, entitled ‘Montgomery’s Ward.’ The article chronicled his storied career and fame throughout North Carolina as an educator. The current first-year medical class has embraced Dr. Montgomery, his dissection prowess, and his quick wit by including his picture on their class t-shirt. Furthermore, the students ended their class ‘Structure and Development’ with a humorous dialog on the course forum entitled ‘Montgomery-isms.’ The 74 comments (with 2274 views) indicate the students’ infatuation with his knowledge, laboratory ability, and entertaining examination reviews.
In addition to numerous scholarly publications, Dr. Montgomery has also co-authored 17 textbooks or review books of gross anatomy. Behind the scenes, he has served on numerous curriculum committees and has mentored many faculty members as they begin their careers in medical education. The students probably do not realize that faculty members strategically position themselves in the laboratory next to Dr. Montgomery so that they can learn from him while they teach the students.
Whenever I have an opportunity, I enjoy sitting down with Dr. Montgomery for a cup of coffee. His stories of funny students, his experience with unusual cadavers, and his institutional memory of the UNC School of Medicine are both amazing and impressive.”