Mother and Daughter Weathered Isolation Together

Linda and Leila Seabaugh made the best of their months away from the School of Dentistry, and they did it under the same roof. Linda, DDS ’88, teaches mainly in clinic and the pre-clinical lab. Her daughter Leila, DDS Class of 2023, is wrapping up her first year as a dental student.

For Linda Seabaugh, it was good to have time to work on continuing education and faculty development courses, and to complete the UMKC Faculty Online Certification, which she will need for teaching a lecture course in the fall.

“The last two months have been very productive, but working in the same space day after day gets old! I really, really missed my colleagues and students,” she said. “I knew I would, but I didn’t know HOW MUCH I would miss them. Generally speaking, I am challenged by almost all technology, so I’m very happy that I have been able to learn Zoom and other online technology without too much difficulty.”

For Leila Seabaugh, living at home had its advantages, including an in-house faculty member who could answer some of her questions. Having more control of her schedule was a mixed matter – allowing her to spend more time on what she thought was important, but missing the discipline of having to show up in person for lecture classes. There were outright disadvantages, too, from a power outage and occasionally shaky Internet service to her father’s not-so-quiet workshop.

“My family isn’t too noisy for the most part,” she said. “But my dad’s workshop is right below my room and I don’t think he realizes how much the sound travels. So during a final I was trying to stomp on the floor to tell him, Hey, I’m taking a test.”
Returning to the pre-clinical lab last week was challenging, too. “I knew I would be rusty, but procedures that I thought I was getting better at before quarantine were significantly harder and looked way worse than they did before we left. The pre-clinical lab is great, though, and it’s nice to get an idea of what it’s going to be like to work on real patients and start practicing that already.”

Now, mother and daughter are looking forward to the fall semester, though they aren’t sure yet exactly how classes will be offered, whether online or as hybrids. And they won’t have quite the togetherness, as Leila and her sister, who will be starting at the UMKC School of Law, just moved into a rental house with another roommate.

Graduation brings Class of 2020 together online

The nearly 150 members of the UMKC School of Dentistry Class of 2020 received their degrees Friday evening with online pomp and circumstance.
Messages from the chancellor, provost, class presidents, dean and alumni offered congratulations, praise and encouragement. A baker’s dozen advanced students received their doctorates, master’s degrees and specialty certificates, followed by 104 doctors of dental surgery and 29 bachelors of dental hygiene. A special ceremony inducted three of the dental graduates into the U.S. military dental corps. And two students and two faculty members received special awards.

The word “unprecedented” came up several times, given the necessity to make it an online event as a safeguard against spread of the coronavirus. It was a graduation ceremony with everything except the crowd.

A Zoom chat room before the 7 p.m. event gave students a chance to connect with one another and with the dean, faculty and staff. Then a UMKC Conservatory student, Anthony Varner, sang “The Star Spangled Banner” to open the official ceremony.

Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal offered congratulations and said the Class of 2020 had “proven your ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances and to excel.” Provost Jennifer Lundgren and David Suchman, DDS 2000, followed with brief remarks.

Dean Marsha A. Pyle spoke movingly of the Class of 2020’s challenges and accomplishments, and she thanked faculty members for answering their call to “teach, mentor, stretch and support” the students.

“This is a night for looking forward as we have all been through the darkest of days in the last two months,” Dean Pyle said. “This evening you emerge with your mission accomplished, wiser for your efforts, your study, your hard work and motivation; wiser and more resilient because there was no other choice.

“I am so proud of you! We have learned so much about each other in the last two months. We have learned of your struggles to finish, your motivation to get it done, anxiety about if and when today would happen, in addition to the additional personal challenges many of you faced.

“It took courage and courageous leadership. Your advocacy and collaborations for the benefit of each other has been noticed. Well done!”

Dean Pyle also gave out her awards for academic distinction, for being first in their class, to Matt Bryant, DDS, and KeShawnda Frisby, BSDH.

The class presidents gave remarks in addition to presenting awards for the faculty members their classmates voted as having the greatest influence on them.

The DH class president, Abbey Hartley, said she was so proud of her dental hygiene classmates’ positivity and adaptation, and she thanked their DDS classmates for their advice and camaraderie. Of the many great faculty members who received votes, she said, Ashley Ryan (BSDH ’16) came out on top. Ryan, who served in the U.S. Marines and joined the faculty as a clinical adjunct instructor, is a great motivator, Hartley said, and always showed the class how to care and be strong.

Fred Drummond, DDS class president, had the joke of the evening. Being a dental student, he said, he had to take this last opportunity to complain: The online ceremony had removed his last chance to avoid having to address everyone at graduation.

Then Drummond summoned the memory and spirit of Dr. Jake McGuire, DDS, PHD, the beloved faculty member who passed away in October 2018, with his quotation: “I am only a reflection of the many mentors I have had throughout the years.” Drummond said his classmates benefited from Dr. McGuire and many other faculty mentors through their strength, compassion and resilience.

Like Hartley, Drummond said his classmates had voted for several outstanding faculty members, reflecting strength throughout the program. In the end, he said, Dr. Connie White was the winner. Drummond said his classmates noted her national leadership in dentistry and her many contributions at the School of Dentistry. Quoting a classmate, Drummond said, “She’s really just the most phenomenal human.”

Dean Pyle then introduced the conferring of degrees, and each student and his or her accomplishments read as their portrait was shown. If a student submitted photos and remarks, those also were displayed, giving classmates and family another chance to see and celebrate the graduates.

A special ceremony, captured on videotape, also was shown for the three Class of 2020 students entering the Army or Navy dental corps: Drummond and Dylan Love, as captains in the U.S. Army, and Michael Smith, as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy.

Dean Pyle and Chancellor Agrawal wrapped up the ceremony, along with words from Dr. Nick Rogers, DDS ’78, who welcomed the school’s newest alumni by encouraging them to be kind, compassionate and involved, and to form relationships with everyone along their way.

Find a recording of the event on the UMKC Commencement page or a direct link to the School of Dentistry ceremony here.

Lifting spirits with songs – and safety equipment

Making masks and making music may not have much in common, but they’re both in a day’s activities for Erin Gilmore, known around the School of Dentistry as a multi-talented, can-do senior technical support assistant.

“I had watched my friends and colleagues using their seamstress skills to create facemasks and other PPE for front line workers and I was amazed,” Gilmore said. “I am a beginning seamstress, but I thought I would try to just make some for my family. After talking with other close friends and family I realized they didn’t have any either, including my parents. So I started making masks. It relit my love of sewing and I have been working on other projects.”

Gilmore also gives music lessons, performs at her church and is working on a second master’s degree in music. The stay-at-home restrictions of recent weeks have made her adapt how she does all that, but she has adjusted to the challenges.

“Unlike some lecture classes, my music lessons rely on direct feedback,” she said, and the half-second delays common online make that difficult. “To combat the delay, I send weekly recordings of scales and music for my students to practice with. Then when we ‘meet’ they sing along to the track or they sing it a cappella, which allows me to listen and fix issues.”

Delays aren’t a problem for her church work, though, as music can be assembled in advance for the services, which are online.

“I am lucky to have a paying church gig, and I have been able to record weekly solos and hymns in my little recording setup,” she said. “I get the recording/accompaniment from my pianist, I record with that track in my ear, and then I send a video to our music director, who puts them together into a video so we sync up. It has been going really well!”

All the while, Gilmore has been doing as much work as possible from home for the School of Dentistry. At the school, she administers ExamSoft testing, does software support and helps with academic and administrative graphics projects from scientific posters to photography.

Students help KC Pet Project in stressful time

While working and studying from home, Chad Phillips (DDS 2021), his girlfriend and his roommate decided to become a foster home for the KC Pet Project. They have helped one dog, Bingo, find a forever home and are hoping to do the same for their current foster pet, Nella Bean.

“My girlfriend researches for a biotech company called Likarda, which works really closely with KC Pet Project,” said Phillips. “Likarda’s president sent out an email in March to the team mentioning how KCPP was in need of emergency fosters. We decided this was the perfect way to help the community during our ‘down time’ from school.”

Phillips and his girlfriend both had family dogs growing up and had been doing quite a bit of pet-sitting in the past year, so they were happy to take in Bingo, who was adopted by two UMKC undergraduates.

“The KC Pet Project was working really hard to put all of their shelter pets into foster homes, with the goal of minimizing traffic and workers at the facility,” Phillips said. “Bingo found his forever home after only about a week. It felt great to find him a home so quickly, especially considering he was scheduled to be euthanized at another shelter just days before we got him. It was very hard to say goodbye to him. He was definitely almost a foster-fail!”

The KC Pet Project was able to place all of its adoptable pets into foster homes early in the area’s stay-at-home weeks, something that had never happened before. However, the initial demand for adoptions has slowed somewhat, and the shelter now has more pets to place.

To help with that effort, the three of them now have a second foster dog, Nella Bean, and they’re hoping she can find a home soon. Her profile is here.

“Since we are both busy with graduate school, we have just wanted to live vicariously through other pet owners and through fostering until we feel we are ready to have one ourselves,” Phillips said. “All three of us are moving to new places in June, so we are trying to either get Nella Bean adopted or find her a new foster home by then. Because of the moves and life getting busy again, we will not be taking in another foster, but we will likely do it again in the future and highly recommend it to anyone else!”

Anyone interested in adopting Nella Bean or serving as a new foster home for her can email the KC Pet Project at And more pets available through the project are here.

Celebrating National Prosthodontics Awareness Week-April 19-25

The American College of Prosthodontists (ACP) has secured a national proclamation for one week every April to be celebrated as National Prosthodontics Awareness Week (NPAW). This year NPAW is April 19-25. Learn more about prosthodontists and what they do at the link .  You are invited to like, share and subscribe to the channel.

The intent of NPAW is to promote awareness to the public about the specialty of prosthodontics and to promote the specialty to potential future dentists who may consider this career path. The state of Missouri has a section of the ACP and almost all the prosthodontists (approx. 10) faculty at UMKC are members of the local section and the ACP. The ACP invites you to join colleagues across the country, and the world, in celebrating NPAW with your network. Your efforts and enthusiasm will enhance visibility of the specialty of prosthodontics and position prosthodontists as leaders in the dental industry!

Groceries for a Good Cause

Dentistry staff member continues food pantry contributions during COVID

With the new work-from-home reality settling in, School of Dentistry staff member Della Damon saw an opportunity related to no longer commuting. Damon, who is the finance and accounting manager at the school, decided to use money she would’ve spent on gas driving to work to support the food pantry at her local church.

According to Damon, local shelter-in-place orders have not stopped the important work that Connection Point Church is doing for the Raytown community. And she is happy to do her part.

“When you’re trapped at home, it’s easy to feel like you can’t do anything,” said Damon. “But just buying some groceries can even feel like you’re making a difference.”

Though she does admit that the logistics have gotten a bit more involved. “Before all of this, we’d just bring food donations to church each Sunday. Now to limit contact, we’ve got very specific directions for dropping off the food.”

That includes encouraging curbside drop-off. Each Monday around midday, Damon drives to the church and gets in the pantry’s drop-off line. With the groceries pre-bagged and organized in her trunk, she stays in her car and pops the door so a volunteer can remove them and take them to the pantry. Like many in the area, Damon’s church utilizes curbside pick-up to distribute food. The demand for the pantry is obvious when pick up day comes around each Tuesday – the line of cars frequently snakes around the church and well down the street.

Damon welcomes the food pantry’s changes – and appreciates she has the ability to keep giving back. “I have a feeling that there are probably a number of places that are changing up how they’re doing their donations,” she said. “There’s value in dropping items off with minimal contact.”

But she admits it’s an eerie experience. “First of all, it’s just weird seeing the church’s parking lot completely empty,” she said. “But when I get to that drop off line, I think, wow, this is really cool.”

The limited contact has affected a number of her connections to the church, including choir rehearsals, which are now on Zoom “just so we don’t get rusty,” she said. “It was a bit bumpy early on, but now we’ve got as many 30-40 people singing along.”

It’s connecting with people that helps Damon through this time and giving to the pantry is one of her more meaningful connections.

“I would encourage everyone who is able to support the UMKC Roo Food Pantry or another local food pantry during this time,” said Damon “It is truly a blessing for both the giver and the receiver.

Two Alumni Honored by ADA’s “10 Under 10” List of Rising Stars

Two School of Dentistry alumni have made the 2020 American Dental Association 10 Under 10 list, which honors rising star dentists for career excellence in their first decade after graduation.

The alumni – Dr. Ashley Popejoy, DDS ’12, and Dr. Nathan Suter, DDS ’13 – both have improved access to dental care for underserved populations in Missouri. They also have assisted UMKC students with their externships at federally qualified health centers.

“Outstanding young alumni such as Dr. Popejoy and Dr. Suter continue to make us proud,” said Dean Marsha J. Pyle. “They exemplify our commitment to service and excellent patient care. Their inclusion also makes us the only school to have two alumni among the 10 on this year’s list.”

Dr. Popejoy is director of pediatric dentistry at the Jordan Valley Community Health Center in Springfield, which often provides care for people who are least able to afford it. Besides providing care, she manages staff at the clinic and develops its training protocols.

“I am truly honored and believe the entire field of contenders is made up of amazing dentists who have accomplished great things in their short careers,” Dr. Popejoy said. “I am thankful to be part of a profession and an organization where I can truly take care of individuals who wouldn’t otherwise be able to receive the care they need.”

Dr. Popejoy, who lives in Nixa, Missouri, also is a board member and co-chair of programs for the Greater Springfield Dental Society and clinical director of Special Smiles for Special Olympics of Missouri.

Dr. Suter, who lives in Kirkwood, Missouri, has done pioneering work in teledentistry to expand the availability of dental care. Before establishing his own private practice, he was dental director at the federally qualified clinic in Jefferson County, and he also is the CEO of his consulting company, Access Teledentistry.

Dr. Suter partnered with the Missouri Dental Association in 2016 on teledentistry legislation and started a pilot teledentistry program in 2017. He has developed more than $2.8 million in grant projects to extend care to more than 9,500 underserved Missourians each year. Dr. Suter also is chairman of the Missouri Coalition for Oral Health and has received the MDA 2019 Dentist of the Year award and the Dr. David Whiston Leadership Award.

At the Missouri Dental Association, Foundation and Outreach Director Paul Roberts said, “The entire MDA membership is proud of the well-deserved honor Drs. Ashley Popejoy and Nathan Suter received. In addition to both of them having active practice lives and young families, I have had the pleasure of watching firsthand their contributions to organized dentistry. From presenting on topics of their passion and expertise at various gatherings to providing leadership at the state and local level, these two dentists are exemplary role models and we gladly cheer their achievements.”