Annual Program Honors Scholarship Donors and Recipients

The UMKC School of Dentistry held its annual Scholarship Recognition Program on Monday evening September 28, 2020. This year, the event went virtual and instead of the traditional dinner we were able to include a special treat in the mail for everyone instead! Interim Dean Russell Melchert welcomed the participants and shared a summary of the exceptional support provided for our students. This year we supported 176 students totaling $846,550.50. This is an incredible amount especially during a period of much market instability. Further program comments came from the following individuals:

Dr. David Suchman, Rinehart Chair
“Some of us tonight are receiving well deserved help and some of us are giving back. Those of you giving back, I thank you on behalf of the School of Dentistry and the students. For the honored students, congratulations and of course your time will come to also support those that have helped you get where you are.”

Marissa Soule, Dental Hygiene Student Representative
 “…I don’t just want to talk about how this impacted my future, I want to talk about how this scholarship impacted my family’s future. The financial support has not only allowed me to go to college, but my mom as well. It has assisted my whole family and given us all the opportunity to have a successful career…THANK YOU for your support of my future and my families future.”

Katie Hayes Dental Student Representative
 “…Your generous contributions allow us to focus on our studies more than our financial situations. For me, scholarships provided the financial security to focus on my studies and get involved outside the classroom…In the midst of a pandemic it means the world to receive such strong support…THANK YOU.”

Donors and students where then provided instructions by Richard Bigham, Assistant Dean for Student Programs, regarding breakout rooms for more personal conversations. This was the most important aspect of the program and provided a great opportunity for new connections, learning about student experiences and future goals, sharing of experiences from donors, and passing on the spirit of giving back. At the conclusion of the program it was great to see the excitement and camaraderie of the alumni and friends as they reconnected…all in a virtual platform.

Welcome Dean Melchert!

Russell Melchert, Ph.D., the new interim dean of the School of Dentistry, said he was honored to serve the school untill a permanent replacement is found for Dean Marsha Pyle, who retired Sept. 1.

 
“The School of Dentistry has been a prominent part of my life for decades,” said Melchert, who has been dean of the School of Pharmacy since 2010. “Not only have I received dental care from faculty for the 10 years I have been at UMKC, but UMKC alumni cared for me for a good part of my life growing up in western Kansas. So, I have had a tremendous amount of respect for the school.”

Melchert said his regard for the school grew even stronger in the past five years while he has taught the Pharmacology and Therapeutics 1 course in the dental program.

“Through that experience, and my involvement with interprofessional education efforts, I quickly grew a great appreciation and tremendous amount of respect for the outstanding students in the school,” he said. “They have taught me a lot and will continue to do so, no doubt.”

Before coming to UMKC, Melchert was a professor and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Arkansas. He earned his B.S. in pharmacy and Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences from the University of Oklahoma and was a National Institute of Environmental Health post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Texas.

“The School of Dentistry is so important to UMKC, to the UM System, to the state of Missouri and region from many different aspects,” he said. “As the state’s only publicly supported dental program, our mission of educating future dentists, hygienists, specialists, and scientists is all the more critical.”

Melchert is well known in academic circles. He is the immediate past chair of the Council of Deans of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. His research has been financed by the Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health, and he has published many scholarly works in pharmacology, toxicology and pharmacy education. He has received more than 20 awards from students for his teaching in pharmacology.

Speaking of students, Melchert and his wife of 31 years, Stephanie, are very proud of their two UMKC Roo children: Philip, who graduated with his Pharm.D. in 2020, and Sarah, who is a senior student in the School of Education studying elementary education.

“I very much look forward to getting to know the students, staff and faculty much better,” Melchert said, “and to continuing my efforts at being a good partner, friend, and great advocate for the school.”

The Dean Pyle era: Achievement, caring, focus, gratitude

With Dr. Marsha Pyle, encounters often start and end with expressions of gratitude — for opportunities and the resulting accomplishments, and for professional relationships and personal friendships.

And so it is with her nearly 12-year tenure as dean of the UMKC School of Dentistry, which came to a close Sept. 1. When she arrived in 2009, Pyle said, the school had a well-earned reputation for strong clinical training, “and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I had to keep that tradition going and build on it at UMKC.”

Pyle said a year ago that she would be stepping down this fall as dean. That announcement came shortly after a signature achievement for the school, the opening of its state-of-the-art Pre-clinic Lab.

“Our facility (the lab) was 50 years old and really needed updating,” Pyle said. “Now, it’s spectacular, providing an ergonomically correct, realistic simulation for students before they move on to treating patients. It has the technologically advanced equipment they’re going to see in their practices.”

Rather than coast to retirement, however, Pyle faced another huge challenge in March when the pandemic forced the closure of almost all school facilities. She and her faculty and staff worked tirelessly to quickly shift classes online, and to shut down the school’s dental clinics, revamp them with new safety equipment and procedures, and then reopen them slowly and carefully over the summer.

At the same time, Pyle and her team made sure that the Dental and Dental Hygiene Classes of 2020 could graduate on time, despite not being able to screen patients in anticipation of impending dental licensure board exams. Dylan Weber, a member of the DDS Class of 2020, led the school’s chapter of the American Student Dental Association and knew first-hand how Pyle supported students. So he was only briefly surprised when she called him out of the blue to keep him updated on how the school and the association were working on the changes in licensing and testing.

“That call was one of many instances showing her dedication to the success of her students,” Weber said.

Now, as the school and clinics reopen, Pyle said, “I feel really good about how we’ve handled this and our preparations for the fall. It has been incredibly hard, incredibly time consuming and stressful. Since March, so many faculty members have worked countless hours to make our fall semester as safe as we possibly can while retaining instructional quality and educational purpose.”

Making the Pre-clinic Lab a reality, navigating the pandemic and graduating the Classes of 2020 were quite a trifecta to cap a career. They also built on other hallmarks of Pyle’s years as dean.

Digital technology and dentistry. From an early push into digital X-rays to the latest uses of 3-D printers to make crowns, dentures and other devices, the school has kept up with — or ahead of — dental practice technology. The school’s digital equipment lineup also has oral scanners, state-of-the-art treatment planning software and cone beam tomography. For several years, the school also has been giving students experience in creating and using digital impressions, in the Pre-clinic Lab and in patient care.

Pyle also oversaw the opening of the school’s Innovation Clinic in 2012. A partnership with dental equipment manufacturers, the facility allows students to see and work with the latest equipment.

“If you aren’t changing and innovating, you’re really moving backwards,” Pyle said. “And you have to integrate curriculum and technology, so that students know the science behind the latest devices. We always want students to graduate ready for the practice of the future, and to be able to evaluate expensive technology when they have their own practice.”

Practice management, lifelong learning and research. Because so much is involved in running a modern practice, from human resource issues to expensive equipment purchases, Pyle revamped the school’s practice management curriculum. Instead of taking a course or two, UMKC students now learn business lessons throughout their four years at the school.
“That also reinforces the philosophy of life-long learning,” she said. “You have to be able to see ahead and be ready for change. It’s important for us to instill that kind of mentality and concepts for our students to carry with them throughout their careers.”

Research goes hand-in-hand with that philosophy, Pyle said.

“You can’t have a strong clinical program like ours without science,” she said. “If you’re not creating science, if you’re not discovering, if you’re not supporting scholarship and inquiry and creative thinking, then you’re missing the point on the clinical piece. Such knowledge is vital to good practice and to advancing the profession.”

Fiscal accountability and alumni support. “As state finances have tightened, it has been really important to make sure we were good stewards of our resources and emphasized accountability to the greater university. So we’ve updated a lot of policies and procedures that help us operate a bit more effectively.”

Being clear about its mission and financial needs also has helped the school communicate with alumni and other donors, who are an ever-more-important resource. The credibility that comes with accountability was crucial, for example, to assemble the final funding needed for the Pre-clinical Lab from alumni and the university, which dedicated $2 million from an outside foundation grant to the project.

“It isn’t easy to ask people to do more with less, and to juggle our obligations to our students and our patients to provide high-quality education and dental care,” Pyle said. “One of the biggest things that I’m grateful for is that there is such robust and dedicated support for the school through the Rinehart Foundation, the Dental Alumni Association and the Dental Hygiene Alumni Association. We’ve been able to complete projects like the pre-clinic that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.”

In turn, alumni appreciate Pyle’s efforts and attention. “From the very beginning of her tenure as dean, Dr. Pyle espoused the importance of strong and vibrant dental school alumni organizations that lend support to the school and university through involvement and philanthropy,” said Charles Squire, who has been deeply involved with the Alumni Association since earning his DDS from the school in 1968. “She willingly and cheerfully gave of her time to meet with alumni and friends, not only in Kansas City but throughout the United States.”

Another key to the school’s success during Pyle’s tenure may be her ability to focus on the task at hand, and to always take her work, but not herself, seriously. That meant Pyle stuck to business almost all the time, but at student and staff holiday functions often was first in line to play an ice-breaker game.

Tamra Hoffman, RDH, clinical instructor and past president of the Dental Hygiene Alumni Association, said: “Dean Pyle is always in business mode, but she also often asks about my daughters and shows much appreciation when I have brought them to community service events. She also has always shown respect toward my ideas and quickly acted on one that allowed our Radiology Department to work more efficiently while allowing our students a better simulation lab for learning.”

When Pyle announced her retirement, her plans included returning as faculty emerita. That changed when an offer came her way to become the senior scholar in residence for the American Dental Education Association, which will require a move to Washington, D.C.

“I’ve always tried to do the right thing in my career, to use my creativity to lead the school and all of our graduates into a positive future. It’s really an amazing place,” Pyle said. “I’ve also done what I could to contribute to the dental professions, and I’ll be able to do that in my new job.”

And after 11 years of creating friendships and relationships, Pyle said, “I’ll be taking a lot of memories with me. The friendships I’ve made will be everlasting.”

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.”

Midwest Dental Conference Cancelled Due to COVID-19

Dear MDC attendees:

It is with much regret that we announce that the 2020 Midwest Dental Conference and all related events and activities, April 16 – 19, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri, have been cancelled due to spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Under the authority of Mayor Quinton Lucas’s State of Emergency proclamation, and per new Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, no events or gatherings with 50 or more attendees will be allowed in Kansas City for the next eight weeks. With this new information, we must safeguard the health of all attendees, guests, presenters, exhibitors and staff who are a part of the event. As part of our larger dental family, we want to do all we can to help ensure your safety.

All registered attendees will receive a full refund for registration via the method used at time of registration in the coming weeks. We appreciate your patience; with a large number of registrants it will take a while to facilitate all the refunds but we promise we will get to you and hope you understand we will be working as hard as we can while also insuring the safety of our staff.

Please contact your hotel directly for cancellation of your reservations. hotel has informed us that guests may cancel their reservation for no charge until two (2) days prior to arrival. Please note that the hotel will assess a fee equal to one (1) night room and tax if the reservation is cancelled after this deadline, so we do urge you to contact the hotel sooner rather than later.

To contact the Sheraton at Crown Center, please call: (816) 841-1000 or (866) 716-8134

To contact the Westin Crown Center, please call: (816) 474-4400 or (800) 228-3000

Most major airlines are currently waiving change and/or cancellation fees for tickets purchased, but please check with your individual airline to confirm.

We would like to thank all involved with the conference for your support and understanding as we did not come to this decision lightly during this challenging time.

We hope to see you at the 2021 Midwest Dental Conference April 15 – 18, 2021.

For more information about the Coronavirus, frequently asked questions, or how to mitigate the transmission of the disease, please refer to the Centers for Disease Control.

We know that with the cancellation of the Midwest Dental Conference, it may be difficult to find alternative ways to get your continuing education credits. The UMKC School of Dentistry’s Continuing Education Program full course listing can be found here: https://dentistry.umkc.edu/continuing-education/course-offerings/. We invite you to join us for our upcoming courses, including our webinars this summer.

We are a proud ADA CERP Recognized Provider and an Approved PACE Program Provider by the Academy of General Dentistry (Provider number 214214). In addition to our program, we suggest taking a look at the ADA’s continuing education programs, available here: https://ebusiness.ada.org/education/CourseCatalog.aspx, as well as the AGD’s continuing education program, available here: https://agdonlinelearningcenter.org/. Both offer a selection of online courses.

Faculty News

Dr. Cindy Amyot (BSDH ’92, MSDH ’93, ESD ’00, EdD), professor emeritus and recently retired associate dean for Distance Education and Faculty Development, will contribute to the 2020 Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health, only the second time such a report will focus on oral health. Dr. Amyot will contribute to a section titled “Oral Health Integration, Workforce and Practice.” Continue reading