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.

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.”

UMKC Student Volunteers Step Up to Help With COVID-19 Testing

More than 80 students helped the Kansas City Health Department in providing COVID-19 tests

Earlier this spring, the Kansas City Missouri Health Department received federal funding to provide COVID-19 testing. What the department lacked was the manpower to support the many testing sites across the city.

It didn’t take long for the UMKC Health Sciences Campus to fill the void. More than 80 students from the schools of dentistry, medicine and pharmacy answered the call for helpers. In May and June, they volunteered 28 three-hour blocks of time at 18 testing locations through the greater Kansas City area. Many of those were at schools and churches.

“This is a great example of a long-running collaboration with the health department,” said Jannette Berkley-Patton, Ph.D., director of the Health Equity Institute. “Especially since our students could help expand their capacity to conduct testing in communities hard hit by COVID-19.”

Stefanie Ellison, M.D., associate dean for learning initiatives at the School of Medicine, said students across the campus were eager to help.

“In 24 hours, I gave a group of students the chance to communicate the need across social media sites and get the word out,” Ellison said. “They stepped up to fill in the volunteer spots.”

Read the full story.

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.

Pediatric Clinic’s Always Ready to Give Kids a Smile

When her son, Dillon, had serious dental issues, Monica Konrade knew where to turn — the pediatric clinic at the UMKC School of Dentistry.

“Dillon did not have proper enamel on his teeth, as it would flake off, so his risk for cavity and decay was much higher, and even with consistent care and cleaning at home he already needed four crowns at age 3,” Konrade said. “I knew this was going to be a long process from the beginning and wanted to be where he was going to be on the edge of options and treatments and still get the best care.”

The brightly decorated pediatric clinic is welcoming to all children, whether their dental needs are routine or out of the ordinary. With some area dentists donating their time, along with expert pediatric faculty supervising third-year DDS students and second-year hygienists, the staff is up for any challenges.

Konrade knew about the clinic because her parents brought her there when she was a child. Now when it’s time for Dillon’s checkup, she drives an hour and a half from her family’s home in Lebo, Kansas, and says it’s worth the trek.

“It was such a comfort as the students and professors assured me it was not lack of care or poor parenting, as I was feeling like a failure,” she said. “We were presented with a plan not just for treatment, but also for Dillon’s comfort and attention to his needs, to make sure seeing the dentist and getting these procedures would not be traumatizing.”

At the end of his latest visit, Dillon was all smiles. Though the clinic offers top-notch care all year, February is an especially fun time to visit. It’s Children’s Dental Health Month, during which the American Dental Association’s Give Kids a Smile program promotes the benefits of good oral health to children and to their caregivers and teachers. This is the 15th year UMKC has participated in the program, which makes extra toys, story books and coloring exercises available for children.

“It’s always fun to get a prize after the appointment,” Konrade said. “This time he got more prizes.”

And Dillon deserved them for being a particularly patient patient.

“Sitting still for close to two and a half hours is a long time for a young child,” Konrade said, “so any extra incentive to be calm and still during treatment is wonderful.”

Third-year dental student Josh Wilhelm took care of Dillon on his latest visit and said he was a great patient.

The clinic gives Wilhelm and his classmates important experience in caring for children and interacting with parents. And though he isn’t considering going into pediatric dentistry at this point, Wilhelm enjoys the experience.

“It’s fun to be around patients who are excited to see the dentist,” he said. “That’s not always the case.”

Though getting Dillon the best care is why they come to the UMKC clinic, Konrade said, it is a nice bonus to help students.

She and her husband, Jason, both have medical education backgrounds, in nursing and physical therapy. As a result, she said, “We understand, from when it was our turn to practice our newly acquired skills, how valuable it is to have patients. We hope that the student doctors come away with just as much positive experience and growth as Dillon and I have.”

Find photos here.

No Shortage of Talent – or Fun

Valentine’s Day was made extra special at the School of Dentistry when the Student National Dental Association / Hispanic Dental Association produced the annual Staff, Faculty & Student Variety Show. The noontime show at the School of Dentistry offered comedy, dance, instrumental music and several vocalists in styles ranging from folk and pop to opera.

The mistresses of ceremonies were Njeri Penda (D3), SNDA/HSDA President and Kim Kha (D3), SNDA/HSDA Vice Presidents.

Performers included:

Janette Martinez, (Office Support Assistant-Dental Clinic), performed a humor routine

Shanon Black (D3) and Katie Baker (DH 2021) performed crowd-pleasing songs from classic rock favorites.

Darby Lewis (DH 2021) entertained the crowd with an Irish Step Dance

Erin Gilmore (Sr. Technical Support Assistant-BMC), and Brenda Everhart, (Officer Supervisor-Dental Hygiene) performed solos in opera and gospel.

Dr. Robert Hurst (Assistant Clinical Professor, Restorative), Katherine Hayes and Luke Komotos (D2s) and Casey Aschinger (D1) played guitar and/or ukulele while singing original songs.

The welcoming and closing remarks were given by faculty advisers, Dr. Tiffany Tavares (Clinical Assistant Professor, Oral Pathology) and Derek William (Clinical Associate Professor, Restorative)

Photos here.

Delta Sigma Delta Conference Brings Chapters Together

The UMKC chapter of Delta Sigma Delta played host to about 70 people on Saturday for a Midwest regional conference. Besides UMKC dental students and UMKC’s Graduate Chapter, chapters came from the Universities of Colorado, Iowa and Minnesota, along with the chapter from AT Still University.

Megan Yamaguchi, a third-year dental student, was a key organizer for the conference. “The meeting went very well,” Yamaguchi said. “What stood out most to me was the instant camaraderie among the members from each of the different fraternity chapters. Even though it was the first time many of us met, it felt like we were reunited with old friends.”

The conference program included guest speakers from the UMKC faculty, Dr. Ahmed Zarrough and Dr. Arpana Naidu; short presentations from members of the five fraternities in attendance; a tour of the dental school; and lunch at the Diastole Scholars’ Center.

“The camaraderie and friendships made through this meeting will aid in our success as future dental professionals,” Yamaguchi said.

Delta Sigma Delta, founded Nov. 15, 1882, is the oldest and largest of the international professional dental fraternities.

Photos here.

Dr. Justin Tullis Defends Oral & Craniofacial Sciences Thesis

Dr. Justin Tullis’ Oral & Craniofacial Sciences thesis defense exam was held on Wednesday, February 12, 2020.  The title of his thesis is “INFLUENCE OF SUTURE TECHNIQUE ON RIDGE DIMENSIONS AND KERATINIZED TISSUE AFTER ALVEOLAR RIDGE PRESERVATION: A PILOT STUDY”.  Dr. Tullis attended dental school in Texas and will complete the Advanced Education Program in Periodontics later this spring and is planning to practice in Colorado.

Photos here.

 

Dr. Sarah Dallas named a University of Missouri Curators’ Distinguished Professor

Dr. Sarah Dallas, Professor in the Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences at the UMKC School of Dentistry, recently named a University of Missouri Curators’ Distinguished Professor. This honor is in recognition of her exemplary service to the University of Missouri. Dr. Dallas’ many contributions to higher education through teaching, research, and engagement bring great credit to the University of Missouri-Kansas city and the University of Missouri System.

Congratulations to Dr. Dallas for this richly deserved honor!