Students Take Action Celebrates a “Night to Shine”

Night to Shine, a prom experience for young people 14 and older with special needs, is one of many community events dental students get involved in. For this year’s Kansas City event, about 25 UMKC School of Dentistry students volunteered through their service group, Students Take Action. Nationally, it was the fifth annual Night to Shine, in which more than 650 churches and 200,000 volunteers celebrated with 100,000 honored guests.

Enjoy photos from the event.

When a Smile Means Much More Than a Good Set of Teeth

A dusky graduation party, a request for a piece of chewing gum, an invitation to church — couples meet in innocent and unusual ways. And when the chemistry is right, chance encounters can turn into lifetime commitments and workplace adventures.

At least that’s the case for three couples at the School of Dentistry, one each from faculty, staff and students. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, they share their stories of love – and loving UMKC and being at the School of Dentistry.

Timothy and Liza Cox met 35 years ago at a party to celebrate the end of high school in their hometown of Adelaide, Australia. They were in a group that had gone outside to take a break from party noise.

If the street lights had been working, it would’ve been love at first sight.

“The lights were out because of road work nearby,” Liza said, “so no one could see anyone else well, just outlines. I remember being completely enamored by his laugh and the warm timber of his voice.”

Timothy said, “There was clearly some powerful chemistry. It was pretty obvious to everyone that this was something special.”

Across three decades and three continents, the Coxes say, they still have something special. Their careers have taken them to Houston, Italy, back to Australia, to Seattle at the University of Washington for 13 years, and now UMKC, where they landed in fall 2018.

Timothy is a UMKC School of Dentistry professor and endowed chair in dental and musculoskeletal research. Liza is senior research associate in the school’s Oral and Craniofacial Sciences Department, where she has her own research project. Her work also includes, as she puts it, “often making Tim’s more complex ideas come to life experimentally and problem solving for the lab.”

With all that to juggle — plus dogs, two teenage sons and getting settled in Kansas City — Timothy said it helped immensely that “we know what each other expects and wants, often without having to say anything.”

It also helps that Kansas City, UMKC and the School of Dentistry all seem like a great fit.

“The opportunities in KC were exciting for us on many fronts, scientifically,” Timothy said. “There was the chance to be around more colleagues with similar developmental biology and craniofacial interests and in a successful school and department with the resources critical to drive our work forward. We have felt supported and welcome by both research and administrative staff.”

Liza said the dental school offered “a wide array of accomplished colleagues, acknowledged partnerships and outstanding research being conducted.” She also finds the school’s diversity refreshing, along with “the willingness of the university to respectfully embrace the wider community.”

Karissa Kramer and Nicole Patterson’s relationship actually started with a bit of miscommunication while working together on a class project in high school in fall 2010.

“I asked if she had gum,” Nicole recalled, “and she said, ‘You’re lucky I like you. It’s my last piece.’ ”

Karissa was being sarcastic, but Nicole took her at her word, and soon they were dating. “I knew she was the one from the start,” Nicole said. Karissa agreed: “We both knew very early on that this was the real deal.”

They were married in July 2016, and shortly after that Karissa joined Nicole on the School of Dentistry staff. Working together on the Team 1 staff at the school also has been ideal; Karissa is a clerk and Nicole is a dental assistant.

“We have different jobs but interact often,” Nicole said. “It’s great being able to drive to work together and eat lunch together, too.”

They also enjoy interacting with students and seeing their reactions when the students discover they are married — something one class didn’t do till graduation day.

“Many people don’t realize we are married because we are the same gender,” Nicole said, “so it’s always fun when they ask or it gets around and students end up messaging each other about it.”

Mary Margaret Pearman and Brandon Kratz know dental school isn’t exactly conducive to romance.

Their first two years, Brandon said, “we were in the same classes all of the time. We couldn’t really ask, How was your day? We already knew.”

And being each other’s patients when they started clinical work brought tears to Brandon’s eyes, and not in a good way.

Taking X-rays, Mary Margaret discovered that Brandon had quite a gag reflex – trouble when a competency exam calls for inserting a slide holder into the patient’s mouth 18 times.

“I was literally crying from gagging so much,” Brandon said. “She did end up passing her competency. The sacrifices I make …”

On the other hand, he said, “It is really nice to have somebody who knew what you were going through. Somebody that could relate to some of your frustrations with school. It was also really nice that we could study together, quiz each other, or even give each other tips on how to drill a better cavity prep.”

“We both get it,” Mary Margaret said. “Which makes us excellent listeners and even better problem solvers for the other person.”

It also helped that their relationship had a solid foundation. They both are Catholic and met as undergraduates at UMKC when Mary Margaret was looking for someone to go to Mass with her.

“We had very different interests but could not have had more similar values,” Mary Margaret said. Brandon, from Springfield, introduced her to his love of the outdoors, “and I take full credit for introducing him to vegetables and sunscreen,” she said.

Another plus: Brandon has the romance thing down. He proposed after dinner and a sunset cruise at their favorite getaway spot, Table Rock Lake. He led her, blindfolded, to the boat dock where he first told Mary Margaret he loved her. And then he got down on one knee.

“He had music and rose petals and big string lights hung all across the dock,” Mary Margaret said. “He even had some of our closest friends in a row boat taking photos.”

Brandon also worked in a surprise with the ring. “I made it at a dental lab and melted some of my grandfather’s gold down to put in it.”

Now they’re looking forward to graduation in May and getting married in October in Mary Margeret’s hometown, St. Louis.

Besides the chance to grow together through its challenges, Mary Margaret said, UMKC and the School of Dentistry have given them another big gift.

“We have such an amazing support group of friends. They make us laugh until we cry and we hope to maintain these relationships long after graduation. Individually, we are great people. Together, we are even better.”

Pediatric clinic busy year round – and during special Give Kids a Smile week

Maria Flores brought her oldest child to the UMKC School of Dentistry for his first checkup a dozen years ago. The care was good and affordable, so as her family grew she returned regularly.

“My doctor told me how important it is to take care of children’s teeth,” she said, “and he told me about UMKC. I have four children now – 13, 11, 5 and 2 – and I bring them all here. My insurance covers their checkups, twice a year.”

It’s easy to see why Flores, who brought her children in on Feb. 5, keeps coming back. The school’s Lowry Pediatric Clinic offers comprehensive care – from cleanings and checkups to fillings and other needed restorative work – in a bright, kid-friendly space. If families have trouble affording the care, free or reduced-rate work is available. The school estimates that the donated care through this clinic is worth approximately $60,000 a year.

At the clinic, the faculty and other area dentists who give their time are particularly interested in expanding children’s access to dental care. And DDS and hygiene students get needed experience in treating children – and treating them kindly. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children receive their first dental check-up as soon as the first tooth erupts and no later than at 12 months of age. That’s why UMKC’s school of dentistry offers free check-ups to children under age 3 years of age

This time of year, third-year DDS students and second-year hygienists help staff the clinic, and they can be heard gently and encouragingly telling their young patients: “Good job.” “You might feel a little pinch.” “We’re almost finished.” “You’ve been so patient.” “Let’s go get a prize.”

And in the first full week of February, visits to the Lowry Pediatric Clinic get a little extra boost. February is the American Dental Association’s Children’s Dental Health Month, along with the association’s Give Kids a Smile program. UMKC has participated in the program for 14 years, and this year that meant extra toys, story books and coloring exercises for the children. The goodies all are in line with the program’s goal of promoting the benefits of good oral health to children and to their caregivers and teachers.

“Patient care and service to society are two key parts of our mission at the School of Dentistry,” Dean Marsha Pyle said. “The Lowry clinic and our participation in Give Kids a Smile help us serve both of those functions.”

Find photos from the pediatric clinic and events here.

School of Dentistry MLK Day of Service ‘Exceeds Expectations’

Students, faculty, staff from the School of Dentistry, UMKC and local community joined together to deliver 1,000 dental hygiene kits to local service organizations.

Dental student Chanelle Roberts knew she wanted the inaugural UMKC School of Dentistry MLK Day of Service to be big.

“All of this definitely exceeded my expectations,” said Roberts, motioning with her head to the crowd of nearly 100 volunteers assembling 1,000 oral hygiene kits in the school canteen.

She and about 20 other students were joined by the school’s staff and faculty including Dean Marsha Pyle and internationally recognized researcher Sarah Dallas as well as members of St. James United Methodist Church.

The kits of toothbrushes and toothpaste, donated by Colgate-Palmolive, GlaxoSmithKline and Procter & Gamble, were delivered to children and adults at St. James, the Ronald McDonald House, City Union Mission, Restart Inc., American Cancer Society Hope Lodge, Hope Faith Ministries, Jackson County Family Court and the Kangaroo Food Pantry at UMKC.

Roberts is part of the School of Dentistry diversity task force, which was looking for a way to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and demonstrate the core value of compassion, taking a genuine interest in the needs of those we serve in order to help them live healthy and productive lives through the services we deliver.

“Since we are not able to provide dental care on this day we decided to provide hygiene kits to stress the importance of oral health and make the community aware of the role the UMKC School of Dentistry plays in improving oral health in Kansas City and the state of Missouri and Kansas,” said Jeff Primos, director of business administration at the School of Dentistry. “Health and wellness is important for everyone, and the mouth is the gateway to overall health.”

Because of all of the helping hands, the task of assembling such a large number of oral hygiene kits was finished more than hour ahead of schedule.

“This feels really good,” Roberts said.

Find photos from the event here.

Watch news coverage from Fox 4, WDAF-TV news.

-article by Stacy Downs, UMKC MCOM.

The University and School of Dentistry are Closed for the Winter Break

The University will be closed for winter break from December 26, 2018 until January 2, 2019. This includes the Alumni and Development Office. If you or someone you know still needs to make a year end gift to the Rinehart Foundation there is still time! Checks must be post-marked by December 31st or skip the crazy mail lines and make your gift online here.
As the year draws to a close, we want to thank you for all you do for the students, faculty, and staff here at the School. We are so thankful for the generous and supportive alumni we have and get to interact with every day.
Happy Holidays!

Enjoying a Holiday Celebration

The School of Dentistry Staff Council and Dean Marsh Pyle welcomed staff, faculty and retirees to the school’s the annual holiday lunch on Tuesday, December 18, 2018. Decked out in their most festive holiday wear, all enjoyed games and a traditional holiday lunch  The event ended with a raffle for door prizes and numerous very popular gift baskets donated by departments. The UMKC Kangaroo Pantry, a charity providing food assistance for those in need within the UMKC community, benefited from generous donations of non-perishable food items. Find photos from the festivities here.

A Sweet Time at the 2018 Annual “Cookie Crunch”

School of Dentistry Staff and Faculty hosted the school’s annual “Cookie Crunch” on December 6, 2018, a many year an annual tradition to thank students and wish them well for upcoming final exams.  The event is organized by the school’s Staff Council and includes a friendly competion where students select favorites among the many donated baked items resulting in “sweet” prizes for winners.

Photos from the event.