Masks Can’t Hide New Students’ Excitement at Orientation

This week’s School of Dentistry orientation sessions, complete with masks and a review of extensive pandemic safety precautions, certainly looked different from years past. But that didn’t keep the new dental and dental hygiene students from bringing the same focus, enthusiasm and desire for learning that each fall propel students toward successful careers.
Cole Daniel, one of the 109 members of the Dentistry Class of 2024, is from Little Rock and earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Arkansas. But he said he came to UMKC because “it felt like home.”

“From the interview to communicating with the admissions office I knew that UMKC would take care of me as a student,” Daniel said. “The emphasis on being a great clinical school was also really important to me.”

Daniel is one of 11 dental students from Arkansas in the class, which also has 59 students from Missouri, 24 from Kansas, three from New Mexico and one each from Hawaii, Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, North Caroline, Tennessee and Texas. Four students from Kuwait round out the class of 57 men and 52 women, who bring an average DAT score of 20.25 and a science GPA of 3.72.

“I loved how integrity is a core value at UMKC,” he said, “and I knew I would be surrounded by students and faculty who wanted to do the right thing as well as practice exceptional dentistry.”
Daniel, who has several family members in dentistry, added, “I truly think it is a career that has everything you could ask for. Every day you get to see a tangible difference you made in someone’s life, work with your hands, and make a good living. Once I realized the NBA or NFL was not going to happen for me, dentistry became my dream.”
The 31 women in the Dental Hygiene Class of 2022, who come from Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Nebraska, also bring impressive credentials. Several of them have worked as dental assistants, and the class science GPA is 3.5 and cumulative GPA is 3.54.

At UMKC they also have the one dental hygiene program in the Kansas City area that offers a full bachelor’s degree. That was one factor in Shannon Finneran’s choice of UMKC, along with the school’s “tremendous reputation and challenging academics.”

Finneran moved to Kansas City from Illinois four years ago and completed her preliminary classes at UMKC, in addition to working as a dental assistant for three years.

“The hands-on experiences that I gained have renewed my passion for dental hygiene and solidified that I am meant to be a dental hygienist,” Finneran said. “I thoroughly enjoy direct patient care. I want to be able to educate future patients on the importance of oral health for whole body wellness.”

Starting their School of Dentistry education during a pandemic wasn’t what the new classes originally had in mind. But with the school’s extensive preparation and precautions making a good impression, students said they were both excited and reassured.

“It is definitely a weird time to be starting dental school … a unique experience,” Daniel said. “But all you can control is your attitude and respond to the situation you are given. I think UMKC is doing everything that can be done to prepare us and make this unusual time be as seamless as possible.”

Finneran added: “I am extremely excited to begin this next phase of my academic career. This is an unusual time for us all, but I think the UMKC SOD has done an excellent job in implementing proper training and guidelines to follow, so that all students are able to start their programs safely. This will be quite the experience, but we are all in this together.”

Enjoy photos here.


Emergency Team Helped Dental Patients Through Months of Shutdown

When everything became ‘after hours,’ School of Dentistry faculty kept emergency care available.

Ask a person with a toothache to list “essential workers” and chances are “dentist” will top the list. So when most UMKC operations closed and moved online for the pandemic, some School of Dentistry faculty stayed on call for emergency patients.

“Three of us were used to taking turns answering emergency calls after hours,” said Dr. Cynthia Petrie, associate professor and chair of the Department of Restorative Clinical Sciences. “Suddenly, everything was ‘after hours,’ but we worked together to get our patients through the difficult time when the school closed.”

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Dean Pyle to Become Senior Scholar at ADEA

Marsha Pyle, DDS, MEd, who is retiring in September as dean of the School of Dentistry, will be the next senior scholar in residence for the American Dental Education Association.

“I am very excited to be joining the ADEA team,” said Dean Pyle, who will succeed her friend and mentor Leo Rouse in the scholar’s role.

Dean Pyle will work directly with the ADEA president and CEO, Karen P. West, especially in academic areas that represent changing knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and skills across the health professions. She also will work on staff diversity and inclusion and with the association’s corporate supporters.

In her 12 years as dean of the School of Dentistry, Dean Pyle accomplished advances in curriculum to make UMKC a leader in preparing graduates for the world of digital dentistry. She oversaw many advances in technology in the school’s in-person and simulation clinics, capped by last year’s opening of the school’s state-of-the art Pre-clinical Lab. And when the pandemic hit, Dean Pyle worked tirelessly to ensure that all members of the DDS Class of 2020 and Dental Hygiene Class of 2020 could graduate on time.

Dean Pyle also is no stranger to national leadership and the ADEA. She came to UMKC from Case Western Reserve University, where she had already led innovations in dental curriculum innovation, recognized by the ADEA William J. Gies Awards for Vision, Innovation and Achievement. Her previous ADEA posts include chair of the ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition Planning Committee, the curriculum project for older adults and the Macy curriculum projects. She also has been chair of the American Dental Association’s Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations.

“I’m delighted that Dr. Pyle has accepted this appointment and will be sharing her expertise and insights with us,” Dr. West said. “The senior scholar in residence program is a unique way that we can leverage the knowledge and experience of leaders in dental education to help ADEA reach new heights.”


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.”

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Dr. Cox Receives BioNexus KC Grant to Further Pediatric Research

BioNexus KC has recently awarded three $50,000 grants to area scientists to support research focused on pediatric genetic diseases. The partnership with the Paul Patton Trust launched in 2007 and has awarded 40 grants totaling $2.4 M for this important area of research. The funds to support these studies are provided by the Paul Patton Trust, Ted C. McCarter, William Evans, Jr., and Bank of America, N.A. Trustees.

One recipient is our own Dr. Timothy Cox, Endowed Chair in Mineralized Tissue Research (Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences), whose research into the cellular mechanisms underlying cleft lip/palate also received NIH/NIDCR R01 grant support in 2019. Cleft lip/palate (CLP) is one of the most common birth defects, affecting 1 in 700 live births globally. The causes of CLP among most infants are unknown and in many cases occurrence and severity is impossible to predict. The severity of CLP determines how many surgeries will be necessary to improve appearance, breathing, hearing and speech and language development.

The numerous research projects underway in the Cox lab collectively strive to improve strategies for diagnosis, risk counseling for families and development of interventional therapies. “It is hoped that in the future we will be able to intervene early to reduce the incidence and severity of cleft lip/palate and thus reduce the numbers of surgeries these children must undergo,” Dr Cox said.

With this grant funding from BioNexus KC, Dr Cox will be testing a new hypothesis about the role of somatic mutation in the susceptibility and variability of cleft lip/palate. Dr Cox and his bioinformatics analyst, Dr Soumya Rao, will apply three complementary sequencing technologies to capture genetic differences in embryonic facial tissue to determine how this may impact the disease.

“We are really grateful to BioNexus KC for this award as it solidifies our Kansas City collaborations with Children’s Mercy’s Center for Pediatric Genomics and De Novo Genomics at KU Medical Center — a tri-institution partnership,” Cox said. “Equally important, the funding will allow us to generate critical preliminary data and the opportunity to build new bioinformatic workflows and capacity within the UMKC system. This will place us in an excellent position to secure longer-term funding from the National Institutes of Health.”

Dr Cox said. “Although obviously exciting for our own work on cleft lip/palate, results from this project may ultimately help us understand how individual-specific genetic mutations (like somatic mutations — those not inherited from a child’s parents) contribute to the risk of being born with any birth defect.”



Explorer Summer 2020 – Campaign


As the reality of COVID-19 became clear and the School of Dentistry realized it would be sending students home, suspending clinics and clearing the building, it knew many in its dental family would have challenges to overcome. Students have seen their carefully laid plans for graduation turned on their sides, many are experiencing anxiety about securing their first jobs, others have been trying to figure out how to pay extra rent while staying in town longer than expected and, of course, like people everywhere, most wonder what changes will come to dentistry to keep everyone safe going forward. Staff and faculty also share these same concerns. Continue reading

Explorer Summer 2020 – Alumni News


Alumni News
Class Notes
In Memoriam

Alumni News

William Giannobile (DDS ’91) will become the new dean of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, starting Sept. 1. An outstanding educator and leader in the field of periodontology, Dr. Giannobile is an endowed professor and chair of the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and also a professor of biomedical engineering at the university’s College of Engineering and the Biointerfaces Institute. Continue reading

Explorer Summer 2020 – Board Leadership


New Board Leadership

Spring of 2020 marks the time for new leadership on the three alumni boards that serve the UMKC School of Dentistry: Roy J. Rinehart Memorial Foundation, Dental Alumni Association and the Dental Hygienist Alumni Association. The school has immense gratitude for the outgoing leaders for their guidance during such unprecedented times. Continue reading