Colleagues and students honored eight retiring faculty members on Aug. 20, with Dean Marsha A. Pyle praising their 202 years of combined full-time service to the School of Dentistry as “excellent teachers, leaders, researchers, supporters and workers.”
“What an amazing commitment these folks have collectively contributed to our successes, our positivity and our growth,” Dean Pyle said at a reception at the Diastole Scholars’ Center. “Each of these wonderful folks spent many years — many of them their careers or most of their careers — supporting the great things we do to meet our mission in teaching, research and service.”
Each retiring professor was acknowledged at the ceremony by a colleague. Here are excerpts from those remarks.
Of Dr. Cindy Amyot, BSDH, MSDH, ESD, EdD, professor and associate dean for Distance Education and Faculty Development, and her 27 years of service, Dean Pyle said: Dr. Amyot has been a pioneer in the promotion of online learning strategies. She is a prolific educational researcher, having 93 peer-reviewed publications to her credit. She shares her knowledge broadly, having served as a mentor to many DH and dental students and to many faculty as they came up through the tenure process, and to clinical faculty in researching clinical/education questions that they have. She has many roles in national leadership in dental education, in particular helping to lead the ADEA Commission on Change and Innovation. She is a master teacher and servant leader, serving on important committees of the school, university and profession. Along the way, she has developed and refined her leadership skills as one of the finest leaders I have had the pleasure to work with.
Of Dr. Michael McCunniff, DDS, MS, associate professor and chair of the Department of Public Health and Behavioral Science, and his 28 years of service, Dean Pyle said: He led the department of Dental Public Health and Behavioral Science while directing the school’s outreach efforts. He has given the program a signature culture of giving back to the community through our dedicated curriculum programming and through his leadership in working in the community promoting oral health through screening and interactions within the city, state and region. Dr. McCunniff has received many teaching and service awards, including the Samuel Rodgers Achievement award from the Missouri Primary Care Association; multiple Teacher of the Year awards; and UMKC Alumnus of the Year. Dr. McCunniff has also taken the lead in our school’s participation in IPE efforts among the health sciences schools. His colleagues said they would their “doughnut connection,” who always knew who had sweets. He always has a story and never met a stranger.
In turn, Dr. McCunniff said of Dr. Bonnie Branson, RDH, PhD, professor in the Department of Dental Public Health and Behavioral Science, and her 21 years at UMKC: In 2015 she became the director of External Rotations for the dental students in Missouri and Kansas. The number of patients seen and treated in Community Health Centers has been tremendous thanks to her dedication and hard work.
She has also been active in research, successful grant writing, presenting at multiple national meetings, online teaching, serving as a board member for many organizations and participation on many university committees. Her one weakness: She doesn’t know how to say no! Bonnie has also received multiple awards for her teaching and service, and was instrumental in developing Missouri Preventive Screening Program in 2006. The first year they screened 8,000-plus children and most recently screened more than 90,000 children. A common theme in her colleagues’ comments was her ability to inspire people — along with being a great mentor, friend and role model; soft-spoken and smart; and as strong as nails.
Of Dr. Donna Deines, DDS, MS, associate professor in the Department of Restorative Clinical Sciences
and her 40 years of service, Dr. Cynthia Petrie said: Dr. Deines has taught more than 4,000 dental students and holds the record as course director for the most courses — didactic, preclinical and clinical— and most credit hours taught now and possibly in the history of the dental school. Dr. Deines has continuously ensured that the curriculum that is taught is up to date, appropriate and adequate for students to become competent dental practitioners. Dr. Deines has received the Elmer Pierson Outstanding Teaching Award and the David Moore Teaching Excellence Award. Dr. Deines has been regarded with respect and acknowledgement for her wealth of dental knowledge, attention to detail and striving for excellence. Students and peers alike know that if something has Dr. Deines’ approval, it is well above the standards of care. Students will sometimes resist Dr. Deines’ encouragement to challenge them to learn the most and perform their best. However, when they are treating a family member or a friend, they want Dr. Deines to supervise their treatment.
Dr. Petrie also paid tribute to Dr. Jack Nelson, DDS, clinical associate professor and vice chair of the Department of Restorative Clinical Sciences, retiring after 7 years of fulltime service: Dr. Nelson has been most effective and greatly appreciated by students and peers. He has received many honors and awards, including fellowship in the American College of Dentists and International College of Dentists, the Rinehart Medallion for Service and the Rinehart Medallion for Philanthropy, the 2014 Distinguished Teacher Award, the 2016 Faculty Award from the American Student Dental Association and the recipient of the 2018 Dr. Hayes Leadership through Service award. He had a private practice in Independence for 30 years, was an active master runner in track and field and road running for many years, served in the Kansas City Police Department, holds a private pilot’s license and was a weeknight net manager for the Military Affiliated Radio System. At the dental school Dr. Nelson gave his whole self to everyone. Dr. Nelson has a remarkable gift of being able to connect with everyone. Dr. Nelson deeply cares for each and every person at UMKC School of Dentistry and everyone with whom he crosses paths. I will greatly miss Dr. Nelson’s positive attitude and optimistic outlook in life.
Of Connie Jamison, RDH, MS, dental hygienist in the Department of Periodontics, and her 20 years of service, Dr. Keerthana Satheesh said: Professor Jamison moved here from Alaska and worked hard to provide care for patients in Oncology Support and Advanced Periodontics. She has a very loyal patient following. She took time to know her patients and treat them with kindness and compassion. After several years of working to provide patient care and complete a master’s degree while working full time, Professor Jamison started to teach in the pre-doctoral clinics. Her passion for dental hygiene and periodontics was apparent in her role as an educator. She enjoyed teaching and connected extremely well with students and patients. She honestly cares that the students understand perio — and she wants them to like it, too. Her students praised Professor Jamison as a top clinical teacher, incredibly thorough and a pleasure to work with, and kind and approachable with a passion for dentistry.
Of Dr. Jerald Katz, DMD, MS, professor in the Department of Oral Pathology, Radiology and Medicine, and his 32 years of service, Professor Tamara Hoffman said: I have known you now for the last 11 years. You have known me through the greatest times of my life from attending my wedding to the birth of my kiddos. I have known you through some of what I imagine as the hardest times of your life and yet you approached them with such strength and grace. To this day I do not know your faith, but I have always seen you as the loving and compassionate soul that so many of us admire. For the last couple of years I have called you “Boss” even though you have never made anyone in the department feel beneath you. No matter what concerns at work I had, I always knew I could bring it to you. You have always been open to new ideas and supportive of my goals and for that I thank you. You have given me the freedom and confidence to dream big for our department and strive for efficiency, fluidity and resolution of conflict as it presented. Your colleagues describe you as a great listener, a wonderful boss, approachable, professional and supportive through all our craziness.
Of Dr. Carole McArthur, MD, PhD, professor in the Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences, and her 28 years of service, Dr. Mark L. Johnson said: For the past two decades, Dr. McArthur has been at the cutting edge of HIV/AIDS and TB diagnostic system development and evaluation in Cameroon, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she has established treatment clinics that have served millions of people. This past year she was recognized by Otago University as a “Life-Changer,” an award given to alumni that recognizes the sum total of their career achievements; in her case for advancing scientific research and humanitarian aid in the fight against AIDS in Africa. She also has a passion for horses and has bred, trained and entered horses for many years in Dressage, which is an Olympic sport. Carole has competed with her horses at several of the American Royal Horse Shows in the past. Over her career she received more than 70 grants and contracts from federal, state and local agencies as well as international foundations and pharmaceutical companies.
The School of Dentistry is thankful for these outstanding faculty members’ contributions and grateful that some of them will continue to serve the school part time in the future.