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University of Iowa News Release


April 16, 2007

Photo: David Johnsen, D.D.S., dean of the UI College of Dentistry.

UI College Of Dentistry Celebrates 125 Years

If you've received dental care in Iowa, odds are your dentist trained at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry. Eighty percent of Iowa's practicing dentists graduated from the college, the state's only source for dental education.

This year, the UI College of Dentistry celebrates its 125th anniversary. The college will mark this distinction throughout the year, beginning April 20 with an academic symposium, "The Future of Dental Education and Iowa's Role." Scheduled speakers include Rick Valachovic, D.M.D., executive director of the American Dental Education Association; James Branson, D.D.S. (a 1979 UI graduate), executive director of the American Dental Association; and David Johnsen, D.D.S., dean of the UI College of Dentistry.

Beginning April 26, the UI Dental Science Building will have rotating exhibits at its third-floor entryway that feature various aspects of the college's history: deans of the college, women in Iowa dental history and dental research at Iowa. The exhibits will run through October. Starting May 1 and continuing through October, the UI Hardin Library for the Health Sciences will host two exhibits of dentistry artifacts that illustrate 125 years of dental education at Iowa.

Founded in 1882, the UI College of Dentistry began as the State University of Iowa Dental Department, located in South Hall on the Pentacrest of the UI campus. With $300 from the state Board of Regents and some donations, the department started out with one used dental chair, 15 barber chairs and a few dental instruments. The first graduating class, in 1883, consisted of only eight students. In 1900, the Dental Department became the College of Dentistry. After several moves around campus, it settled into its current home in the Dental Science Building in 1973.

Today, the college is one of the nation's top dental schools. A total of 316 pre-doctoral students, approximately 90 graduate students, 90 full-time and 95 part-time faculty members, and 290 staff members study and work in up-to-date facilities. A total of 10 departments make up the College today - a long way from its humble beginnings. It is the only school in the United States with programs in every dental specialty and is a leading center for research on tooth decay, fluoride, cleft palate and other areas. The college is also nationally recognized as a source of innovative patient care.

"We are excited and proud to be celebrating 125 years of dentistry at Iowa," said Johnsen, who earned a master's degree in pediatric dentistry at the UI in 1973. "Our college is an invaluable resource to Iowa and influences the direction of academic dentistry in this country and around the world. It has been my highest professional honor to lead the College of Dentistry, and I thank our faculty, staff, students, alumni, patients and friends who have made it one of the very best dental schools in the nation."

When the college was founded, entrance requirements for incoming students were nonexistent, and by 1897, the only requirement was grammar school; the entire dental curriculum took two years to complete. Today's doctor of dental science (D.D.S.) students at the UI have completed three years of college coursework before being admitted, and the entire program generally takes four full years.

Students spend their first two years learning both critical thinking and technical skills. Soon they go from the college's Simulation Clinic -- where they practice procedures on mannequins in realistically equipped operatories -- to helping real people. By their fourth and final year, students treat patients full-time, providing comprehensive care, working with assistants and tracking their time just like they will in practice. This merger of clinical experience and practice management skills has caught other schools' attention; three recently incorporated it into their own curricula.

Iowa's dental student research program also is a national model, which has brought national recognition to the college. UI dental graduates have gone on to faculty positions around the world, including at least 15 deanships over the last 25 years.

UI dental clinics log more than 150,000 patient visits every year. But the College of Dentistry also has pioneered programs that deliver care where people need it. The Geriatric Mobile Unit -- recipient of top honors from the American Dental Association -- serves area nursing homes, while a new outreach clinic in Muscatine cares for children from low-income families.

This service ethic has inspired generations of Iowa-trained dentists. The UI College of Dentistry has helped revolutionize the profession, always with the patient in mind.

NOTE TO EDITORS: The academic symposium described above is not a public event; however, reporters who are interested in covering the symposium are welcome. Please contact Penni Ryan at 319-335-7166 or for more information.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5125 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

CONTACT: Susan L. Green, 319-335-9465,