UMKC School of Dentistry Update



am really excited about joining our outstanding UMKC School of Dentistry (SOD) in a more formal capacity. Having been at UMKC for more than 10 years, I know how well respected our students, staff and faculty are—at UMKC, within the University of Missouri System (UMS) and throughout the U.S. UMKC alumni literally are all over the world providing much-needed care to countless people. I also have come to know the school through my personal involvement the past six years helping to teach in the Pharmacology and Therapeutics 1 course, as well as facilitating various interprofessional education activi- ties. So, I know firsthand how great our students are—we truly are for- tunate to attract the best and brightest —and our faculty and staff are second to none. I am honored to be working more closely with them. And wow, we are off to a busy start of the semester, to say the least.

On the immediate agenda are efforts to maintain excellence in our dental hygiene, dental, graduate and postgraduate programs. This has been all the more challenging in light of the severe consequences of the pandemic on our educational and financial resources, but also with preexisting, chronic financial strain on higher education in Missouri due to reductions in state appropriations. Yet, our students, staff and faculty have remained resilient and steadfast continuing significant progress in teaching future providers of care and in researching and discovering new knowledge and technologies to advance oral health. I’m particularly impressed by the school leadership, faculty and staff who have worked so hard to keep our students on track and on time during the pandemic.

Given the severe budget constraints on the University that existed prior to the pandemic, UMKC kicked off a strategic initiative called “UMKC Forward” which currently is underway and involves an exten- sive review of all academic programs searching for efficiencies and en- suring alignment with the core mission of the University. Universities no longer can afford to provide everything for everybody, so the initia- tives at UMKC are not unique and have been implemented through- out the country at other universities. Program review is ongoing and no decisions on any have been made. Barring any major disruptions (which are so difficult to predict with the pandemic), we anticipate more information on progress to be made public after the first of the year. Given the key role of the school in our university mission, that we are the only dental school in the four-campus system and that we are the state’s only publicly-supported dental school, I expect the SOD to maintain its prominent position in UMKC and UMS.

The other major issue on our agenda is to kick off the national search for our next Dean of the School of Dentistry. Provost Lundgren has been busy planning this process and is beginning to form the search committee now. That committee will be comprised of representatives from key stakeholders—both internal and external—and barring un- predictable delays, I would anticipate seeing the committee member- ship being made public sometime within the next couple of months.

While the ongoing pandemic could create some delays, we now know that a lot can be accomplished with Zoom to keep the process moving forward, and I am hopeful we will be welcoming our new dean the summer of 2021.

I am personally thankful to Vicki Wilbers and the MDA for the warm welcome and assistance in teaching me about the key issues facing the profession. I enjoyed attending my first ADA Sixth District meeting and was very impressed by the importance of the issues discussed and the outstanding leadership. Most importantly, as a school, we cannot thank you enough for all of the support you have provided the school, our students, staff and faculty. We value our partnership to continue to advance dental education, patient care and the profession. Best wishes to everyone in the Missouri Dental Association. f

Russell B. Melchert (Russ) serves as the Interim Dean of the UMKC School of Dentistry and Dean of the UMKC School of Pharmacy. Dr. Melchert completed a BS in pharmacy and PhD in pharmaceutical sciences from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center College of Pharmacy and maintains active pharmacy licensure in two states. He joined UMKC as Dean and Professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology in 2010 and was appointed Interim Dean of the School of Dentistry in 2020. He remains active teaching in both the pharmacy and dental curricula and has been the recipient of more than 20 awards from students for his instructional efforts in pharmacology. Contact him at 816-235-2010 or

Information and updates at your fingertips, including popular ADA and MDA COVID-19 resources.



ISSUE 5 | SEP/OCT 2020 | focus 9

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