Bulletin of Dental Education

Dr. Rena N. D’Souza Named First Permanent Dean of New Dental School at University of Utah

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An internationally regarded researcher and highly honored dental educator, Rena N. D’Souza, D.D.S., M.S., Ph.D., has been selected as the first permanent dean of the University of Utah’s new School of Dentistry. She assumes her new role on August 1, 2013.

D'Souza

Dr. D’Souza is Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry (BCD) and served as its Chairperson from 2006 to 2012. In this period, she transformed the culture of research and scholarship within the college by developing initiatives that sustain the unique integrated research and learning environment that exists today. By pursuing her vision for promoting a unified approach to oral health-related research and education, she developed and secured funding for a related series of institutional grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) - National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). Her efforts were fulfilled through hiring several outstanding faculty researcher-educators and building new core facilities that helped forge collaborations on multiple research fronts.

Dr. D’Souza is nationally and internationally known for her research in craniofacial development, genetics, tooth development and regenerative dental medicine. She has sustained independent funding for 24 years and since 2006 has received more than $7.5 million as Principal Investigator on 12 grants, including two major awards from the NIDCR. She has published more than 120 peer-reviewed research articles, reviews and book chapters, and served as an editorial board member on six professional journals and as reviewer on several NIH panels. As a highly sought after speaker she has delivered more than 200 talks in national and international forums.

Dr. D’Souza has been strongly committed to curriculum development throughout her academic career. Her teaching and mentoring efforts have been recognized by several organizations, the most notable of which was from the National Student Research Group of the American Association for Dental Research in 2005. She has a keen appreciation for the 21st century educational needs of dental students, which will enable them to provide oral health care at the highest standards of professional excellence.

The School of Dentistry welcomes its first class of 20 students this August, and Dr. D’Souza is an outstanding choice to lead the program in becoming one of the best in the nation, according to Vivian S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., Senior Vice President for Health Sciences.

“Dr. D’Souza has excelled in every aspect of academic dentistry. She has earned the respect of her students and peers for her teaching and has contributed significantly to research,” says Dr. Lee, who is also Dean of the School of Medicine and CEO of University of Utah Health Care. “She is a remarkable individual with enormous energy and enthusiasm, and I know she looks forward to building on what the school’s founding Dean, Dr. Lynn Powell, and his colleagues have laid the groundwork for—a top notch dental program.”

One of Dr. D’Souza’s first acts as Dean will be to help the school break ground on a 70,000 square-foot building. The facility, which will be named the Ray and Tye Noorda Oral Health Sciences Building, will feature dental clinic operatories, classrooms, research laboratories and administrative offices for faculty. Prior to the building’s completion in late 2014, dental students will share classroom and laboratory space with their medical, nursing and pharmacy colleagues.

“I am wonderfully excited and humbled by the opportunity to lead the School of Dentistry at the University of Utah where the spirit of collaboration and entrepreneurship is exemplary. The quality and character of the faculty, students, staff and senior administration and their sense of pride and commitment in seeing the school grow into one of the finest in the nation is truly impressive. Working alongside veteran leaders—Drs. Lynn Powell, Glen Hanson and Gordon Christensen—to develop a unique entity for academic dentistry is an opportunity that I simply could not pass up,” Dr. D’Souza says.

The school has already landed more than $5 million in two research grants: one focused on drug addiction and a second to study systems involved in pain regulation and reward functions in the brain. The first is a five-year, $3.75 million grant from two federal agencies, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The second is a five-year, $1.5 million grant from NIH.

The Utah State Board of Regents approved the school in July 2012. The school has received initial accreditation from the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation. Dr. D’Souza’s appointment is subject to approval by the University of Utah Board of Trustees.

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