Henry A. Gremillion, D.D.S., MAGD, Dean of Louisiana State University Health New Orleans School of Dentistry (LSUSD), passed away in May after a brief illness. A Louisiana native, Dr. Gremillion returned home in 2008 to lead his alma mater as the sixth dean of LSUSD. A member of the Class of 1977, Dr. Gremillion is the only LSUSD alumnus to ever hold the position.
“A Louisiana native, dedicated doctor and nationally recognized educator, Dr. Gremillion inspired countless dental students throughout his time as Dean of the state’s only dental school,” Gov. John Bel Edwards says. “His vision steered the school through expansions and renovations so that students can practice their skills in the most advanced preclinical labs in America. I ask everyone to join Donna and me in praying for his family, friends, colleagues and students during this difficult time.”
Dr. Gremillion was adopted at the age of seven months from an orphanage in north Louisiana and raised in Cottonport, a small Louisiana farming community with a population of about 2,000 people. Last year as he was being installed as the Chair of the ADEA Board of Directors, he told his colleagues from dental schools throughout the United States and Canada that the town was so small you had to be lost to find it and that only one of its two red lights ever worked.
After he graduated from dental school, Dr. Gremillion returned to Cottonport to set up a general dentistry practice. He saw patients from all walks of life—his neighbors, children in the Head Start Program, members of the Tunica-Biloxi Indian Tribe and nursing home residents. His service to his community went far beyond taking care of their oral health. Dr. Gremillion was a member of the School Board and a volunteer firefighter. He entered politics, successfully running for City Council to implement community fluoridation and move forward with reapportionment to address the disparity in representation. His many contributions were publicly recognized when he was named 1989 Cottonport Citizen of the Year.
The quest to learn more to improve the quality of life for his patients led to a two-year craniofacial pain fellowship at the University of Florida College of Dentistry (UF COD). Instead of being a steppingstone to a return to private practice back home in Louisiana, the fellowship led Dr. Gremillion to academic dentistry.
Rising through the academic ranks, Dr. Gremillion was named the Parker E. Mahan Endowed Professor of Orofacial Pain in the Department of Orthodontics and was a member of the dental staff of Shands Teaching Hospital. He also served as the director of the UF COD Parker E. Mahan Facial Pain Center and its fellowship program in craniomandibular dysfunction.
Along the way, Dr. Gremillion earned distinguished honors. In 2009, the Academy of General Dentistry honored him with the Thaddeus V. Weclew Award for his “exceptional contributions to the art and science of dentistry and for promoting the principles and ideals of the academy.” He received the Dawson Academy Distinguished Service Award in 2009, the American Academy of Orofacial Pain Distinguished Service Award in 2010, and the Pierre Fauchard Academy Gold Medal Award in 2015. Presented annually to a dentist in the United States who has “made outstanding contributions to the progress and standing of the dental profession,” it is one of the international dental honor organization’s most prestigious and exclusive awards.
Back at LSUSD, Dr. Gremillion continued the school’s recovery from the devastation that followed Hurricane Katrina. He guided sorely needed renovations to improve the learning environment for students. The preclinical laboratories now rival those at any school anywhere. He enhanced patient care and research by completing the only new building on the dental school campus since it was founded. The $31 million Allen A. Copping, D.D.S. Advanced Clinical Care and Research Building opened in 2018.
Dr. Gremillion led the state’s only dental school and the only one in the country with degree programs in dentistry, dental hygiene and dental laboratory technology. He was most proud of his students and often spoke of their “giving nature.” He delighted in helping them with their community service projects like Give Kids A Smile Day and Adopt an Angel, where you could see him wheeling bikes into elevators down to the lobby for pick up by the Salvation Army truck.
“Despite his national stature, Dr. Henry Gremillion easily related to people from all walks of life,” says Larry Hollier, M.D. “Students, faculty, patients, members of the community, elected officials, local, state and national leaders all found him approachable, respectful, caring, engaged and down to earth. His contributions to the dental profession in Louisiana and nationally are unparalleled. He leaves a legacy of professional standards, high ideals, integrity, quality education and service that will continue to shape dental practice for generations to come.”
One of the programs closest to Dr. Gremillion’s heart was the Summer Enrichment Program. The purpose of the program is to diversify dentistry by identifying and preparing students from underrepresented minority and disadvantaged backgrounds to be competitive for application to and then succeed in dental school.
“Dr. Gremillion changed the complexion of the dental school,” notes LSU Health New Orleans Director of Community Relations and former Louisiana State Senator Diana Bajoie. “He knew we needed to do more, and he personally championed the Summer Enrichment Program. More than half of the participants have gone on to dental school, with 39 enrolling in LSUSD right here at home. He was so good at reaching out and working with people, and I will really miss him.”
“Dental education has lost a true gentleman, scholar and friend,” says Karen West, D.M.D., M.P.H., ADEA President and CEO.
“It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of one of dentistry's greatest friends and leaders, Dr. Henry Gremillion,” says Trey Carlton, D.D.S., President of the Louisiana Dental Association. “Henry was an incredible man, educator and visionary. His passion for the betterment of his beloved profession was powerful and sincere. Henry truly understood, and more importantly, valued the relationships between the school, the students and the dental professionals. He worked tirelessly to make sure his students had the proper education, exposure and experience to share in his vision of supporting all Louisiana communities. Dean Gremillion will forever be missed.”
“Dr Henry Gremillion was one of the most respected in the world in his field of facial pain,” says Glenn M. Kidder, D.D.S., a longtime friend and colleague from the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, where Dr. Gremillion also taught. “He was also loved by all for his love to share his knowledge and his kind demeanor. He was a mentor to many as a dentist and loving person and will be dearly missed by his family, friends and colleagues.”
Dr. Gremillion is survived by his wife of 45 years, Karleen Mackey Gremillion; daughters Erin G. Jackson (Brad) of Tampa, FL and Lindsay G. Maples (Andy) of Ponte Vedra, FL; and sons Alan Gremillion (Sarah) of Jupiter, FL and Scott Gremillion (Wendy) of River Ridge, LA; as well as 10 grandchildren.
Photo and article courtesy of Leslie Capo, Louisiana State University Health New Orleans School of Dentistry
Published on June 10, 2020