Bulletin of Dental Education

Dr. Ken Tilashalski Named Dean of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Dentistry

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Written by Peggy Reisser

Ken Tilashalski, DMD_cropped
Ken Tilashalski, D.M.D.
Dr. Tilashalski, affectionately known as “Dr. T” to students, faculty and staff, has served as the college’s Executive Associate Dean since September 2023. He will succeed James Ragain, D.D.S., Ph.D., who has served the college as Dean since 2018, presiding over the opening of the $45 million Delta Dental of Tennessee Building on the Memphis campus and the launch of the $53 million Healthy Smiles Initiative to expand access to quality dental care across the state.

“We are thrilled that Dr. Tilashalski will lead our outstanding college of dentistry into its bright future,” said Chancellor Peter Buckley, M.D. “A nationwide search identified a stellar leader, who not only knows the college and our university, but also brings an abundance of national knowledge and experience to the role.”

“I am truly honored to be a part of such a great university and college,” said Dr. Tilashalski. “We have a unique opportunity to build on the Healthy Smiles Initiative to improve the lives of the citizens of Tennessee across the state. Dean Ragain has left a fantastic foundation for our future, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with our outstanding faculty and staff, dedicated alumni and statewide partners to do this important work.”

The UTHSC COD is the third-oldest public college of dentistry in the country. The college, founded in 1878, trains 75% of Tennessee’s dentists and most of the dentists in Arkansas.

Since joining UTHSC, Dr. Tilashalski has coordinated preparations for the college’s 2025 Commission on Dental Accreditation site visit. He has also guided the development of a new strategic plan for the college, embracing clinical improvements, supporting new research initiatives and continuing the college’s efforts to increase students and open new clinics through the Healthy Smiles Initiative.

Rick Guthrie, D.D.S., President of the UTHSC COD’s Alumni Association Board of Directors, said he believes the college’s strong and involved alumni organization will support Dr. Tilashalski wholeheartedly. “We are excited for the new ideas Ken will bring to the college as we move ahead to improve the oral health of the people of Tennessee,” he said. “We are also confident that he has the personality to continue the excellent alumni relations that have been a hallmark of Dean Ragain’s successful tenure and are vital to the progress of the college.”

Dean Ragain, an alumnus of UTHSC COD, has exhibited an exemplary 40-year commitment to his alma mater. He will assume the title of Dean Emeritus, joining the ranks of previous leaders who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to the university and the state of Tennessee. As emeritus dean, he will continue this dedicated service, helping to direct the great work being done through the Healthy Smiles Initiative.

Dr. Tilashalski came to UTHSC after more than 12 years as the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where he also held the position of Alumni Association Endowed Professor. He was lauded as a dedicated collaborator, a passionate advocate for student success and an excellent communicator, all traits he has continued to exhibit since joining UTHSC.

Dr. Tilashalski earned his D.M.D. from Southern Illinois University. He completed residencies at UAB in oral and maxillofacial pathology and endodontics, as well as an American Cancer Society fellowship. While at UAB, he held an appointment in the UAB School of Dentistry’s Department of Restorative Sciences and an adjunct appointment in the Department of Pathology at the Heersink School of Medicine.

A Diplomate of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Dr. Tilashalski is also a Fellow of the American College of Dentists and the International College of Dentists, a curriculum consultant for the Commission on Dental Accreditation, a recipient of the UAB President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and a recipient of the Most Excellent Fellow Award from the Alabama Dental Association.

“We are grateful to the members of the search committee for their diligence in finding the best person for the helm of our College of Dentistry,” Chancellor Buckley said. The search committee was led by Vice Chancellor for Strategic Partnerships Paul Wesolowski, M.B.A., and James Haynes, M.D., Dean of the UTHSC College of Medicine in Chattanooga.

Serving on the committee were Kristi Golden, D.D.S., UTHSC COD alumna; Mojdeh Dehghan, D.D.S., Associate Dean for Faculty and Student Affairs, UTHSC COD; Parth Desai, dental student; Jillian McCarthy, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Associate Professor, Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology; James Carson, Ph.D., Senior Associate Dean, Research and Graduate Studies in the College of Health Professions; Mike Ebbs, Associate Vice Chancellor, Office of Finance; Brigitte Grant, M.B.A., Vice Chancellor for Advancement; Nick Mechas, D.M.D., Associate Professor, Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery; Vanessa Patrick, Vice President for Business Development, West Tennessee Healthcare; Phil Wenk, D.D.S., an UTHSC COD alumnus, Advisory Board Chair, and President of Delta Dental’s Smile180 Foundation; Robert Craft, M.D., Dean of the College of Medicine in Knoxville; and Orpheus Triplett, D.D.S., Associate Dean for Extramural Clinical Education and Community Service, UTHSC COD.

“The college has an outstanding history and an exciting future ahead as we work together to fulfill our vision to improve the oral health of all Tennesseans,” Chancellor Buckley said.

Courtesy of University of Tennessee Health Science Center

Published on May 8, 2024

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