5 Questions With ... Dr. Dwight E. McLeod

Dwight E. McLeod, D.D.S., M.S.
Dean and Professor of Periodontics
A.T. Still University Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health

1. What are you most proud of professionally?

Professionally, I am most proud of the many dental students, periodontal residents and implant fellows I have taught since 1995, as well as the enrichment, professional development and growth I have experienced through this process. I am proud to know these dentists and dental specialists are promoting oral health literacy and dentistry as a profession, being active in organized dentistry and creating access to care in rural and urban underserved communities to improve overall health and wellness.

2. What’s the one piece of advice you would give to anyone in dental school?

Dentistry is one of the most coveted professions in the world. Take the opportunity you have been granted and immerse yourself in learning and self-development, absorbing as much knowledge and leadership experience as possible from the faculty members, staff and administrators you interact with daily. With the high cost of dental tuition, it is important that you break down your essential experiences/competencies and the value of your tuition dollars by the minute, hour and day until your graduation. Achieve the best outcomes from your investment in yourself. Be humble, caring, compassionate and selfless and develop a plan to give back to the dental profession and dental education by either teaching part or full time or engaging in community service through volunteering. Please remember: We must define our purpose in life, and nothing in life is more rewarding than when we give back in various ways.

3. What’s the biggest challenge facing dental education today?

I believe the current workforce shortage is the biggest challenge facing dental education. Every dental school in the United States is struggling with workforce shortage, and faculty shortage across all areas of the dental curriculum is the biggest concern.

The most difficult area of recruitment is hiring part-time and full-time dental specialists. I do not see an immediate solution to the problem because of the remuneration in private practice, which is a financial challenge every dental school faces. Many dental schools are using various employment methods to recruit and retain faculty members with minimal success. We must make it a priority to encourage dentists and dental specialists to give back to the dental profession by considering academic career pathways, thus safeguarding the future of the dental profession.

4. What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

One thing people would be surprised to learn about me is that, despite having come from humble beginnings, I was the first one in my extended family to earn a professional degree and a specialty degree. I am thankful for the opportunities, challenges and individuals I have met along the way. My goal is to live a meaningful life through service and volunteering. I am grateful and delighted to have found my purpose in life. Life is good.

5. Who is your go-to person when you need advice?

Trust, honesty and transparency in leadership are critical when seeking advice. It is important to feel secure about the advice you are receiving while feeling confident that the information you are sharing will not be leaked or be used inappropriately or maliciously.

My go-to person for reasonable and rational advice is my wife, Dr. Karen J. Richardson-McLeod. I have other relatives, friends, colleagues, co-workers, mentors and, of course, my supervisor, from whom I seek advice, depending on the topic: work, life or family situations. We do not know it all or have all the answers. It is always great to consider others’ opinions and have enough information to make informed and intelligent decisions.