100 Years of ADEA: Dr. Leo E. Rouse

Leo Rouse

Leo E. Rouse, D.D.S., L.H.D. (Hon.), FACD

Professor and Dean Emeritus
Howard University College of Dentistry

In addition to serving as former ADEA Senior Scholar-in-Residence, former Board of Trustees Chair for the ADEAGies Foundation and in numerous roles within the organization, Dr. Leo E. Rouse made history as the first African American ADEA President. His background as an Army Dental Officer provided him with a unique perspective of the profession and dental education. Though he is now retired as Dean of Howard University College of Dentistry, he continues to serve as a mentor to other dental professionals and educators.

Q. Do you think serving in the military as an Army Dental Officer gave you a unique perspective on dentistry and oral health?

Absolutely, my experience as an Army Dental Officer and Commander provided me opportunities to travel the world and to see dentistry and oral health from a global perspective. My interaction with dentists from my global assignments in Europe and the Far East gave me a unique perspective on the commonalities of oral health and disease from an international experience.

Q. You have been described as a consummate mentor to both dental students and military officers. Did you have a strong mentor in your life to help you navigate your way through the dental education profession?

My experience as a dean, dental educator and U.S. Army Dental Corps Commander began with my experience in the Army Medical Department as a clinician at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Department of Dentistry. I was mentored by tremendous and unselfish dental leaders in uniform who understood the value of servant leadership and professional development of young dental officers. I was fortunate to learn and observe from those outstanding mentors; also, as a dental school dean and administrator, the value of humility, caring and providing young men and women with opportunities to achieve their goals in life. Do I consider myself a consummate mentor? The short answer is yes, because as a leader, I truly believe in providing others with the valuable experiences that I was so fortunate to achieve because my mentors believed in me and continue to provide advice in enhancing my professional performance and development. They serve to this date as role models and support systems for me.

Q. You became the first African American to serve as President of ADEA. Though the leadership in academic dentistry and dental organizations continues to diversify, there is still a dearth of African American male dentists. ADEA has started initiatives like the Men of Color Summit to try to change that. What else do you think needs to be done?

Before I tackle this question, let me share with you my journey into dentistry. When I was in the third grade, our family dentist saw in me that I had dexterity skills. He introduced me to carving instruments that I used in his office dental lab. He was a role model for me and from that experience, I was convinced that I wanted to be a dentist.

Before STEM became an acronym in education, I was told to do well in school, especially in science and math. As a community, we must encourage young people, especially African American males, to follow their dreams and to associate themselves with positive role models. The ADEA Men of Color Summit is a great opportunity for all communities to engage with young African American males to explore all opportunities in dentistry. More important, the opportunity for all communities interested in this issue to galvanize their thoughts focused on the value of diversity, equity and inclusivity that propels the commonalities of all cultures with an emphasis on health equity for all communities.

Q. You have also served as Board of Trustees Chair for the ADEAGies Foundation®. How do you see organizations like the Foundation helping to steer dental education into the future?

The ADEAGies Foundation is the philanthropic arm of ADEA. In my view, the ADEAGies Foundation will continue to provide grants and educational opportunities for research and creative technological advances that will propel dental education into the “new normal” of dental education. We have lived in a virtual environment for several years and have learned the important value of technology in our academic communication space. In my view, it is time to rally around and with such technological giants such as Overjet, Google and Microsoft as collaborative giants in support of dental education. I see the ADEAGies Foundation as a collaborative leader in support of the ADEA Board of Directors as they plan the future for dental education.

Q. : Which of your accomplishments in relationship to ADEA and/or dental education, in general, are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my association with ADEA, dental education, and more specifically, dental and allied dental educators plus organized dentistry, because of the many men and women who espouse and support the views of DEI and the importance of health equity in this nation and globally. I was privileged as an ADEA principal officer to work with outstanding board members and executive leadership. I served as a dean of a great dental school until retirement and worked on the ADEA staff as a Senior Scholar-in-Residence and Liaison to the ADEA Council of Deans until retirement from ADEA.