The town hall-style meeting for the second and final candidate for the School of Dentistry was held Wednesday night on the campus of the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Dr. David Felton, professor of restorative dentistry at West Virginia University School of Dentistry, opened the meeting with an introduction of his family, including his wife who was in attendance, and photos of his children and grandchildren.
Felton commended the SOD for graduating students who are trained at a high level clinically who do well on national and state board exams, the dedication of the faculty to the students, an agile class size and the functionality of the facilities.
He said that innovation, being a leader in academic dentistry rather than a follower, is his preference for the school, and he enjoys leading by example.
“You are going to find that if I have the opportunity to come here as dean, I will still be in the clinics teaching,” said Felton. “I will still treat patients because to me it's important.”
Felton's presentation outlined his strategy for moving the SOD forward and included topics such as opportunities for more community outreach, increasing the school's endowment and interprofessional collaboration with the goal of “putting the mouth back in the body.”
Felton said that the SOD can play a role in improving the health of Mississippians and quoted statistics that represent Mississippi's lagging state of health.
“I think it's incumbent on us as oral health care providers to turn those paradigms and to shuffle them around,” said Felton. “We need to work as a school to reduce oral health disparities in Mississippi. We have to take an active role in the state and help improve not only oral health but systemic health, because they are related.”
Using experiences from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and West Virginia University, Felton introduced an idea for increasing students' clinical experience by expanding community outreach with student rotations outside of the school, allowing students more opportunity for clinical experience and access to oral health care for underserved regions of the state.
Another area that Felton said he can benefit the school is in regards to the endowment.
“When I got to West Virginia, the endowment was $3.3 million, and in three years it was up to $11 million dollars,” said Felton. “I have a passion for doing that.” He said the school should be careful as to how funds are managed, leaning more toward a “private school” model of management. “You don't want to put any of it on the back of the students.”
Felton said that it is time for the SOD to “become fully integrated with the medical center.”
“The opportunities here for interdisciplinary professional education, research and patient care are absolutely phenomenal,” said Felton. “You guys may not realize what a wealth of potential collaboration is here, but it's unbelievable.”
“You have the opportunity to make this one of the premier dental institutions in this country.”
A video of Felton's presentation and Q&A session will be linked here when available. To give feedback about this candidate, click here.