Shortly after taking his position as Dean of the West Virginia University School of Dentistry, Dr. Stephen Pachuta shared the message below with faculty, staff, students, residents and alumni. The University announced his appointment April 7, 2021.
Greetings fellow alumni and friends of the School of Dentistry.
What an exciting time to join an amazing group of professionals at our School of Dentistry. I spent the last two weeks meeting with many of our faculty, staff, students and patients in a number of settings throughout the school. Their excitement and enthusiasm are incredibly energizing!
I want to begin by thanking Interim Dean Panagakos for his leadership during one of the most challenging times in the history of our Nation’s education and healthcare system. Foti and the leadership team expertly navigated the ship through some very rough and uncharted waters. Selfless professionalism defined their journey. Our mission of educating the next generation of healthcare professionals never skipped a beat; clinics, classes and labs adjusted and continued to meet mission. Most importantly, our dental students and dental hygiene students all completed their curricula, graduated and achieved licensure to begin their careers. Please join me in extending my sincere appreciation and personal congratulations on a job very well done to Dean Panagakos.
This is the time of year where the School is in transition. Our seniors just recently graduated and began their careers as new dentists; the D3s are rising and beginning their run to graduation; the D2s are preparing to take on a significantly expanded role in the clinics; and the D1s are thrilled to have a large portion of their basic sciences behind them. Soon the class of 2025 will walk past the Pylons and begin their journey with big smiles, wide-open eyes and an eagerness I’m sure we all still vividly remember.
Since 1957 our School has been recognized for its commitment to clinical excellence. The fundamentals that led to this recognition reside deep within our School. First and foremost is the strong commitment of our faculty, staff and alumni to our students. This personal commitment is central to our past successes and vital to our continued and future successes. Faculty recruitment and retention remain top priorities. We are very successful in some disciplines and challenged in others. For example, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery has been recruiting for a faculty member for a significant period of time; I would say that we are mission critical for an OMFS faculty member, however I am confident we will eventually get there.
We are very rapidly wrapping up a game-changing renovation to our Urgent Care clinics. Our Urgent Care clinic is the gateway and first impression our patients have of our school; these renovations will greatly enhance our ability to welcome and care for patients. I want to thank our School of Dentistry alumni and the WVU School of Dentistry Alumni Association for your always-strong support and extremely generous contributions that made this project possible. This is only the initial phase of a long-term major renovation initiative we are planning for our School. We are currently interviewing a very short list of architectural and design firms with a near-term goal of selecting a firm that will design a comprehensive renovation project focused on expanding clinic spaces to consolidate Suncrest Towne Centre clinic operations back into the Health Sciences Center. I firmly believe that the synergy that comes from having predoctoral and postdoctoral clinics, as well as the Innovation Center, hygiene clinics and faculty practice clinics co-located will provide for the optimal learning environment for all our students. We recognize that this is a bold and aggressive project. I am confident that, following design approval, we will be successful with a space acquisition initiative that will be central to ensuring the success of our renovation project. Digital dentistry has transformed our profession. Technology in education and clinical practice will only continue to accelerate. We must be poised to embrace these technological advances and fully incorporate and integrate them into our curricula. This renovation initiative is integral to meeting the educational needs of our students and caring for our West Virginia and neighboring-state families well into 2050 and beyond.
We will be sharing much more with you in the coming months as our plans take shape. I look forward to seeing each of you at the West Virginia Dental Association meeting at the Greenbrier in July. The partnership that our School shares with the dentists of West Virginia is special and unique. With approximately 85% of the dentists practicing in West Virginia as graduates of our School, we are indeed a very close professional family. Please feel free to call anytime and absolutely plan stop by when you are in town. Our door is always open.
My initial conversation with our faculty, staff and students is available on YouTube. Though a bit long, it provides an overview of my initial and very early thoughts since returning to our School.
Stephen Pachuta, DDS, MS
Dean, School of Dentistry