WVU alumni take on presidential roles at national dental associations

For two West Virginia University School of Dentistry alumni, the clinical skills and emphasis on outreach they learned during their academic journey has led them to the role of president with national oral health associations.

Dr. George Shepley is currently serving as president of the American Dental Association. A 1977 graduate of the School of Dentistry Doctor of Dental Surgery program, Shepley practiced in Baltimore, Maryland, for over 40 years.

Early in his career, Shepley became involved in the American Dental Association as a way to participate in continuing education courses and network with other providers.

“I have always enjoyed the community aspect and collaborating with other dentists,” Shepley said.

Shepley also credits the dental school for providing the necessary tools to be a skilled dentist while encouraging collaboration among peers and colleagues.

“The School of Dentistry gave me a fabulous foundation for being a good clinician,” Shepley said. “It taught me the skills needed to perform dentistry and I learned about professionalism from the committed faculty.”

Now as president of the American Dental Association, Shepley is utilizing the skills learned throughout his time at WVU and during his career. He notes that throughout his term, focusing on key aspects of disease prevention has been a big goal.

“One of the reasons the American Dental Association exists is to make people healthy,” Shepley said. “That means many different things, and one of my personal goals is continuing to emphasize prevention in dentistry.”

In working toward this goal, Shepley will have the opportunity to attend the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health later this year.

Dawn Dean, assistant professor in the Department of Dental Hygiene, is current president of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. Dean first attended West Liberty University and earned an Associate of Science degree in dental hygiene in 1984 and later graduated from WVU with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 1986 and a Master of Science in Dental Hygiene in 1992.

Dean’s leadership journey began as the president of the Student American Dental Hygienists’ Association. Her dream of one day leading the professional organization was realized in 2022 when she was elected president following appointments as president-elect, vice president and District III trustee, among other roles on the local, state and national level.

From corporate to clinical practice, expert witness to wellness coach and faculty member at West Liberty University to now in the WVU School of Dentistry, Dean emphasizes that these positions have worked together to shape her into the professional she is today.

Now serving as the American Dental Hygienists’ Association president while also an assistant professor, Dean explains that the two roles have been beneficial to each other.

“My roles are intertwined and complementary to each other in many ways,” Dean said. “Serving as the president of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association has enabled me to share my leadership journey and serve as a role model for my students.”

Dean notes the foundation provided by the dental school along with the WVU spirit have helped her serve in these national roles and look toward the future.

“It’s important that we look holistically at each individual we treat and that we clear a pathway as Mountaineers so everyone can rise up. This is why we climb.”

Following her term as American Dental Hygienists’ Association president, Dean is excited to serve as chair of the 2023-24 Institute for Oral Health Board of Directors and immediate past president, in addition to continue working as a faculty member while also pursing endeavors in interprofessional education.

“I’m interested in working more with interprofessional education and finding ways that we can incorporate dental hygienists and professionals into patient care teams,” Dean said.

Both Dean and Shepley explain that having two School of Dentistry alumni serve in national presidential roles at the same time is a unique position for the school and university.

“We are the only dental school that has had alumni serve as the American Dental Hygienists’ Association and American Dental Association presidents simultaneously,” Dean said.

Shepley adds that it shows the value of an education from their alma mater.

“It speaks to the leadership and quality of the education provided at WVU,” Shepley said. “On the American Dental Association board, there are three WVU alumni which is also unique for the school and university.”

Both Shepley and Dean addressed the Class of 2023 during graduation celebrations.

The School of Dentistry has a variety of ways for students to become involved in leadership roles during their time on campus. From outreach events like Brush With Dentistry and Destination Dentistry to student organizations including the American Student Dental Association, American Association of Women Dentists and Student American Dental Hygienists’ Association, there is a myriad of options for students who are looking to stay connected outside of the classroom.

To learn more about the School of Dentistry visit dentistry.wvu.edu.

Photo at top: Graduates of the West Virginia University School of Dentistry, Dr. George Shepley (left) and Dawn Dean are currently serving as president of their respective national organizations, the American Dental Association and the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. (WVU Photos/Davidson Chan)