Three interim department heads at Texas A&M School of Dentistry were recently named to those positions permanently. Each faculty member brings years of experience and insight to their respective departments.
Dr. Madhu Nair was named head of diagnostic sciences after serving as interim since September 2022. He stepped up initially, he said, to give the department some stability during a time of turnover, while serving as the associate dean of graduate studies. Continuing in the role, he hopes to help those under his leadership grow professionally.
“We were in a state of flux these past few months, but now we have some stability and direction,” he said. “There are a few critical goals I’d like to achieve with the help of my faculty. I have a very supportive and forward-thinking group of faculty in the department. It is important to empower them so that they can advance in their profession and take on leadership roles of their own in the future.”
The Department of Diagnostic Sciences comprises two divisions: oral and maxillofacial pathology, and oral and maxillofacial radiology. As department head, Nair said he wants to see both divisions advance significantly in their own rights, making the department a center of excellence in these disciplines. He’s excited about the recently revamped biopsy service, under the division of pathology, and looks forward to it providing a full spectrum of services again.
Nair also wants to integrate artificial intelligence technology in the department to improve workflow efficiencies; enhance teaching, research, clinical and business operations; and give students the opportunity to learn about the technology, as it will have a major impact on the dentistry field in the near future.
“Overall, we’re looking at expanding the graduate programs to the greatest extent possible while incorporating cutting-edge technology,” Nair said. “[Artificial intelligence] has many contributions to make to the clinical and research enterprise. We want our students to be ahead of the curve.”
Dr. Reginald Taylor was named associate dean of graduate and professional programs after serving as interim since October 2022. His goal for the new role is what he also strives for in life.
“My goal for this position mirrors my life goal, to leave this position in even better shape than it was when I entered,” he said.
Taylor joined Texas A&M School of Dentistry in August of 2000, as an associate professor and director of pre-doctoral orthodontics. He has also written chapters in several textbooks, as well as multiple journal articles, on top of teaching. As associate dean, Taylor serves as the school’s representative to the many graduate committees and councils. The graduate and professional programs include: advanced education in general dentistry, graduate programs in biomedical sciences, endodontics, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, oral pathology, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, prosthodontics, public health sciences and, in addition, continuing dental education.
“It is my office’s responsibility to make sure that the school’s graduate programs align with the other university graduate programs,” he said. “Internally, we are responsible for maintaining compliance and consistency among the policies and procedures of our different graduate programs.”
Dr. Bernard Hennessy was named head of comprehensive dentistry after serving as interim since January 2022. He provided stability in the last year-and-a-half as the school underwent significant change, and now he’s focused on maintaining morale and meeting staffing needs.
“In the past, I’ve had some leadership responsibility,” Hennessy said. “I was program director for AEGD programs and clinic chief of Army dental clinics, but coming into this position was a steep learning curve. There was a lot going on; there was a lot to get used to. Like a lot of department head positions, no matter what it is, there’s a lot to learn.”
Hennessy joined the school in 2013, following 27 years in the U.S. Army as a dental officer. He worked in diagnostic sciences until 2019, when he joined comprehensive dentistry as an assistant group leader. Comprehensive dentistry is the school’s largest department, he said. Their focus is on the pre-doctoral and clinical education all future dentists need. Comprehensive dentistry is an umbrella term for a wide variety of treatments that improve overall oral health.
Hennessy wants to be able to provide students opportunities to learn with the latest technology in dentistry and to continue growing the department’s graduate programs.
“It’s an honor to be able to do something like this, at a school that has this history,” he said. “It’s a little bit overwhelming. I’m quite knowledgeable of the challenges we have, but if we can pull this off – and I think we will – it’s going to be great for the school and for our dedicated faculty and staff. We want to have a positive environment here, and I know we have a lot of good people here. That’s the reason I’m doing this job.”