Students say second-career professor is a first-rate mentor
Adjunct faculty roles at both Texas A&M College of Dentistry and the University of Texas at Dallas give Dr. David Murchison ’80 an unusual vantage point for the dental education “circle of life.”
Murchison’s predental students who go on to dental school say his impact goes far beyond his faculty role.
“The one word that comes to my mind when I think about Dr. Murchison is ‘selfless’ — selfless with his actions, his time and his attitude,” says D1 Jennifer Dinh, who took Murchison’s oral histology class as a predental student at UTD, later serving as his teaching assistant. “He always went out of his way to make sure his students truly knew that his door was open. He served not only as a role model and mentor but as an encourager and believer.”
It is along the arduous journey to dental school where Murchison’s support is felt most, say Dinh and former UTD students.
“Dr. Murchison impacted my preparation for dental school in more ways than I can count,” Dinh says. “He encouraged me when I was doubtful and congratulated me at every milestone. It was clear that Dr. Murchison was genuinely invested in helping his students succeed.”
Second-year dental student Fareed Ighani describes his attention as a “positive force” in the application process: calming nerves, offering advice, even educating students on etiquette during and after that all-important dental school interview.
“I aspire to be the quality and compassionate dentist, teacher, and mentor that Dr. Murchison exemplifies. Only then can I truly say I have become successful.”
—Fareed Ighani, D2
Similar advice benefited D2 Nida Suleman, who says, “After I applied and was waiting to hear back, I especially remember Dr. Murchison sending me a motivational email that really changed my perspective.”
Inspiration from this College of Dentistry alumnus is drawn from varied career experiences.
It was in 2010 after retiring from a 30-year career in the Air Force that Murchison began teaching aspiring dentists, first at UTD’s undergraduate level and then at the professional level through the dental school’s Department of Diagnostic Sciences.
“I enjoy my colleagues in the department, and the predental and dental students keep me energized,” he says. He also directs advanced dental materials courses for orthodontics and prosthodontics graduate students and serves as the civilian consultant in restorative dentistry and dental materials to the Air Force Surgeon General.
Graduate education was a major part of his military assignments, which means some former students are now well into their dental careers. In fact, two of his Air Force residents are now on faculty at the dental college: Dr. Diane Flint in diagnostic sciences and Dr. Lolo Wong in pediatric dentistry.
“Dr. Murchison impacted my preparation for dental school in more ways than I can count. He encouraged me when I was doubtful and congratulated me at every milestone. It was clear that Dr. Murchison was genuinely invested in helping his students succeed.”
—Jennifer Dinh, D1
Tuesdays find Murchison with D3 and D4 students in the dental school’s Oral Diagnosis Clinic, screening patients for assignment to the undergraduate clinics or referral to specialty areas due to case complexity. He provides more questions than answers when collaborating with students on evaluation and treatment plans. A Socratic teaching style is the method, and the rewards occur when the students assimilate and apply their didactic learning to patient care in clinic.
“Recently I was staffing a D4, D3 and D2 student and asked a question about the character of the surrounding bone in treatment planning for prosthodontic care,” Murchison recalls. “The D2 immediately had the answer to the question I posed. I asked where he had learned it: ‘In your class at UTD.’ That is truly a satisfying part of my job.”
This “retiree” devotes significant time outside his faculty roles to his appointment as the only dentist on the Merck Manuals editorial board, reviewing professional and consumer content for multiple book chapters after it cycles through the peer review process, one he knows well as a Merck peer reviewer since 2003. His editorial board work entails adding or changing dental-related chapters, helping select contributors, consulting on graphics for the online version and advising on medical topics with dental implications.
For the students, it’s a winning combination.
“I aspire to be the quality and compassionate dentist, teacher, and mentor that Dr. Murchison exemplifies. Only then can I truly say I have become successful,” Ighani says.