The Way I See It: Dr. Danette McNew ’88
Dr. Danette McNew has given freely of her time and expertise in multiple dentistry-related roles for three decades, including endeavors that have been fulfilling beyond compare, she says.
Now it’s time to focus on sharing her time with another group she is equally passionate about: her parents, family, friends, and even herself.
This spring, McNew taught her last class as an adjunct assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Dentistry after 29 years of teaching sports dentistry and athletic mouthguard fabrication techniques.
“I seldom took a day off from teaching or my practice, unless it was a vacation week,” she says. “There are so many things on my list already.”
Her influence has been felt far and wide as she volunteered countless hours, including serving as president for three different dental-focused organizations: the Academy for Sports Dentistry, Dallas County Dental Society and Texas A&M College of Dentistry Alumni Association.
McNew was recently bestowed the President’s Award and College of Dentistry Faculty Member award by DCDS. In 2019, she won an Excellence in Clinical Teaching Award from the college, and she was named Dentist of the Year by DCDS in 2016. She also has spent what little spare time she had fitting mouthguards for Olympic athletes, including men’s and women’s winter sports teams. McNew will continue practicing general dentistry in Rockwall.
What was especially distinctive about the 29 years you taught at the dental school?
My most memorable times and what I will miss the most are the opportunities to see students’ perceptions and knowledge change through the educational process. So many times “the eyes lit up,” and understanding occurred on the smallest pieces of information shared, and then I felt a sense of accomplishment.
Did you learn from your students?
Why, yes. Many years of students – and the learning was from both sides of the teaching model. I became more effective in multitasking (working with 10 to 12 students at a time helped this), quick decision-making (every student needed answers and help immediately), and I developed better patience (most of the time).
What is the most important way dental school prepared you for practice?
Dental school has the opportunity of providing an abundance of learning situations. I learned what I was good at and what I liked to do, which enabled me to focus on those skills in private practice (and probably why I am still practicing after 33 years and my classmates are retiring?).
Did your early practice years teach you a thing or two?
Luckily, I started teaching in my early years after graduation, so between private practice with my father for the first few years (he is a dentist) and teaching dental students, I believe my dental knowledge increased quicker than being solo in this profession.
What’s the best part of your workday?
I have loved being the director of our sports dentistry selective since 1996. Yet, this past year (yes, COVID-19) was different, to say the least. Normally I would have a class of 25 students to teach didactic and clinical content as a group, but this past year I met with two students each morning from summer to spring at 8 a.m. before clinic to teach hands-on athletic mouthguard fabrication. Yes, the process is always fun, but this one-on-one time allowed me to interact and discuss things outside the box of clinic education. It was very rewarding time spent for me and, I hope, for the students as well.
What’s the best thing about the dental profession?
The ability to have a support system after graduation is essential. Being involved in organized dentistry (Dallas County Dental Society, Texas Dental Association, American Dental Association) allows a continued connection with my colleagues through the years. I can keep in touch with my fellow classmates and all the students who have touched me since the beginning. It is exciting to see how these new students have succeeded in practice, and it makes me feel very proud to have been a small part of their growth.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Well, I have to say I am an early riser, so it is usually easy to get up. But my motivation stems from a relationship with God, who fuels me with a desire to make a difference in others’ lives in order to make life better. Is it challenging? You betcha, but it is worth it.
Do you keep in touch with your classmates?
I have some of my best friends among my dental school classmates. We may not talk weekly, but when we do email, text or chat, it is like time has stood still. We begin again just where we left off.
What do you most hope is your legacy in the profession?
Students now dentists are involved in organized dentistry and making significant impacts, receiving awards for their involvement, and their abilities in the profession, particularly sports dentistry. Also, seeing my patients’ grandkids and helping build their self-esteem with their smiles, which connect to their hearts. My legacy has begun.