UAB Dentistry News
Nicolaas C. (Nico) Geurs, DDS, MS, Professor and Chair of the Department of Periodontology, has been named the First Holder of the Dr. Tommy Weatherford/Dr. Kent Palcanis Endowed Professorship in Dentistry. The appointment was approved by the Board of Trustees of The University of Alabama at its meeting held in April.
The endowed professorship acknowledges the notable careers of Dr. Weatherford and Dr. Palcanis, two outstanding educators who have made a difference in the profession. It is given in recognition of a full-time Periodontist who has a distinguished career in academics and has demonstrated a commitment to and excellence in the areas of teaching, research, and service.
Read more about Geurs’ appointment in the UAB News.
Nathaniel Lawson, DMD, assistant professor at the University of Alabama Birmingham School of Dentistry, was recently awarded the 2015 John W. Stanford New Investigator Award for his research project examining methods used to measure the effectiveness of new composite materials used in crowns, cavities and other dental repairs.
“In the laboratory, we test many of the new products that either have come to market or are about to come to the market,” Lawson said. “Often we will discover problems with new materials based on specific clinical applications.”
He says that, as these materials transition to mainstream dentistry, clinicians will need to know if they are able to fully polymerize at different depths. Lawson’s research project examined the method used to measure the depth of cure of composites, specifically bulk fill composites.
In his laboratory, some of the new materials being tested include a resin infiltration material that would allow small cavities to be restored without the use of anesthesia or drilling and new filling materials that release calcium and phosphate to help remineralize teeth.
The American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs selected Lawson to receive the award, which is being bestowed for the third time in as many years.
Not many of us can say that we knew what profession we wanted to pursue since the fourth grade. But, that is exactly what happened with Dr. John D. Barnes (’81). His pediatric dentist, Dr. Paul Ivey, helped him with a science project, which consisted of tooth models and cross sections. “He was very helpful in providing materials and coaching me,” Dr. Barnes remembers. “I didn’t win first place, but I won something like an honorable mention. But, it did get my attention, and being a dentist became my goal at that point.”
Dr. Barnes attended Grissom High in Huntsville, and then attended Birmingham Southern College. “At the time, Birmingham Southern graduates had a 92 percent acceptance rate into professional schools,” he explains.
“So, that seemed like the place to go.” From there he was accepted into the School of Dentistry. “I had a wonderful experience,” he explains. “It was extremely rigorous and very demanding, but I enjoyed it.”
He says four professionals particularly had an impact on his life. Dr. John Orr was one. He worked in his office and guided him through the acceptance process. Dr. David Greer was another, and they were life-long friends. He also remembers Dr. Charles Barrett. “I will never forget him showing me how to accomplish a certain technique with his own hands.” And the fourth was former UAB School of Dentistry Dean Dr. Charles A. “Scotty” McCallum, whom he worked with for three years. Everyone of them had a major impact on me,” he says with obvious affection. “In addition to the things I learned in classes, both Dr. McCallum and Dr. Greer gave me the management and people skills I have used my entire career.”
After graduating from the School of Dentistry, Dr. Barnes participated in a General Practice Residency at Huntsville Hospital. “This gave me a real jumpstart,” he explains. “It was intense. I was way ahead, technically, where I would have been had I gone into private practice.” Following the residency, he opened a private practice in 1982. He practices all phases of dentistry, but focuses on implants and cosmetic dentistry. When asked after all these years, what motivates him to still go into the office every day, Dr. Barnes says it is the people. “Patients feel like friends and many times like family,” he says. “Some have been with me the entire track. I could never sit at home. I’d be bored to death. I love being with my patients and staff.”
Dr. Barnes says he welcomes the opportunity to give back to the profession and the School of Dentistry, which has enhanced his life more than he could have ever imagined. “For dentists, our profession has given us so much, he explains. “A lot of my best friends are dentists. My patients and my staff are all great friends.” Dr. Barnes’ actions speak louder than his words. In 1993, he was elected UASOD Alumni Association President. At the time, he helped spearhead the “Building for Excellence” campaign. Dr. Charles Ray Graham was chairman of the campaign. “It was a good thing we both lived in Huntsville,” he says. “We spent many nights and afterhours planning.” The campaign was extremely successful, raising more than a million dollars.
Dr. Barnes serves on the UAB Dentistry Leadership Council, an organization he chaired in 2014 and 2015. “My goal is to give today’s student as good an experience as I had,” he explains. “To me helping individuals is the ultimate way to give back. That’s much more meaningful to me than to give bricks and mortar.”
Dr. Barnes is so committed; he holds events in his own home. “There we honor Dr. Michael Reddy, the dean of the School of Dentistry,” he says. “ Dr. Reddy’s philosophy of the School leading oral healthcare really rings true. I use it myself, when characterizing the School. We also like to bring in people, who would like to consider the School of Dentistry their family and want to make it better, whether it be financially or time-oriented. We try to convince others to give back as we do.”
For Dr. Warren Arrasmith, the 2016 chairman of the UAB Dentistry Leadership Council, his life in dentistry has come full circle. Having graduated from the UAB School of Dentistry in 1969, he now is on the faculty and heads the Maxillofacial Surgery Clinic. His journey from student to faculty to chairman of the Leadership Council has been an interesting one.
Following graduation from the School of Dentistry, Dr. Arrasmith enlisted in the air force. He was stationed at Clark Air Force base in the Philippines. There he practiced general dentistry mostly, but developed a keen interest in maxillofacial surgery. After leaving the air force, he returned to Birmingham and was accepted into the maxillofacial surgery program at UAB. He began his residency in 1974. Once that was complete, he practiced maxillofacial surgery in Birmingham for the next 40 years.
“What intrigues me is that maxillofacial surgery straddles the fence,” he explained. “It has the surgical aspect, which I enjoy, as well as the dentistry. It’s very challenging and very broad. There’s a lot of diversity and it’s always interesting.” Dr. Arrasmith says he enjoyed the interaction with patients the most. “I enjoyed helping relieve someone’s pain. For example, an abscessed tooth,” he said. “And, the reconstructive surgery was very gratifying. Patients might have been shy and reserved and picked on as kids. You can change people’s lives.”
“And maxillofacial surgery is different than general dentistry,” he continued. “We take care of people and they come and go. We don’t get a chance to build a relationship with them. But, it’s nice when they are so happy that they refer their friends and family and we see different generations throughout the years.”
Changing people’s lives has been a hallmark of Dr. Arrasmith’s career. “After I retired, I wondered what I would be doing. Still practicing, but cutting back. I didn’t know.” He was then asked to head the Maxillofacial Clinic. To him, it was a perfect fit. “I had been teaching part-time since 1997, so I was familiar with the academic side of things,” he said. “So, when I was asked to head the clinic, I said yes. I enjoy shaping lives and making them better practitioners. Since I was practicing so long, I can give them the benefit of my experiences.”
Improving people’s lives has also been Dr. Arrasmith’s motivation for being on the Leadership Council, and being elected chairman. “It’s a way to give back,” he explained. “Dentistry and my education at UAB have done so much for me. I like to see the school succeed and this helps me be a part of that process. I want to be a part of enhancing the prestige of the school. The Leadership Council gives me a venue to influence and guide some of the members toward projects that are worthwhile, as well as projects we might do to enhance our student’s education and reputation.”
First year dental student Aissatou Barry-Blocker will teach simple steps in personal nutrition that can improve the oral health, and potentially reduce heart disease and diabetes, in the Hispanic and Latin communities. Barry-Blocker, recently selected as part of the inaugural class of the Alabama Schweitzer Fellows, will spend the next year improving community health and developing lifelong leadership skills critical to effecting larger-scale change among vulnerable populations. In doing so, she will follow the example set by famed physician-humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, for whom the Fellowship is named. Barry-Blocker’s project, nutrition education sessions, will coincide with the regularly scheduled health screenings Cahaba Valley Health Care (CVHC) conducts in target Hispanic and Latin communities.
“We are so pleased to bring The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship to Alabama. Our program has a ripple effect in communities as Schweitzer Fellows improve the lives not only of those they are directly serving, but their circle of family and friends as well. So there is a lasting community impact,” said Sylvia Stevens-Edouard, Executive Director of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship.
The Alabama Schweitzer program is housed in the School of Medicine, in partnership with The University of Alabama at Birmingham Schools of Dentistry, Health Professions, Nursing, and Public Health. The Alabama chapter is ASF’s 14th U.S.-based program. In total, sixteen graduate students from universities throughout Alabama were selected as 2016-17 fellows. “We are extremely proud of our inaugural class of Schweitzer Fellows. There was great interest in the program, and we are excited to see what our talented students accomplish over the next 12 months,” said Kristin Boggs, Director of the Alabama chapter of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship.
Barry-Blocker will join approximately 240 other 2016-17 Schweitzer Fellows working at program sites around the United States, as well as one in Lambaréné, Gabon at the site of The Albert Schweitzer Hospital, founded by Dr. Schweitzer in 1913. Upon completion of the Fellowship year, Barry-Blocker and her class of 2016-17 Alabama Schweitzer Fellows will become Schweitzer Fellows for Life and join a vibrant network of more than 3,200 Schweitzer alumni who are skilled in, and committed to, addressing the health needs of underserved people throughout their careers.
Read more in the UAB News.