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Stephen Young graduated from University of Missouri-Kansas City Dental School in 1971. A residency at the University of Michigan was followed by what he thought would be a brief stay in Oklahoma.
Going on 40 years later, Young can’t imagine living anywhere – or doing anything – else.
Now in his 13th year as the dean of the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry, Young is still an Okie, but his sphere of influence has increased greatly after being selected the president-elect of the American Dental Education Association earlier this year.
“This is an amazing honor,” Young says. “I think I’ll learn a lot.”
Young will learn as he goes, but he understands his purpose will be to educate, something he’s done ever since accepting that first assistant professorship in oral pathology at OU in the mid-1970s.
“We have great faculty, great students, great support,” says Young, whose term will begin March 2013.
At OU, he quickly rose through the ranks from professor to department chair, and then in 1999, he made the best — or craziest — move, depending on what day you ask him, to lead the College of Dentistry.
Young recently saw the college graduate its 36th class in its 65th year of existence. To date, the school has turned out more than 1,900 dentists and 1,000 hygienists.
The College of Dentistry receives more than 700 applicants each year. From that, 56 students are chosen.
Young sees it as his role to make sure they have opportunities once they graduate.
“I think the challenges are basically being able to recruit and retain high-quality faculty,” he says. “It’s no secret that funding for higher education across the country has gone down, so it’s hard to attract and retain good faculty.”
Today’s dental students graduate with a bundle of debt, some $200,000 in student loans, Young says.
Technology isn’t getting any cheaper, so tack on additional outlay of a few hundred thousand dollars for anyone wanting to go into practice on their own.
Young will travel this year while working with the association’s different subcommittees on dental education’s most pressing issues. Like most businesses, he says, they all revolve around money one way or another.
In addition to teaching, the College of Dentistry’s dental clinic also is a primary access point for thousands of patients each year.
“Our fees are one-third of what they would be on the outside,” Young says.
With the volume the clinic sees, he says the school has embarked on an aggressive renovation plan designed to quickly see more patients.
“We want to change the way we deliver care to make it more efficient for patients and more user-friendly,” he says. “We’re changing our clinic management system — part is process and part is software. We’re moving to electronic health records, and in some areas, to total digital imaging.”
Photo by Mark Hancock