New Leader for Dental School
Huw F. Thomas, the next dean of Tufts School of Dental Medicine, offered words of praise for the institution he will inherit this summer and promised to “work tirelessly” to advance its mission during his formal introduction to the Tufts community on April 21.
“I can’t tell you how honored I am to become the sixteenth dean of Tufts School of Dental Medicine,” Thomas told the faculty, students and staff gathered on the school’s sunlit fifteenth floor on the Boston campus. “Tufts has an outstanding reputation, not just for its clinical work and research, but for the legacy it’s created. I look forward to working with each and every one of you on the many challenges ahead. Working together, we can face them and continue Tufts’ wonderful legacy,” said Thomas, who starts his new job on August 1.
Thomas has been dean of the School of Dentistry and a professor of pediatric dentistry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) since 2004. He helped bring UAB to the forefront of dental education reform with a progressive curriculum, while building a strong research enterprise in a clinical education setting.
Tufts President Lawrence S. Bacow called Thomas “a highly respected scholar, a gifted clinician and a talented administrator. You are joining a fantastic team. . . I hope you find Tufts to be as welcoming and warm as I have these past 10 years,” said Bacow, who is stepping down this summer. “I know you’ll do well by this place, and I know this place will do well by you.”
“I really want to welcome Huw,” said Dean Lonnie H. Norris, who is retiring this summer after leading the school for 15 years. Both men have met before, as members of the American Dental Education Association’s Council of Deans. Norris said that his successor “fostered positive relationships” and is currently chair of the council. “He is a well-respected chair, and I know he has the leadership vision and the credentials. I am very pleased he decided to accept the position here at Tufts.”
Prior to joining UAB, Thomas held positions of increasing responsibility at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the University of Connecticut Health Center. He is the author or co-author of more than 150 articles, chapters and abstracts in numerous scientific journals. His research focuses on tooth development, particularly that of the tooth root and periodontium, the tissues that surround and support the teeth. Most recently his studies have examined nutritional influences on the development of tooth enamel.
A fellow of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American College of Dentists and International College of Dentists, Thomas is also a member of several national and international associations and societies, including the Omicron Kappa Upsilon dental honor society.
Thomas chaired the section on dentistry and oral health sciences of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2010, he received an Award for Excellence from the Society for Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine.
A native of Wales, Thomas earned his dental degree from Guy’s Hospital at the University of London. He received a pediatric dentistry certificate from the Eastman Dental Center in Rochester, N.Y., and a master’s in dental research from the University of Rochester. He earned a doctorate in biomedical sciences from the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington.
Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and the University of Alabama Birmingham share an interesting history. In 1949, dental school Dean Joseph Volker left Tufts to head the newly established School of Dentistry at UAB. Volker went on to become UAB’s president and chancellor. And Charles “Scotty” McCallum, D51, H88, is a former president of UAB and served as dean of its dental school from 1962 to 1977.
“It’s about time Alabama gave something back to us,” joked Norris.
“I want to thank Lonnie for the graciousness he’s shown me over the last few days, which I know will continue during the transition,” said Thomas. “I want to thank the administration for putting their trust in me. I will work tirelessly to fulfill that trust and to move Tufts Dental School forward.”
Jacqueline Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.