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Dr. Leon Assael named dean of University of Minnesota's School of Dentistry

Appointment Subject to Board of Regents Approval

May 29, 2012

Leon A. Assael, D.M.D., C.M.M., has been named dean of the University’s School of Dentistry by Provost Karen Hanson. His appointment as the next dean of the School of Dentistry is pending approval by the university’s Board of Regents, which is expected to act at its June 8 meeting.  Assael succeeds Interim Dean Judith Buchanan, Ph.D., D.M.D., and he is scheduled to start in his new role on Aug. 1.

“Dr. Assael has a wide and deep range of experience, an outstanding reputation, and a compelling vision for the future of dentistry and the U of M School of Dentistry,” Hanson said. “Dentistry and the Academic Health Center faculty and staff, as well as the wider professional community, responded enthusiastically to his candidacy because he is someone who combines broad vision with administrative skill, and he has a proven track record of leadership in the field.”

The announcement concludes an extensive national search, which yielded four finalists. Assael has an accomplished reputation in research, surgery and teaching, as well as previous experience as a dean.  His demonstrated enthusiasm for strengthening partnerships and collaboration within an Academic Health Center, coupled with a strong commitment to diversity, aligns his appointment with university President Eric Kaler’s other recent appointments, and with the School of Dentistry’s mission.

“Dr. Assael brings senior leadership experience to the School of Dentistry and the university,” said Dr. Aaron Friedman, vice president for Health Sciences and dean of the U of M Medical School. “I look forward to working with him and the School of Dentistry in furthering the school's missions. His goals for the school fit well with the overall goals of the Academic Health Center, promoting interprofessional education, collaborative research and excellent patient care.”

Assael is a graduate of Columbia University and earned his Doctor of Dental Medicine from Harvard University, School of Dental Medicine, as well as a Certificate in Medical Management from the    University of Kentucky, Gatton School of Business. He completed his residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery at Vanderbilt University. Assael served as dean to the College of Dentistry, University of Kentucky until 2003, when he was appointed professor and chairman of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the School of Dentistry at Oregon Health & Science University.

He is the past editor-in-chief of the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, the past chairman of the Council on Dental Education and Licensure of the American Dental Association, and a diplomate to the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. In 2001, President George W. Bush awarded Assael the America’s Promise Award for advancements in oral health in Appalachia achieved by the University of Kentucky faculty. In 2010, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons awarded Assael the Board of Trustees special recognition award. Included among the professional societies on which he serves are the American Dental Association and the Hispanic Dental Association. Assael’s primary clinical interest is in the area of facial injuries, facial pain and maxillofacial nerve injuries, and he is a nationally known lecturer on a variety of issues.

“The University of Minnesota has one of the highest profile dental programs in the country, attracting the best and brightest students, so I am honored to be appointed to this role,” said Assael. “Being a part of a comprehensive Academic Health Center offers a unique opportunity for collaboration with other health disciplines. Plans for the new Ambulatory Care Center will allow for innovation around patient care and interprofessional education. I look forward to working with students, alumni, potential donors, faculty and staff, and to continuing the tradition of excellence established by the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry.”

The University of Minnesota School of Dentistry is the state’s only dental school and the only dental school in the northern tier of states between Wisconsin and the Pacific Northwest.  Founded in 1888, the school graduates dentists, dental hygienists, dental therapists, dental specialists and research scientists who improve oral health through scientific advances and by translating knowledge and experience into clinical practice.

The Academic Health Center is home to the University of Minnesota’s six health professional schools and colleges as well as several health-related centers and institutes. Founded in 1851, the university is one of the oldest and largest land grant institutions in the country. The AHC prepares the new health professionals who improve the health of communities, discover and deliver new treatments and cures, and strengthen the health economy.

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