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December 13, 2004

Dental School Professor Honored For
Guiding Students into Academic Careers

Thomas Taylor

Dr. Thomas Taylor, professor and head of prosthodontics and restorative dentistry, was honored recently by the American Dental Association for his mentoring of students and junior faculty.

Photo by Peter Morenus

Dr. Thomas Taylor, professor and head of the Health Center’s Department of Prosthodontics and Operative Dentistry, has received a Golden Apple Award from the American Dental Association. The national award, presented through the Connecticut State Dental Association, recognized his “outstanding mentoring of dental students interested in academic careers.”

Academic dentistry is “a two-edged sword,” says Taylor. “For a young person to go into academic dentistry is a huge sacrifice.

“The disparity between what a person five years out of dental school makes in private practice and what an academic dentist makes is staggering – maybe three times as much.” Graduates often have six-figure debts, some are trying to start families,“and I’m asking them to give up a lot,” he says.

“One of the reasons I received the award for mentorship is, I believe, because I recognize extreme talent and in some way I’ve been blessed with the ability to convince potential faculty of the utility of an academic career,” Taylor says.

“It’s great mentoring grad students and junior faculty,” he adds. “Prosthodontics is for people interested in clinically based, hard-core, in-your-mouth dentistry. They may not be interested in a career of academics or research, but with mentoring, they get connected with faculty. They come to see the great opportunities blending clinical initiatives with basic science.”

Taylor is a native of Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa, from which he earned his undergraduate and D.D.S. degrees.

He says his choice of careers was made for him. “From the first week of dental school I couldn’t imagine doing anything else except academic dentistry,” he says.

After dental school and a hitch in the Army, he earned a master’s in dental science degree from Minnesota, while receiving specialty training in prosthodontics at the
Mayo Clinic.

Prosthodontics, one of nine recognized dental specialties, involves diagnosis, treatment planning, and the making of artificial parts to replace missing teeth or associated structures. It’s one of the most fashionable dental specialties today, for a variety of reasons ranging from its practitioners’ aesthetic capabilities – they can make old mouths look new – to its technology: prosthodontics is the field for dental implants, and dental implants are the cutting edge of dentistry.

“It’s an exciting time to be in prosthodontics,” Taylor says. “We’re more and more involved with dental implants, and they have changed the face of dentistry. New technologies are rolling out on a daily basis.”