David Sarrett, D.M.D., M.S.
As a young man, David C. Sarrett, D.M.D., M.S., dean of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry since 2010, never intended to become an educator.
“I started majoring in chemistry but changed to dentistry because I thought the only thing a person with a Ph.D. in chemistry did was to be a professor at a university,” recalled Sarrett, who joined VCU in 1993 as the chair of the Department of General Practice in the School of Dentistry. “That was the last thing I wanted to be. And look what I have spent my whole career doing!”
Now at the helm of VCU’s dentistry school — one of only 10 in the country that is attached to a comprehensive academic medical center — Sarrett sees the school as uniquely positioned to evolve in the modern world of dentistry.
“The advantage of being in a comprehensive academic medical center is the ability to collaborate and interact with a broad range of health care professionals in the care of patients,” he said. “It helps us see beyond the mouth and look at dentistry as a part of overall health.”
Sarrett also emphasizes the importance of research at the school, both for faculty development and student education.
“Our research mission infuses science into the educational program,” he said. “When you’re in this type of environment, it’s basically like having daily continuing education. Our students are learning scientifically sound and evidenced-based dentistry, making decisions based on the best scientific evidence that we have.”
Sarrett knows firsthand how this cutting-edge education can improve one’s skills; he continues to maintain a regular dental practice despite his packed schedule.
“It’s not typical to see a dean continue to see patients, but I can’t imagine not practicing dentistry,” Sarrett said. “I don’t see how you could have some understanding of what it is we need to accomplish if you’ve lost sight of practice. It helps me understand the context of everything we’re doing.”