Leaders in Dental Education - Dr. Leo Rouse, Former President of The American Dental Education Association

Thasin Jaigirdar
Published on May 26, 2015. Updated on Invalid date.

Dr. Leo Rouse serves as Dean and Professor of Clinical Dentistry at Howard University College of Dentistry and an Advisor to the American Dental Education Association ADEA Leadership Institute. He has been the first African American to serve as president of the American Dental Education Association, serving as the voice of dental education in the US and Canada. Dr. Rouse received his BS and DDS from Howard University. He has also served with the US Army as Commander of the Dental Command.

What is your background and how did you get interested in dentistry?
I became interested in dentistry in the 3rd grade in Jersey City, NJ – my home of birth.  Our family dentist was excited about my dexterity and interest in teeth and encouraged me to consider dentistry as a profession.  At that time in my life – I wanted to become a doctor and although STEM was not a known acronym during my childhood, I always had an interest in science and a curiosity about cells and how things developed.  I was a Pre-dental major at Howard University with a major in Zoology and was determined to attend the Howard University College of Dentistry because of its known history and value to this nation and the global community.

How did you become involved in dental education?
My interest in dental education began in the US Army Medical Department and the Army Medical Department Center and School (AMEDDCS) at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas.  I served a 5-year tour of duty as a trained faculty member in the Dental Science division of the AMEDDCS teaching Army dental assistants, dental hygienists and new officers in the Officer Basic Course in the Army Medical Department.  I also had the positive experience, on a subsequent assignment to the AMEDDCS, to serve as Chair of the Dental Science Division.  My journey into dental education was grounded in my experience as an Army Dentist, educator, administrator, and Commander in the Army Medical Department.

What changes would you like to see in dental education today?
Dental education is the foundation of our profession.  I would still like to see increased engagement in Interprofessional Education (IPE) and Collaborative Practice.   Our dental institutions are doing an outstanding job in preparing the next generation of clinicians, administrators, educators, and researchers.  From my vantage point, I see increased utilization of technology, more collaborative research, and increased collaborative education in our academic health centers.  Discovery is critical to managing and curing diseases, especially in the area of cancer. The correlation between oral health and total health is no longer stuck in silos and we must continue to educate all health care professional students in the domains espoused by the Expert Panel for IPEC – values/ethics; roles and responsibilities; interprofessional communication; and team building.

What was it like serving in the on the US Army Dental Command? Do you have any stories from your experience which you would like to share?
Serving in the US Army Dental Command (USADENCOM) was a pivotal point in my maturation as a health care administrator. It was a monumental personal privilege to serve as the 2nd commander of the USADENCOM.  The men and women who served with me will always be indelibly marked in my heart. They served with honor, valor, humility, unselfishly, and commitment to the values of the Army and our Nation.  I have many stories to share, but noteworthy are the young enlisted soldiers, Noncommissioned officers (NCOs), and civilians in the command who dedicated themselves to serving our active duty service members and their families, our reserve component service members, and our distinguished retirees. Those outstanding members of USADENCOM were my proud credentials.

Do you have any final thoughts you want to share about either your career or just dentistry?
One final thought – my foundation to serve others began many years ago, but my framework was ignited at Howard University and the value of “Veritas et Utilitas” (Truth and Service). I will always be indebted to my parents, siblings and friends who kept me grounded in the values of serving.