Newswise — John A. Valenza, D.D.S., executive associate dean and associate professor in the Department of Diagnostic Sciences at The University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston, has been named the school's interim dean, effective May 23, 2009. Valenza will transition into this new leadership role after the UT Dental Branch's commencement ceremony on May 22 when Catherine M. Flaitz, D.D.S., steps down as dean to pursue her passion for academic oral pathology and pediatric dentistry. Flaitz served as interim dean for two years before being named dean in 2004, the same year she became the first dentist to receive the President's Scholar Award for Teaching Excellence. "I am pleased that Dr. Valenza has accepted this significant responsibility and look forward to his continuing to build on the outstanding programs established by Dr. Flaitz," said Larry R. Kaiser, M.D., president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. The UT Dental Branch is one of six schools that are part of the UT Health Science Center at Houston. As interim dean, Valenza will be responsible for overseeing the school's patient care, educational and research programs. He also will continue to oversee the design and construction of the new UT Dental Branch building, a project he has headed since its inception. Pending final approval by The University of Texas System Board of Regents, construction is expected to begin in late 2009 on the university's south campus. "Dr. Valenza will work alongside faculty, students and staff to build on the various initiatives and strengths of the school, such as patient care, technology and research, creating a bridge for the Dental Branch to the next chapter in its history," Kaiser said. Valenza is a 1981 graduate of the UT Dental Branch and completed a residency in general practice at The University of Tennessee Memorial Hospital. He joined the faculty at the UT Dental Branch in 1987 and has since held numerous leadership roles, including service as director of advanced education and extramural affairs, associate dean for patient care, acting chair of the Department of Diagnostic Sciences and executive associate dean.

Valenza sees patients at UT Dentists, the school's faculty practice, and the school's Graduate General Practice Residency Program, where he also teaches. He is a member of the American Dental Association and six other professional dental organizations. In addition, Valenza is a fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry, the American College of Dentists and the International College of Dentists.

"I am honored by this opportunity and look forward to helping advance the initiatives that are underway with the new building, curricular change and research," Valenza said. "The Dental Branch has an exceptional group of people who make it a tremendous learning institution and I'm excited about what more we can accomplish together."

Flaitz, who was named Texas Dentist of the Yearâ„¢ in 2005 by the Texas Academy of General Dentistry, will remain on the faculty, where she holds the William N. Finnegan III Professorship in the Dental Sciences. She plans to participate fully in the teaching, research and service missions of the Dental Branch. As part of that work, she will continue her travels with fellow faculty members to underserved areas to provide diagnostic care that can lead to vital disease treatment in developing countries where medical care is scarce.

In announcing her decision to step down as dean, Flaitz told Dental Branch staff and faculty, "The future is exciting and I look forward to working with President Kaiser and all of you as I enter another rewarding stage in my professional life. Although dental education is faced with a number of challenges, we have an outstanding opportunity to be the nation's premier dental institution because of the extraordinary resources within the Texas Medical Center and the community." The university will work with a national search firm to identify a new dean of the Dental Branch.

Since its founding in 1905, The University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston has graduated more than 6,000 dentists, 1,850 dental hygienists and nearly 1,500 post-graduate specialists. Currently, the school, which is part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, offers 10 accredited programs: DDS, dental hygiene, two primary care general residency programs and six specialty programs in pediatric dentistry, endodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, prosthodontics, periodontics and orthodontics. The school also offers a DDS/PhD in collaboration with The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston. The central mission of the UT Dental Branch is to provide the highest quality education programs to train dental and dental hygiene professionals and to advance oral health through discovery and dissemination of new knowledge.

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