Dental leader, veteran to speak at May 20 MUSC Commencement ceremony

May 15, 2023
A throng of students in graduation gowns sit in an auditorium
Graduates from the College of Nursing celebrate during the 2022 MUSC Commencement Ceremony at the North Charleston Coliseum. Photo by Anne Thompson

Lisa Saladin, PT, Ph.D., vice president of Academic Affairs and provost, was pleased to announce that Theresa Gonzales, D.M.D., an alumna of the MUSC College of Dental Medicine (CDM) and recently returned professor, will serve as commencement speaker at the 193rd MUSC graduation event. She will address the graduating class of 2023 at the North Charleston Coliseum, located at 5001 Coliseum Drive. Graduates will receive their degrees from one of MUSC’s six colleges: Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing or Pharmacy.

Gonzales, originally from Walhalla, South Carolina, graduated from the CDM in 1984. After an impressive 31-year military career with the U.S. Army, retiring as a colonel, she returned to academia in 2013 at MUSC. She received tenure in 2015 and was promoted in 2016 to the position of associate dean of Curriculum and Strategic Communication at the James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine.

Mugshot of woman with gray hair wearing a dark blue turtleneck 
Dr. Theresa Gonzales

In 2017, Gonzales was named the executive director of the American College of Dentists, a national nonprofit organization located just outside of Washington, D.C., in Rockville, Maryland, where she served for five years before returning to MUSC in October of 2022 as professor of Stomatology and the director of the Ryan White Wellness Center of Charleston Dental Clinic, a federally-funded clinic for people living with HIV.

“I planned to retire, but that was short lived,” she said. “I think that lasted about two days. I came back to work at MUSC, which I always loved.”

Gonzales specialized in chronic orofacial pain (COFP) and offers consultative services to oral diagnosis, oral radiology and oral medicine at the Hollings Cancer Center, bridging the gap between oral and systemic health. She currently has 1,072 patients enrolled in the newly created Chronic Orofacial Pain Management Service, the first service of this type to be offered at the CDM. 

Gonzales is a recipient of numerous awards and honors, including:

  • The Consumer’s Research Council of America recognition as one of America’s Top Dentists in 2005, 2010 and 2015.
  • The 2008 Eclipse Award for Exemplary Leadership by the International Women’s Review Board.
  • The Lucy Hobbs Taylor Award as Outstanding Women Dentist 2013.
  • MUSC/American Student Dental Association – Outstanding Basic Science Professor-College of Dental Medicine, 2014-2016.
  • Pierre Fauchard Presidential Award of Excellence in Leadership, Pierre Fauchard Academy, Grand Opening Ceremony, Aug. 20, 2021.
  • 2022 Pierre Fauchard Gold Medal Award for Outstanding Leadership, Houston, Texas.
  • International College of Dentists Award for Excellence in Research.

Gonzales has authored over 50 scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals, and she continues to demonstrate her passion for her field with the approaching publication of her history book, which will be released this year.

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