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Dean Huja stands with 2018 Dental Medicine Graduates

A message from the dean

January 12, 2018
Dean Huja with his family
Dr. Sarandeep Huja and his family

Dear Alumni and Friends: 

I bring greetings from the James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine and thank you for the warm and generous welcome you have extended to me. I joined the College on the heels of an extremely successful accreditation site visit. For this success, my sincere gratitude goes to Interim Dean Patricia Blanton, Vice Dean Tariq Javed and the entire team of associate and assistant deans, chairs, and directors along with our faculty, staff, and students. Our outstanding outcome is a testament to the hard work and quality of education we provide at the College.

Let me introduce myself. I grew up in Bombay (now known as Mumbai), India. My father was career Navy; after 31 years in the service, he decided to spend the rest of his career in shipbuilding/marine engineering for the public-private partnership in Mumbai. My mother was a school teacher but mostly devoted her time to focusing on family, given that my father was frequently deployed. My brother, a graduate of the University of Virginia, has an industrial automation company in Richmond, Virginia. 

I received my dental and orthodontic training from the Government Dental College and Hospital in Bombay in 1987 and 1992, respectively. From 1993-2001, I was associated with three U.S. institutions, receiving a M.S. from Marquette University in 1995,  a Ph.D. and orthodontic certificate  from Indiana University in 1999, and a D.D.S. from the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry in 2001. From 2001-2011, I was fortunate to be on the faculty at the Ohio State University under the mentorship of Dr. Katherine Vig, a world renowned orthodontist and educator. It was at Ohio State that I met my wife, Pinar, who at that time was a visiting faculty in periodontology. In 2011, we both moved to the University of Kentucky to assume faculty positions. It was in Lexington, Kentucky, that we had the birth of our twins, Maya and Dahan, who are soon going to be 3 years old, which is hard to imagine! They clearly are the joy and provide immeasurable purpose to our lives and we are very excited to move to Charleston as it will be a great place to raise our family.

I have always been influenced by Maya Angelou’s quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This has been a caution to me throughout my life and career. I am a student of history and am still in the process of understanding the privilege that has been bestowed upon me to lead the College. Eight deans have preceded me and built an outstanding team of leaders, teachers, clinicians, and alumni whose influence is felt throughout the world. It is upon their shoulders that I humbly stand. Every so often, I look with awe at the signage outside the College and am reminded of the legacy of Dr. James B. Edwards. 

In my first six weeks and at the time of writing you, I have learned and continue to learn a great deal about the College. I have held open town halls to continue to engage the faculty, staff, and students and am impressed by their extraordinary talent and candor. I have reiterated with the students that they are the reason we are here, that we value their feedback, and that we remain committed to providing them with best skill sets to ensure lifelong success. 

We encourage our alumni and students to remain connected, particularly as our young dentists transition into their careers. Soon after my arrival, I was fortunate to attend the rededication of the Macaulay Museum and want to express my appreciation to the alumni and friends whose generosity helped make this a reality.  As we advance into the digital age, the museum reminds us of the amazing progress our profession has made. For those of you who have not yet seen the renovated museum, please join us for a tour during our alumni weekend in April.

With progress in mind, Dr. Wally Renné has been appointed assistant dean of innovation and digital dentistry. I spent some time shadowing Dr. Renné in the clinics and was astounded to learn how far ahead our College is in comparison to other institutions. We will continue to be leaders and innovators under Wally’s leadership as we embark on a new age in dentistry, made stronger by the partnerships we build. 

My promise to you, our partners in organized dentistry, our patients, and the College is one of openness, transparency, respect, and striving for excellence. In the future, you will receive regular updates from the College to help you remain engaged with us. You are always welcome at the College of Dental Medicine and my office will remain open to you. I was honored by the reception hosted by Dr. and Mrs. Richard Boyd in Columbia on Jan. 11, 2018, and enjoyed meeting many of you and introducing my family to yours. 

I wish each of you best wishes for success and happiness in the new year. It is a time to remember how fortunate we are to be dental health professionals and the opportunities that affords us both professionally and personally. 

With deep gratitude,

Sarandeep Huja