Leadership, Office of the Dean

Q&A with Dean Guthmiller

Janet Guthmiller headshot in front of brick building

This story was featured in The Well’s series of Q&As with Carolina’s newest deans. Janet Guthmiller, DDS, PhD, returned to Carolina in October 2022, as Dean of Adams School of Dentistry.

What’s one surprising thing you’ve learned about your school since you began?

One thing I’ve learned since joining the Adams School of Dentistry team is the significant amount of work put into creating a new curriculum for our students and the national attention it is receiving. It really came to the forefront recently at the American Dental Education Association national meeting. When our faculty presented on our new curriculum and how we are assessing students, the presentation rooms were completely filled; it was standing room only. Everyone across the nation is so excited to hear about the great work the Adams School of Dentistry faculty are doing, including enacting the new curriculum and the new assessment piece. The faculty have worked hard on this and should be proud of what they’ve accomplished.

How is your school fulfilling Carolina’s mission of teaching, research and public service?

The Adams School of Dentistry definitely reflects the University’s tripartite mission.

  • We are educating students and residents to become successful oral health care providers who can go into communities and not only provide outstanding oral health care, but also serve as leaders. We take our mission of teaching seriously, and we’re excited about the curriculum that better integrates our dental hygiene students with our DDS students and residents.
  • We are excited to strengthen our research platform. We have a number of existing collaborations with investigators across campus, but we’re also looking to the future and forming new partnerships and collaborations. We are exploring the role oral health research plays across campus and that role as it relates to overall health. Oral health is pivotal to general health. Collaborating with individuals in medicine and public health and other programs will lead to amazing outcomes.
  • As we focus on service to our community, we offer a phenomenal opportunity for people to come to the school and get their oral health care in our clinics. Our students, faculty and staff also support communities throughout the state. The Dentistry in Service to Community Program is a unique extramural initiative that combines service-learning with oral health care delivery. Its primary focus is on serving marginalized and underserved populations. Participating learners gain valuable clinical and nonclinical experiences that expand their understanding of the oral health care system. These types of clinics allow us to provide wonderful services to citizens throughout North Carolina, especially those who are underserved.

What’s an example of how the school is addressing a current top priority?

A top priority for Adams School of Dentistry is recruiting and retaining amazing faculty and staff and recruiting amazing students. As we think about that as a priority, we ask ourselves: “How do we create an environment that we know will excite people?” We want to draw people to us, make this a place where people want to come to work and learn, where they feel rewarded and they feel valued. Every day, we look at how we treat people, how we value our people and how we recognize members of our Adams School of Dentistry family. To help our recruitment processes, we’re forming an Ambassadors’ Club to become even more welcoming to people considering coming to Adams School of Dentistry.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

I feel so privileged to be the dean of the Adams School of Dentistry because I get to help make other people’s dreams come true. Whether it’s our faculty, our staff or our amazing students, I ask myself: “How can I contribute to fulfilling their dreams? How do I empower others and provide networking opportunities and professional growth opportunities?” It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning and makes me excited to come to work. I also really love the diversity of what I am able to do, from renovating spaces to creating a contemporary curriculum to working alongside incredible faculty, staff and students. I want to make sure our education, research and service programs are fulfilling the mission we aspire to as part of the University community.

Why is UNC Adams School of Dentistry a good investment?

Adams School of Dentistry is an incredible investment because the students who come here are amazing in their own right; they’re the best and the brightest, and they have the good fortune of being taught by wonderful faculty and staff on their journey to becoming oral health professionals. They are being prepared to not only be oral health care providers but to be leaders in their community. We’re also a great place for faculty and staff, as they come into an environment where they will be supported and rewarded as they grow professionally.