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Achievement Award: Dr. Dennis McTigue

8/6/2012
ODA Today

     For nearly 40 years Dr. Dennis McTigue has given back to the community by helping patients in need and by educating future dentists. On Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, Dr. McTigue will receive the Ohio Dental Association Achievement Award for his contributions to the dental profession at this year’s Callahan Celebration of Excellence, held in conjunction with the 146th ODA Annual Session in Columbus, Ohio.

     “His combined national service contributions to clinical dentistry, dental education and quality maintenance put him in a unique place in the history of volunteer service to the dental profession,” wrote Dr. Denise Hering, chair of the Columbus Dental Society Honors and Awards Committee, in her nomination letter. “Here in Ohio, he has been instrumental in fostering programs aimed at caring for the underprivileged and underserved through the Division of Pediatric Dentistry at the (Ohio State University) College of Dentistry.”

     Dr. McTigue said he was amazed to receive the Achievement Award from the ODA.

     “I’m incredibly honored,” he said. “There are so many people that I think are more deserving than I am. I think to be recognized by your peers is the greatest honor.”

     Growing up in a small town in Iowa, Dr. McTigue was inspired to become a pediatric dentist thanks to a dentist who helped his brother.

     “I have a brother who was injured at birth, and he is intellectually disabled,” Dr. McTigue said. “We had difficulty finding a dentist that felt comfortable treating him. And when we did, he had a tremendous influence on me, and wound up being my mentor.”

     After graduating from Loras College in Iowa in 1970, Dr. McTigue earned his D.D.S. in 1974 and M.S. in Pediatric Dentistry in 1976 from the University of Iowa.

     Dr. McTigue then accepted a job at Louisiana State University to teach in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry, and he became Chair of the Dental Department at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans. Dr. McTigue planned to stay there for just a year and then go into practice with a few friends, but loved the job so much he stayed for eight years.

     Ultimately Dr. McTigue and his wife, Marty, wanted to move back to the Midwest, so Dr. McTigue accepted a position with The Ohio State University College of Dentistry as Chair of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry. Dr. McTigue has also served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and is currently a pre-doctoral and post-doctoral pediatric dental education professor. Along with teaching, Dr. McTigue also has a private practice in pediatric dentistry.

     “The best thing about being a dentist is you have the ability to help people. You have the ability to really make a difference in somebody’s life on a very personal basis,” Dr. McTigue said. “My passion is to teach; that’s why I’ve stayed in academics.”

     He said he finds inspiration from the parents of children with severe disabilities.

     “We take our health and our position in life for granted. Just today, under general anesthesia, I treated a 7-year-old autistic boy, and his parents are saints,” Dr. McTigue said. “They don’t have much in a material sense, but they are wonderful, loving parents. That’s a 24/7 job. I see it every day, and their strength, their faith and their hope is what keeps me going.”

     Dr. McTigue has volunteered his services in many areas including Head Start, Easter Seals Society, the U.S. Air Force, Public Health Service and is currently an advisor for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Advisory Committee on Training in Primary Care in Medicine and Dentistry. Dr. McTigue also created the Children’s Dental Clinic of Coshocton County, which has served poor children for almost 30 years and is one of Ohio’s longest standing safety net clinics.

     “It’s so gratifying to be able to share one’s talents and expertise, and I think it’s a responsibility of our profession to help folks that need that help,” Dr. McTigue said.

     Dr. McTigue said the best advice he has to give is for dentists to take the best care of their patients as possible.

     “When I talk to our students, I say ‘go out and take the best care of your patients. That should be your goal, to take the best care of your patients, and the financial rewards will follow,’” he said.

     Dr. McTigue said participating in organized dentistry is important because it is a way to advocate for patients and have a larger impact.

     “We individually can help patients, but for us to really be able to help populations and to really change the health care system, we need to do it in an organized fashion. We need to work with organizations to advocate for patients,” he said. “Individually, we can help a few people, but collectively we can help many.”

     Dr. McTigue has served as President of the Academy of Dentistry for the Handicapped, President of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and he has served on and became director of the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Currently he is serving as the outgoing President of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. He also has been involved with several other professional organizations.

     Along with leadership and membership in various professional organizations, Dr. McTigue’s career also includes publishing articles in numerous journals.

     Outside of dentistry, Dr. McTigue’s hobbies are fishing and woodworking. He said he enjoys making furniture, mostly for his kids and grandkids. He and his wife live in Worthington, and they have three grown children – Kevin, Timothy and Molly – and four grandchildren.

Congratulations to Dr. Dennis McTigue!