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ADA bestows honorary memberships on trio

Recipients recognized for contributions in art, science of dentistry

October 19, 2015

By David Burger

Photo of Ms. Andresen
Ms. Andresen
Photo of Dr. Featherstone
Dr. Featherstone
Photo of Dr. Verma
Dr. Verma
The ADA will honor three individuals with honorary membership at ADA 2015 – America’s Dental Meeting Nov. 9 in Washington, D.C.

The ADA Board of Trustees nominated them for their outstanding contributions to the advancement of the art and science of dentistry.

The honorees are Randi Andresen, who in 2014 retired as the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon’s associate executive director for Advanced Education and Professional Affairs; Dr. Mahesh Verma, immediate past president of the Indian Dental Association; and John Featherstone, Ph.D., dean of the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry.

Ms. Andresen, a native of Denmark, graduated from Michigan State University with a double major in math and German. She began her 46-year career with the American Society of Oral Surgeons in 1968 as a secretary in the education affairs department. She became the associate executive director of Advanced Education and Professional Affairs in the 1990s. She represented the interests of the specialty with other related organizations such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations; the ADA Commission on Dental Accreditation; the American Cleft Palate/Craniofacial Association; the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association; the American College of Surgeons; and other dental and medical groups. In 2008, she received the American Dental Education Association Presidential Citation for significant contributions to dental education and the ADEA.

Ms. Andresen was shocked to learn she would be awarded. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that is wonderful,’” she said. “I didn’t even fathom it could happen. It’s a nice closure to my career.”

People who worked with Ms. Andresen praised her for her long career and service.

“It is our belief that Randi’s unique understanding of the training, practice and issues relating to oral and maxillofacial surgery and dentistry as a whole has helped contribute to the stature and respect accorded our profession by our medical colleagues, federal and state representatives, insurance and third-party organizations and other groups,” said Dr. William Nelson, president of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.

“Her professionalism, perspective and enthusiasm was contagious,” said Dr. Ron Tankersley of Hampton Roads (Virginia) Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and ADA past president. “If professional staff is the lifeblood of a volunteer professional organization, Ms. Andresen was at the heart of AAOMS.”

Dr. Verma holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in dental surgery from Kerala University, India. He has been associated with dental education and patient care at Maulana Azad Medical College in New Delhi since 1985 and has served in various academic positions, leading to his present role as director-principal of the Maulana Azad Institute of Dental Sciences. On top of being the immediate past president of the Indian Dental Association, he is also president of the Indian Academy of Restorative Dentistry and the India chapter of the International Association for Disability and Oral Health. He is a past president of the Dental Council of India, the Indian Prosthodontic Society and the India, Sri Lanka and Nepal section of the International College of Dentists.

“I am extremely ecstatic,” Dr. Verma said. “I firmly believe that the honor has not come singularly to me but it is the recognition and appreciation of the Indian Dental Association’s members and the leaders of IDA collectively. I must also confess that adhered to my happiness is a sense of responsibility. I believe my membership would enable the confluence of thoughts and actions between the eastern and western halves of the globe.”

Dr. Verma’s reputation extends to the United States.

“Dr. Verma is one of few professionals who stands out for their dedication, integrity, hard work and motivation toward promoting the art and science, as well as ethics, in dentistry,” said Dr. Rekha Gehani, a dentist in New York City. “He is one of the youngest dentists to be appointed as the dean of a dental school in India, one of the top dental schools in India.”

“In my humble opinion, to have Dr. Verma as an honorary ADA member would help us add another individual who has been and would be an able proactive ambassador for our organization and profession in the  international arena,” said Dr. Prabhakar Koppikar, a dentist in Flushing, New York.

Dr. Featherstone holds a master’s degree in physical chemistry from the University of Manchester in England and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Wellington in New Zealand. He has served as dean of the UCSF School of Dentistry since 2008, and joined the faculty of the school in 1995. His research over the past 40 years has led to the publishing of more than 280 manuscripts and book chapters, and he is currently active in implementing caries management by risk assessment in several dental schools across the nation. Dr. Featherstone has won numerous national and international awards, including the International Association for Dental Research’s Distinguished Scientist Award in 2000 for research in dental caries, the European Caries Research Organization’s Zsolnai Prize in 2002 for his lifelong contributions to caries research, the Swedish Patent Prize’s Ericsson Prize in Preventive Dentistry in 2002, and the ADA’s Norton Ross Award in 2007 for excellence in clinical research.

Dr. Featherstone too was surprised and excited to be awarded an honorary membership. “It is a great honor, indeed,” he said. “It’s an honor bestowed on very few.”

Even fewer, Dr. Featherstone said, are deans of dental schools who aren’t dentists. He acknowledged that many who meet him are surprised to discover that he is not a dentist because of his decades of contributions to the profession. “It’s pretty rare across the world,” he said of being a dental school dean but not a dentist.

Dr. Featherstone’s colleagues applauded his honor.

“I am one of countless people who consider him to be a mentor and who have tremendous respect for his deep knowledge of dentistry, dental education, dental research and his passion and drive to advance the practice of evidence-based dentistry,” said Dr. Jane Weintraub, dean of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Dentistry.

“Dean Featherstone is a most worthy candidate for this distinction,” said Dr. Charles Bertolami, Herman Robert Fox Dean at New York University’s College of Dentistry. “On a personal note, let me add that I have known and respected Dean Featherstone for many years as a colleague and friend, whose contributions to the profession I hold in the highest regard.”