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A Gift from the Heart

Benefactors Tim and Laurie Wadhams Name a Professorship to Honor Dr. Walter H. Swartz

A significant gift from Timothy Wadhams (BA ’70, MBA ’73) and his wife, Laurie Wadhams, will name a new professorship, the Dr. Walter H. Swartz Faculty Professorship in Integrated Special Care Dentistry.  The professorship honors Laurie’s father, the late Dr. Walter H. Swartz, a dental professor of prosthodontics for 29 years.

The Swartz professor will provide the leadership necessary to direct the educational program and clinical experience for dental and dental hygiene students, ensuring all U-M School of Dentistry graduates are able to apply treatment protocols for patients with special needs in a private practice environment.

“This very generous gift from Tim and Laurie Wadhams will translate our dream of integrated care for patients with special needs into a reality,” said Laurie McCauley, dean of the School of Dentistry and the William K. and Mary Anne Najjar Professor.  “The Swartz Professorship will allow us to attract a leader with the particular skills to manage this transformational program and who will meld student learning with special patient care services.  We are honored and extremely grateful that Tim and Laurie have bestowed this incredible gift on the School of Dentistry.”

“I wanted to surprise Laurie by doing something to recognize her dad at the School of Dentistry,” Tim Wadhams said.  “I’m impressed with the comprehensive approach the school is taking in creating this clinic, and that it will be multidiscipline and focused on treating people that are in need, including veterans.”

Dr. Swartz’s colleagues found him to be a rare combination of outstanding scholar, private practitioner, beloved professor, and civic leader.  He was nationally known for his research and publications in dentistry and, until recently, was the only faculty member ever to be selected three times by the senior class to receive the school’s Paul Gibbons Award for outstanding teaching. 

“My dad was such a compassionate, caring man who always found time to help others,” said Laurie Wadhams.  “I know he would feel humbled and extremely honored to have this professorship named after him.  Dad always felt that he was very fortunate to be able to enjoy his passion for both teaching and his private practice.  He really loved the School of Dentistry.”

Filling a Need

As part of their clinical training, students in the School of Dentistry work with a broad range of patients, including those with special needs.  Until now, treating this group of patients has been challenging.

Kathryn Brown, a fourth-year dental student, graduated from the U-M dental hygiene program in 2011, and worked part-time as a dental assistant in the school’s pediatric dental clinic.  There she had first-hand experience treating patients with special needs.

“To provide safe, comfortable treatment for patients with special needs, you need room to accommodate the student dentist, dental assistant, caregiver, faculty instructor and sometimes a wheelchair,” Brown said.  “Our current cubicles are not adequate for the needs of our patients.

“In addition, some patients vocalize as a result of their disorder, and these vocalizations can disturb other patients in the area.  A room with a doctor for sound control and privacy would make for a more pleasant experience.”

The school will build a new clinic that will not only enhance the way the patients with special needs receive care, but also better prepare dental, dental hygiene and graduate students to treat these patients after graduation.

The Vision

Thanks to a $2 million gift from the Delta Dental Foundation, the school will build a clinic where patients with special needs will receive both dental and health care services in the same facility from providers across multiple disciplines.

The design of the Delta Dental of Michigan Integrated Special Care Clinic will improve health care access and convenience for patients with developmental disabilities, cognitive impairments, complex medical problems, or significant medical limitations.  The clinic will also serve the vulnerable elderly and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The clinic’s unique delivery model is designed to bring together dental students and faculty with colleagues from other U-M health science schools and colleges, such as the School of Nursing, the School of Social Work and the College of Pharmacy.  This interdisciplinary approach aims to enhance and improve the quality of care for this patient population.