Dean Nader Nadershahi receives prestigious national dentistry education award

Nader Nadershahi

Dean Nadershahi will receive the William J. Gies Award from the ADEAGies foundation on March 11, 2024. 

Nader A. Nadershahi says he is humbled by the prestigious national award he will receive in spring 2024 honoring his vision and leadership throughout a career of excellence in dental education.

Nadershahi, dean of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and vice provost of the San Francisco Campus, is one of three recipients of the William J. Gies Awards presented by the ADEAGies Foundation.

The awards will be presented March 11, 2024 during the ADEA Annual Session and Exhibition in New Orleans, Louisiana. Nadershahi served as chair of the association’s board of directors from 2022 to 2023.

Gretchen Edwalds-Gilbert, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, says Nadershahi is very deserving of the award.

“Nader has succeeded in taking a student-centered approach to professional education, emphasizing collaboration and building community while putting patient care at the forefront,” Edwalds-Gilbert said.

In a question-and-answer session, Nadershahi shared his thoughts about the award, leadership, opportunities and challenges facing dentistry, and his vision for the Dugoni School.

William Gies brought innovation to the dental profession in the late 1800s. What does this award in his name mean to you?

Nadershahi: William Gies was a biochemist who had a profound impact on dentistry. The report he wrote on dental education changed the profession. He was certainly an innovator with great vision. I am very humbled to receive a Gies award.

Leadership and vision are paramount to your work. Describe your approach to both.

Nadershahi: It is all about finding balance. Vision means having flexibility and looking from the past to the present to the future with an open mind. On the other side, leadership means that you may not have all the answers but you can come up with solutions because of the people with whom you work. The way we got through COVID is a perfect example. We did it together.

You served as chair of the American Dental Education Association (2022-23). Speak about the importance of that work and how you apply it to the Dugoni School.

Nadershahi: Hopefully I have shared value in both directions. We take what we have done at Dugoni and share our innovations with other dental schools. We also learn from others. Some of the framing of our opportunities for students and faculty comes from seeing what others are doing.

What leadership traits did you learn from your mentor, Dr. Arthur A. Dugoni?

Nadershahi: Two people in my life had a great influence on who I am as a person and as a leader: my mother (Zahra Nasrin Ghadiri) and my professional role model Art Dugoni. They both lifted people around them and always found something special about others. I try to do that with our students.

The Pacific Health Care Collaborative in Sacramento will bring together dental and medical services under one roof. How is the project progressing?

Nadershahi: It is moving along well. Everyone with whom I share information about the project, nationally or internationally, gets excited about the potential. You know you are onto something when people ask, “why didn’t we do this five years ago?” I already have three dental school deans who are interested in coming out to see the project and are asking about how we planned it.

What are the major opportunities in dentistry and dental education?

Nadershahi: The public, legislators, educators and others are starting to realize how important oral health is to overall health and the connection of the mouth with the rest of the body. People are understanding how much we can do to prevent disease and improve quality of life.

What is the potential for artificial intelligence in dentistry?

Nadershahi: In dental education, AI can be an asset in helping educate our students, with classroom work. There also are great opportunities on the diagnostic side. Students will be able to access more of the huge amounts of data that we have.

Put on your vision goggles. Where do you see the Dugoni School in 10 years?

Nadershahi: In 10 years I see us having collaborative health centers on all three of our campuses, and possibly other locations. I see our outreach at the local, national and international levels and what we do in the community having grown considerably. And I hope in 10 years we will have an endowment large enough that there is less of a financial burden on all our students. There is a bright future, not only for the Dugoni School but for the university.