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April 29, 2002

Somerman named dean of UW School of Dentistry

Dr. Martha J. Somerman, an expert in cell behavior and in molecular approaches to restoring tissue, has been named the dean of the University of Washington School of Dentistry, UW President Richard L. McCormick announced today. The appointment follows a national search and is subject to confirmation by the UW Board of Regents at its next regular meeting on May 17.

Somerman, 55, is associate dean for research at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. She was recently president of the American Association for Dental Research, serves on the advisory council for the National Institute of Craniofacial and Dental Research, National Institutes of Health, and is a diplomate of the American Academy of Periodontology. She was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2001.

“I am very pleased by the appointment of Martha Somerman,” said UW President Richard L. McCormick. “She is well-respected for her teaching and research, and has attained prominent national recognition for both. Dr. Somerman will provide fine leadership for our strong and nationally renowned School of Dentistry.”

Somerman was selected after a national search led by Dr. Paul G. Ramsey, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“I am honored and privileged to be associated with such a prestigious and prominent dental school,” said Somerman. “I hope to contribute to its continuing growth and success.

“I also want to thank my colleagues at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry for the support and encouragement they have given me during the past 11 years,” she added.

Somerman succeeds Dr. Paul B. Robertson, who retired last year as dean after nine years, and was recently named the Washington Dental Service Foundation Distinguished Professor in Dentistry. Robertson remains active in clinical teaching to dental and graduate students and continues his research interests in the oral consequences of primary and acquired immunodeficiency diseases.

Since July 2001, the acting dean of the school has been Dr. James C. Steiner, associate dean for curriculum and instructional resources.

Somerman received her D.D.S. degree from New York University in 1975, and her Ph.D. from the University of Rochester, New York, in 1980. She received a periodontics certificate that same year from Eastman Dental Center, Rochester.

Somerman has been the William K. and Mary Anne Najjar professor in the Department of Periodontics, Prevention and Geriatrics at the Michigan dental school since 1991. She chaired the department from 1991 to 2001. She also has been a professor in the University of Michigan medical school’s Department of Pharmacology since 1995. Previously, she was on the faculty of the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery.

Since 1981, she has maintained a private practice in the specialty of periodontics. Somerman’s laboratory focuses on understanding the factors, genes and mechanisms regulating formation, maintenance and regeneration of soft and hard connective tissues. Her research support is from both NIH and the private sector. She has over 100 publications in peer-reviewed journals and has served on several editorial boards.

Somerman will assume her new duties on Sept. 18. Her annual salary will be $276,000.

Among the largest dental schools on the West Coast, the UW School of Dentistry offers both predoctoral (D.D.S.) and graduate training in dentistry. The school operates the largest dental outpatient clinic in the Pacific Northwest.

The school has earned a strong reputation for its innovative programs and pioneering research in oral health. The UW School of Dentistry received almost $10 million in research support in 2001 — more than any other dental school — from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, one of the National Institutes of Health.

About 75 percent of all dental practitioners in Washington state graduated from the UW School of Dentistry.