Office of the Provost

October 25, 2017

School of Dentistry leadership change, update on fiscal challenges

Jerry Baldasty

I am pleased to announce that Dr. James Johnson, professor and chair of the School of Dentistry’s Endodontics Department, has agreed to serve as the School’s interim dean, effective today. He replaces Dr. Joel Berg, who stepped down as dean October 23 to devote more time to his teaching, research and clinical practice. President Ana Mari Cauce and I are grateful to Dr. Berg for his years of service, and we are looking forward to working closely with Dr. Johnson.

Dr. Johnson, who has led his department with distinction since 2003, received his D.D.S. degree from Northwestern University and served extensively as a U.S. Air Force dental officer at bases and hospitals in California, Vietnam and Colorado. After earning his certificate in Endodontics and a master’s degree in 1985, and completing his residency, he returned to active duty in the Navy and retired from the U.S. Navy Dental Corps in 2003.

Dr. James Johnson, interim dean, UW School of Dentistry

Dr. James Johnson, interim dean, UW School of Dentistry

The School of Dentistry is facing significant fiscal challenges, which has resulted in stressful times for our colleagues in the School. Despite these fiscal challenges, the School has maintained its widely recognized excellence, including being ranked third in the world in the research-focused Academic Ranking of World Universities by the Shanghai Ranking Consultancy.  We expect this to continue and I want to acknowledge the hard work of the faculty, staff and students on their achievements.

This week, I updated the School of Dentistry faculty, staff and students about our continuing work to create a fiscally sustainable path forward. Over the past two years, I have learned much from my colleagues in Dentistry, and you will see below how our conversations and their advice have shaped our current efforts.


Framing principles

First, the UW School of Dentistry is at the forefront of dental education and research, and maintaining and growing that excellence for the long term is the guiding principle of this work. Oral health is fundamental to human health, and the School’s long-standing reputation for excellence must continue.

Second, the School’s annual budget deficits over the past several years total an accumulated $36 million. Ongoing, unmitigated budget deficits threaten the School’s core mission of educating outstanding dentists. This mission must be preserved.

Third, the fiscal sustainability plan, which the University’s administration is implementing now, is based on a thorough fiscal analysis and the recommendations of those currently delivering the School’s core mission. Our path forward must reflect a shared commitment to the success of that mission, guided by the requirements of accreditation. To that end, the Solution Team has been indispensable, and its recommendations will guide what follows.


The recommendations of the Solution Team

Last spring, the Solution Team — comprising School of Dentistry faculty and staff — tackled an analysis of the School’s operations, finances and general practices, with a goal of finding ways to decrease the School’s deficit while maintaining the School’s core mission of research, teaching and service.

The Solution Team members have been extraordinarily thoughtful, and I owe them great thanks for their recommendations. This past summer, I consulted with the School’s elected Faculty Council on these recommendations, and we are moving to act on those, specifically:

  • Reducing the School’s administrative stipends. The Solution Team has offered a plan for administrative stipends that recognizes work appropriately and aligns with more reasonable spending levels relative to the School’s size and operations.
  • Reducing the School’s administrative costs by reorganizing under the leadership of four associate deans, rather than the current seven associate deans.


Specialty residency programs and clinics 

We are also developing a plan to address significant losses within the School’s specialty residency programs and clinics, most notably the Center for Pediatric Dentistry, while ensuring through reorganization that core clinical services remain to support our mission of preparing excellent dentists for the future.


Practice plans

In addition to the recommendations identified by the Solution Team, we must address the significant financial challenges in the current operation of the faculty practice plans. Simply put: Some clinics are paying faculty for clinic work, even though the work of those faculty members — or the clinics — is not generating the revenue needed to make those payments. We are ending this practice and ensuring the practice plans are adhered to.


Curriculum and accreditation

We are engaging a consultant to ensure that these changes to reach fiscal stability support not just accreditation, but our higher mission of advancing excellence and innovation in dental education and research. Our goal, as always, is to deliver a high-quality education for our students.



Please note that some of these measures are based on the advice of the School’s faculty and staff. We have more work ahead — specifically on addressing the deficits in specialty residency programs and clinics, and on an overhaul of the faculty practice plan — and I will continue to seek advice and recommendations from the School’s faculty, staff, students and friends. Together, we will ensure that the UW School of Dentistry is placed on strong financial footing that enables it to achieve its mission for the benefit of our students, state and world.