Dr. R. Lamont MacNeil

Forming Alliances to Build a Better Care Model

In her first year as dean of the UConn School of Dental Medicine, Dr. Sharon Gordon seeks to apply the concept of interprofessional learning to shape the future of health care.

Cloe Poisson, Copyright © 2019. Hartford Courant. Used with permission.
Cloe Poisson, Copyright © 2019. Hartford Courant. Used with permission.


As medicine moves toward an integrated approach to care, UConn’s new dental dean sees a greater role for dental medicine in the delivery of that care, and a strong foundation already in place to make that happen.

Dr. Sharon Gordon, who arrived from the East Carolina School of Dental Medicine last summer, says it’s part of what drew her to UConn: more broadly, the rich history of partnership between the medical and dental schools, but notably the basic sciences curriculum they share in the first two years, focusing on interprofessional training.

“We’re perfectly poised to move to the next steps, which would be providing clinical care together,” she says. “The idea is students moving into the clinics together, learning how to take care of patients together, so when they graduate they will be prepared for interprofessional practice.”

The evidence shows that more comprehensive care of the patient gives better health outcomes overall.

Health care financing already is trending toward a more holistic view of the patient and greater emphasis on outcomes; a next step is recognition of the connection between oral health and
overall health, Gordon says.

“Thinking about dentistry and where it is on the spectrum of reimbursement, if we don’t embrace that, we’re going to be left behind,” Gordon says. “But more importantly, the evidence shows that more comprehensive care of the patient gives better health outcomes overall.”

To help UConn Health get there, Gordon wants to continue building on the concept of students working in group-practice clusters in the clinic. A program fittingly known as CONNcept (Connecticut Comprehensive Education and Practice Team), established under the leadership of Gordon’s predecessor, Dr. R. Lamont “Monty” MacNeil, aims to simulate a true practice setting. As part of this, Gordon’s vision also includes incorporating nursing students, students from Tunxis Community College’s dental hygienist program, and, eventually, expanded-function dental assistants. Collectively, these disciplines can train together and, ultimately, practice together, improving patient outcomes through this new model of care.

A Dental Dean’s Legacy

Dr. R. Lamont “Monty” MacNeil reflects with pride on his 12 years as dean of the UConn School of Dental Medicine and looks forward with optimism at where the School will go from here.

“Looking back, it has been quite humbling to be the dean of a dental school with such a great national reputation and part of such a distinguished university,” says MacNeil, who soon plans to take a sabbatical but will return as a faculty member. “It has been a phenomenal experience and a privilege to work with the talented faculty, staff, and students here.”

MacNeil joined the Dental School as a graduate student in 1986 after six years in private practice. He took his first role on the School’s leadership team, as associate dean, in 1998 and was named dean in 2007.

Since then, he has shepherded the School through three perfect accreditation reviews and seen it rise in the ranks to number 11 in funding from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The School was awarded the prestigious William J. Gies Award for Achievement in 2016, and MacNeil helped establish the cross-campus Biomedical Engineering Department in partnership with the UConn schools of Medicine and Engineering.

MacNeil also maximized Bioscience Connecticut funding to transform the physical infrastructure of the School with renovated academic areas, simulation training centers, state-of-the-art dental clinics, and advanced technology.

We should be the school testing new approaches and new models, being the leaders in this new world of collaborative health care.

“The physical renewal we have accomplished here lifts a heavy burden off the next generation of faculty and school leaders,” MacNeil says. “The focus can now be on attracting high-caliber people and supporting the talented people we already have to keep our school on the leading edge.”

MacNeil believes the School has a bright future. He foresees further growth in interprofessional training for students and residents and envisions a greater emphasis on how dentists can be part of patients’ broader primary care teams.

“We are the perfect place for such experimentation because of our integrated structure and our academic interests,” he says. “We should be the school testing new approaches and new models, being the leaders in this new world of collaborative health care. The key is looking beyond roadblocks and limitations and seeing the many opportunities that surround us and maximizing them.”

MacNeil will dedicate his sabbatical to his chairman of the board duties for the American Dental Education Association, which has more than 20,000 members across 76 U.S. and Canadian dental schools. MacNeil says he hopes to advance discussions on topics including reforming national dental licensure, encouraging student interest in academic careers, and expanding international dental education dialogue. The issues he’s most passionate about are innovating methods of assessing dental students and researching the benefits of integrating oral health care with primary medical care, efforts he says could have profound implications for dental education.

“My endpoint goal as dean was to leave the School in a better state than when I took office,” says MacNeil. “I am confident that has been accomplished. We are stronger than ever before, and I know we will keep pushing the boundaries of dental medicine to accomplish even more.”

Dr. R. Lamont Monty MacNeil

Dr. R. Lamont “Monty” MacNeil will end his 12-year tenure as dean of the UConn School of Dental Medicine in August and remain on the faculty. MacNeil has been on the School’s leadership team for 20 years.


UConn has announced that on Aug. 31 Dr. Sharon M. Gordon will become the next dental school dean and first woman to serve in the role. Gordon, a distinguished educator, clinician, and scientist, hails from East Carolina University’s School of Dental Medicine where she serves as associate dean for innovation and discovery and chair of the Department of Foundational Sciences