2019 Washington State Dental Association Citizen of the Year, Dr. Beatrice Gandara, has announced she will retire at the end of June, capping off 40 years of positive impact and leadership within the UW School of Dentistry and surrounding community.
Along with her role as a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Oral Medicine, Dr. Gandara will step down as the Director of the Office of Educational Partnerships and Diversity (OEPD), a position she has held for the past 15 years.
“During her time as Director of the OEPD, Dr. Gandara grew both the community outreach and dental pathway components of the office,” said Dean André Ritter. Under her guidance, the OEPD established partnerships with numerous organizations, including Medical Teams International, Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, Mary’s Place shelters, Casa Latina, SafeHarbor Free Clinic, Seattle King County Dental Society, Chief Seattle Club, and many others.
“These partnerships made it possible for students to learn and develop leadership skills while providing care in community settings to underserved patients under the supervision of School of Dentistry faculty,” said Dean Ritter.
Dr. Gandara also created the Community Health Professions Academy (CHPA), an eight-week Saturday Academy for high school students across Washington State that focuses on healthcare career exploration. The CHPA is currently thriving, with a cohort of students having visited the School of Dentistry this past Spring.
“Dr. Bea Gandara has been a relentless positive force within dentistry and oral medicine for the past 40 years,” said Dr. Mark Drangsholt, Chair of the Department of Oral Medicine. “She has worked tirelessly in outreach and has many examples of less advantaged young people that she has shepherded into health professions.”
From the moment she stepped foot in Washington, Dr. Gandara’s dedication to helping those on the margins has been unflagging. During the start of her Oral Medicine residency at the UW in the summer of 1982, she began visiting the Northwest Chicano Health Organization Summer High School Health Career Camp in Seattle to talk with young people about dental careers.
That connection with aspiring dental students, particularly those from diverse backgrounds, led to her involvement with the University of Washington’s Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (now known as the Summer Health Professions Education Program) for undergraduate and high school students. She served as the program’s dental director from 2008 to 2014, then as dental coordinator and guest faculty.
Dr. Gandara’s career journey began at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry, where she earned her dental degree. She would go on to finish her Master of Science in Dentistry degree in Oral Medicine at the University of Washington (Class of ‘85). Specializing in salivary disorders and oral/systemic disease relationships, with multiple papers, book chapters, and presentations to her credit, Dr. Gandara’s research and clinical expertise have made her an influential figure in her field.
In recognition of her tireless efforts to address oral health disparities, she’s been awarded with honors such as the UW Health Sciences Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award, 2019 Washington State Dental Association Citizen of the Year, and UW School of Dentistry Student National Dental Association’s Trailblazer Award.
Upon her retirement at the end of the month, Dr. Amy Kim, a faculty member in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry who has worked as the Admissions Director for the RIDE program and Co-Director of the Center for Health Sciences Interprofessional Education, will be appointed in the role of Interim Director of the OEPD.
Dr. Gandara’s accomplishments and honors are mighty, but what truly describes her impact and leadership are the words of her students.
“I have never met anyone else so dedicated to making dental care available to the homeless and underserved,” said Samuel Snipes, president of UWSOD Class of 2021. “She spends her free time, weekends, and lunch breaks planning, fundraising, and organizing outreach events. Dr. Gandara has such a kind and giving heart. … We love her as our professor, colleague, and role model.”
*For more stories, quotes, and information about the impact Dr. Gandara has had at the School, check out the cover story of the Fall 2019 edition of the Dental Alumni News Magazine.