Dr. Linda LeResche, Associate Dean for Research and Faculty at the University of Washington School of Dentistry since 2011, has retired from her post, effective July 1, the school has announced. She will become Professor Emeritus of oral medicine at the school, pending approval by the UW Board of Regents.
Her position will be filled by Dr. Douglas Ramsay, Chair of the school’s Department of Oral Health Sciences, who will assume his new duties in addition to his current ones.
Dr. LeResche replaced Dr. Timothy DeRouen as Associate Dean when he became the school’s Interim Dean that year. During her tenure, the school has continued to conduct a robust research program, despite challenging circumstances.
“My philosophy has always been that it’s a big ship, and I want to turn it around,” Dr. LeResche said. She added that one of her job’s most satisfying aspects has been the opportunity to mentor and support junior faculty.
“It’s very rewarding to see people advance in their careers and their research,” she said.
“Dr. LeResche has enjoyed a stellar career as a research scientist,” Interim Dean Gary Chiodo said. “Her accomplishments have been recognized at the national and international levels. She has led our research mission with a strategy that advanced our institutional standing in the world while consistently advocating for individual faculty-researchers. I have seen her working tirelessly with junior researchers, with a vision for growing them into our next generation of research luminaries. We are quite fortunate that she will be remaining with us on a part-time basis, continuing her own program of research.”
Dr. LeResche faced considerable difficulties when she assumed the associate deanship. With the Great Recession in full swing, state funding for the university and the school had been declining substantially since 2009. At the same time, major multi-year grants at the school were ending, while some of the school’s most prominent researchers were nearing the end of their careers or departing. They included Dr. Martha Somerman, one of the world’s best-known oral biology researchers, who resigned as Dean of the school to become director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Competition for federal grant funding was also growing more intense. The school’s NIDCR funding had been as high as $13 million in fiscal year 2010, but within three years had declined to about $5 million. Since then, it has remained relatively stable while the school has sought research funding from other sources such as private industry or explored new collaborations with other units at the UW.
Dr. LeResche started at the school in 1983 as a researcher in the Department of Oral Medicine, rising to become full Professor in 2004. While at the UW, she was also appointed Adjunct Professor in the Department of Oral Health Sciences, and Affiliate Research Investigator at the Group Health Cooperative (later Kaiser Permanente of Washington) Health Research Institute. Before coming to the UW, she served as a technical consultant for Survey Research Associates Inc. and as a research scientist at Johns Hopkins University.
She earned a BA in biology from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and a doctoral degree in comparative behavior from Johns Hopkins University, where she also spent three years as a postdoctoral fellow in psychiatric epidemiology.
Her honors include selection for Phi Beta Kappa, a Pew National Dental Leadership Development Fellowship, honorary membership in the Omicron Kappa Upsilon dental honorary society, and the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) Aubrey Sheiham Award for Distinguished Research in Dental Public Health Sciences.
“As a researcher, you have the freedom to pursue ideas where they lead,” she said. “It’s a rare profession in which you can try to answer questions of societal importance and of interest to you at the same time.” At the UW, her own research has focused on the behavioral and epidemiological aspects of pain. One of her projects was a five-year study of predictors for chronic opioid use.
Dr. Ramsay said, “The School of Dentistry has a long-standing history as one of the leaders in conducting both basic and clinically relevant dental research. As the incoming Associate Dean, one of my primary goals is to develop and execute a strategy that strengthens our school’s contributions to the advancement of dental and craniofacial research.”
To support its research, he said that the school can leverage existing resources, especially within the university.
“The University of Washington is a world-class research powerhouse,” he said. “The school benefits from the UW’s highly collaborative research community and the sophisticated research infrastructure it provides.
“Another critical strategy is to recruit faculty to the School of Dentistry who have already demonstrated outstanding success in directing research programs at other schools. Despite the financial constraints facing the School of Dentistry, we must make these targeted investments if we are to maintain and deserve our reputation as one of the best schools of dentistry.”
The school, he said, must train its students in an environment that is strong not only in education – both in the clinic and the classroom – but also in research, scholarship, and service.
Dr. Ramsay holds the rank of Professor in the departments of Oral Health Sciences, Orthodontics, and Pediatric Dentistry. He has served as Acting Chair of Pediatric Dentistry (2002-2003) and Chair of Dental Public Health Sciences (2003-2011) and has been Chair of Oral Health Sciences since 2011.
Dr. Ramsay’s extensive research experience includes being principal investigator of eight research grants from NIH, receiving a Research Career Development Award from NIDCR, and directing the School of Dentistry’s institutional training grant from NIDCR. He currently directs the school’s Regional Clinical Dental Research Center. Dr. Ramsay also has been a practicing orthodontist and is a diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics and a member of the Edward H. Angle Society of Orthodontists.
“I am grateful that Dr. Ramsay has agreed to step into the shoes that Dr. LeResche is leaving behind,” Dean Chiodo said. “His qualifications for the role are outstanding, and I know that he already has a vision for how to keep our research mission moving forward. It is particularly impressive that he is willing to take on this critical role while continuing his duties as a department chair. He has my complete confidence and support.”