Doug Brothwell started as dean of dentistry in September.

Dentistry a lifelong passion

You might not expect it from the University of Saskatchewan’s new dean in the College of Dentistry, but crooked teeth had a big impact on Dr. Doug Brothwell’s childhood self-esteem.

What he didn’t know then, however, was that a healthy dose of dental care, combined with some kind words from a dynamic orthodontist, would straighten the young Brothwell’s teeth, re-adjust his confidence and give him exciting new insights into his life’s ambition.

“The first historical record I have found of it is listed under ‘career aspirations’ in my grade eight yearbook that states I want to be an orthodontist,” Brothwell said. “I didn’t know at the time that you need to first be a dentist before you can be an orthodontist, but I knew that I wanted to make meaningful change in people’s lives, in exactly the way I had been changed.”

After serving as associate dean (academic) with the University of Manitoba’s College of Dentistry, Brothwell began his term as dean at the U of S on Sept. 1, returning to the campus where he received his Doctor of Dental Medicine in 1984.

He credits the homecoming with giving him an opportunity to take the knowledge he’s accrued from years of work in both academia and private dentistry—watching firsthand as leaders made both good and poor choices—to carve out his own mark in the field.

“I knew I had something good and new to bring, and needed a dean’s position to accomplish what I wanted,” said Brothwell, who also secured his Bachelor of Education from the U of S in 1994. “I started at the U of S, and my family and I have had a great life because of its dental school. This is my last chance to build something that can result in transformative change for my people and province, and I feel like the one to do it.”

Brothwell said he is enthusiastic about helping to bring new faces into the college, particularly those who have been underrepresented in its student body in years past.

“We are looking to attract more Indigenous students and faculty,” he said. “We plan to collaborate with First Nations entities and develop programming that supports traditional ways and understanding, and we are looking to partner with members of Indigenous communities to do shared, respectful research.”

At the heart of Brothwell’s goals is a deep understanding of the way dental health can reshape lives. For some, that positive change can be as simple as a young boy’s burst of confidence when he catches a glance of his newly-straightened pearly whites. For others, it might be a shift in social economics through preventative medicine.

But in all cases, Brothwell said the difference is a better life through dentistry.

“Oral health is an integral and important component of overall health and well-being,” he said. “Humans cannot be healthy and aspire to the things they enjoy and need in life unless their oral health is a positive resource they can rely on for eating, socializing, smiling and talking. With bad oral health, suffering persists and quality of life erodes.”

HenryTye Glazebrook is a freelance writer and former U of S communications co-ordinator.

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