August 28, 2006

Summers named dental hygiene director

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Dwayne G. Summers is now the permanent director of the School of Allied Health's Dental Hygiene Program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

A clinical assistant professor, Summers served as interim director the past three years. His appointment became effective July 1.

The West Frankfort native brings a varied background to the position, which is in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts. Summers earned his bachelor's degree in biological sciences from SIUC in 1992, and his doctor of dental medicine from the SIU School of Dental Medicine in Alton in 1996. Summers was in private practice in Carterville for five years before coming to SIUC in 2001.

His goal "is to make sure the curriculum stays up to date and we stay with the ever-changing dental needs of the population."

"We want to be the institution that other programs look to for research and community outreach," he said. "I want SIUC to be recognized as one of the premier dental hygiene dental programs in the state."

While it is unusual for dental hygienist program directors to have a dentistry background, Summers sees the combination as an advantage in serving as supervising dentist in SIUC's Community Dental Center. Accreditation standards require a supervising dentist if students are seeing patients.

"I want to help our students get the best opportunities once they graduate," he said. "Coming from a private practice I think helps me in knowing the mindset of dentists in our area."

The program currently has 108 students, and accepts incoming freshmen or sophomore transfer students. Job placement rate for graduates is 100 percent, he said.

While being the permanent director gives him a bit more power in decision-making issues, Summers doesn't see much change. He credits the program's excellent faculty for its success.

There are 12 other dental hygiene programs in the state; SIUC is the only one offering a bachelor's degree. Because there is a shortage of clinical faculty at those other institutions, SIUC graduates are in high demand for those teaching programs, "which gives us an upper hand as far as recruiting good students to our program," he said.

The program is moving in the right direction, Summers said.

"We have made some changes in our curriculum to address the problems with community colleges not having educators to teach dental hygiene," he said. "We have revamped our curriculum to include that, and we have increased clinic hours so students can see older patients."

Paul D. Sarvela, dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, said Summers "did a good job as the interim program director and also has several years experience as one of our staff dentists."

"In addition, he brings his experiences from private practice to the classroom and teaching clinics, which allows us to better prepare our dental hygiene students for the workplace. A former SIUC football player, Dr. Summers definitely adds strength and Saluki pride to our program."

Charla J. Lautar, director of the School of Allied Health, said Summers' positive attitude is important. In participating in community outreach activities including the Community Dental Center and the Dental Sealant Grant Program, he "demonstrates not only his clinical skills but … deals exceptionally with children," she said.

Summers is able to network and liaison with the local dental society and is a member of various access-to-care committees through the Southern Illinois Dental Society and the Rural Health and Economic Development Center, Lautar said.

The son of Gail and the late Gloria Summers of West Frankfort, Summers credits his mother and a trip to the dentist for braces while in the eighth grade as the motivator for getting into dentistry. He recalls with a smile how his mother — who died when he was in his last year of dental school — told her young son as she was writing the check that he would be a dentist one day.

"She is probably one of the main reasons I ended up in the dental field because she kept pushing me," Summers said. The first member of his family to attend college, Summers credits his father, a retired coal miner, for his work ethic.

A 1987 graduate of Frankfort Community High School, Summers studied pre-med while starring as a four-year starter at nose guard for the Salukis, where he was an all-Gateway Conference selection once and an Academic All-American his senior year. He completed his biological sciences degree in four years and took education classes for another year while at SIUC.

Summers hoped for a career in professional football. However, tryouts with the Cleveland Browns and then-Los Angeles Raiders fell short. Then, two days before a scheduled tryout with an Arena League team in St. Louis, Summers suffered a knee injury while playing softball. He subsequently enrolled in dental school.

Even with his new position, Summers, who lives in Carterville, has not lost his love for the game. He is an assistant football coach and defensive coordinator at Herrin High School.

Recruiting and retaining high-quality faculty are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.


Dwayne G. Summers

From the gridiron to the classroom
– Dwayne G. Summers, a clinical
assistant professor in Southern
Illinois University Carbondale’s
School of Allied Health, followed
his late mother’s advice as a
child. The former Saluki football
standout nose guard became a
dentist; he is now director of
the school’s Dental Hygiene
Program, which is in the College
of Applied Sciences and Arts.
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