Meet the new dean

Dean Garcia_72dpi smallNew College of Dentistry Dean Isabel Garcia answers our questions in this Q&A.

Why did you want to come to UF?

One of the top reasons is that UF is an academic powerhouse. But I was also attracted by UF’s proud history as a land grant university and the great diversity of its programs and opportunities. Coming to UF is the realization of what many people can only hope for — finding an ideal environment for interdisciplinary learning and cooperation, a vibrant collegiate environment and great weather (yes, even in July!). I was also keen to join UF as a place where diversity is embraced in the broadest sense to include racial and ethnic identity but also diversity of thought and diversity of life experience.  The College of Dentistry is especially strong among dental schools in the nation — drawing on its unparalleled opportunities as part of UF Health. Being a part of such an exceptional team and having an opportunity to support the visionary efforts of the entire university and its leaders is a real privilege.

Describe your early experiences as a dean.

I have received a wonderful and warm welcome to The Gator Nation. It’s been an exciting, fast-moving and rewarding experience so far. I have found that the college is an easy place for people to work together, to learn together, to provide care together and to achieve together. I have also found a network of very supportive colleagues, faculty, staff and fellow deans who have helped me get settled into the job. During these past few months, I have watched our faculty and students provide care to some of the neediest people in our community, present their research and pull together to support the college every single day. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting our alumni and learning about their selfless devotion to the college. I was even serenaded by a group of our students during my first day on the job. How can you beat that?

What kind of leader are you?

Much of my work, especially during the past 21 years while I was in the U.S. Public Health Service, involved collaborating within and across professional boundaries, creating partnerships and forming alliances with professional and community groups, patient advocates, industry, small businesses and the public sector. I enjoy creating an environment where people can be successful and where, despite our diverse backgrounds and points of view, we are driven by the common goal of improving health. As a dean, I have the responsibility to provide guidance, inspiration and strength. I do what I expect others to do. I am adaptable, but uncompromising when it comes to doing the right thing and expecting high-quality work and dedication.

What are your goals for your tenure as dean?

As a new dean, it’s essential for me to listen and learn. My job is to formulate a unified, inclusive, collaborative and transparent vision for the college that draws on its rich history and success. To continue to thrive, I think we have to excel and have balance in all of three parts of our mission: education, research and patient care. I hope to create an environment where risk-taking is acceptable and innovation is rewarded, while maintaining a vibrant curriculum and clinical enterprise. I also see a vital need for closer integration between dental education, clinical care and research. I want to have our college lead the way in creating greater cross-talk and collaborations among educators, clinicians and scientists, increasing diversity and ultimately helping to integrate dentistry more fully into the fold of primary care.

This article appeared in the October 2015 edition of the UF Health The POST.