50 Snapshots of Our First 50 Years

Celebrating the people, programs and milestones that have helped shape our school.


An amendment to the Colorado state constitution is authorized to establish a dental school in Colorado.



Regents of the University of Colorado unanimously approve the establishment of a dental school, but it would be nearly two decades before the School of Dentistry opened.



The Dental Foundation of Colorado is established to foster dental education. Then-President William Hiatt, DDS, also served as chairman of the dental school advisory committee and played an important role in rallying citizens and professional support for the opening of the dental school.



male signing document at desk with three other males standing around him


In the spring, the Colorado Legislature authorizes initial capital construction and operating funds. Governor John A. Love signs the appropriation bill. Observing the ceremony are, left to right: Dr. Leslie R. Burrows, dental education consultant to the University; Dr. Donald J. Walden, director of the Dental Foundation of Colorado and former president of the Denver Metropolitan Dental Society; and Dr. William H. Hiatt, president of the foundation.



headshot of a middle-aged white male with glasses



In August, the Board of Regents appoints Leslie “Les” R. Burrows, DDS, PhD, as founding dean of the school. On December 7, the Council on Dental Education of the American Dental Association classifies the school as eligible for accreditation.



pre teen boy brushing teeth





An article in The Denver Post reads, “A 12-year-old Littleton boy is the first applicant for admission to the University of Colorado School of Dentistry now taking shape at the CU Medical Center.” His letter to Dean Burrows said, “As far back as my first filling I have wanted to be a dentist.” >> Where is he now?





map of U.S. dental schools in 1973

A University of Colorado Denver newspaper clipping reads. "There's not another dental school from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Los Angeles, California,' according to Dr. Leslie R. Burrows, dean of the University of Colorado School of Dentistry... . 'In Colorado there are 13 counties which have no dentists at all,' add Dr. Burrows. 'Not only is there a need for dentists across the country, but there is also a need for the institutions in which to train them.'"

The University of Colorado School of Dentistry opens its doors to DDS and hygiene students, first located in the basement of the bookstore at 9th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard.



valedictorian accepts diploma from dean during college graduation

The first class of 16 students earns their bachelor of science degrees in dental hygiene.

Pictured right: Dental Hygiene Program Director Gail Cross, left, assists Dean Les Burrows, DDS, PhD, in awarding a diploma to valedictorian Ava Healey Boqody.





Thomas J. Bomberg, DDS



Thomas J. Bomberg, DDS, becomes the dental school's second dean.



man holding sign thanking dental school




William Henry Kunst gets a new smile from the CU School of Dentistry and is so pleased that he decides to show his thanks with a sign in front of the dental clinic. The gentleman talked to everyone about the resolution of 33 years of dental problems.




original dental school building



The School of Dentistry building in completed, with 50 operatories, an oral cancer detection clinic, technique laboratories, classrooms and administrative offices. In-state tuition was $9,416 for the DDS program and $3,852 for the Dental Hygiene program.



dental school football team



The dental school's football team, originally the Tooth Mechanics, changed their name to Molar Machine and finished the season with a winning record of 7-2.





group picture of first DDS graduation class in 1977


Twenty-five graduates receive their Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degrees at the school's first DDS commencement ceremony.

Some members of the Class of 1977 are pictured here, including Scott Minnich, George Gatseos, Brant Bradford, Irene Holloman and Thomas Marschner.




The General Practice Residency (GPR) program is established and welcomes its first cohort of residents.



Lawrence H. Meskin, DDS, MSD, MPH, PhD


Lawrence H. Meskin, DDS, MSD, MPH, PhD, is named the third dean of the school.

"Dentistry's mandate as a health profession is to advance the public's oral health status. As the sole purveyors of dental care, dentistry has the obligation to continually seek new knowledge that will enhance its mission."





David G. Gardner, DDS, MSD, becomes the fourth dean of the dental school.



Drs. Averbach and Kassebaum examine radiographs


Robert E. Averbach, DDS, becomes the school's fifth dean.

"The University of Colorado is proud of its tradition of education excellence and innovation. Small class size, personalized instruction from world-class faculty and modern facilities as part of the dynamic CU Health Sciences Center, all combine to make the CU School of Dentistry a jewel in the setting of the magnificent Rocky Mountains."



page from The Denver Post in 1990 naming dentistry a



Dentistry tops the list of "Hot Careers with a Bright Future" in The Denver Post.






The National Institute of Dental Research adds craniofacial development to its portfolio, becoming the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). This stimulates a change in research direction at the dental school, increasing research on human craniofacial birth defects such as cleft lip, cleft palate, micrognathia (small lower jaw) and hemifacial microsomia (asymmetric facial development).


Howard M. Landesman, DDS


Howard M. Landesman, DDS, MEd, is named the sixth dean.

"As we look to the future, I predict that we will have an exceptional ability to weather the challenges of a changing profession and a changing world. To successfully meet the road ahead is a hard one, but there is every reason to believe that the next century will be as productive for dentistry as this one has been."



Research Complex on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus


A grant from the National Center for Research Resources allows the school to build nearly 11,000 square feet of craniofacial and oral health research space on the 11th floor of the Research Complex 1 south tower on the newly developed CU Anschutz Medical Campus. This also improves accessibility for enhanced collaboration and translational research endeavors with colleagues from the CU School of Medicine.




The dental school introduces its Graduate Orthodontics program.


The Advanced Standing International Student Program (ISP) is established, welcoming dentists from around the world to earn their Doctor of Dental Surgery and practice in the United States.

Center for Oral Facial Health




Dental students begin attending classes in the new state-of-the-art Center for Oral Facial Health located at the former Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Aurora. Drs. Landesman (right) and Kassebaum (center) demonstrate the new facilities for CU President Hank Brown (left).




The Frontier Center for Interprofessional Education is established with a generous donation from Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation to provide hands-on interprofessional learning opportunities in dental medicine for thousands of medical, pharmacy, nursing and other health profession students, residents and practitioners.



The Fitzsimons campus is renamed the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in recognition of more than $90 million in donations from The Anschutz Foundation to help in the construction of brand-new education, research and patient care facilities on the grounds.

Denise K. Kassebaum, DDS, MS



Denise K. Kassebaum, DDS, MS, becomes the seventh dean and the first female dean to lead the School of Dentistry.





John Raabe, DDS '90


CU SDM alumnus and faculty member John Raabe, DDS '90, and his father, also a dentist, created the Generations Clinic Fund to increase access to dental healthcare for seniors and inspire students to work with older adults for years to come.

"I enjoy seeing the good work that the students provide, especially life-changing treatment with the Generations Clinic patients."



The school welcomes its first Graduate Periodontics program residency class.



The CU School of Dentistry changes its name to the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine to reflect its expanded mission.



The NIDCR establishes the FaceBase initiative to create a critical information repository for important data to understand facial development and human facial birth defect pathology. Members of the dental school as well at other leaders on campus tak on critical roles in FaceBase, making it successful over the next 10 years through original research.



Dental School completes new building in 2012


The dental school launches its "Growing to Serve" initiative with the completion of renovations to the new building, adding 20,000 square feet and 68 more dental operatories. Class sizes increase from 52 to 80 (DDS) and from 12 to 40 (ISP).




Dean Kassebaum holds the 2013 Gies Award



The CU School of Dental Medicine receives the William J. Gies Award for Vision, Innovation and Achievement for Outstanding Innovation with its Frontier Center program. Only one dental school is selected annually for this honor.



Veteran walking to entrance of Heroes Clinic



The Heroes Clinic is established through a generous gift from Delta Dental of Colorado to provide free dental care for CU Denver and Anschutz student veterans. We are proud to have served more than 1,500 veteran patients.




William D. Bailey, DDS, MPH, is appointed by the CU SDM as the inaugural Delta Dental of Colorado endowed chair in Prevention of Early Childhood Caries.

Group of Guatemalan children smiling



The first cohort of SDM faculty and students travel to Guatemala to provide dental care as part of the CU Guatemala Smiles project.




Culinary elective course student group smiling


The dental school partners with CU School of Medicine and Johnson & Wales University to offer an interprofessional elective course in Culinary Medicine and Dental Medicine to connect nutrition and chronic disease prevention.




Student pointing at on-screen skeleton in the Immersive Learning Suite



The SDM in among the nation's first dental institutions to introduce virtual reality and haptics technology as part of students' dental education in the Immersive Learning Suite.




As part of the NIDCR's FaceBase, the first single-cell map of the fusing of facial prominences is published by a research group based in the SDM Department of Craniofacial Biology, providing unprecedented information on this process relevant to birth defects research.

The Nassimbene Family Endowed Scholarship Fund is established. Jack Nassimbene, DDS, advocated tirelessly at local and state levels and was instrumental in raising the funds needed for the creation of our dental school.



Numerous SDM faculty and contributors, including co-project directors Bruce Dye, DDS, MPH, and Judith Albino, PhD, for the National Institutes of Health report Oral Health in America: Advances and Challenges, which explores the nation's oral health over the last 20 years.

In the midst of unprecedented clinical and educational changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SDM and the Colorado School of Public Health launch a Doctor of Dental Surgery and Master of Public Health dual degree program.



The school is pleased to be recognized as an Apple Distinguished School of 2012-2024 for its continuous innovation in learning, teaching and the school environment.

A CU SDM research team creates the first, targeted antibacterial and regenerative coating in dentistry, earning funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Gates Grubstake Fund to continue their research.



The CU Anschutz Medical Campus is ranked globally as a top university for innovation.



The revitalized Senior & Special Care Clinic is established to treat older adults who have other health concerns as well as patients (16 years and older) with cognitive, developmental, medical and physical conditions that may limit their ability to receive routine dental care.

Student practicing in the DASH



The Dental Advanced Simulation Hub (DASH) opens on campus.


Photography: American Dental Education Association, Robert E. Averbach, DDS, Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection, Corey Davis, Denver Public Library Special Collections X-11841, Ken Mostek, Laura Ramsey.

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