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Second-career professor is a first-rate mentor, students say

David Murchison ’80, DDS, MMS, teaches many of the same students twice: once as predental students at UT Dallas and once at the College of Dentistry

Adjunct faculty roles at both Texas A&M College of Dentistry and the University of Texas at Dallas give David Murchison ’80, DDS, MMS, an unusual vantage point of the dental education process. In many cases, he teaches the same students twice: once as predental students at UT Dallas and again as dental students at the College of Dentistry.

Murchison spent 30 years in the Air Force after graduating from the College of Dentistry in 1980. Graduate education was a major part of his military assignments, which means some former students are now well into their dental careers. In fact, two of his Air Force residents are now on the faculty at the College of Dentistry: Diane Flint, DDS, in diagnostic sciences and Lolo Wong, DDS, in pediatric dentistry.

When Murchison retired in 2010, he continued his teaching, first at the undergraduate level at UT Dallas and then at the professional level through the College of Dentistry’s Department of Diagnostic Sciences.

Students who have had him as a teacher at both institutions praise him as an important mentor and influence. “The one word that comes to my mind when I think about Dr. Murchison is ‘selfless’—selfless with his actions, his time and his attitude,” said first-year dental student Jennifer Dinh, who took Murchison’s oral histology class as a predental student at UT Dallas, later serving as his teaching assistant. “He always went out of his way to make sure his students truly knew that his door was open. He served not only as a role model and mentor but as an encourager and believer.”

Often, that encouragement helps students as they apply for dental school. Second-year dental student Fareed Ighani describes his attention as a “positive force” in the application process: calming nerves, offering advice, even educating students on etiquette during and after their dental school interviews.

“Dr. Murchison impacted my preparation for dental school in more ways than I can count,” Dinh said. “He encouraged me when I was doubtful and congratulated me at every milestone. It was clear that Dr. Murchison was genuinely invested in helping his students succeed.”

Sometimes that encouragement took the form of a simple e-mail with the power to make a huge difference. “After I applied and was waiting to hear back,” said second-year dental student Nida Suleman, “I especially remember Dr. Murchison sending me a motivational email that really changed my perspective.”

This “retiree” devotes significant time outside his faculty roles to his appointment as the only dentist on the Merck Manuals editorial board, reviewing professional and consumer content for multiple book chapters after it cycles through the peer review process. Murchison also directs advanced dental materials courses for orthodontics and prosthodontics graduate students and serves as the civilian consultant in restorative dentistry and dental materials to the Air Force Surgeon General.

Tuesdays find Murchison with dental students in the Oral Diagnosis Clinic, screening patients. He uses the Socratic teaching method, asking more questions then he answers about evaluation and treatment plans.

“Recently I asked a second-year dental student a question about the character of the surrounding bone in treatment planning for prosthodontic care,” Murchison said. “He immediately had the answer, and I asked where he had learned it. ‘In your class at UTD,’ he said. That is truly a satisfying part of my job.”

Adapted from a story in Dentistry Insider by Carolyn Cox

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