News | Administration

New dental school dean calls listening to faculty top priority

The new dean of Columbia's College of Dental Medicine, a leading expert on the human response to pain, is ready to listen.

Christian Stohler, the dean of the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, had his first talk with faculty on Thursday after being appointed last week.

“I would like to honor the unique culture of Columbia,” he said in an interview earlier this week. Listening to faculty, he said, would be one of his main priorities as dean.

Stohler added that he felt it was important to be open-minded and understand “what the institution feels about the future.”

Stohler said he admired the University’s leadership and felt that Columbia’s current administrators are “really leaders that have a bold vision for the future.”

“It’s wonderful to be part of that,” Stohler said.

In addition, Stohler hopes to encourage students to provide input and serve as leaders.

“I’m a student dean. I love the students,” hesaid. “Columbia gets absolutely spectacular students.”

Academically, Stohler said Columbia’s program is advanced in that it integrates the fields of dentistry and medicine. When he started at the University of Maryland, there was no relationship between the fields.

Current diseases affecting the country such as obesity, diabetes, and chronic illnesses make the connection especially relevant, Stohler said.

“Columbia is blessed to have done the transition,” he said.

At Maryland, Stohler updated and enhanced the school’s curriculum, led construction of digital academic and clinical facilities on campus, and helped integrate dental services into the Health Center on the College Park campus, University President Lee Bollinger said in his announcement last week. He "elevated the School of Dentistry’s global prominence in academics and patient care and oversaw an expansion that made it the largest public dental school in the nation,” Bollinger added.

Stohler, who earned his DMD and Dr.Med.Dent degrees from the University of Bern in Switzerland and spent more than 20 years as a professor at the University of Michigan, has helped lead research funded by the National Institutes of Health on the human response to pain. He was also part of the team that showed that if a person believes a placebo will reduce pain, he or she experiences a corresponding reduction in pain.

Professors are looking forward to Stohler’s appointment. George White, the director of Columbia’s division of prosthodontics, said that he was impressed by Stohler’s efforts to digitize the University of Maryland.

“He’s shown that he can run and take a school to another level,” White said, adding that Columbia is a “very traditional type of school” that could benefit from a more digital focus.

“I’ve followed him since he was at Michigan and, you know, he’s done a lot,” White, who studied at Michigan, said.

Dental medicine and epidemiology professor Athanasios Zavras called Stohler an accomplished scholar with a “great record in advancing dental education." 

He thought Stohler could help Columbia engage more with digital technology.

“I think there is an opportunity to expand the use of technology at the college,” Zavras said. “We hope that he will provide valuable insight.”

avantika.kumar@columbiaspectator.com  |  @avantikaku

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CC '14 posted on

Let's get this straight:
1. He's going to prioritize listening to the faculty.
2. He admires the administration's "bold vision for the future."
3. And he's "a student dean" who "love[s] the students."

He's everybody's friend!

And of course he loves the future/digital stuff!

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JG posted on

Sure, all good stuff and everyone's friend. Not according to a graduate from Maryland. Apparently, Stohler left the place a terrible mess. Students are glad that he is leaving. Faculty say that he will listen but if he does not like what he hears he fires the person.

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JG posted on

Sure, all good stuff and everyone's friend. Not according to a graduate from Maryland. Apparently, Stohler left the place a terrible mess. Students are glad that he is leaving. Faculty say that he will listen but if he does not like what he hears he fires the person.

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NM posted on

Not surprised that the students at Maryland are glad. I heard that almost 40 students did not graduate on time this year. Some because the Planmeca equipment that the Dean made the school buy kept breaking down and was too expensive to fix and others because so many faculty left the school because they could not stand working for him. I believe that the Faculty at Michigan were also thrilled when he left.

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Anonymous posted on

The equipment has been a problem and is very expensive to fix but that is not the reason that so many students did not graduate on time. It really was because so many faculty left the school because of mismanagement and a lousy work environment. Morale was so bad that faculty kept leaving. Other faculty were pushed into research. Eventually there was not enough faculty coverage in clinics for the students to finish their treatment on time.

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JS posted on

Stohler was not all bad. He is smart and very charming. His ideas can be good and might have been successful if he did not keep changing his mind.

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Anonymous posted on

I think Stohler was pushed out. Things got so bad at the end that Stohler refused to stand up and shake the hand of students at graduation.

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Anonymous posted on

Today should be Stohler’s last day at Maryland and many are holding their breath hoping that Columbia does not change its mind. It has been a very strange exit. Especially for a Dean who has been at Maryland for ten years. No party. No public reception. He just seems to have disappeared.

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Anonymous posted on

Today is August 1st. As Dr. Stohler begins his new adventure as the Dean of the Columbia School of Dental Medicine the faculty and staff that he leaves behind at Maryland seem to have entered a period of healing and discovery. Today may will begin a period of time when people will start to talk, ask questions and seek emotional support. For many at Maryland these have been very difficult years.

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Tom D posted on

The faculty, staff and students at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry wish to congratulate and thank Columbia University on the selection and appointment of Christian Stohler as the new dean of the Columbia University School of Dental Medicine.

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