(Joplin, MO) – Incisal Edge, a dental lifestyle magazine, has named Linda C. Niessen, DMD, MPH, MPP, Kansas City University’s (KCU) College of Dental Medicine (CDM) dean and vice provost for oral health affairs, among its 32 Most Influential People in Dentistry for 2022. The magazine describes Niessen as combining “…her university’s mission and ‘just say yes’ culture of dentistry, seeking out talented dentists and academics to staff the school and mentor young people and the underrepresented as they begin their dental careers.” Incisal Edge named Niessen a Woman Who Inspires in 2021.
A highly esteemed dental educator, consultant to industry, and dedicated public health professional, Niessen joined KCU in 2020 as the inaugural dean where she oversees the development of all academic, research, and service activities as well as administration of the dental college. Most recently, she led efforts on behalf of the CDM to earn initial accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation. With initial accreditation granted, the CDM has begun accepting applications for the first dental school class of 80 students to start in July 2023.
Niessen’s extraordinary career also includes work in the public service sector as well as geriatric dentistry. She began her dental career as a lieutenant in the United States Public Health Service, Division of Indian Health, where she served as chief of the Service Unit Dental Program at the Choctaw Nation Indian Hospital in Talihina, Oklahoma. She has also held positions with the Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in Boston and Bedford, Massachusetts; Perry Point, Maryland; and Dallas, Texas, caring for veterans with medically-complex conditions. Throughout her career, Niessen has served as president of numerous dental organizations, including the American Association of Women Dentists, American Association of Public Health Dentistry, American Board of Dental Public Health, Dallas County Dental Society, and American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry, and the Santa Fe Group. She has served as chair of the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Council on Dental Education and Licensure, the body that oversees ADA policy on dental education and licensure issues.
Niessen earned her Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. She also holds a Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from the Harvard School of Public Health and a Certificate of Residency in Dental Public Health from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. She has received numerous awards including the American Student Dental Association Paragon Award, Jack Hein Award for Public Service from the American Association of Dental Research, and Choctaw Nation Award of Honor for Outstanding Service to Choctaw People from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Throughout the course of her distinguished career, Niessen has contributed to the field of dental medicine as author of published papers, lectures, workshops and keynote speeches and a textbook, Geriatric Dentistry: Aging and Oral Health.
“Dr. Niessen brings expertise and enthusiasm to everything she does,” said Marc B. Hahn, DO, president and CEO of KCU. “We are proud to have an academic dentist of her caliber leading the development of our College of Dental Medicine as KCU works to improve oral health in the communities we serve.”
KCU’s College of Dental Medicine will fill a serious health care gap in the four-state region of Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. All counties within a 100-mile radius of Joplin qualify as a Dental Health Professional Shortage Area (DHPSA) by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). In Missouri alone, 376 additional dentists are needed to remove the DHPSA designation. While Oklahoma requires 166, both Arkansas and Kansas need more than 100 to address these shortages. With only three dental schools in the four-state area, there is a need to educate more dentists to address these shortages, especially in rural counties.
About Kansas City University
Kansas City University, founded in 1916, is a fully accredited, private not-for-profit health sciences university with Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, Biosciences and a developing College of Dental Medicine. The College of Osteopathic Medicine is the eighth largest medical school in the U.S., the ninth most impactful medical school for primary care for the nation, the tenth most affordable of private medical colleges, and the leading producer of physicians for the State of Missouri. The College of Osteopathic Medicine has two sites strategically located on the University’s campuses in Kansas City and Joplin, Missouri, to address the growing needs of both urban and rural populations. The University offers multiple graduate degrees; a doctor of osteopathic medicine; a doctor of psychology in clinical psychology; a master of arts in bioethics; a master of science in the biomedical sciences; a master of business administration in partnership with Rockhurst University; a new master of public health in partnership with the University of Nebraska Medical Center; and plans to seat the first doctor of dental medicine students in 2023.
Haley Reardon, Manager of Marketing and Communications
Kansas City University