Brad Smith, D.D.S., Assistant Professor and Director of Pre-Clinical Sciences in the College of Dental Medicine-Arizona has a simple message to share. It is a message he has learned through a life of service to the community around him.
As a child he wanted to be a doctor and an eagle scout. Today, he has become both, planning curriculum and guiding students in their first two years of dental school, while serving as a role model for helping the less fortunate.
"One of the things we're really excited about in the College is helping the community," says Dr. Smith. "We have lots of ideas for reaching out to kids, especially ‘gap' kids whose families have no insurance, but they do not qualify for the state-funded ACHHS program."
In just three short years since the College opened in 2008, dental faculty and students have already made their presence well-known in the community. Students visit Glendale elementary schools to teach oral health/hygiene, especially how to make good decisions for creating healthy teeth and a healthy smile throughout life. They also provide free oral screenings. To date, they have visited 248 classrooms and provided 2500 screenings, and the demand is growing.
I am really excited about our program. We are tying to introduce the latest technologies and integrate more basic science into the dental portion so students can understand the whole person instead of just the mouth."
— P. Bradford Smith, D.D.S., B.S.C., Glendale
"I am really excited about our program," says Dr. Smith. "It is different than other schools. We are tying to introduce the latest technologies, and integrate more basic science into the dental portion, so students can understand the whole person instead of just the mouth."
One of the most rewarding things for Dr. Smith in his two years with the College so far has been watching the dental students put together a special pre-dental simulation course for college students, hosted in the College's state of the art, high-technology simulation lab. "It was a huge undertaking and the students did it all," he enthuses.
And this kind of project put Dr. Smith right in his element. As he says, "I love to learn!" As a practicing dentist, he enjoyed going to continuing education courses as much as possible, and always wanted to know that what he was doing had evidence to support it. "I also wanted to offer my patients the most current technology and evidence-based dentistry," says Dr. Smith.
It is not surprising that watching other people teach and be of service is a great reward for Dr. Smith. It is a lesson he learned early on. At the age of eight, while getting an injection, he became scared, and ran and hid for two hours. Back on the x-ray table, which he broke with all his struggling, he realized the next nurse giving the injection had done it so he couldn't even feel it. Dr. Smith decided then and there that he wanted to be a doctor who could "give injections like that" without causing pain.
In high school, as he got to know a friend's dad who was a dentist, he decided to pursue dentistry because the work-life balance seemed better. "My friend's dad just seemed happier than other doctors," he recalls.
Later, as Dr. Smith practiced in Sacramento, California for 22 years, he, too, was happy, enjoying his staff and patients in a small group setting. "We had a great time together and worked great together," he says. "I liked to think of myself as a true general dentist. I enjoyed doing all phases of general dentistry, surgery, fillings, bonding, veneers, crowns and bridges, orthodontics, endodontics, and dentures."
While in California, he also taught on a volunteer basis for two years at an extramural clinic in Sacramento run by the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry. This time is what especially ignited his interest in teaching dental students. "Clinical dentistry was extremely rewarding and satisfying for me," he recalls, "and it gave me an added opportunity to have fun at my job!"
Now, as a Dean, a Boy Scout leader for 30 years, and an American Student Dental Advisor, Dr. Smith says he likes being around young people because "it keeps you young. Teaching young people how to find balance in life is really important. If all you care about is work, recreation, and yourself, then you're out of balance. . . When you learn to serve other people, you learn to love them."
A quiet, soft-spoken man Dr. Smith becomes more and more passionate as he speaks about service to the community. "I like to listen," he admits with a quiet laugh. "I don't ever talk this much. You can't just hear people - you have to listen and try to understand their point of view."
As a young man, Dr. Smith served a mission with his church in South Texas, where he met companions from all different backgrounds. "You're going out to make life better for other people," he says. "Just forgot yourself and go help other people."
At the College of Dental Medicine-Arizona, students will have many opportunities to participate in service missions locally and nationally to provide free dental service. With Dr. Brad Smith on the team, they will quickly adapt his positive outlook, and realize as Dr. Smith says, that "it's all about helping other people."
Bradford Smith, D.D.S., B.S.c., serves as Dean in the College of Dental Medicine-Arizona on the Glendale Campus. He practiced dentistry in California for 22 years before moving to Arizona in 2008. In 2009, Dr. Smith was named American Student Dental Association Faculty Member of the Year.