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Alumnus Dedicated to Helping College of Dentistry Train the Best Dentists Possible

Dr. Hank McKay, left, shown with his son, Luke, a second-year dental student, donated funds for a state-of-the-art robotic device for dental implant surgery to his alma mater.

As an oral surgeon in Alabama, Hank McKay, DDS, has seen the difference a UTHSC education makes in a dentist’s career.

“Working in Birmingham, we get calls all the time from dentists here in town wanting to know if we could hook them up with a Tennessee (UTHSC) graduate, because when Tennessee graduates get out of school, they’re ready to go to work,” he said.

Dr. McKay, a 1990 alumnus of the College of Dentistry, serves as the student recruitment committee chair on the college’s Alumni Board of Trustees. In that role, he wanted to go beyond the typical meet-and-greets with prospective students and think of other things that would draw them to UTHSC.

“We’re trying to recruit the best students from all over the country, and if you’ve invested in cutting-edge technology, the school really stands out,” he said.

That’s where Yomi, the first and only FDA-cleared robotic device for dental implant surgery, comes in. Dr. McKay was an early adopter of the device, and it has become an integral part of his practice.

“At the time, there were only three colleges and universities in the world with Yomi robots, so I started investigating to see if UTHSC would qualify as a robotics center,” he said.

Last May, he invited representatives from Neocis Inc., a dental robotics company, to visit the College of Dentistry and demonstrate the technology. According to Dr. McKay, the company was blown away by the level of technology the college already had and decided it would be a perfect match.

“This just seemed to be such a good fit for what’s going on at a top-notch facility like UTHSC. This level of technology needs to be only in the best schools, and they’ve laid the groundwork for UTHSC to be off the charts as far as quality and level of education.”

Dr. Hank McKay

Dr. McKay donated funds to the college to purchase a Yomi robot, and training using the technology has started. Jeffrey Brooks, DMD, professor and chair of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS), and Jill Gibson, DDS, chief resident in the OMFS program, conducted the first robot-assisted dental implant procedures in West Tennessee using the Yomi robot. Dr. McKay is now working on a more robust robotics curriculum.

“We need to make sure that we’re staying at the highest-level technology at the best price point for these students to get their education,” Dr. McKay said. “Dental school is expensive, and the students deserve an outstanding level of education for their investment.”

Dr. Jeffrey Brooks and Dr. Jill Gibson have completed certification training and dental implant placement on a series of patients using the Yomi robot.

While Dr. McKay strives to recruit students from across the country, he has also successfully recruited a student from his own home. His son, Luke, is a second-year student in the College of Dentistry. Although, according to Dr. McKay, recruiting him wasn’t a conscious effort.

“I never really pushed dentistry on either of my sons. It was just something Luke discovered on his own because he was around our office so much. He saw that, at the end of the day, it didn’t matter how hard a day I had, I still loved going to work the next day,” Dr. McKay said. “There are no words to describe how proud I am of what Luke has done, and I’m so, so thankful he’s gotten the opportunity to have a UTHSC College of Dentistry education.”

As he watches his son succeed in the College of Dentistry, Dr. McKay hopes to continue bringing in other quality students so they can find success through the college as well.

“When these students come to a dental school or any professional school, they expect a certain level of excellence. UTHSC can give them that level of excellence,” he said. “I can vouch for it from my days in the College of Dentistry and I am also seeing a continued high level of training my son is receiving. He is surrounded by excellent instructors and mentors. I am thrilled with the quality of the experience he’s getting.”

This story was initially published in the Winter 2023 issue of Dentistry Magazine.