Chancellor Steve J. Schwab, MD, announced that James C. Ragain, Jr., DDS, MS, PhD, FICD, FACD, has been named dean of the College of Dentistry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, effective August 1.
Dr. Ragain was selected following a national search chaired by Dean of Pharmacy Marie Chisholm-Burns and Vice Chancellor for Finance Anthony Ferrara. Three outstanding finalists for the position of dean were identified, from whom Dr. Ragain emerged as the best fit for the university.
Dr. Ragain most recently has served as an associate professor in Restorative Dentistry and interim chair of the Department of General Practice Dentistry for the UTHSC College of Dentistry. He is a two-time alumnus of institutions in the UT System, having received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the UTHSC College of Dentistry. He is the first alumnus of the UTHSC College of Dentistry to become dean.
“I’m honored, humbled, and very excited about this opportunity,” Dr. Ragain said. “I want the UTHSC College of Dentistry to be widely recognized for excellence in clinical education, innovative research, and leadership in the improvement of oral health for Tennesseans, the Mid-South region, and the global community.”
Before joining UTHSC in 2013, Dr. Ragain completed a very successful career in the United States Navy, rising to the rank of Naval Captain. In this role, he had major administrative, clinical, education, and research responsibilities, making him the ideal candidate for dean of the college, Chancellor Schwab said.
A native of East Tennessee, Dr. Ragain was commissioned into the Navy Dental Corps after graduating from the UTHSC College of Dentistry in 1984. While in the Navy, he served in numerous senior administrative positions in clinical dentistry and dental research, and he held several adjunct faculty positions. He directed the largest Operative Dentistry Department in the Navy at the Naval Recruit Training Center in Great Lakes, Illinois, and he commanded the Naval Dental Research Institute/Naval Institute for Dental and Biomedical Research for four years. Dr. Ragain retired from the Navy, and became a faculty member of the College of Dentistry at UTHSC.
Dr. Ragain said he is committed to ensuring that the college is aligned with the mission and vision of the university, with an eye toward teaching, research, and service. “I think teaching is why we’re primarily here,” he said. “It’s what I call the Tennessee tradition — a tradition of clinical excellence. And so, that’s going to be goal Number 1, to make sure all the dentists and hygienists who graduate are the best they can be.”
In building the research enterprise, he said he plans to recruit the highest-qualified researchers to develop a strong funded dentistry research program that focuses on well-developed and innovative projects with an interdisciplinary approach in the college, with other institutions, and with industry. He also wants to encourage development of student researchers.
Dr. Ragain praised the college’s strong community outreach, which he fully supports.
“We have outstanding faculty and staff. I think I’m walking into a wonderful situation with that,” he said. “I think our students are outstanding, we have highly qualified students who are eager to learn, and certainly, last but not least, our alumni are fantastic. They’re there to support us and help in any way they can.”
Dr. Ragain, who holds a master’s degree in restorative dentistry from the University of Michigan and a PhD in oral biology/dental materials from The Ohio State University, is the co-author of more than 75 professional publications and holds three U.S. patent awards. He is on the editorial board of four professional journals and served on a joint NASA subcommittee studying dental issues and treatment of astronauts deployed on long-term space missions.
Dr. Ragain has been an active member of the UTHSC College of Dentistry Alumni Board of Trustees for 14 years, has held several board positions, and is a past president of the University of Tennessee Dental Alumni Association. He is a Fellow of the International College of Dentists and the American College of Dentists.
UTHSC’s College of Dentistry is the oldest dental college in the South, and the third-oldest public college of dentistry in the United States. It educates more than 70 percent of the dentists in Tennessee and roughly half of the dentists in Arkansas.