Margaret Hill, interim dean at the School of Dentistry, is making history as the first female in the top leadership position of the school. Hill, who previously served as associate dean for academic affairs, was appointed to the role by Gerry Bradley while he leads UofL as interim provost. UofL News caught up with Hill to learn more about her journey to UofL and her vision of the School of Dentistry.
UofL News: Tell us how you first landed at UofL.
Margaret Hill: I’m from a little town in Eastern Kentucky – Ravenna. I’m a proud alumna of Estill County High School and I went to Eastern Kentucky University for my undergrad. I came to the UofL School of Dentistry partially because it just felt right. It was a good fit for me.
UofL News: You’ve been part of the UofL community for more than 30 years as a student, faculty, associate dean and now interim dean. What has kept you here?
Hill: For me, I think I can distill it down into something very simple. I am addicted to the magic that happens – and it usually happens at chair-side when there’s a student as the operator, a patient in the chair and a faculty member working together. The charge that you get in a clinical setting or the charge that you get when you’re in a didactic setting or a research setting, when students have that ‘aha’ moment and they get it. You have helped them understand a major concept, and especially if it was something that they were struggling with. It is one of the biggest thrills I’ve ever experienced in my life. I think most of us who are in the educational environment live for those moments. There’s such a sense of accomplishment and joy that you’re passing on what someone gave to you.
UofL News: Many people say the School of Dentistry is like a family. What do you think?
Hill: Very much so. This place is and has always been a family. It’s always felt like family to me. Sometimes it’s quantifiable in the ways that we support each other, and sometimes it’s just that sense of knowing that others are here for you and here to support you, and they’re interested in your success.
We want our graduates to be able to be the best, safe, competent, confident, beginning dental professional they can possibly be. Everything we do is oriented toward that. There’s no decision that is made that isn’t oriented toward that at its fundamental, basic level. We want our students to be successful.
UofL News: Thinking back to when you were in dental school, what is one great piece of advice from a faculty member that has stuck with you?
Hill: We lost Dr. Tom O’Toole recently, and I’ve thought a lot about the contributions he made for all of us who were able to work with him in a clinical or classroom setting. He was a remarkable example of somebody who had such an excellent sense of human nature. I believe that in today’s language we would say he had a very high emotional intelligence.
He taught me so much about working with people, including children. He was a pediatric dentist, and so many of the things that he taught were focused in working with pediatric patients, but it can be applied to people of all ages. He never talked down to children, they just weren’t as knowledgeable as somebody who was a little bit older. And he treated everyone with respect. I use his advice every day.
UofL News: Could you ever have imagined that you’d end up serving as interim dean?
Hill: Not in a million years. I feel like I represent every woman who has ever gone through this institution. I feel like I represent every woman who’s ever worked for this institution. It’s really important for us in our history, and I can’t tell you what a privilege it is to be able to be the first woman to serve in this position.
UofL News: What are your goals as the current leader of the School of Dentistry?
Hill: My goal is to stay on track with many of the initiatives that Dr. Bradley has started and continued in some cases. We’re not moving away from any of those things. We have a tremendous team assembled, and I have the privilege to work with many individuals dedicated to making sure we educate the best safe, competent dental professionals that we can educate.
My other goal is to continue to work toward our site visit from the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) that’s coming up in 2023. It’s really important that we are successful. We are actively in preparation for all of the self-study that has to be done prior to accreditation, and it’s going very well.
I am truly honored that Dr. Bradley chose me to lead the school at this time, and I am fully committed to continuing its legacy of 135 years of excellence in patient care, education and research.