University of Iowa dentistry college dean to leave in 2022

'We are in the middle of several crises, and we need to keep focused'

David Johnsen, UI College of Dentistry dean
David Johnsen, UI College of Dentistry dean

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa is losing another top administrator in the departure of its long-serving College of Dentistry dean, who announced via email Friday plans to leave by mid-2022 after 25 years in the UI leadership post.

“It has been a career honor to serve as your dean for these many years,” UI Dentistry Dean David Johnsen wrote. “When thinking what will I miss most and what I am most proud of, the answer is the same: the people!”

Of the university’s 13 deans, two are interim deans, two were chosen in the last year, three were hired in 2018, two were hired in 2017 and one in 2016.

Excluding Johnson, only two UI deans have been in their positions longer than five years.

The UI also recently parted ways via settlement agreement with its provost — a year after it did the same with its diversity head.

In Johnsen’s email Friday, he praised the “character of this college” and noted his involvement in hiring about 90 percent of the faculty.

“So I feel a personal attachment and have felt a personal responsibility for your development,” he wrote. “More than half of our staff have been here over 10 years and about 80 have been here over 20 years and that says something.”

The College of Dentistry sees about 153,000 annual patient visits to its college and dental clinics and about $27 million in annual income.


Johnsen in his Friday email flagged the current COVID-19 crisis, compounding budget concerns, and noted, “We are in the middle of several crises, and we need to keep focused on the hugely challenging tasks at hand.”

“I will be here daily to continue to make the environment for teaching/learning, patient care, and research as active and engaging as possible,” Johnsen wrote. “This will be a challenging fall, different from any we have faced in a generation.!”

Johnsen recently posted about the crisis on the college website, noting everyone shifted into virtual learning mode mid-March and shut down elective procedures — creating significant financial risk.

“We knew we could either protect the team or protect the financial reserve — we could not do both,” he wrote. “We chose to protect the team.”

But the college resumed patient care May 18 and began to “claw our way back.”

“The team responded, bringing our faculty and resident practices to about 90 percent of the previous year and keeping assistants and clinic clerks (essential for predoctoral clinics) busy,” he wrote.

Johnsen, whose annual salary is $364,754, became dean of the UI College of Dentistry in 1995. He received degrees from UI and the University of Michigan and served on the West Virginia University faculty and Case Western Reserve University faculty before returning to the UI.

He did not immediately respond to questions from The Gazette on Friday about his departure.

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