Alumnus Reflects on Dental Career in Veterans Affairs

School of Dentistry selects Terry O’Toole to receive Alumni Award
Terry O'Toole
Terry G. O'Toole (D.D.S. '81)

Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes the achievements of outstanding alumni with an awards celebration. In 2019, UMKC School of Dentistry is honoring Terry G. O’Toole (D.D.S. ’81) with their Alumni Achievement Award.

O’Toole served the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration for more than 35 years and held various roles within the organization including staff dentist, chief of Dental Service and director of Dental Informatics and Analytics. O’Toole retired in April 2018 and took a moment to reflect on his career.

Tell us about your role managing dental care deployment for veterans.

As chief of Dental Service at the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System in San Diego, California, I was responsible for leading the hospital clinical service in coordinating and overseeing the oral health care of approximately 3,500 to 4,000 eligible Veterans annually.

You led the charge for evolving the electronic record system at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Why was transforming the system such a high priority for you?

We needed to know more about the patient to provide them the best care. As director of Dental Informatics and Analytics, I saw the opportunity as a way to improve things on a national scale.

Poor oral health can contribute to the worsening of many diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular conditions. By creating and evolving a highly integrated medical/dental electronic health record system as we did, medical and dental practitioners alike have a complete view of the patient that improves clinical decision making and ultimately results in better patient care.

What is your favorite UMKC memory?

An “aha” moment for me came after graduation. I was only days into my hospital residency and treating a patient with a physical anomaly and its corresponding medical condition, when I started thinking, “So that’s why they made us learn all that stuff first and second year!” 

About the Alumni Awards

O’Toole will be honored at the 2019 UMKC Alumni Awards on March 15. Proceeds from the event will support student scholarships. In the last decade, the Alumni Awards events have raised more than $1 million in scholarships and immediate aid for students.

Published: Jan 30, 2019

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