School of Dental Medicine Celebrates Former Dean’s 50-year Legacy at Pitt

Braun in a suit in front of a gray backgroundThis story is adapted from the winter 2018 issue of Pitt Dental Medicine magazine.

After 18 years as dean of the School of Dental Medicine and many more years at the University of Pittsburgh in various roles, Thomas W. Braun has retired. Braun (A&S ’69, DEN ’73G, ’73G, ’77G) spent his entire postsecondary education and career at Pitt.

He joined the dental medicine faculty as a part-time anatomy instructor in 1977 and soon became an assistant professor. Braun later transitioned to teaching oral and maxillofacial surgery, rising through the ranks to a full professor. Braun said he looks back on the early era of his career with joy and enthusiasm, particularly his time teaching and performing surgery.

cover of the magazine, which features a female dental student and a patient, both smiling“That’s the one thing that helped me keep my sanity,” he joked. “In fact, that’s when I find myself most relaxed, is in the operating room. I’ve been very fortunate. Through most of my professional career, I thoroughly enjoyed operating and teaching in the operating room, which is where I had continued teaching up until the time I stopped operating this year.”

As he stepped down from his duties in January, Braun’s colleagues and friends celebrated his career, sharing the lessons they learned from him and recognizing the many ways he affected the education of Pitt students and care of patients.

“Tom Braun has distinguished himself in every facet of his professional and personal life. He is an inspiring role model for his students, faculty and colleagues, and his contributions will have a long enduring impact on the entire University community as well as the field of oral and maxillofacial surgery,” said Arthur S. Levine, senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and the John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the School of Medicine.

During Braun's tenure, the school has moved into the ranks of top 10 dental schools for National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) funding.

“The School of Dental Medicine has risen from a dental school that was highly relevant to our regional community to an entity that is respected nationally and internationally because of the quality of its programs and the eminence of its research. We have risen well into the top 10 NIDCR-funded institutions, and this is a direct result of Braun’s leadership to recruit and cultivate this activity,” said Bernard J. Costello, who is serving as the school’s interim dean.

One of Braun's many lasting efforts at Pitt was the 2008 opening of the Center for Patients with Special Needs, which provides multidisciplinary care, including anesthesia when needed, for patients with physical, developmental, neurological and behavioral disabilities. The program was the first clinic of its kind nationally and has become a blueprint for others like it across the country. 

“The purpose of the center is not only taking care of people with disabilities, which is essential, but to train our students so that when they leave here, they’re comfortable taking care of people with special needs — because not everyone needs to go to a major center like this. A lot of people can be cared for in a private o€ffice, but the dental practitioner needs to know that they can do it,” Braun said.

He was also instrumental in establishing the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics, the Center for Craniofacial Regeneration and the Center for Oral Health and Research in Appalachia.

Read more about Braun's legacy in the latest issue of Pitt Dental Medicine magazine.