A dental student learning from a professor
By Bridgette Wagner Jones

Crowning Achievement

Dr. Gary Cuttrell Set to Retire as Chair of UNM Department of Dental Medicine

Gary Cuttrell, DDS, JDGary Cuttrell, DDS, JD, founding chair and professor in The University of New Mexico Department of Dental Medicine, will be retiring on Feb. 1, 2023, following 22 years of service to New Mexico and the university.

“Dr. Cuttrell has made immeasurable contributions to the School of Medicine since his arrival in 2001,” said Patricia Finn, MD, dean of the UNM School of Medicine. “I’m grateful for his service. He will be missed by his many colleagues and patients.”

During Cuttrell’s tenure, the department within the School of Medicine has grown to include two divisions – Dental Hygiene and Dental Services.

The Division of Dental Hygiene originated within the Department of Surgery. It houses the the bachelor’s and master’s in Dental Hygiene programs. The Division of Dental Services includes the Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency program. Both have been recognized by the Commission on Dental Education as outstanding programs.

Dr. Cuttrell has made immeasurable contributions to the School of Medicine since his arrival in 2001. I’m grateful for his service. He will be missed by his many colleagues and patients.
β€” Patricia Finn, MD

Cuttrell grew up in a small town in the Texas Panhandle. During college at West Texas A&M University, he worked as an orderly in a small hospital and had conversations with a general dentist who provided hospital dental care. Inspired by these conversations, he enrolled in The University of Texas School of Dentistry in Houston. Following dental school, Cuttrell operated a private family dentistry practice for 10 years.

His interests in oral sedation for anxious patients led him to take a 25-month residency at Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago as part of its medical anesthesia residency program. Cuttrell’s next chapter took him to Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked full time providing hospital anesthesia for medical cases and provided educational and clinical anesthesia for both dental and medical patients.

He remained active in general dentistry and served as a volunteer faculty member with Case Western Dental School in Cleveland. A significant portion of his private practice was as a locum tenens provider, where he worked in many different practice models as developed his managerial and supervisory experience.

Cuttrell became interested in the law. His hospital schedule provided him the opportunity to attend night classes at the Cleveland State Marshall School of Law. (He was admitted to the New Mexico Bar in March 2002). As he completed law school, Cuttrell was exploring his next chapter.

At the time, the UNM School of Medicine was recruiting to help build a dentistry program and an advanced education in general dentistry residency program. Cuttrell joined this new team in February 2001 and collaborated with other general dentists in the program to submit a successful Health Resources and Services Administration grant to begin the general dentistry residency in July 2004. Cuttrell became division chief of Dental Services in May 2005.

With the support of then-Dean Paul B. Roth, MD, MS, the program became an official department in 2011 and Cuttrell was selected to be the founding chair.

He worked with UNM Facilities and the state Architectural Office for the construction of the dental residency clinic, which opened in August 2011. The building contains one of the first ambulatory surgery centers dedicated to dental patients in the U.S. Since then, other dental surgery centers have opened based on a similar model across the nation. 

Cuttrell thanked his department administrators, who were instrumental in the program’s efforts and successes, and looks forward to retirement with his wife, Catherine Obojski, who has supported him during his career at UNM.

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