Thursday, September 23, 2021

An accomplished oral surgeon, Kim Swanson (’81 B.A., ’86 D.D.S.) is a dedicated alumna who has left a mark in the field of oral and maxillofacial surgery and in the dental profession more widely.

Hailing from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Swanson attended the University of Iowa as an undergraduate earning her degree in zoology. After a gap year to earn money for dental school, she started dental school at Iowa graduating with her D.D.S. in 1986. Intending to eventually go on to be an oral surgeon, Swanson completed a General Practice Residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland from 1986-87, and received her Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Certification in 1991 from Virginia Commonwealth University/Medical College of Virginia.

Swanson’s Iowa education prepared her well for her advanced education and her career as an oral surgeon. Before Swanson, no resident west of the Mississippi River had ever been accepted as a General Practice Resident at Johns Hopkins.

“Faculty, administration, and students were supportive and encouraging at Iowa, and it made for a very pleasant educational experience,” Swanson said, “and I saw that many of my peers from other dental schools had much more unpleasant experiences.”

After completing her certification in oral surgery, Swanson started a private oral surgery practice before joining Commonwealth Oral and Facial Surgery in Richmond, Virginia in 1995, where she practiced until her retirement in 2008.

Three small anecdotes give a small glimpse of Swanson’s character and impact in her field and the dental profession.

In the field of oral and maxillofacial surgery, women are significantly underrepresented accounting for only 2.8% of active American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (AAOMS) members in 2003 and only 6.6% in 2015. Thus, Swanson’s excellence as an oral surgeon well before 2003 speaks for itself, and she was grateful to be part “the best group of oral and maxillofacial surgeons in Virginia” who were “wonderful mentors” both during residency and afterward. She also became a leader in the field, serving as the first woman on the board of the Southeastern Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.

Swanson also made a mark as a student researcher at Iowa. Working with a former endodontics professor, Sandra Madison (’81 M.S.), Swanson was the first author of the widely-cited article (524 citations!), “An evaluation of coronal microleakage in endodontically treated teeth. Part I. Time periods” in the Journal of Endodontics. This was one of several articles Swanson authored. Swanson said “I didn’t realize the reach of that article until I was at a Mission of Mercy event in southwest Virginia. I had recommended that a patient get a root canal instead of an extraction, and I took the patient over to the endodontics, and one of them said, ‘That is Swanson, of ‘Swanson and Madison’.”

In understated tones she quipped, “I guess it was fairly prominent in the literature.”

That Mission of Mercy was one of many that Swanson participated in over the years. Virginia held the first Mission of Mercy ever and became a model for other states, and Swanson attended and supported the first one and each one thereafter throughout her career.

“It was incredibly rewarding to be able to relieve the pain and suffering from people who had no other options,” Swanson said somberly.

Throughout her career and in her retirement, Kim Swanson has been a dedicated alumna to the University of Iowa College of Dentistry. She expressed appreciation for how David Johnsen (’73 M.S.), Bill Windauer, and Katie Geiken all made it easy for her to be a “fun-loving” alumna as she lives in Florida now with her husband, Dan Franks.

Her humility and excellence in all that she does exemplifies the Iowa spirit. It is with great pleasure that the University of Iowa Dental Alumni Association and the College of Dentistry recognize Dr. Kim Swanson as the 2021 Alumnus of the Year.