John Warren (’81 BS, ’86 DDS, ’91 MS) epitomizes the quintessential dental educator. As a gifted researcher, a leader in his specialty, an experienced clinician, and a dedicated instructor and mentor, he brings on all these qualities together for the good of his students.
Growing up in Iowa Falls, Warren chose to attend the University of Iowa where he majored in microbiology, but decided dentistry was more to his liking. In dental school at Iowa, Warren met his wife, Jean Treder (’82 BS, ’86 DDS, ’92 MS). After dental school, he followed his wife’s career in the Navy before coming back to Iowa City where Warren pursued advanced training in dental public health.
“I was interested in research as an undergraduate, but laboratory and bench work really didn’t suit me—when I learned about epidemiology and disease, however, I knew it was the right fit for me,” Warren said.
After completing his advanced training, Warren stayed on at Iowa as a post-doctoral researcher. In 1999, Warren became a tenure-track assistant professor in the Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry where he is currently a full professor.
Iowa’s strong specialty training and its student research program sets Iowa apart as a leader in dental education. Warren has been a leader in both.
He has had a wide range of clinical and didactic teaching responsibilities in Dental Public Health, including the Preventive Dentistry Clinic course for second-year dental students and three graduate courses—Introduction to Statistical Computing, Research Protocol Seminar, and Dental Public Health Field Experience. He has also mentored numerous research projects, chairing several Master’s theses and dissertation committees, and mentoring quite a few pre-doctoral student research projects. Additionally, he has served as the graduate program director in dental public health for thirteen years.
Warren has also been a champion for teaching students to conduct research—both here at the college and nationally. Not only does he teach research methods courses at the college, but he was director for the Student Research Program at the college for eight years, and he was the AADR National Student Research Group faculty advisor for five years.
In all his teaching and mentoring work, Warren is focused on helping students achieve their goals.
One student said, “Dr. Warren is genuinely interested in the well-being of his students. He views us not only as dental students, but also as people. He wants us to succeed both in the classroom/clinic and in our other interests and activities.”
And it is in students such as this that Warren sees his lasting impact.
“When you think about it, all of my research and publications are nice and have hopefully made some contribution to science, but really, much of that will be forgotten ‘old news’ in a few years. The people that you’ve taught and helped with their careers—that’s more lasting and more rewarding,” reflected Warren.
Referring to his own research as ‘old news’ is part of Warren’s self-depreciating humor and his tendency to deflect his well-deserved praise, but it also illustrates an important lesson that Warren tries to teach each of his students.
“Change is constant in dentistry. It’s vital that we embrace new technology and new research,” Warren explained.
Warren has also played a prominent role in organized dentistry in Dental Public Health. He was president of the American Board of Dental Public Health in 2019, and as such, was responsible for developing and administering the examinations that dentists wanting to become specialists in dental public health need to take to become “board-certified.”
“It’s very rewarding to see former students who are now my colleagues—people like Susan McKernan (’09 MS, ’12 PhD) and Michelle McQuistan (’01 DDS, ’04 MS)—take leadership roles in dental public health—whether in the American Board of Dental Public Health or in the American Association of Public Health Dentistry,” Warren said.
Warren is also an active husband and father. He and his wife, Jean Treder, have been married for 36 years, and their two daughters, Allison and Elizabeth live in Iowa City and still do a lot together as a close-knit family.
Because his teaching and mentoring has made a significant impact at Iowa and in Dental Public Health, the University of Iowa Dental Alumni Association and the College of Dentistry have selected John Warren as the 2022 Educator of the Year.