Thursday, October 6, 2022

If there’s something strange
in the College of Dentistry,
Who you gonna call?
Ann Synan!

For almost 20 years, Ann Synan has been a committed advocate for dental patients, especially those who face barriers limiting access to care. As a result, she has become a fount of institutional knowledge in all things in the college, but especially so with patient care. That’s why she is often the first person people call when there’s something strange in the College of Dentistry!

Ann was born in New York City and raised in Manhasset, New York on Long Island along with her four siblings who are all passionate about their Irish heritage. After earning her degree in communications from the University of Portland in Oregon, she returned to New York City, ultimately becoming an accomplished marketing and communications professional working for the largest marketing firm in New York City, Hill and Knowlton. After three years, she worked her way up and was an account executive, supervisor, and vice president for the company specializing in product publicity and crisis communication. In one project that she remembers fondly, she created and executed a Miss Chiquita Banana mall contest that took her around the country and resulted in a Today Show appearance for her client.

One of her coworkers at Hill and Knowlton set her up on a blind date with a young Irish dentist named William (Bill) Synan. The couple hit it off, got engaged on top of the World Trade Center, and were married in 1985. The couple had their first child, Katy, just before moving to Iowa City for the first time. Bill took a position at Iowa to gain advanced training in orthognathic surgery. Ann followed Bill to Iowa with their newborn daughter. After that year at Iowa, they went back to New York following Bill’s career. They had two more children, Mariel and Nicholas, before coming back to Iowa when Bill accepted a faculty position in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

After staying home with their children for several years, Ann returned to the workforce at Regina Education Center in fundraising and special events. She was an office manager at River City Dental before her current position at the college. And she hit the ground running!

“I already had most of the dental lingo down from living with Bill and working at a dental office,” Ann explained.

Ann has made the most of her time at the college. She is an integral part of what makes Iowa special—namely she makes it so that it is significantly easier for our whole team, including faculty, staff, and students, to focus on helping our patients.

She does so by helping patients who are struggling to understand their treatment or who experience barriers to care overcome those challenges to get the best available oral health care. Drawing from her background in communications and marketing, she models for our faculty, staff, and students the importance and value of communication.

Ann has also appreciated the opportunity in recent years to work directly with students to improve their communication skills and how they handle conflict and difficult conversations.

“Communication is so important for professionalism and for your clinical practice—you should value communication skills as much as you value your clinical skills,” Ann explained.

Ann is also proud of her family. Her oldest, Katy, is an elementary school teacher and has worked in an under-resourced Omaha Catholic school for 13 years. Her second oldest, Mariel, owns a film production company in New York City and works with her business partner, Andrew (now her fiancé), developing short documentaries. Mariel’s work has been nominated twice for an Emmy. Her youngest, Nicholas, also lives in New York City and is Chipotle’s NE brand activation manager, and an avid runner.

Ann’s extraordinary support for dental education and clinic care at Iowa has long been recognized, and that’s one reason she was previously inducted into Iowa’s Mu Chapter of Omicron Kappa Upsilon as an honorary member.

The University of Iowa Dental Alumni Association and the College of Dentistry are proud to recognize Ann Synan’s contributions once again with the 2022 Honorary Recognition of the Year Award.