Janet Guthmiller, Dean of the University of North Carolina Adams School of Dentistry and a 1988 graduate of Iowa Dentistry, has been named Leader of the Year 2023. Janet was a faculty member at Iowa from 1997 to 2007 and credits this and other academic positions with preparing her to take on top-tier leadership roles.
She was selected to oversee the Adams School of Dentistry and its academic programs at UNC in 2022 and served as the top leader at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry for eight years before that. At Nebraska, she secured funding for much-needed building renovations, increased rural outreach, and boosted student enrollment among under-represented groups.
“It is so meaningful to receive this award from my alma mater,” says Janet, whose husband and eldest daughter have degrees from the University of Iowa. Her youngest daughter will graduate from Iowa in 2024. “Many of my family members, including my parents, are Hawkeyes. It’s in our DNA.”
Janet grew up in Orange City, IA, and received her associate degree in dental hygiene from the University of South Dakota and a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern College in Orange City, IA. During her dental education at Iowa, she pursued research with Professor Gilbert Lilly. Dr. Lilly and Dr. Michael Finkelstein, also a professor at Iowa Dentistry, were instrumental in encouraging her to pursue a career in academia.
After graduation, Janet entered an NIH-sponsored dentist-scientist program at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. She earned a periodontal certificate (1992) and a doctorate in cellular and structural biology (1993). Janet was an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (1993 to 1997) and then returned to Iowa as an associate professor until 2007.
During her time at Iowa, she forged strong friendships with former Department of Periodontics Chair Georgia Johnson and Professor Christopher Squier. Janet fondly remembers these colleagues as supportive mentors who challenged her to grow as an academician and leader.
In 2007, she left Iowa to become associate dean for academic affairs and professor of periodontology at UNC. During her first tenure at the Adams School of Dentistry, Janet oversaw educational programs, faculty development, and student admissions and affairs. In 2014, she was appointed dean of UNMC’s College of Dentistry.
Janet embarked on several impressive campus renovation projects at Nebraska, including a $14.6 million building modernization effort. She also secured a $4 million, 10-year contract with the State of Nebraska to increase oral health services, including telehealth services, and expand the number of dentistry graduates practicing in rural communities.
“I didn’t start out in academics thinking that I would be a dean, but through my career evolution and a series of great mentors and amazing experiences, I became one,” Janet says. “I’m grateful for the people who inspired me to think that being a dean would be something I would enjoy.”
When she was approached about returning to UNC to take on the top position, Janet decided it would be a good way to give back to an institution that had given her challenging and rewarding administrative and academic experiences. Her top priorities are: supporting innovative curriculum implementation, reinvigorating the school’s research enterprise, and identifying new ways to provide dental care to underserved state residents.
During her career, Janet has served on numerous national committees. She currently serves as Chair of the Council of Deans of the American Dental Education Association.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to inspire and support others in their educational pursuits and career development,” Janet says. “My goal is to do for others what my mentors did for me, all while continuing to learn and grow as a leader myself.”