Dr. Michael Pruett (DMD '92)
Distinguished Alumnus Revels in Helping ‘Those Coming Behind Us’
Dr. Michael Pruett is very gratified to know that when he treats a patient, the patient benefits. But when he teaches the same procedure to students or colleagues, his gratification grows exponentially—because the beneficiaries grow exponentially.
“My interest is in giving back to the profession,” says Pruett, Assistant Professor of Oral Rehabilitation, a 1992 College of Dental Medicine graduate and the college’s 2013 Distinguished Alumnus. “By teaching and influencing the dentists of tomorrow, the benefits to our profession and our patients increase.”
By almost any standard, he is an incredibly prolific and influential teacher. He directs the college’s General Practice Residency program, “one of the most successful in the country,” he says proudly. “We train nine residents a year, about half from Augusta University and the other half from different areas of the country to ensure diversity. This year’s top-ranked senior will be one of our residents next year. We routinely get the cream of the crop.”
Pruett maximizes the impact of teaching by videotaping “demo” surgeries. Students and residents observe the surgeries in real time from a conference room, asking questions and otherwise interacting with Pruett as he proceeds.
He also co-directs an annual five-day dental implant course, drawing dentists nationwide for extensive hands-on continuing education. “The participants place 12 to 20 implants each, for a total of about 150 for the week,” he says, noting that the course so benefits patients by offering discounted rates. “I really like interacting with my colleagues in continuing education. It’s so fulfilling to teach people how to do something, then watch them master it. The success is like being a parent. I get as excited as they do.”
He is flattered that several of his residents and colleagues nominated him for the Distinguished Alumnus Award. “It’s incredibly humbling, because I look back at people who received the award in the past, and they’re people I’ve always emulated,” Pruett says.
He is also grateful to Dean Connie Drisko. “When Dr. Drisko arrived, she said no space was sacred, so if we could grow our programs, she would allow us to grow,” he says, noting that his clinic has grown from three to 19 chairs since he joined the faculty in 1998. “Without her support, that kind of growth wouldn’t have been possible.
“I have the utmost respect for Dr. Drisko; her accomplishments have been tremendous,” he says. “I think the opportunities for growth here are awesome.”
He never loses sight of the fact that he is living a dream that took root in second grade. He maintained his focus even amid the crushing blow of losing his mother to an aneurysm when he was just 16. She had always cheered him on, and he continued to draw from her inspiration even after her death. “I’m the first professional in my family,” he says.
Daughter Morgan is a Augusta University student, and younger daughters Kylie and Anna Claire show amazing potential in fields including art and athletics, he says proudly. He and his wife Candy, a pharmacist, have tried hard to instill in their children a love of service, as well as a strong work ethic.
That work ethic comes in handy, considering Pruett has two practices in small Georgia cities in addition to his Augusta University service. He and a colleague own an airplane, which Pruett flies, to handle the logistics. He is also active in the College of Dental Medicine’s Alumni Association— another priority he tries to instill in students. “I can only hope to help those in my class and those coming behind us by being active in the Alumni Association,” he says. “My goal is to make dentistry even better.”
Written by Christine Hurley Deriso