KCU appoints dean for the College of Dental Medicine set to open in Joplin in Fall 2022

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Linda C. Niessen, DMD, MPH, MPP, a highly esteemed dental educator, takes the role as dean at the Kansas City University (KCU) College of Dental Medicine, which will open in fall 2022 on the Joplin, Missouri, campus.

In June 2019, KCU announced plans to open a College of Dental Medicine in response to the critical shortage of dentists in the four-state region of southwest Missouri, northwest Arkansas, northeast Oklahoma and southeast Kansas.

All the counties within a 125-mile radius of Joplin are designated as Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas (DHPSAs) by the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA).

Niessen comes to KCU from Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she served as dean and professor.

She also served as professor and chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences at Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas, Texas (now Texas A&M College of Dentistry). While at Baylor College of Dentistry, she worked with the University of North Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine where she served as co-director of the joint geriatric medicine and dental fellowship program. 

“Dr. Niessen possesses a rare breadth and depth of oral health experience that bridges a number of critical disciplines, making her an outstanding choice for leading our new college of dental medicine,” said Marc B. Hahn, DO, KCU president and CEO. “Her deep commitment to rural health and meeting the needs of underserved patients will help KCU make an immediate impact on the growing oral health needs of the communities surrounding Joplin.”

As dean, Niessen will oversee the development of all academic, research and service activities and administration of the dental college.

“The support that the community of Joplin has offered KCU is unprecedented,” Niessen added. “I’ve never seen a community as committed to a college of medicine and a college of dental medicine as Joplin.” Niessen says starting the new college furthers the university’s mission “of improving the well-being of the communities we serve.”

Niessen earned her Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. She also holds a Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from the Harvard School of Public Health and a Certificate of Residency in Dental Public Health from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine.

Niessen says she expects to feel at home in Joplin, as she has close ties to the Midwest. Her husband, John Lonergan, is a physician and native of Kansas. They have two sons; one who is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon on the faculty at the University of Missouri – Kansas City; the other who is an ear, nose and throat surgeon in practice in Palo Alto, California.

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