DENTSPLY's Dr. Linda Niessen steps down after illustrious corporate career

September 26, 2013
Issue 9

Dr. Linda Niessen’s 15-year career with DENTSPLY International comes to a close this month, but her desire to advance the dental profession remains strong. Linda served as Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer where she oversaw the company’s professional relations, continuing education and corporate communication efforts.

Dr. Linda Niessen’s 15-year career with DENTSPLY International comes to a close this month, but her desire to advance the dental profession remains strong. Linda served as Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer where she oversaw the company’s professional relations, continuing education and corporate communication efforts.

Under Linda’s leadership, DENTSPLY gained recognition as an ADA CERP provider in 1999. Today, the company prides itself on delivering state of the science educational support to dental professionals

Melissa Marlin, of Sultan Healthcare, is one of many DENTSPLY Professional Services team members who had the opportunity to work closely with Linda to evolve the business’s CE offering.  
“Despite being with Sultan Healthcare/DENTSPLY for 9 years, I stepped away from a sales career into the new world of continuing education and professional services,” she said. “I knew navigating this path would be challenging, but as soon as I met Linda I knew anything was possible. It didn’t matter that Linda was the VP and Chief Clinical Officer; she genuinely encouraged me to reach out to her when I needed guidance. She was ready to roll her sleeves up and tackle issues with me. Even more remarkable was her willingness to embrace new ideas and creative approaches that I brought to the table. Her strength and ability to approach challenges with grace and competence are just a couple reasons why I will always consider Linda to be a mentor who helped inspire my career growth.”

In her DENTSPLY role, Linda’s enthusiasm for education reached aspiring young dental professionals through her leadership of the ADA/DENTSPLY Student Clinician Program (SCADA). This longstanding DENTSPLY-supported program, founded in 1959 in partnership with the American Dental Association to celebrate the ADA’s 100th Anniversary, now includes dental students from 36 countries.

She believes the dental profession must have a solid research base, so Linda restructured the program to focus on IADR research-style presentations. As a young student, Linda participated in SCADA and shares this experience with Dr. Gordon Christensen, Co-founder and Senior Research Consultant of Clinical Research Associates (CRA), as well as many other leaders in dentistry.
“Linda is and always has been what I call a ‘power woman,’ ” Dr. Christensen said. “She can do anything in the profession; teach, accomplish research, administer, practice, and most importantly influence practitioners toward practicing ethical, research based, high quality, yet practical dentistry. All of this has been molded around raising a wonderful family. I congratulate her for her leadership while serving with DENTSPLY, and I know her influence will continue to be a major voice in dentistry.”

As a new dental student, Linda’s professor and mentor, Walter Guralnick, DMD, quickly pegged her as the “public health dentist” of her graduating class.

This desire culminated in Linda’s receipt of both dental and Masters of Public Health degrees from Harvard. She went on to earn a Masters of Public Policy degree and completed her dental public health residency with Dr. Chester Douglass, one of her many mentors in the field.

Over the past 30 years as she built her career around her desire to help people, Linda simultaneously contributed to the advancement of the profession through her leadership roles and participation in many professional dental organizations. A female pioneer of the dental profession, Linda was the second woman to be board certified by the American Board of Dental Public Health and the second woman president of both the American Association of Public Health Dentistry and the American Board of Dental Public Health.

As Linda’s latest chapter comes to a close, rest assured that her impact on the dental profession will carry on. She continues to serves as Clinical Professor in the Department of Restorative Dentistry at the Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry. She is also President for the Santa Fe Group and President for the American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry. She remains active on the boards of Oral Health America, DentaQuest Foundation and American College of Dentists.
One of her most recent and maybe most loved role is that of grandmother to Liam and Nieve, her beautiful young grandchildren. She has positively influenced patients, students, co-workers, dentistry at large and the greater public with her unwavering commitment to advance oral health through policy, access, prevention and education.

Her husband, Dr. John Lonergan, is a physician, and her two sons include Devin, a Stanford-trained ENT surgeon, and Owen, an oral and maxillofacial surgery resident who is also pursuing his MD at University of Missouri, Kansas City.

Dr. Linda Niessen represents a true leader and visionary with an unending commitment to serve. While many wonder what else she can possibly accomplish, no one doubts Linda’s passion and energy will continue to advance the profession and positively influence others throughout the next chapter in her career.