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COSAM alumnus cites well-rounded Auburn education as a key to success

Published: 02/16/2018

By: Candis Birchfield

COSAM alumnus Dr. William F. Vann Jr., pre-dentistry ’70, is a clinical attending faculty member in the residency-training program in pediatric dentistry and a research mentor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Dr. Vann, who is originally from Headland, Alabama, said he chose Auburn for his undergraduate career because it was a family tradition. He was specifically inspired by his favorite uncle and mentor, Dr. James W. Vann, who practiced general dentistry for more than 50 years and is a lifetime fan of Auburn University athletics.

Dr. Vann recalls that the curricula at Auburn was particularly challenging and engaging.

“I was not a gifted student in math or science…but the pre-dental training was undeniably superb,” said Dr. Vann. “I benefited greatly from the arts and sciences electives, which helped in some ways to advance my career in professional leadership activities.”

Auburn provided Dr. Vann a number of campus leadership opportunities outside of the classroom, including serving as Interfraternity Council President.

“Auburn gave me a platform for developing leadership skills, which was not only a lot of fun at the time, but it also helped prepare a future in professional and academic leadership engagement," said Dr. Vann.

While his science training was greatly beneficial, Dr. Vann says that an unlikely contributor helped in the success of his career: his freshman English experience and a creative writing course. 

“In short, I learned to perfect my writing ability at Auburn,” said Dr. Vann, “and in honing those skills, my academic career got an enormous boost because of my ability to contribute to the scientific literature and write competitive grants.”

Dr. Vann is certified by the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, and has received numerous awards and honors, including the American Dental Association’s Golden Apple Award for “Inspiring Careers in Dental Education.”

He has written and been involved in over 200 publications, including book chapters, journal articles and research abstracts in the field of dentistry. His most impactful published research has dealt with the safety of conscious sedation for child patients. 

Since he first entered the field, Dr. Vann says the field of dentistry and oral health has evolved significantly.

“Oral health research has become more sophisticated at every level, in many instances on the molecular and genomic levels.”

Dr. Vann attended dental school at the University of Alabama School of Dentistry. He also has a master’s in pediatric dentistry and a doctorate in higher education, both from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

He currently resides in Chapel Hill, NC.

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